At the foot of a formidable incline Arthur, in the lead, stopped and rested on his thumb-stick. ‘There is a new candidate wanting to join our group.’ He made the announcement into space as only Arthur, the big oil company’s top – or ex-top, having recently retired – salesman could, and still command attention.

‘Who is it?’ Trevor asked.

‘His name is Myron, He’s American. Mary and I met him on a cruise.’

‘Does he live here?’ I asked.

‘No, in California. He retired from local government and went into horse breeding and did very well. he reads Wainwright for pleasure and said joining our group would be a dream come true for him.’

‘Well, let’s get on,’ from Trevor; ‘we can discuss Myron when we get to the top and have a bit of a rest.’

The day was sombre with sun-edged low clouds so we were not sure whether to expect rain or sun to prevail and in such weather the inclination is not to hang about in unplanned halts. Arthur always broke the unstated rules of our walking club and Trevor always got us back on course.
‘Won’t it be too far for him to come?’ someone asked when we were resting at the top, before heading for our night’s destination on this stretch of the Dorset coast.

‘He says it will be no problem; that he and Kathy will come over any time.’
As far as we were concerned if anyone wanted to bring a new member along there were no barriers. We were an informal group of retired men keen on walking and we met up as often as we could. Arthur’s Geologist son, Anthony was the only working member and joined us when able to. He was also the best map reader we had.

It was thought that Arthur had over-read the situation thinking that Myron and his wife Kathy would up-sticks and fly over from California on being advised of our next excursion; but such was not the case. Our walk was to be around the half of the Isle of Wight ┬áthat we had not yet covered and the telephone net-work indicated Sandown as the meeting place. Myron and Kathy were booked on a flight and Arthur would be arriving with Myron. When I answered the phone it was Arthur calling, ‘Bill, something has cropped up that will delay me a day but Myron is already here and said he will go to the meeting place on his own. As only you are getting to Sandown a day early, can you meet him there until the rest of the group arrive?’

He turned up on time; a stocky, rugged sort of man and we introduced ourselves at the hostel. ‘What would you like to do for the rest of the day?’ I asked. ‘Can we get a walk in? I’ve been sitting down too much over the past days.’ ‘Fine, lets get our boots on and make a move.’ I decided to head for Ryde along the coast, a distance of about 12 to 14 miles and easy-going with some interesting features.

We chatted, measuring one another up. I knew many Americans and expected some early professional or personal revelations, but Myron was as measured as your average Englishman. We talked about Arthur and Mary, the cruise where they had met, and about Wainwright as we strode over the turf with the sea to our right, it was clear that the harmony developing would open to more personal exchanges in due time.

Myron was interested in location and made frequent and astute observations. I asked him if he felt like being in toy-town, which was the impression I always had when coming back to England from the western hemisphere. He said he knew what I meant but liked to assess things individually. That made him a specialist to my generic approach; but I could do detail too and made a mental note.

At Bembridge he liked the moored house-boats and spoke knowledgeably about them. It was only several walks later that I discovered he had a river flowing through his ranch and several powered boats. We talked non-stop such was his interest in the places we passed.

On a lonely stretch of the shore we walked straight from a headland on to a lawn with a few tables on the grass which ran right to the sea’s edge. No one was around and it looked unusual. We could see it was a tea-house but there were no customers; it was a place that could hardly exist along the mainland coast; its popularity would destroy its attraction, but here it was splendid in its isolation. ‘Shall we see if we can get a pot of tea here?’ Myron was looking at the scene. He was obviously a practical man but must have had an appreciation of other things. Without enthusing he said, ‘There could be no better place.’ Not exactly ‘faerie lands forlorn,’ but it showed he had awareness.

I stepped on to a ramshackle veranda fronting a wooden built structure that complemented the setting and called out, ‘is anyone at home?’ A woman in her late forties appeared and asked if we wanted service. ‘Tea and whatever you have to go with it, please. We’ll sit outside.’ We unstrapped our packs and wandered about before stretching ourselves into some chairs. This to me was bliss; my companion absorbed the scene in silence. Two strangers cautious about over-exuberance. The tea came with scones and cakes; an acknowledgement from our part and a few words from our hostess before she withdrew.

Finishing the tea we were reluctant to move but we had our destination to reach. Some time after leaving the tea house we came to a crumbling, unoccupied stone cottage close to the track surrounded by woods and with the sea before it. A board showing the price and a telephone number painted on crudely for sale enquiries. ‘A reasonable price,’ I ventured, ‘for someone wanting solitude.’ ‘I’d like to buy it for Kathy.’ ‘Does she like solitude?’ ‘When she writes her books only,’ he replied, ‘otherwise she wants company.’ We moved on sharing a series of minor observations and linked comments, comfortable and with no jarring notes.

We continued with easy strides until stepping from a green swathe through a line of trees on to an esplanade we encountered strollers enjoying the warm sun and the sea views. At the town centre there was a choice of public transport for our return. Either the Island’s one railway line using London Underground carriages or by bus. ‘Can we go on the bus?’ ‘I think so, let’s ask.’ One was leaving in ten minutes.

We climbed aboard and he led the way up the stairs to the front seat and sank back with a sigh that seemed to be sheer contentment. ‘It’s an hours journey through winding lanes,’ I warned him. ‘I’ve always wanted to do this,’ was all he said. ‘Do what?’ Sit up front on a two-decker bus.’