I first met Natalie last Friday, in Bristol. She's a flirtatious slip of a girl, forever to be found running around in nothing but frilly red knickers and black suspenders, her head lost in the clouds. In these first three short days, we seem to have gone everywhere together, from running around the downs in Bristol, looking over Watership Down, wandering around Crabtree Plantation, messing about on the top storey of the car park, down by the Serpentine in Hyde Park by moonlight, exploring Richmond Park, trying out the local sports field and even just being together outside the house. At times, she's a bit of a tease, she'll go up for a moment, try out the air, and if it isn't quite to her liking, she'll come down again, to suit herself.
On Sunday afternoon, we went down to the New Forest. At our first stop, she caused a few giggles by running round at a family picnik spot in her skimpy attire, but after a while she grew bored of the game and decided to rest casually on the warm grass. Next, we drove to a more wide, open expanse of heathland and went for a walk, following the course of a stream as it meandered across the plain. The stream was slightly too wide to jump across, without getting feet wet. After a while, we came to a log, which we could use to cross the stream. Unfortunately, the area at the other side of our make-shift bridge was populated by an area of bushes and trees. We nearly managed to navigate Natalie through the branches, but close to the edge, the line got entangled. Having noticed how quickly she runs to the ground if given too much slack (and the lack of trees in the middle distance), I decided to let go of the reel and let it pull through the tree. Natalie however, was enjoying the fresh breeze and decided to tie the line round some twigs, well out of reach. I expected that the the line would pull free at any moment and rushed out to where she would land. I went to run and jump a small stream as I had done many times before that afternoon, but Natalie giggled as the ground gave way and I sunk both feet 9 inches into oozing mud. By a different route, I found my way to the area where she might fall. She would have none of this, she wasn't about to let go of the branch, and had decided that the breeze felt so nice that she would stay up there all day. I tried throwing sticks at the branch, I tried climbing the tree, but it was all to no avail.I walked the mile or so back to the car to get some rope. The area round the tree was divided into two sections by a small stream. One side was open and clear, but too far away from the line to throw anything over it. The other side was too cluttered with bushes to get a decent swing. After a while, I managed to get the line over the branch. I pulled it and pulled it. I shook great lumps out of the tree. The tree in turn dumped me in the mud. Natalie never let go, she just danced around at the sight of such fun. As the light began to fade, I managed to get a rope round the end of the branch. I tied a loop and stood in it, this brought the branch down sufficiently low to reach the line with a long stick and to pull it down. I wrapped the line round a small log, cut the line that was still connected to the tree and began to reel Natalie in. She still wasn't finished with her games. We only had a small amount of room between the tree and the swamp that had tried to swallow me alive a little earlier. There were too many bushes and trees nearby - if I was to reel her in, she would be bound to skip right into a tree. There was nothing else for it, but to throw the stick with the line wrapped round, and crawl though the bushes (the only dry area) to fetch it on the other side of the swamp. Rather than have to pursue the line across the field as I had expected, Natalie had a better idea, she dumped it into the wet slimey mud. Having retrieved the sodden log and line, all that remained was to wind her in. Natalie, however had the last laugh, because she promptly sighed and came down to rest on the heath all by her self. Andrew Beattie 5th April 1993