It’s a strange thing to walk into someone else’s memories; especially those that have been woven and tangled about a place. A place that you’ve heard about, but never visited. Somewhere that means a great deal to the person who told you about it, but for you, who’s never been, it retains the status of a rumour.
For the young me, the ghost stories and folklore of Britain had a powerful effect. Odd to think of it now, but reading about the dead as a child, brought the wider world to a rich and vivid life.
Out there, it seemed, was a land, far older, stranger and deeper than my limited experience. A world where multiple layers of history could still be seen, or felt, not only in old houses, ruined castles and abbeys, but also in and around more ordinary sites such as shops, factories, pubs and suburban streets.
Surrounding the wall, stubby ash and elephantine coils of Cherry Laurel gave a writhing border to the site, which for a moment felt to me like an abandoned sacred grove. The idea of Celtic Thin places came to mind, though here it seemed, any doorway to the eternal world had been blocked and forgotten.
The thoughtless hands that had tossed bottles and plastic bags, now tangled in rolling brambles, made this more of a Thick Place – dirty and broken, frayed at the edges, with nothing but shadows able to leak through the veil and stumble off ragged into the undergrowth towards an indifferent city beyond.
Two thoughts, or questions, struck me recently as I reflected on the books I’ve read during 2018. The first was, where do all these books come from? I don’t mean in a literal sense; from a shop or library, but where did I hear about them? I often wonder this about authors in end-of-year-round-ups of…
Imagine a world where there was a demand for poems to be repaired, plot holes to be fixed, unnecessary exposition removed, unfinished tales completed, or lost books and stories to be patched-up and rewritten. The literary equivalent of MyBuilder; let’s call it, Your writer.
The large frames created between the support struts, beneath the corrugated iron roof, seem like glassless windows, with ash and oak, horse chestnut, hazel, sycamore and brambles pressing themselves right up to the edges. Sometimes it feels as though passengers are being protected from the looming sylvan creatures beyond.
Going down to the mill is something we do every time we come here. It’s a short distance downhill from Rue de la Roche, where my parents-in-law live, to the town’s second river. When the water is low, as it usually is in August, the visit also includes a walk across the stepping stones and…
I started to wonder how far I should go, without a map or much water, but a trail leading out of town and into the fields is always hard to resist. After all, as Richard Jeffries notes in in Nature Near London, one should “Never omit to explore a footpath, for never was there a footpath yet which did not pass something of interest.”