30 days wild, 26

One of the faculties that seems not to have dulled with age is my ironclad determination to completely screw things up at a moment’s notice. I demonstrated this on Sunday by locking myself out of the house, sans shoes brilliantly, solely in order to take a photograph of some lavender.

It’s fully exploding into life outside the front door and the bees are crawling all over it. This will make a good jumping off point for a 30 Days Wild post, I thought. Stepping out into the front garden in my socks. All the bees vanished as I took my one picture, momentarily disrupted by, to a lesser extent me, blundering toward them, but more importantly by a small gust of wind that moved not only the flowers, but also my front door to close with a bang.

I had about an hour and a half to contemplate things while a pal – I luckily had a few minutes’ of charge on my phone – set off on a rescue mission with his ladder. It was dull and spattering with rain, so I retired to the back garden and the faded parasol I’d found last year in the shed. Sitting under it, with little to do but wait, I engaged in looking more carefully at the stuff I took for granted. My back garden is a little bare, just slabs and gravel-filled borders, although the feeder (unused while I took up temporary residence) has brought some life to the place.

Mine is the last house before the fields, living on the village or the fen (depending on your point of view) edge. Behind me is a dark border of trees, mostly overgrown leylandii and then hazel and some silver birch. They’re unmanaged trees, dense and light-preventing, but filled with birds, Great Tits and Blue Tits mostly.

And I noticed, intriguingly, something that I’d not seen in all the year I’d been here: an old and incomplete set of gateposts set up just the other side of the fence, hidden in the gloom of the overhang. These houses are, at best, 1960s, a mixture of council properties and old forces accommodation. Where did that gate lead? From where to where? An old poem I was made to learn from school poured in, jumped up,  and I sat there trying to coalesce the memory of it.

It’s Kipling’s The Way through the Woods. I couldn’t recall the whole thing. When my friend turned up and helped me get in I made him a cuppa and sat staring at the spine of Leeson’s Golden Treasury of English Verse willing the words to come.

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods.


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