The woods were always flooded by us. It was a strange valley where the trees would rot whilst standing, growing skywards yet ready to fall. To fail.
My best friend Chris, we bonded over Tiffany which should date the time frame, lived across the valley from us. Above the wooded dell was a goose farm, though local geese I never saw down the shop. And in the glen with its knee deep burn, through its silted oxbows and slopes of wild garlic, were so many games to be had. Back in those days Health and Safety was not even a suggestion on anyone's lips. Indeed this was a time before mobile telephony, and we lived on an island so no need for door keys. Also we were poor, so more than a pound in our back pocket would be an unusual affair.
We played soldiers using sticks or an old pistol-grip strimmer handle for guns. Later, when we were in first year of high school we began using actual air-rifles up in the mountains and nobody ever lost an eye! A mile further down the burn, where it widened on the sandy beach, we threw large rocks across at each other. I cannot remember the exact rules but my brother caught our friend Stewart on the head with a half-brick. He later joined the Fleet Air Arm, I'm not saying the two are connected. We had a rat-run between banks of sorrel that we'd race down as a shortcut from one farm track to another, above this from a low-hanging branch we affixed a vicious loop of quarter inch wire with the tail end dangling hooked beneath; its purpose to catch the throat of anyone chasing us. There was only us, thankfully. No-one was ever chasing that wasn't in our group and did not know the spike was there. We got away with a lot.
Chris' cat was called Abbey National, which should date the time frame too. My folks were away on the mainland and so I was staying over at Chris' house. My brother was there too but he was never much fun so I do not know where he was specifically. Abbey had gone missing. She'd been out all day and when Helen, Chris' mum, called her in for her tea she was nowhere to be found. We looked around the tame woods in front of his house where the old mangle sat above the cliff-like slope to the road below. We looked in the field behind his cottage, amongst the sheep and behind the gorse that grew there in clumps. As dusk began to creep amongst the evening, Helen allowed us to go further. We were only eight (well Chris was ten, I was eight), but Helen had to stay and look after Chris' baby brother, who would have been almost three, I s'pose round then.
The road beyond Chris' cottage lost its Tarmac and became a stony track with a grass verge in the middle. Oftentimes this way would be a stream you would plod through, fit only for Land Rovers and the like. We crept up, past the goose farm entrance and the farmhouse where we often would crawl on our bellies to the windows as spies and circumnavigate the grounds in the dark. Calling for Abbey we continued, up past the scary van that had probably been rotting there since the Sixties. And its inhabitants too - the old hunched lady in the tie dye and her three lop-teethed daughters, with matching bottle-rim glasses and matching spots. Calling for Abbey we continued, up through the denseness of trees that met at chin height; and remember we were small yet. The fields opened out to our left beyond the hedgerow and the path began to crest as it reached proper farmer country.
A wider track here. A road almost, still rotten rock and tawny puddles but farm traffic took this route often and the trees were kept back. There was a corrugated sheet hay barn in front of us where later friends and I would jump and burrow and raise the farmer's ire. But here, to the right of the track as it came out on the junction, was a lichened headstone upon an old box crypt. Why it was there and whether it really is there don't ask me now; I know it makes no sense. And upon this plinth, Abbey, licking her paws and smiling contentedly. She trotted to heel all the way back down the track and fed from her bowl whilst Chris and I played on his Atari, which should date the era. My brother was about somewhere too, I suppose.