It was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen in my home county of Devon. For days we had watched the articulated lorries with trailrrs attached. Each one bigger than the trailers we had only witnessed before on the one train line in or out of the area. The papers were full of the stories of the outbreak but only now was the full scale of the disaster beginning to show itself.
Of course, everyday life had been changed, signs were up at all farm gates that led onto the narrow lanes with dire warnings of the danger within. Road blocks were everywhere restricting passage to all but bona fide government workers. No more ramblers enjoying the countryside. In the towns and villages, anywhere where cars and other motor vehicles were likely to congregate the entrances were strewn with straw and all around the pervasive smell of strong disinfectant.
Minibuses drove up the lanes following the heavy lorries. Through the windows, it was possible to see human figures. All dressed in the same white coveralls, reminiscent of the NBC suits we donned during exercises whilst in the forces, It was more like a scene from the Roswell or Area 51 movies. Behind these came the oil-tankers all in a convoy heading for the high ridges. Ridges where recently excavated trenches were now filled with the carcases of many thousands of newly shot farm animals, cattle and sheep piled up to the lip in their mass graves.
The hills resounded with the shouts of these eerie white figures as they lit the bonfires and stood admiring their sad handiwork while all in the land looked at the flames and the towering clouds of smoke. Nostrils filled with the acrid smell as of over-roasted beef and greasy smuts of soot blew wherever the wind carried them to land on car and house windows throughout the area.
By night the fires continued to burn. It was like looking up to the edge of some once-forgotten but now suddenly alive volcano. The gloom and sadness was all pervading and for once there was sympathy for the farmers on whom we had always poured such scorn. An attitude that perisits to this day. Even we felt sorry for the victims of the dread, “Foot and Mouth disease.”
Blow gentle sea breeze,
free my heart from this torment
call my spirit home
It was no good, I couldn’t rest with that strange looking animal sitting next to my bed. I pushed the lid aside and started to crawl out from under the marble. My visitor showed no sense of alarm, just sat there with his tongue protruding and a silly grin on his face. Shaking the dirt and dust of decades from my shroud I sat beside him and gently patted his head.
“I think you’re a bit late if you’ve come to rescue me. And aren’t you supposed to be a Saint Bernard or something bigger like that. What happened, did you shrink after getting wet in the snow? Your brandy bottle seems to have changed, a little handbag is it nowadays? I suppose that’s down to advances in medical science. After my time in there I think I’ve seen the light so the lantern is a waste as well. Anyway feller, I think it’s time for you to go home, no way are you going to save my life. Should have come around a long time ago for that but Thanks anyway.”
Being an extract from the log of HMS Fox, brigantine, 9th. Sept. 1869
Awakened at the first bell of the morning watch by Captain of the deck second lieutenant Ffoulkes. Weather fair, sea calm, no fog.
Lookout had reported sighting land on the larboard bow but charts suggest he was mistaken and would face punishment if found to be asleep and dreaming whilst on watch.
Called for my telescope and astonished to see what appeared to be a major town in the distance with houses, rivers and a large abode set high upon a hill.
With First officer, proceeded to check charts and called for a line to be passed down to confirm depth below the keel.
Soundings confirmed depth greater than fifty fathoms. Drew in lead.
Ordered change of course to proceed towards anomaly but before half a league covered lookout reported no land in sight.
Believing it to be apparition or mirage I ordered the ship back to original course to maintain blockade off the coast of Alaska.
Editor’s note. Upon examination of Admiralty records in Greenwich maritime museum, I discovered numerous reports of sightings of ethereal lands and cities off Alaskan coast and Alaskan Indians include such sightings in their mythology. Another mystery of the sea.
the eyeless corpse turns
as the cage swings in the breeze
squawking, the crow flies,
below, wide eyes fill with tears
gazing upon my father
barely a heartbeat
passing before a mayfly
loses fragile wings
It was the time of Sennei again. We stand in our lines, along the avenue known as the windwhistle corridor, males to the left, females to the right.
We all lean forward holding our magnificent freshly green head-dresses steady. Having practised our lines for many days we bow low and whisper our self-composed love sonnets in the allocated ear of our chosen intended.
Each of us males has a rival with whom we stand shoulder to shoulder facing a selected female, hoping that the young future brides would choose us. If she cannot make a decision between the two beaus chosen for her then duels will have to take place. The prize, a bride with whom to mate and procreate.
For now, while the breeze is gentle the only sound that the people walking between us would hear is the familiar, soft rustling of the leaves. All oblivious to the seriousness of the ritual taking place above their heads.
If a duel becomes necessary then the pair have to wait until there is a gale. Each tree is lashed against his opponent till one gives way. Some of these duels become quite violent with the occasional loss of limbs, even death by uprooting but this is rare as it would not gain anything for the species only the victor.
Most of the time the females are able to choose the strongest of the pair and accept the gentle brushing of their pistils with our anthers containing the fertilising pollen.
Now the wind plays another important role as the seeds may be carried far away from the avenue to land in another inviting area of ground, take root and at the mercy of the grazing deer or rabbits attempt to start a new plantation of trees. In time they will have their own Sennei in their own avenues.
A Royal wedding
nobility is endowed
a rare achievement.
The world in wonder at the
splendour of the occasion
For most tattooists
the body is their canvas
Long ears in the grass
snarling dogs strain at the leash
darkness on the downs