In retreat…

from all the crazed hate in the world news I volunteered to help dig and clear along the borders of the floodfields by the Cherwell. I pushed a barrow and picked up cuttings in the sunshine, nabbed some apples from the communal trees and tried not to disturb the person sleeping in the tent down the track. Some cows saw me and packed over the marsh, maybe they thought I had some feed or I’d share out the apples? Do cows eat them, I’ve only tried them on horses? They ganged up along the wire, eyes gazing depthless until a strange, gold-brown cow parted them and looked me over, not a finger away. The light was low in the sky and dazzling and just for a moment the cow’s swirl seemed gold as the fleece in my imaginings – would a wild animal be even bolder, brighter, more striking? Here the stories grow, here in the lonely marshes when we’ve come to hide from the problems out of our reach, out of our reckoning. I went back to my work and then biked for home, baked some apple muffins to chomp with my pre-dusk coffee.

Been sketching masks…

for Asterios and wondering about the ones we turn out to the world. Growing, changing and ageing, we’re all shapeshifters. I wish I had more skill at the making, my mask plans are overthought, too plain or grotesque. But I’ll stick at it, there’s some mystery there that tugs at me. Masks are stories in themselves.

No sharp metals here…

no money or literacy, only the wind in the trees and the old stones. I’ve been reading of Arthur, shapeshifting like the immortals but those gods belong to this time more than the warrior king and his bright sword, glinting out from the early Dark Ages. There were still spirits of forest and stream when Arthur rode to war but they were stepping back into the shadows. They were already many thousands of years old, at the height of their powers when people dragged the stones up the steep coombes to this place. Or did they have horses to help them by then, wild-eyed and painted, racing along the chalk tracks? My pace is slower, each step a breath. There’s a past here even for me, running and ducking inside the structure as a six-year-old on a day out from our house on the base a few miles away. Time not a river, time a quiet lake too deep to measure.

Arcadia hides…

in the walled garden, all cares distant and forgotten. But there’s always that nagging doubt about withdrawing from the world. And these country homes hide secrets in their stones and histories, Arcadia came at a price. But I’m not righting the wrongs of the world on this last, steamy day of the summer, I don’t have the answers. I’m happy passing through for an hour, chuckling with Pan and and the other stone figures lurking in the glades and under the canopy of the cedars.

 

Summer almost gone…

and my September ghosts are back, hiding in the morning mist. I blink in the 7am glow, hear the geese phalanx flyby honk, dreams still tugging until I kick my legs out from the slab and journey to the coffee machine. Flicker and pulse as I grind the beans, dredging at the books I’ve been reading as autumn rolls in, Lancaster raiders booming through the night to Hamburg, Iris visiting Sleep in his drowsy cave at the edge of the world on a mission for Hera, Thompson and his bikers riding out through the Sausalito fog. Books are my only travel pass now, while I scrape for funds. Books to insulate me from my cares. But there’s that old snap in the air after a last blast of weird heat, and soon there will be frost and the geese will move on.

In the Hardy hut…

for a night, I made coffee and stared out at the sharp hills. There are lonely spots in Dorset a few miles in from the coast, valleys like this one where you could plant an orchard behind walls and collect a library of hideaway books. Keep a rib or a small launch for watery escapes. And I like the owls and the sheep, the secret lanes and the sea fog blowing in over the trees. But I’m not ready for full-Hardy yet, I’m city-tied for a few more years.

I was there for Lucifer…

now Cerberus and Charon, you have to seek out the balm of the early morning, or bob in the sea. But first you have to get down onto a beach, through the hogweed fields of parasols and deck chairs. If I went south again I’d chase the parks and wilderness to be by water with no crowds. After Puglia a few days out in a Roman suburb, one euro coin for an espress and a bus ride in to rumble by the Colosseum. What a city to get lost in. And no glance of the Ionian, other than the docks at Taranto. I’ll stare back on it when I make it out to Corfu and along the coast. Journeys like roads, always another to set out on.

Summer languor…

consigns me to the hammock, gets me dreaming of rivercraft and the long evenings at the Blue Anchor. But I’ve work to do, lines to write and a fence to stake into the ground before I get to paddle in the Ionian Sea.

A snapped wire…

and lights flash on the dash. It took me days to spot it, not wise enough to stick my head under the car and scan for damage. But there it was, plain in sight as the UXB melodrama, the hero poised with wirecutters. Could it be I saw the same wire loose when the wheel was off for a check a few months back? Why didn’t I say anything to the mechanic? There’ve been so many repairs of sensors, leaks, broken parts of late I’ve lost track, I confess. But I shall swap out the battery and restore the flow with a loom, send a gush of charged particles to the motor assembly and chase down any other faults until the dash is clear. Living is engaging, fixing the broken wires.

I change my haunts…

to avoid the car snarl out west, roll to the store in Old Headington. There is a corner maze of passageways and flaking stone cottages here, a sweep of grand trees that border the park. Atoms trapped for centuries. Too often I take the still air of the past for granted as I move about this town. Tonight I’m meeting a pal in a pub that’s more than 400 years old. Hardy used to sit in there, mapping out Jude the Obscure. And in all that inhabited past are deeds foul and fair, our inheritance to probe, bury, triumph or regret. The rain lifts old memories out from the cobble stones.