Tag Archives: landscape
Down to the Iron Bridge. Upstream along the abandoned railway to the power station. Three hundred feet up from there via the first set of wooden steps to the top of Benthall Edge. Over a fence and into Patten’s Rock quarry; out of the quarry and into the woods. Down steep slopes between fallen trees, abandoned lime pits and rotted-looking streams. The light on the moss here is beyond being described as “radioactive”, “fluorescent” or any of those kinds of words. You can’t think of a thing to say except that another world is inside things or implied by things; and you’ve said that before, so many times, and you can never take yourself at your word. One of the pits features a twenty or thirty foot waterfall, less picturesque than it sounds. A further steep diagonal descent across the scarp–black mud under dead leaves, sphagnum moss and hartstongue fern–leads back to the railway line; immediately climb the shorter set of wooden steps up to Workhouse Coppice. Emerge on Spout Lane. Back to the town via Quarry Road. In a garden on Bridge Road I saw a thrush with a beak full of nesting materials. My knee’s a bit sore and I think life owes me a sausage roll.
I thought I might describe every single step of this staircase, every crack, flaw and grain in the oak as if it were a landscape. But if I can’t describe what’s outside the window–the way the winter sunshine falls on houses half a mile away while the High Street lies in shadow–how can I attempt something that much more complex? Close up, as far as language is concerned, the stairs exist off the edge of resolution. I continue to be an observer who was never much good at observation, stuck with a means of communication which can’t carry enough information. No wonder there’s this constant retreat to metaphor. The attempt to push through into something else is always a failed attempt to be in the real.
Frost. Smoke and mist trapped under temperature inversions in every steep little valley. Sudden dazzling light. A surreal tractor rally in nowhere. Later, Gothic winter ivy and near collisions in the lanes around Prolley Moor. With dusk the local drinkers get their welly down in the 4×4, hunched behind main beams. The satnav undergoes identity breakdown &, trapped in an obsolete idea of itself, will only plod east whatever we ask it to do. “It’s already taken us here. Look! ‘Dangerous Hill’ again!” I hate the satnav anyway, it has usurped my last raison d’etre. What’s life, if you can’t even hunch over the 1:25000 with a single-LED torch in your mouth, pretending to navigate. On the other hand if I’d pretended to navigate sooner we might not be here now. “Dead horse! Dead horse!” “Dangerous Hill! Dangerous Hill!” There’s nought but bones. With a satnav you never know where you are.
Woods at the beginning of winter. Cold air. The residue of sunset visible between trees. Lights on in the power station, early night in the medieval quarries. Time in arcs like that, invisible layers of time along the side of the hill, time lacing the branches together, in among the leafmould like a hard frost. Three grey lurchers! Running down the muddy hill! Holly. Your own breath. The sense that you still function. The sense of an ending and of someone keeping pace with you not far off.