A trace of my various lives
I am trying to tease out the line that is the equation of me in this landscape. I started last Saturday, my First Festival Day, with a drive up to Firle Beacon, and walked my first flinty, chalky path. I snapped the view to the cattle and the masts, and talked to the sheep as they stood and watched me stop at the stile, then not climb over but return to the car and a smell of bacon wafting out from a van parked next to the No Overnight Parking sign. Skylarks. Crows. A single hawthorn in the fence line. A patchwork like someone had thrown the landscape out and laid it down on the hill.
Then down to Lewes, which I have learnt just this week (in the heatwave, thank you Radio 4) has an open-air swimming pool. Once I found the building at the end of the car park, with the tidal River Ouse running alongside, it was like stepping into the world of water that may, will, one day encircle the Linklater Pavilion.
We moved through the day like on a turntable for the old railway, dipping into the building and out; we wrote imaginary journeys in the room, and walked with John Clare outside in the heat; we sat on the steps in the shade, and then brought history to our writing trestles through the lens of a teasel, a fox or a fly.
I met some remarkable writers.
I was perplexed that my guided meditative walk felt hard to get going, until I realized that the picture I had chosen had no pathway in, no form of entry. A pathway over the hill, certainly, but no way into the field of furrow and grey stone wall and a man out of all proportion.
On my way back north two days later I wanted to see more of the South Downs so we ended up in a field with a trig point and a magnificent copse of tall oak and beech. We found the South Downs Way through some old cabbage plants in the bottom corner of the field and turned right to walk away from Winchester. I picked up some flint, as you do, and we came across the early skeleton of Boom Town, a festival in the early stages of creation. You can scroll through three pages of headliners, and that’s just the DJs.
To continue with the line. This week seems to have been a series of jagged geometries, dashing up and down the country, a trace of my various lives.
And today I’m back and what have I seen?
Tall beech trees only just allowing the A286 to get through.
Cocking is where the first flint appears in buildings, travelling form the north.
A timber lorry pulling out of Fernhurst, just as I was marveling at the tree cover, both coniferous and broadleaf.
Medieval horsemen. Fluorescent tabards. Strangely mobile plastic fish. The Weald & Downland Museum temporarily a film location.
Consequently the audience had a security escort to the fine poetry reading in the Museum this evening, and an authentic smell of horse drifted in through the open glass doors as Michael Jayston read Blake, Stephanie Norgate, Alan Morrison and Barry Smith read work that spoke to Blake, and James Simpson read his Reddleman poem that would have made the hair stand up even on Blake’s head. Linda Kellsall-Barnett’s classical guitar pieces bathed the room in fluid, hesitating, delicate, complete melodies; she likes to think that Fernando Sor (whose piece featured on Radio 3 this morning) may well have met Blake.
I feel I’m plaiting a thicker line now.
Carol Rowntree Jones