Casper lamented the fact that his great-grand-daughter Alice could not walk the full length of Tottle Brook, as he had done 60 years before, but they would walk as much as they could, as he done with her mother and grandmother and Anne, his beloved Anne. In unison they had cautioned him, the words ‘Bun, Dad, Pops’ all overlapping.
He had been 12, the day warm and with not a cloud in the sky when he set out from his home in Dunkirk, the university, council estates and Wollaton Vale yet to be built and only the Beeston and Derby roads to be crossed. His Tottle Brook walk would end when he reached the canal, then he would return home the same way.
The day before he had gone to the City Library and found the map section, where he copied the line of Tottle Brook into a notebook he had taken from school, removing the cover just in case it fell into the wrong hands and he was accused of stealing.
With a satchel, some bread, cheese, a couple of apples and a bottle of ginger beer, he had set off on his walk along Tottle Brook and had since done it twice more, with his daughter Avril and grand-daughter Aileen, now it was to be with Alice. In his book Anne didn’t really count since she had joined him, uninvited, 60 years ago and had been by his side ever since.
Casper had been at about where Brook Road is now when an imperious voice said ‘What are you doing?’ and he looked up to see a squirt of a girl in a pinafore frock and wellington boots looking down at him. She was carrying a fishing net and a jam jar, no doubt fishing for minnows and sticklebacks if she was lucky. ‘I’m walking the length of Tottle Brook’ he replied.
The girl’s next question was ‘Where do you live?’ as if to say ‘This is my territory and you need my permission before you can pass.’ ‘Dunkirk’ was all Casper was going to give her, before adding as slowly as he could ‘All the steams, brooks and rivers in England, just like the sea, belong to the King and he says all can freely traverse them if they do not offend fishing rights and, as you can see, I have no fishing net or jam jar, so I am respecting your rights’.
The girl, now standing beside him and nearly as tall as he was, studied him for a minute, although it seemed like an age, before saying ‘Very well, I’m Anne and I had best come with you just in case’ and that was how they had begun, her just 10 and always the leader. ‘Like a dog on a lead’ he had heard his grandmother say as they walked down the aisle past her. ‘Disgusting’.
The policeman met Casper and Alice as they were about to leave Tottle Brook and cross Brook Road before scrambling through a hole in the fence on the other side. ‘What are you doing Sir?’
Casper stopped, stood where he was and began to tell his story… and in that moment Alice looked every inch like Anne all those years ago who, as if by magic, arrived on the bridge with Avril and Aileen. ‘The cavalry’ Anne said to the bemused policeman in her magistrate’s voice before he could ask.