Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Somewhere Between Maidenhead and Henley

Debbie still has this idea that once a year I actually want to stop writing for a week and talk to people. So convinced is she of this that Tuesday we ended up travelling to some place between Maidenhead and Henley to meet up with loads of strangers for a post-Xmas walk.


Some Walkers Stocking Up.

The get-together was organised by Ross and Karen Moyse and the organisation was impressive. They were serving tea, coffee, mulled-wine and bacon or sausage butties out of the back of a 4 x 4 when we arrived and it started to snow at 10:01.

Mulled Wine

There must have been at least 50 people, ranging from a baby in a three-wheeler push-chair to an old guy who looked at least eighty.


It was definitely boots and wellies weather and the walk was through some unusually neat paddocks with fences of a much higher quality than normal, and horses that seemed far more handsome than seemed fair.

They Set Off

Later it turned out we were cutting in an out of a massive stud farm owned by an Arab Sheik and the fences, as well as being well-made and quality, had real purpose.

No idea how long the walk was. There was some "fun" when we came on two horses in a narrow cut through coppicing and one was "spooked", the rider ending up on his feet and desperately trying to control his mount. A lot of adults suddenly seemed a lot less sure of themselves. Hah!

Only other incident of note was when the dogs discovered this swamp, this black, black, black, stinking swamp, which may well have been a cess-pit run-off. They were straight into this. The various kids were screaming with delight, the various middle-aged 4x4 drivers were not.

The walk finished just before noon. We moved to the pub, then we (me Deb and kids) went on a quick family visit before dashing home for yet more visitors. (I got to the computer for ten whole minutes.)

Jan and Jeremy are actually interesting. Jeremy is a PhD who is expert in Static Electricity and travels the world getting rid of sparks

Funny, I spend my life trying to find sparks and set people on fire.

Jan and Debbie have been friends for twenty years (so they must have met in primary school) and Jan is very arty, seriously into textiles (which she teaches) and puts together a mean outfit!

Does this have anything to do with writing? You betcha! In a single day I was able to see and experience the range of life, from baby through an old man, watch the way the boys immediately congregated, played "rugby" that would be illegal if adults played it (only two dead), note how the young ladies were so much more reserved, conserved, above "that sort of thing".

The walk itself took in beautiful countryside, the mystery of this fencing. I spotted a worker and went to chat to him about "all this" (he was French) then discovered that the whole area (once a Government Research area) was now owned by a Saudi Prince. This very large site was the smallest of twenty-five; the corners of these fields all had sturdy, large, solid fencing because the stallions chased each other into the corners and without the fencing the chased horse would jump out of the field.

Many of the lanes were through "coppice" and until Xmas Day I had never realised what coppicing was (another tid-bit for the unconscious). The dog incident can be used, so can the way a camera works when "not-posed" versus "aware" (same as writing, that) and the various sneaky thoughts about which spouses DIDN'T come, who was who's ex, all the social politics, even my own sad reluctance to do any of this, to be dragged away from the computer.

Then there's static electricity, dangerous sparks (are we thinking metaphors here?) EVERYTHING is material, gives us richness, unusual connections, metaphor, simile, allusion. Just read that website on coppice and do no more than put the words together and let them germinate barrel hoops, charcoal for gunpowder production, frames and shafts of buildings, clogs, gate hurdles, hop poles, hay rakes, pilings, hop poles, tool handles, spear shafts, scaffold, tent pegs, tool handles, besoms, barrel hoops, faggots/bavins for firing ovens, crate rods, faggots for land drains, faggots/bavins for firing ovens, horse jumps, hurdles, turnery, thatching spars & liggers, wattle and daub

Ash, Alder, Hazel, Sweet Chestnut, Birch, Oak, Willow, Hornbeam, Lime

Look at the richness of this language! Think how when we write chances are we just say "tree" and if we name it say "oak tree" almost like a cliché.

Spend five minutes a day "filling up" with traditional words, arts, ideas, and see how sometimes the sense of primitiveness, or "deep arts" or being with nature, or "belonging to the land" can trigger deep feelings in you, maybe give you a story or enrich one.

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