I tossed the small, bronze object from hand to hand. Just lying in the sand, a chisel. I marvelled at it’s delicate, tactile, feel. I was familiar with bronze statues, sculpted, sensual, in gardens or on antique, period tables. This though, was a tool.
I placed it in my pocket, placing my palm on a giant limestone block, one of thousands shaped by such tools. The still bright, painted hieroglyphs telling their stories. Through my translation I realised that this one told of an overseer stabbed to death by a haunted chisel. My pocket twitched and suddenly felt lighter.
Consumed by vanity she was absorbed in her own reflection.
The coach trip was over. Unable to get the song out of his head he gathered all the bottles he could find, he even put up a fence in case of accidents, sadly none were green.
The ice age happened so quickly we didn’t get the chance to flee.
It was just after dawn. I was up beside the pond. It was one of those mornings when you can be at peace with the world. The sun through the clouds gave an indigo tint which was most noticeable on the branches that formed the dam. The calm waters set me to thinking of another time when I had visited this spot. A darker time.
My mother had called me to tell me that my stepfather Joe had gone out again. I feel that I should explain about Joe. Both he and my mother believed he was getting a bit absent minded. Neither would face the truth. A visit to the doctor was out of the question. I couldn’t convince them he should go, if only for a check up.
I knew where he might be so I set off for the brook. I met Steve in his garden and trying to appear casual asked if he’d seen Joe. He knew the story but confirmed that Joe hadn’t passed within the last half hour. He offered to take a walk round the village to see if he could find him. I thanked him and hurried on, sure that I was most likely to find him.
I walked out from the trees that bordered the river and there he was. I shouted out so as not to startle him, he was standing on the bank without coat or hat. He turned and his eyes were red. Suddenly his face lit up and putting a finger to his lips motioned me to be quiet and come and sit down. Not speaking, he pointed to the far side of the lake. I followed his gaze knowing that I would not see what he imagined he could see. We had been through this before as he looked for lost memories.
This time though was different. I heard a splash and to my amazement saw what appeared to be the snout of a very large rat. It was moving rapidly , leaving a vee-shaped trail of bubbles. Then I understood his tears, not sadness but joy. For the first time beavers had re-colonised the river and they were the builders of the log dam that had formed this pond. I too cried. We sat quietly watching these settlers until I finally put my arm around Joe’s shoulders to guide and help him home.
We have been walking for ages, will we ever rest.
Donovan had committed the unthinkable. Whilst being groomed ready for the North of England livestock fair he had suddenly gone berserk. With a furious snort he turned and kicked Old Bill, the farmhand and groomer. While he lay winded Donovan had stamped upon his heaving chest then thrust his horns directly into Bill’s stomach. By the time they had controlled the bull, poor Bill was dead through shock and loss of blood. These countrymen were superstitious, Donovan could not go unpunished. Custom decreed that Donovan must die and the punishment had to be hanging. There was one problem, gallows had not been used for many years and the wooden beams would never hold his weight. At once the solution became clear. The old railway bridge. The central girder was strong enough. That evening honour was satisfied. Later in the evening the unexpected ox roast went well.
This day was summer when the sun shone, and biting winter when clouds overtook the sky, a tumultuous mix of seasons in the span of an afternoon. An apt description of Exmoor, an unforgiving place. In one day you can walk through a whole year of weather, warm, wet, cold the whole shebang. It is all part of it’s magic and sometimes mystery.
A young family were staying in Porlock weir, the husband a warehouseman, his wife a part-time classroom assistant. She had returned to work after a two and a half year break after the birth of their first child, Millie. It was Easter half term and they had managed to rent a small cottage.
With Millie tiring of rock-pooling and net-dipping every day they decided to visit Culbone church, reputed to be the smallest church in England. Although a long walk, the path was suitable to take a buggy through the woods along the gently sloping cliff edge.
It was a glorious Spring morning when they set off, Millie well wrapped up but her parents dressed as if for a Summer stroll. A cloudless sky when they set out but while in the church it began to darken. On the way back the rain started to fall. At first just a few large drops but gradually increasing to a downpour. They had just passed what appeared to be a cave entrance. He took Millie by the hand and ran back to the cave while his wife dragged the buggy. A leaflet in the church had stated that charcoal burners used to live in the woods during medieval times, part of a leper colony so they assumed that this had once been a dwelling. In fact it was the entrance to an ancient, disused lead-mine. This was an industry that was not mentioned as it could be bad publicity for the countryside.
