Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: walking

Istanbul diary – late May

Rubbish collectors, Karaköy

Vertiginous place of twists. The vertigo in walking, loosing the way. Giant swifts cruise from the pipes.  Strait of worlds. Worlds of moving folk. For-dreamed, for-Babelled.

In Beyoğlu, under the squawk and racket of the forked-tailed birds, the human hum: parading youths, Palestinian rubbish collectors, melancholy fiddlers, beggar children armed with kazus, the neck-craned tourists. Boho meets business meets cats and geese in the bar.

That famous dilapidated colour: the overgrown greens and pinks in the rubble of ottoman chic. On the bridges tiny pieces of silver – migrating sprats – are pulled thrice a minute. Men wash before kneeling. Sonorous air, full of the calls to prayer echoing back and forth over the big blue strait.

The gardeners in Yildiz park are too sunned and skinny. Furiously planting marigolds in rapid-spreading rashes of orange, the beds freshly coloured. Too fresh. They sling their crates in the back of the van and speed off to the next star-shaped border. A sweating glasshouse; shambled and overgrown with bird of paradise plants. Through the dim cypress and pine the Bosphorus’s live blue. Peace is maintained by the police guard at the entrance.

Beneath Yildiz, Istanbul Modern is also policed. No art ushers, only G4S security guards. Guarding art, keeping out the chaos of live cultures: bodies, enzymes, fumes of food and motors, the noisy hum and lap of boat-driven waves.

Beyoglu

Skye, November

Camasunary and the Black Cuillin

Skye. For me it’s Katy Morag land. With Granny Mainland and Granny Island. Skippers steering through the mid afternoon dusk. Sunsets as rum-red as the island’s Cuillin red ale.

By the time we reached Camasunary – a beachy crook in the Cuillin’s deep pockets – it was too late to climb the last leg to Loch Curuisk. The bothy, where we ate our sarnies, had been bagsied by three excited demobbed marines. Having abandoned their open-roofed jeep on the rocky road, they were now stumbling down the hill carrying their weight in Stella.

Several times I think: don’t even try to take photos, they come out too flat, the colours dimmed. And how to describe now the light in dark without resorting to grey? Do we leave the gradation of colours to the Romantics? To Elgol-visitors Turner and Scot? In paintings the ‘warped’ perspective of multi-angled wrap-around  viewpoints seems appropriate here, more living. We made a steady crunch of onwards before dark.

In Elgol you can find what is possibly the world’s most picturesque primary school, looking out over the Black Cuillins and the shifty sea and that Lofoten-like crashing of mountain into Atlantic. A big red cow chews seaweed off beached pontoons. As soon as we reached our car, parked in the village’s small harbour,  a huge curtain of squall was rolling over the mountains we had just left.  As if we knew too much of a secret thing and now it was being withdrawn. The marines would have to light their fires early and bunk down against the battering storm.me on a log

Driving back the snow began.  A white shred of shroud slid up the dark sides of Bla Bheinn; a strange backlit mist hugging the black rock. On the other side of the peninsula the skies were still clear.

Weather races here. Be careful, they say. The glows in the crofter cottage windows came on through the dark. Many houses stayed unlit; holiday homes. It was the off-season, and didn’t we know it.Elgol Primary and sea-cow

Sands of Forvie, Aberdeenshire. July

Forvie SandsEvery tread seems to disturb a bird, Sand Martin, Sky Lark or Tern, though I stick to the path and am careful in my step. I head through the dunes, past the beheaded Kirk which once stood over a village now lost to the sands. The joggers of Peterhead are the only other humans here today, charging through, pounding through this butterfly-strewn, grassy, flowery expanse.

Some dunes are so big and bare that if you blinker your eyes and cut out the smell of the sea and ignore the terns returning to their nests and the eider ducks splashing in the mouth of the estuary, you could be in the Sahara. Well almost.

An iron-red stream has caught fishing nets in its mouth on the beach. Once there was fishing, now there is petroleum.  It’s that same peaty North Sea as I found in Rye, still unfamiliar to me. I lived on the western shores of this island for two years and I miss the rocky drama of the Welsh coast.  The sea here seems muddier, but the land is lovely, full of sky and cloud and wind. It’s a place where you sense that the earth’s tilt and rotation. The flatness of the land makes for a certain quality of light: brightness from all directihigh brown butterflies on thistlesons, that northern clean-air light.Forvie Kirk

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.

Dalston diary

It’s a Sunday afternoon. I lean out of my door. I wish I had a camera for this. There are yellow and green flags, a portrait of a moustachioed man waving above a procession heading up Kingsland road. And so out I go. In the electric air there are crackling shouts from a modest crowd, ‘Turkey! Terrorist!’. It’s a Kurdish protest against ‘Turkish atrocities’. This is Turkish Dalston and they are entering Turkish Stoke Newington. A few people look on with straight faces.

I love the atmosphere of a protest; people and passions colliding in peace. Soon everything is back to normal and the usual populations jostle around the empty market space. The familiar smells of both raw and barbequed meat pass in succession. The dragging work of TFL continues. With the new train line comes an extension of the City. We must all eventually circle the orbit of the gherkin like a game of swing-ball. For now Dalston is still raucous, scab-ended and bright with life.

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