Words that I write

Words that I write...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Gully

The entrance to the gully stands before me in stark contrast to the open grassy fields on either side. Its passage up the hill is marked by its deep green colour lent by the stand of trees that line each side. I start walking and it encloses me quickly with each step, its deepening sides lined with long green crinkled fern leaves and a carpet of dark glossy ivy. It's a blustery day but the wind is warm, the last vestige of the summer heat. Above me, the wind sings through the trees; a high pitched rustle of the small leaves in harmony with the low slow boom of wavering bows. 

A small amount of sunlight filters through the branches overhead, leaving an ever moving dappled pattern on the rocky path underfoot. There's a gentle crunch with each step as my feet tread on the first of this years autumn leaves, their yellows and browns contrasting with the vibrant green of the gully walls. The gully narrows around me as I continue climbing. A beech tree clings to one bank, clutching onto the hillside with a tangled mess of roots as it tries to hold back the inevitable decline.

There's something otherworldly about a gully, the tall sides enclosing a narrow channel from the outside world. Sound doesn't permeate here. Time seems slower, unhurried, as it creates its own mini ecosystem. I'm relieved to have this path to myself, the magic unbroken by the intrusion of the outside world. 

As I climb higher, above me fallen trees span the gully width, creating swathes of shadow and a semblance of a roof to this passageway. On these beams begins a new generation of growth; vines weave a thick tangle over the trunks and small seedlings take hold in the boughs. They casts the illusion of a tunnel ahead, and I am drawn to keep walking into its heart.  

All too soon, I burst out into a clearing. To my right lies a patch of quarried gravel and to my left a stack of recently felled timber taller than my head. These serve as an abrupt reminder of the world beyond, and I withdraw into the gully's embrace for a few minutes longer. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Portraits in Passing #2: The Pianists

I don’t want to be here. The train station is heaving with people and noise, and there’s nowhere to sit. 

I hear music and it momentarily calms me, centres. There’s a piano in the foyer, pushed up against a lift shaft. An old man is playing, his hat and scarf laid on top as if they belong there. There’s a scrap of paper in front of him with a list of songs on it, suggesting this is planned rather than impulsive. His hands run over the keys with the familiarity of decades. In between songs, he eagerly asks the listeners where they’re going, where their journey is taking them. I sense he comes here from time to time, maybe regularly, perhaps trying to counter a loneliness he feels. He looks happy for these moments, banging out show tunes and classic favourites. He’s playing for the crowd and a group gather around to listen to his gift to them.

An hour or so later I’m sat the other side of the lift shaft, reading a book. I hear a flurry of music; a soulful version of Summertime being played on the piano. I can’t see who’s playing, but it’s simply wonderful. I stop reading, unable to continue whens such beauty is being created. I sit, listening to the music and the talent that lurks behind every note. All too soon it ends, and I am dragged back to reality. Through the glass I can just see the top of a man’s head as he stands up to go, leaving a small crowd applauding behind him. He darts around the corner, and I see him fully for the first time; a smartly dressed business man in a suit, clutching his briefcase. His head is ducked, but I see the smile on his face; he plays for himself. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Portraits in Passing #1 : Stanley

I sit in your seat on the train by accident, carelessly not checking if it has been reserved. You’re very sweet about it, and offer to take the one next to me instead, despite me claiming the prime window territory. I point out I’m getting off at the next station, and you can have your seat back then and we settle into our respective locations with a smile.

We sit in silence for a while; me staring out the window and you rustling with some paperwork. I notice you’re reading a booklet about dietary advice, and I notice you sighing as you turn the pages, your worn hands shaking a little as your turn the page. You want to talk and I am a willing recipient of attempts at conversation. We try a few topics; my living in Bristol, your love of cricket, the coldness of the train station, but none quiet stick. 

You tell me that you’re struggling to eat well since your wife has died, that you struggle to eat vegetables beyond carrots, potatoes and beans. 59 years and 7 months you were married for. You briefly make eye contact as you tell me how she had dementia for the last few years.

I tell you I’m sorry to hear that, and I mean it. I can see the sadness in your eyes for a moment, but they brighten when you tell me that you recently met a woman. Her name is Rosemary, and you tell me how you met; that the moment you saw her you knew she was the one, the same as with your wife. She’s 10 years younger than your 88 years you tell me with a smile. You’re going on holiday to Shetland together in a few weeks time, a place you’ve been before but she never has. And you speak on the phone every morning at 8am.

It brings tears to my eyes, to hear you talk of the wife you loved and lost, and the woman you love and have found. You’ve got things pretty good, you admit, as I get up for my stop. Yes Stanley, you have.