Light is this week’s, or rather last year’s, writephoto prompt. I’m catching up on the ones I missed while Sue Vincent is busy with other important things. I hope it’s going well, Sue.
So, the word is Light, and the picture is:
This picture of light through a holly bush in snow looked very familiar to me, and I wondered if I’ve got back to where I started. But I think I’m not there yet. Maybe it was the picture that invited me to take up the writephoto challenge?
After I added the photo to this post I realised that it was taken by Sue in Ashridge Park, a lovely National Trust estate in Buckinghamshire. I’ve orienteered there many times in the past…. and suddenly I had an idea. It’s just over 1000 words today.
Light Mishap: Sir Woebegone goes Orienteering
Sir Woebegone stood up to his kneeplates in the snow.
How had that happened?
He had a talent, drawn from his sword (which he had given back to its rightful owner, since he could teleport without it now). Sometimes he thought of where he’d like to be, pictured it in his mind, and arrived there with no mishap.
This time, he’d imagined the sun’s rays bathing him in light while he rested under a palm tree on some exotic beach with white sand.
Sun’s rays bathing him – check.
Resting under a palm tree. This tree was not a palm tree. The others around him were all bare-branched. This was evergreen, but by the prickly leaves and red berries, he deduced it was a holly. Ilex vulgaris, most likely; common British holly. Not known for sunbathing under.
Exotic beach with white sand. Hmm. He’d forgotten to specify the beach with a sea or ocean lapping on the sand. What he’d got was a winter forest with snow, grainy snow, which some might liken to a sandy beach, since it spread deep and crisp and even as far as the eye could see. And in the distance, the snow disappeared over the side of a hill.
He staggered to extract his feet from their icy prison, and trudged out towards the track or road he could see, running between a wide avenue of trees. It took ages, since he broke through the surface and sank up to his thighs at each step. Sir Woebegone was not well-endowed in the height department, and if the snow got any deeper, he’d not be well-endowed in more important departments, either.
Reaching the centre of the avenue, he found tyre tracks had compressed the snow so he could stand more easily. The tyre marks led in the sun’s direction, to a large gate set under an arch in a wall, that seemed to extend all the way along the edge of the forest.
Away from the light, he could see metal vehicles on tyres, horseless vehicles of a type he’d seen before, propelled from under their front end by nasty gaseous mixture in something called an engine. He didn’t fancy meeting those again, but to get any reason behind his arrival at this point, he might as well approach them.
He stood at the gate blocking the track he’d walked up, watching a person in a bright yellow jacket directing the vehicles—cars he remembered they were called—into neat rows off the track. The cars formed a line into the distance, but it wasn’t a long line, and nobody else seemed to be joining it, so he waited patiently, hoping to approach the yellow jacket.
He didn’t have to wait long. In fact, he didn’t wait at all, since the yellow jacketed person came over to him.
“Hello! I think we were expecting a santa outfit, rather than a knight, but if you’re ready, I’ll send you to the organiser and she’ll explain everything. Okay?”
Sir Woebegone thought a moment. Masquerading as Santa would surely be against his code of practice. On the other hand, if Santa hadn’t arrived, he ought to do his best as an understudy. He agreed.
“Excuse me, are you Helen?” he asked a short, friendly faced woman of a certain age, who wore a bib which said ‘Organiser’ on the back.
“Yes, that’s me. How can I…? I thought we asked for a santa outfit? It’s a Christmas competition, after all.”
“Yes, so I heard, but…”
“Short on Santas and a last-minute sub, I suppose. Well, that’s fine. We only said ‘a mystery guest control point,’ so you’ll be fine.”
Sir Woebegone’s mystification grew deeper. “Very last minute. I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here. Just got the location, and found you.”
Helen smiled warmly at him. “Well, thank you for coming. This is an orienteering event, the last before Christmas. We always have a little fun with a mystery points-scorer or two, and you’re one of them. I’ll give you this control…” she ducked inside a tent and picked up a stick about Woebegone’s height with a red and white diagonally divided square of plastic on top, and a gadget, blinking, underneath the square. “Here. You hold onto this, rest the pointy bit on the ground. I’d like you to walk up and down the track between those trees over there, as far as the spot where it joins another track in a T-junction, and then return. Up and down for an hour. Is that okay?”
“Um, yes. What do I do with this, er, control thing?”
“Oh, when people see you, they’ll come over and wave their Emit gadgets over the control; that registers points for finding you. It’s an orienteering race. They have an hour to get as many points as they can. You’re worth fifty points, the top score! Is that all clear?”
“Thanks so much for doing this. We really appreciate it. Now, can you get off to the track over there? The first competitors started five minutes ago, you see.”
“So after an hour I bring this back?”
“Yes, please. That would be great.”
So Sir Woebegone became a control point in an orienteering competition for the first time in his life.
He rather enjoyed it, walking up and down the track through the woods, the sunlight bathing him as it peered through the trees, and people running up to him, saying “You’re not Santa” and “Thank you for doing this” and other nice things. Then they ran away in another direction.
Helen came up to him after a while and handed him a steaming cup.
“Hot chocolate,” she said with a wink. “The adult version. I’ll pick up the cup at the end.” Then she was off with her thermos and cups to some other helper.
All in all it was a very pleasant way of passing the time. Especially as the hooch in the drink reached his toes very quickly.
At the end of his hour, he handed his kit back to Helen, wished her a very merry Christmas, and set off back to the holly tree.
This time he got his envisioning of a sun-kissed white sandy beach with ocean and palm trees absolutely right.
© J M Pett 2020 and dedicated to my friend Helen E.
There are about ten other Sir Woebegone stories linked here.
At some stage these may disappear as I’m toying with the idea of a Sir Woebegone omnibus.