Sleeper, escaped from the Earth

On walking through an old graveyard we came upon a fallen tombstone shouldered under a blanket of finely maintained grass. A century of freezing and thawing has allowed the earth to take a grip on the giant slab. Endless cycles of hard Yorkshire rain has shivered the stone into the grass, deeper and deeper. Now, the stone is part sunken in these immaculately tended grounds. Overhanging the fallen stone is a tree and I imagined the occupant of the grave, long dissolved in the Earth, drawn into the fine roots of this young tree, bone becoming wood, flesh becoming leaves, weatherings of her own gravestone powdering her cheeks. Her blood has become sap and the delicate tint of cherry blossom in the spring, overlooking her own grave, escaped from the Earth, watching the slow cycle of the years. Does she shed blossom like confetti, wedded to her rest, or does she shed bitter cherries like tears?

Is she restless? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I would be content to rest in such a place.


Unknown Regrets

There are things that you don't miss until you experience them, and afterwards you cannot bear to be without them. Sex is the most obvious example. Or hearing KD Lang singing Helpless, live, and trying not to cry like a small child.

We have four days of immersive music coming up. The line-up has a few stars but we know from many years of experience that it's the lower part of the bill which is the most engaging. We've been going to this particular festival for twelve years on and off. I cannot count the artists that I listen to every day who I first heard in a soggy tent surrounded by pissed-up middle-aged folkies. If it hadn't been for that first visit, my music collection would still be dominated by progressive rock and electric guitars. Now I'm a middle-aged folkie myself and by 18:00 on Friday I'll also be beered-bearded and smiling.

I suddenly felt a chill. What other experiences in life have I missed? If the universe really is infinite, then technically, I missed an infinity of riches. Such a thing should make me sad, but then I imagine that I am craving ownership of every diamond buried in the secret Earth, and that wouldn't be fair now would it. So I'm off to pick a few cherries from the trees, and perhaps I'll leave most of them for the birds.



Coffee Shop Songs

That lingering warmth that has been missing from the summer has finally arrived. We have four days of immersive music to look forward to and perhaps I'm receptive to music. Perhaps it's the onset of July's brilliance, perhaps it's the wash of brilliant sunlight on rain scoured streets. Perhaps it's the great coffee. A strained lyric penetrates my reading just like the coffee shop songs of old. Wait. What's that. What the hell is that.

Coffee shop songs can take some finding. I asked the lady behind the counter whose album was playing. It's the radio, she said.  It was a voice that I recognised, I thought. Rich and deep in a distinctive female way, I thought. Dianna Krall perhaps. I scrabbled a few lyrics, but that particular coffee shop had no wifi. My search took hours. I took a wrong turning early on. Clearly, that particular coffee shop needs a decent sound system as well as wi-fi. She was a he: Ray LaMontagne. Someone I'd heard but never paid attention to. 



Secret Footfalls

There was no 'early summer', just long weeks of wind and dreary rain. The plants loved it, of course, and are tall and lush. There is no shortage of wildlife, but this year is all about slugs and snails and small flies. Finally, we hit a spell of hot weather and at 8pm it was still hot. I walked down the hedges looking for butterflies. The lateness of the heat has pressed their seasons together so that the ringlets and the commas and the red admirals share the air. But the smaller moths and skippers predominate. The big dragonflies are absent, but the damselflies shatter the air. Insects stand above the bushes like thunderheads.

As I walk along the hedge, I hear rustling. I pause. It stops. I move. Rustling. I stop. Silence. So it was all the way down the hedge. I dropped down, expecting to see a young fox stalking me for fun, or a protective muntjac doe. Nothing showed itself. I carried on and the rustling continued. Whatever it was followed me down the hedge and all the way back to the house. It followed me inside the hedge, across the solid divide of the half-way fence. Which was wierd. The Night Planted Orchard is home to some frightening apparitions and this one suddenly gave me the chills. It followed me into the part-hedge which sits a little way in front of the fence, where any tiny feet would be visible. I stroked the bush. My hand was followed by tiny amber beetles, small moths and other tiny winged creatures including the tiny pure white cruxifix moths which haunt the July nights. My shadow had perhaps disturbed the hot, resting insects in the bushes, and they were in such numbers that perhaps they rustled the trees like a small animal.

Or perhaps there is a ghost in the orchard after all.




Stormclouds, the darkest of all possible blacks.

Ours is a beautiful country. Its mountains may not be as high as some, but they have an ancient careworn beauty that exists nowhere else in the world. Our rivers may not be as broad as they might be, but they are blue and green-banked and sinuous. Our forests may be reduced and groomed, but they are filled with calm light and birdsong. Our fields are clipped and tended and bound by hedges and stone walls a thousand years old. They are the essence of stability and order.

Under those stone-walled and tilled fields, there is a dragon lurking. Most of the time it sleeps deep under the Earth. But sometimes it's restless. Sometimes it shivers and curls under the land threatening to emerge. It's the beast that we have distilled out of our Viking ancestors, out of the worst, forgotten atrocities of the Normans, the savage and doomed effectiveness of Iceni warrior princesses, from the aggression of the Angles and the Saxons. In more primitive times, it served us well. Sometimes it rules us and it has been a long time in chains. So long that we've forgotten that it's there. Its chains have rusted away and those tasked to be vigilant have become negligent. Yesterday the dragon twitched an eyebrow.

Please let Jo Cox's murder be a heeded-warning, not an overture.