People tell me stuff. I’ve no idea why, it just seems to happen. Of course, when you work in Human Resources people opening up to you is a very good thing. When it spills out into the real world then well.. it can either be totally fascinating or a pain in the rear end!
I was in London, on a bit of a bike tour and had made it to the London Wetlands which was the last stop of the day, a day that was really really hot, 33C and everyone had become ninja-esque in their ability to find shade.
After cycling for about 5 hours I was tired and dehydrated so decided to get some water into me in the cafe before heading to birdwatch.
“It’s hot as hell here today”, the advice was a tad late for my arse as it sat on a chair that had come straight from the fires of said place. My slightly late advisor, was somehow able to manage a bowl of soup and he was clearly interested in a conversation! “I come here to watch the kingfishers, I’ve figured out where they hang out… “. Easily in his 80’s the story of how the kingfishers were discovered started to unfold as I moved around in my chair to try and stop my arse from going on fire.
I always find it difficult to drag myself away from conversations like this and it was the ping of my phone that allowed for the respite. It was only an update from Twitter, to tell me that Brian O’Driscoll had tweeted. I turned away from the conversation to find this out but to no use.
“I used to come here with my wife you know”, I had lost the run of the conversation at this point and had no idea if we were still talking about Kingfishers or something else. “That was before all these buildings were here, when you could just sit by the side of the water and see the birds come and go, we would sit for hours you know”. Before I could do anything he stood from his table, took the wee blanket he was sitting on and lowered himself carefully and not silently to a seat at my table, his huge dog wearily moved the two feet to my table to sit on his feet, then went back to sleep. Then, reaching over he took the free leaflet the guys at reception had given me with my ticket and started to point out how the wetlands had changed over the years and the best vantage points.
“We saw a body being dumped here one night you know”, now of all the things that I thought this little old man would say, that was not one of them. I couldn’t help myself, spilling overly expensive sparkling water across the table. “It’s true” he said, his eyes the size of the proverbial dinner plates. Turns out, he and his wife had decided to visit on night with their binoculars, apparently the wetlands were very different then and as the description developed they were often used by amateurs who would build hides and take pictures of birds who passed through.
Turns out, my lunch mate and his wife, saw a car drive up to a part of the wetlands, the boot was opened and the two passengers took a ‘sac’ from the boot and dumped it into the water, leaving quickly after that and heading into London. Being before the time of mobiles what followed was a long walk to a telephone box with a hysterical wife. I’ve condensed the story to a few lines, but the truth is that it took well over 20 minutes to relay, including the details of the birds that were noted to have been ‘near the scene’ that night.
I was intrigued this had all the signs of an olde world London mob hit. That’s when the laughing started…it built low in his throat but then became huge bodywide chuckles. “We had 5 police cars and 3 fire appliances called out that night”, the laughter continued and to be honest I was lost. I am guessing with ages comes the inability to get ones breathing under control but finally he took and huge breath, leaned forward and whispered …”We watched someone dump their dead dog that night. Now his eyes were glinting, he went on… ‘the thing was, they didn’t take the collar off and all those policemen and firemen did that night was to pull a huge sheepdog called ‘Tucker’ from the wetlands”. So that was it, no mob hit, I was a tad disappointed to tell the truth.
“We came here for years after that and have seen so much change, now it’s lovely to see new people come and take time out of their mad lives to sit and just watch birds”. I couldn’t disagree with him, it was certainly a lovely place in London.
Water finished I said my good byes and added my bottle to the recycle bin, “I see old Connie was telling you about his body dump evening”, one of the rangers who was sitting near us and also filling the recycle bin pipped up. I mentioned that I thought he was a lovely man with a charming story. “Did he tell you that the dog was alive? When they pulled the bag from the marsh the dog was still alive”. He, now known to be Connie, had not mentioned this at all, furthermore it turned out that he ended up adopting Tucker and they became a small family that visited the wetlands regularly and all were present at the opening of the new centre in 2000. Annie his wife passed shortly after that and the dog that was sitting by his feet… Tuckers son.