Opinion

The gravel roadmap paved to freedom

By John Lewis

I'm building a gravel path through our garden to the bush and the promise of endless freedom.

Don't ask me why I have taken on this Herculean task.

It may have something to do with that other Herculean task we all face - filling in time between the first and the last gasp.

Building a new path has become a necessity because the old one was like a Peruvian goat path.

Anyone trying to enjoy a sunset with a bottle of chilled Gewurztraminer faced an embarrassing and increasingly dangerous journey towards poetic inspiration.

One day I nearly tripped on an exposed redwood sleeper, and I thought to myself, "this needs a whole new path - in fact it needs a safe and reliable way of moving people and cases of German wine from a place of boredom into the wonders of nature. A sort of steady sensible roadmap out of lockdown. We need a gravel path.”

That's what I thought to myself.

And being a man of action, I'm always ready to leap off the couch when there's a promise of an easier way to drink wine at sunset.

So I started digging. I dug soil out of the ground to make a 10 m-long path.

Then I dug some more.

I dug for two days and removed pieces of old wine glasses and corks.

I found nails and dog bones and concrete and dirt-stained shreds of old poems and jottings on the beauty of sunsets and God's grandeur.

The Chief Gardener said they were old Dan Murphy receipts. Difficult to tell really, after so many years of being trampled into the soil.

Then I flattened things out and tried to make it as smooth as possible. But everywhere I looked, depending on the light or the time of day or the angle of viewing - there was a bump.

Sometimes it was an old bump that needed smacking down. But then there was a new bump further up the path.

Every time I looked, there was a new bump. I was never going to get this thing perfectly flat.

Now, the beauty of a gravel path is that it is flexible.

If the ground underneath is full of bumps, the gravel on top will absorb the pressure.

So if one area is particularly obstinate and refuses to obey the stamp of the boot, then the gravel will spread out and level the surrounding landscape.

A rigid, concrete path would never do this. The bumps underneath would eventually rebel and force their way to the surface.

Well, that's my theory.

And because I love stretching metaphors to breaking point - I would say this to Dan Andrews: "We need a gravel path Dan, not a concrete one. Things need to be flexible not rigid.”

We might have to walk this path for a long, long time.

And we all need to drink wine together safely, then watch the sun go down on this long, long year.