Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: England

The Gun

One of my poems – The Gun – about the pub in London’s Docklands – was published in the Morning Star’s Well Versed column yesterday. You can read the poem here. The pub is said to be one of Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton’s secret meeting places and there is a hidden staircase which leads to a mirrored room overlooking the Thames. Apparently one of my ancestors was a landlord in the 19th Century and when I visited with my family last year we were treated to an enthusiastic tour from the manager. I’ve since written a poem about Emma and Horatio themselves which will be published in September in Poetry Northeast.

The Gun – from their website – where you can find out more about this wonderful pub!

New Forest, Midsummer

Night in the oak and beech, camped amongst the leaf litter. Merry England plays at the ancient edge of forest and heath. That golden green, that quiet of quiets. Of crested birds and insects buried, bums poking out of purple foxgloves.

Through the crooked root and tangled coppice:  think warbling deciduous and tall firs. Cyclists power through unaware of deer and buzzard. That breezy Solstice air, that wakeful dapple of forest light. Surround-sound bird song.

Those shouts of children: the ones you heard as a child when you were put to bed whilst it was still light. You longingly fixated on the glowing curtains or canvas and heard shrieks. Wishing, wishing you could shriek outside too.

A charcoal-edged breeze in the thickening trees. Dusky light, it’s a barcode of green bark and white silver birch.

Rye Harbour, June

There is a fenced-in bird sanctuary to our left. The beach to our right. Over our heads fly terns with the silvery slivers of fish in their beaks. They still manage a squawk as they hop from sea to nests behind the fence.

Oystercatchers squat tense over their eggs. Behind a hump of pastel and beige shingle the hazy sea pulses. The terns dive in with enhanced gravity to shock those little fish.

We walk through the bunches of waxy seakale. Today you can only smell the sea once you are over the shingle ridge on Winchelsea Beach. This land is a gathering of stones, building a flat promenade stretching out to sea year on year. Towers and bastions mark old wars and old shorelines. But these flats hide nooks of nature and graceful migratory patterns must be protect behind barbed wire.

A rusty headland rises out of a beige haze to the west. I wade into the water and that late afternoon sheen runs with the waves over the pebbles. A gentle blast of green wave pumps back and forth making licks and dips in the stones.

It smells like mornings after the breakfast shift at the hotel Pelirocco in Brighton. I would rinse the smell of bacon from my skin in the sea, picking my way back to my clothes before the crowds came. There’s a cleaner kind of dirt on me now and that same South Coast smell clinging to the flinty shingles.

Kew, April

As beech is to bluebell, we are fed and sprung in the new weather. Human eyes and ears and skin are all happy in the green. Me and a flamboyant bird hide out in the yew bushes in Kew while children walk past in pat-a-cake pink hats, right past the party pheasant.

We have a picnic of our own in this oddly human Eden and this bird of paradise is happy amongst humans. Periwinkles light up the ground. This place was seeded by Regency botanists, trod by prince and parlour maid, planted by people with a few fair pennies. Fantasists. All of them. Dealers in the exotic. Not that I’m complaining.

pear blossom

Walking Diary – New Year’s Day, Edale

Winter Peaks

copyright Eleri Davies, 2009

Gritstone is my familiar, my birthcode. Grit has gone green over on the drystone walls, these ancient fences crossing the white fields. There is ice in the air, is it snowing or brushing off the hills?

Dry paths – water once in a tractor’s tracks are now frozen, deep and creaking. There is a sudden give and mud reclaims my boots. Air and water trapped under ice makes concentric circles like a metre long white blood cell or a cartoon eye. And there are two eyes looking up to the blue sky.

Where there is ‘no access’ the hills look maddeningly beautiful. Fewer footprints ahead. I do my own slippery dance. There are wind-hugging trees and there is frozen dogshit.

Three ramblers rising. Why keep us out? We are not exactly dangerous. But you don’t always remember that the land is all owned here, we are allowed to pass only by the grace of the landowners and the Peak National Park. So long have we been able to lovingly trail over the heathery Peaks, we have nearly forgotten our paths are hard-won and flimsy too – we only walk here because we have been given permission, not because of an ancient right.

Still, I don’t quite feel like a Kinder Trespasser, I just feel furtive, unnaturally cautious. But the air is full of glitter. Frozen fog? Particles of ice drifting like migrating insects.

A standing slab marks a lost significance, an interned soul? A measuring mile to Manchester? A older kind of marker for time and space – less intrusive than a road sign, more soul in it than a new year’s countdown. And yet the Peak National Park guides you sign by sign – ‘open country – please keep to the marked path, no roaming no dallying, no looking at the stones in the brook or scaling the empty fields to see the view.’ Quick – jump that fence!

There is a gentle melt under the ice of a little road-rivulet. Sluggishly pooling its way down the slope, marking its own trespass. The sun makes its wetted inroads into the ice, but not for long. The day will be short.

Kitted out in gaiters and alpine walking-sticks, two rambling snappers snap the scenes. I don’t think they look as hungover as me. They are fresher robots. In a flush of phone reception I receive four new year messages!

On Kinder, a stream’s tributary looks cosier than it must be – as if under a cotton coverlet. My boots stomp and crunch the frosty grass and old snow. Village kids tumble off the first train back from Sheffield. I return to my friends by the fire.

Walking Diary – Hackney

Dalston to Hackney, November 23rd 2009

Wayward fig, feral weed of juicy fruits. Crawling up the wasted plot behind the old, probably squatted, Chomeley Boys club. And an old fireplace now forms part of the car park next to the Vortex Jazz club. There are graffitied sea horses swimming up the chimney breast. The wall fronts overflowing bins, a broken scooter. A river of froth snakes down off Kingsland High Street. There is a furious flapping as the bunting from a summer festival is strung out across an alleyway. Cross winds make the sound like that of the taut wire on mastheads in a stiff sea wind.

Ridley road market, where nappy rash cream is a bargain and Telapia comes with a free super malt. The sky looks set to sink into a jaundiced dusk. Cranes seem to sway in the wind, arching over our little heads, threatening to develop.

A man pulls his lips over his teeth for intent. An awning is inspired by the wind to take off and its owner groans as he tries to hold it down and fold it up. Pears for sale in bowl. Six for a pound, spike-end-up like the spires of green churches in a multi faith village. A blow-up doll’s feet are set with toes pointed down, painfully pinioned.

At the God’s First Hairdo shack Africa seems to pour forth, contained in a little off-shoot of the market.

Fake nails like neon tapestry work. Is this women’s work now that needlecraft is over? In Hackney Central there is a dusky glow over the Big Foot Dry Cleaners. It’s only 4pm. Buses are compressed like an artery ready to burst. The men of justice are on the beat, stringy bullets at the ready.

The moon bumps the clouds and the ragged end of autumn is dragging down yellows and browns – husks of the plane trees  speak with a hint of green.

Even if there’s no corner shop, café, laundrette. No barbershop, kebab house, art gallery – there’s always a Billy Hill. Reliable, dependable – always there when you need him. On every corner, even in the smallest of commercial hubs.

And it’s not just I who puts their old x-rays up against the windows to catch the light.

Tesco is selling the Twillight series for £3.86.  So that’s how cheap you can get your blood sucking thrills these days. In the Linden Children’s Centre, the condom distribution notice board is festooned in rainbow colours. A boy walks past with a yellow scarf. Instead of a football team it says – police line, do not cross.

© Nia Davies, 2009