The reeds are talking whispers along the path. They speak of creatures in the blue sky and the movement of stars. Perhaps they also talk of us, our slow-gait, how we spoil the land.
Reeds rustle and pretend to be the sea. Reeds are woven into baskets and roofs. Baskets and roofs do not rustle or pretend to be waves. They are staid creatures, not prone to flights of fancy.
Reeds like rivers but do rivers like reeds? Reeds bend and speak like rivers but reeds are rooted and rivers are not.
On the walk are many reeds so many they perhaps match the numbers of people who have left Syria and gone elsewhere but of course there is no resemblance between these reeds and the Syrian refugees.
This village was once known for the making of scythes. In the place of scythes are smart cars, burnished carriage lamps and hanging baskets of garishly coloured flowers.
I know all the paths in this place – the one that leads to the narrow dark lane and the old oak tree, the one that skirts the edge of the recreation ground and passes the small hill, the one that edges the mill pond and breaks into two and the path that takes my steps to the churchyard. All these paths lead to somewhere – the oak, the pond, the church – but these paths also lead me to places no longer visible to the eye. A cricket pavilion. A field of elms. The brick scythe works. The gypsy caravans. An icy pond with skaters. A lake with a floating raft constructed out of barrels and rope. Plus two weddings, two funerals and a kiss behind a shed. I see these things as clearly as the path in front of me with its patches of drying mud, its thistles and nettle clumps, the tall grass. But perhaps you do not.
Old oak, ancient-creeping, owl-sheltering, long-seeing, lightning blasted, centuries-surviving, crinkling-rough, squat-broad, low-lying old old oak
Antelope, ant and aardvark
Bear, butterfly and bee
Cougar, cat and coot
Dolphin, dove, doe, deer
Giraffe and gnu
Hare, hornet and horns
Jaguar, jay, jackdaw, jackal
Llama, lamb and lamprey
Parrot, porpoise, peregrine,
A raven, a rook
Tick, toucan and tiger
Woodpecker, wasp, widgeon, wolf and woodlouse
Some people like the sound of their own voice to such a degree that they will not stop talking, even in sleep, while others are so quiet you can hear their hearts beating and the small, soft sound of their lungs.
Here is the link to my BBC Radio interview today, 24th June. You can only listen to this for one week from that date. I am discussing my novel ‘A Bird in the House’ with Joe Talbot and my experiences in Libya during February 2011. The interview starts at 02.39.
I thought I might write about what I am reading but I cannot write reviews. This is not my forte. All I can write about is the sky and the birds and things falling. In fact, ‘The Sound of Things Falling’ is the title of a book by Juan Gabriel Vasquez I read recently and a marvellous book it is although I will not say more than that it is set in Columbia during the notorious drugs wars and that it might be a book for you to read. Or you could read Rene Denfeld’s book, ‘The Enchanted’ which is about a man on death row. Depressing, you might think. Indeed not. It is enchanted. Like an old fishing hut. This is what books are for. For us to journey to both nightmare and enchantment.
My first novel came out this week. It’s exciting to hold a copy in my hand and to think how long it took me to get there. It has, at times, felt as if I have been running a marathon for the past two years. Now it is out, another hard slog begins…the dreaded publicity and marketing. Really I’d like to wander off to another desert and forget about that side of things but that would be a pity. It’s a necessary job if I want the book to sell. A necessary job like the ironing – another task I tend to put off until I have almost nothing left to wear but socks and knickers (surely no one irons those!). So, the novel….it’s written, it’s published…it now needs a little TLC….and then there’s the next one to write….
Time. There’s never enough of it. That’s probably because life is too full of distractions. Or perhaps I simply have no energy at the moment for anything big. When I do snatch a few moments of peace I like to sit and observe the world and write flash fiction – or perhaps these should be called prose haikus – they can be read in a flash but I hope they linger in the mind
What I remember of the walk in Suffolk is this: black tree roots like the gnarled old fingers of lost giants, a broken silver birch fallen into a ditch, many reeds and sweet blackberries and the ground sandy-soft. I have forgotten the pain in my back and the irritations of paths wrongly taken.