The rain was incessant and after a while where it had been seeping from above their heads it became a constant stream. They were amused when without prompting, Millie made a cup of her hands and started to drink the water and splashing it on her face. After about fifteen minutes the rain stopped and once more the sun came out. They hurried back to their holiday cottage as fast as possible ready to change and relax before the journey back to their home the next day.
In the car Millie started to complain of stomach ache and seemed in so much pain that they called into accident and emergency at their local hospital. After many anxious hours they were told how lucky they had been. Millie was suffering from arsenic poisoning from the water that had seeped through the mine roof. She had been very close to death. They would be prepared for any weather without sheltering next time.
Julie frowned and looked at her watch. Then once more she checked the illuminated board above her head. There was no notification of any delayed trains. She moved back and took a seat on the empty, cold, plastic bench. She started to examine her fingernails then opened her bag and took out a glossy red lipstick. With shaking hands she pulled out and unfolded a small mirror. She looked to see if anyone was watching and then started to apply a thin coating to her moist lips. She checked in the mirror and seeming satisfied, replaced the items in her bag. She glanced up at the departures board. Nothing had changed, her chosen train was still due. She checked her watch again. To her right she noticed a stirring in the people at the far end of the platform. The announcer called the arrival of the train. Julie stiffened as the sleek, silver nose of the engine appeared round the bend. She looked for a clear space, grabbed her bag and moved forward to the platform edge. She looked over to see the engine driver sitting high up in the dark cab and without a word, jumped.
It was late June when I was told I would be working in London for a couple of days. I was booked in to “The Charnel House”, in the Clapham area, a pub that had a few rooms to let above. After a two hour drive I rolled up at the front of the pub which was on the corner of Downs View Road and a cul-de-sac called Church Way because directly opposite stood the parish church of St. John the Baptist. A quite imposing building. It had a large black, wooden gate and a gravel path led up to the church door. Although the graveyard looked unkempt and unattended there was a board with a list of services so it was still a functioning church. I noticed there was a young black guy looking intently through the gate towards the church porch.
I went up to my room, dropped my case and went out to work. I noticed the guy still standing in the same position as before. He had a large parka draped over his arm on a warm, sunny morning. He looked about fourteen or fifteen, not moving, just standing, staring intently up the path.
After what felt like a long afternoon, dusk was closing in so I decided to take a leisurely walk back to my room. Turning the corner to the entrance I saw a figure outlined in the street-lights by the church gate. It was the same youth who had been there when I had left mid-morning. I turned the key and went in through reception. I watched the TV for a while then decided to retire.
Next morning I made do with just a cup of strong coffee for breakfast before setting off to work. It was eight thirty and imagine my surprise as, when I walked out onto the street, the same guy was in exactly the same place. Had he been there all night? Was he okay? It was time to get off to work.
I made my way back to the guest-house at about eight. Of course the guy was still by the church gate. On the third day, my last, as I left the reception there was a row of blue and white bollards closing the road off. A board was placed saying that there was to be a funeral at eleven o’ clock.
They were closing the street off now before any cars came in to park. The youth was no longer there, perhaps keeping out of the way of the funeral. I pulled into the motorway services on my way home. There was a large-screen TV. at the far end of the coffee house and the news was on. A youth of fifteen who had been involved in the Tottenham riots was to be buried that morning. The service was to be held in the church on the same road where I had stayed. The youth had been injured during the riots. and there was a strong belief that the police had been heavy-handed in their treatment of him. He had been struck a blow to the head and collapsed. He was taken to a hospital , Accident and Emergency department but he had remained in a coma without regaining consciousness until a week ago, when he had finally expired. Because of the potential risk of violence, there would be a police presence at the funeral as it could become the catalyst for further riots. I gave a start when they showed a photo of the young man. He was wearing a parka and a hat and looked just like the guy at the gate. I could only think that perhaps his lonely wait was over and he was finally invited to enter?