We sat in silence in the yurt in expectation not knowing why we had been summoned. A boy entered with three jugs with bamboo tubes for straws. I looked inside mine, the cold hit my nostrils for it contained frozen yak milk which is only offered to visitors as a great honour.
meander over the moor
in their time-worn paths,
brooks and streams in headlong rush
eager for the sea’s embrace
Though for forty years
they wandered through the desert
food was abundant
I am anonymous. Bobby Fairfield gives nothing away but has decided to write my little story following a documentary on Sky Arts which has jolted my memory bank. I have realised a connection with a famous writer to whom I would not like to cause any embarrassment but a story needs to be told. My story begins in the year of 1969, a year which could have meant the difference between a country boy passing examinations which would have lead to an extension of education in one of the great universities or obscurity in the University of Life. I chose the latter and decided I needed to see the world my parents had never dreamed of. The premier reason for this decision was an introduction to a completely different type of master at the Grammar school I was attending. Before I name this individual I feel I should pass on my thoughts and impressions of the man and his style. I was in the fifth form, preparing for the breeze known as GCE, “O levels.” Being excellent at English albeit with an accent that could peel the bark off a tree, it was considered that an O level in English Literature would be on a par with which I had passed all previous examinations. Our first day in our most important year and we sat waiting for the entry of our latest tutor. In through the door slouched a thin, grey-jacketed guy not much older than any of us in the class, long dark hair down past the shoulders, longer than most of the girls even, round spectacles, no suit, just casual. No sign of the black gown we had become accustomed to, as a sign of their educational prowess that gave the gravitas and right to superiority over us lower people. He introduced himself as Michael but was just another teacher as far as the class were concerned. From the first we could sense a difference in him, our weekly tests, instead of referring to the likes of Samuel Beckett or George Orwell consisted mainly of questions concerning which drugs were addictive, i.e. hard, or soft. Strangely enough the results were not announced. I was rather a disruptive influence, of which I am not proud but I was big and brawny, intelligent, scruffy and ugly. Mainly because I was from up on the moors, a true Devonian and he and I did not get on. I was a difficult student, the sort he was either unprepared for in the training college if they existed in those days or could not have imagined in his worst nightmares. Classes were far from normal during the week culminating every Friday when he would bring in a little dansette type record player and would proceed to play a “Bob Dylan,” album. At that time I was more interested in rock, psychedelia, and loud music. To give him his due he would also, grudgingly, invite us to bring our own L.P.s in to be played during these lessons. I remember that I took in an Alvin Lee album, great music including extended version of, “Love like a Man,” which did not impress him. He would then invite discussions on the music that we had just heard. It was always obvious that he had an obsession with Bob Dylan and his music. Before you accuse me of bias I would like to advise you that it was always rumoured that this teacher was banned from appearing on stage at the school speech and prize-giving day as an undesirable, due to his hair length and refusal to wear the gown and mortar board. I have mentioned my disruptive tendency but it culminated in him calling me a, (if easily offended, please do not read the next word, “C..t,” amazing! the whole class gasped, with a few embarassed fists to the mouth “Oh!s” with reddened cheeks but even I realised there was truth in what he had said. One day shortly after a classmate saw him arriving in the school car park driving what I believe was an “Austin Princess,” or may have actually been a vintage Bentley, the Devon equivalent of a Rolls Royce. From then on it didn’t take long to find out that our weird teacher had written a best-selling autobiography of Bob Dylan, procured a book deal and sales rumoured to be worth “75,000 pounds.” a phenomenal amount at that time which writers even now would be well satisfied with. Not withstanding his prowess I believe that this unusual apparition in our school was the reason why I never passed my English literature O’level thereby causing my non qualification for University education. I would like to belatedly thank him for a fabulous life without that benefit. If Michael, surname omitted for reasons of privacy as he maybe and probably still lives and writes, remembers me I am glad you have done so well. I would also like to emulate the rumoured original book deal if he feels that he could give me a helping hand.
Try to remain strong
though your heart may be broken
your spirit remains
The angler sits squinting over the lake. This is the largest lake in England and should hold the promise of some great sport. Fifty yards in front of the concrete shelter in which he sits, a day-glo orange point of reflected sunlight shows where his float is sitting motionless on the water. Suddenly the coloured tip bobs below the surface and almost instantly returns to its upright position. Then it disappears completely with hardly a ripple to show where it once sat. Unhurriedly he slowly takes up the rod and with calm, collected movement he raises the rod tip, exposing the float with tight line leading down into the water. As the float rises into the air the line is performing a frenzied dance, pirouetting, describing arcs and performing tight figures of eight. Now he straightens the rod so the tip is vertical and holding it firmy in his left hand, with his right hand he grasps the almost invisible line and slowly pulls it into the bank, at the same time raising his arm until a tiny, silver, dangling fish is exposed, as though balanced on its tail on the surface of the water. A bleak, one of the smallest fish found living in fresh water. He gently pulls the fish to the bank and with a shake the bait falls from the fishes mouth and the fish is unhooked. The shiny silver sliver rests in the palm of his hand for a few minutes to alleviate any stress and then he gently places it back onto the surface. He releases his hold to let it swim freely back down to the murky depths, having suffered no harm, only the loss of an easy meal. He then takes his position once more, settled in his seat hoping for a repeat performance but with a much more substantial catch.