1 November 2017

Frost passed by last night and left the sea of grass like painted waves caught on some canvas created by an unseen artist; silver edges to white as water turns to ice and each blade is edged with water turned to ice; and this anonymous sculpture will hold itself but briefly as the sun climbs and swings in the sky and drives off the shadows.

2 November 2017

Cycles turn but do not cease.  A still soft dawn.  Young dog turns and checks we are keeping up.  Old dog's nose draws him ahead until he realises and quietly retakes his place in the rear.  Apart from our own steps the barely audible river is our only companion; then once we have passed birds muffled and muted sing messages; not the joy and bursts of Spring but the cruel realities of Autumn.

3 November 2017

No dawn chorus but separate songs penetrate the remaining leaves. Birds flit from branch to branch visible amongst the gaps calling old mates and inviting new. These minstrels plan to outlast the coming winter and build their nests anew to bring on a flood of spring time young; so fluffed against the cold they sing of Summers past and Springs to come.

4 November 2017

Leaves are holding long this year keeping yellows and orange copper and red flying.  A corner turned can open up a wondrous display a cornucopia of colour that transcends the morning chill and drizzle; that catches sunlight even cloud filtered and reflects it out across the world.

5 November 2017

Soft light spills over treetops and falls and breaks on stone and branch on grass and leaf; amongst the shadows of the wood a twig from off an oak tree lies in a splendid spot of light; its remaining leaves shine golden as they draw their last sip of sap that vital sustenance that will feed their final step from life.

6 November 2017

Skeletons appear in the wood when leaves fall, each unique but all within broad bands: the model tall and willowy usually in ash, reaching for the sky smooth bodied with arms held above the common herd; the broader squatter worker cast mostly in oak with strong shoulders and limbs that could carry the earth; and at the edges leaning toward the light the supplicants of every kind hands raised hoping for the gift of a sip of sunshine.

7 November 2017

And the walnut trees divest themselves of leaves vast flurries tumbling spinning slowly in the thin cold air sparkling in the sharp harsh light like tinsel falling from some great height down onto hard fobright white grass scythed by sun that sits alone and low in a glass sky.

8 November 2017

Amid the leaves, frost pulled from trees and flowers, a thick carpet that flood the stream and every path and shaded place, there is a spot of pink almost cerise; a life that’s drawing sap even as the stem that birthed it is shutting down; a bud of English rose, tight pointed perfect in its form, raised up to face a pale clouded sun; beside it older siblings sag and droop, their colours drained into the earth, fine parchment petals thinning in the cold until they collapse upon themselves and shrink and die.

9 November 2017

The long grass shows the passage of we three when it was hard and sharp with frost.  In each footstep sits a dark green patch of crushed sward sap lines broken.  The rise and fall of foot and paw can be seen in grass that is bent and has not moved again.  Heavy with dew for most the day and with no wind these blades have like Atlas held up their burden and no more.

10 November 2017

Mist sits above this shallow valley and aids its isolation from the sounds and scenes of wider world.  It concentrates the focus upon each creature tree and plant.  A single fallen leaf or blade of grass rises in importance and demands attention.  Each snore of older dog and press in to closer sit from younger dog holds multitudes of meaning.

11 November 2017

Who lies beneath the Cenotaph?
We know who lies beside it
We will see them carry wreaths
Yet when they bow they feel no shame.

Are they the bones of one of these?
Suited hatted photographed
Their millions well secreted
Blood or money they pay no share.

Are they bones of an Englishman?
Perhaps, or Scots Irish Welsh
More than half the world lost men
Black and brown and white and yellow.

Whose bones lie here an hundred years?
Empty you say!  Like pockets
And like bellies the powerful
Have always emptied from the poor.

12 November 2017

Little wind pushes softly at leaves hanging by a thread to the branches of trees that have already recovered summer’s sap.  Leaves that offered foodstuffs brewed in sunshine in exchange for the magic that is water.  Now abandoned without notice they slowly desiccate as inexorably the blind and uncaring world turns and chooses not to take them with it.

13 November 2017

Sun shines gently on soft leaves discolouring on the ground.  The winds and rain predicted by the season have ceased for a moment.  The air is still and silent broken only by the occasional rhythmic beats of a woodpecker’s beak.  A solitary leaf falls from a poplar crown and wends its way to earth.

14 November 2017

Frost spent last night pulling water vapour from the air; dragged down dust as well so sun could rise untrammelled and look crisp and clear and clean across the whitened space.  Each branch and leaf with unblurred edge; each silvered cobweb distinct and focused and now immobile; each clump of grass absorbed engrossed .and shrunk in upon itself.

15 November 2017

Dear Men,

I have been thinking about posting something on sexual harassment since the current wave of accusations of film stars and politicians began.  If women are being harassed then it is men who are doing it.  And those men should not be dismissed as monsters, they are just men, like me and you.

I know the gender mix is more complex than this but please bear with me for the sake of brevity.

Have I flirted with women?  Yes

Have I flirted outrageously with women?  Yes

Have I made women feel uncomfortable?  Yes

Have I behaved inappropriately, verbally or physically or both, toward women?  Yes

Do the uncomfortable and inappropriate incidents include women over whom I have had power – such as at work or when I have been casting a play?  I do not think so, but some of the women may feel differently.

Have I witnessed or been aware of other men behaving inappropriately to women over whom they have had power, and failed to do anything about it?  Yes

Have I committed a sexual assault upon a woman?  And yes, I am trying to draw a line between inappropriate and criminal.  I am pretty certain the answer is no, but I cannot speak for every woman I have ever met.

Do I understand that these questions are one outline of a continuum and, despite the boundaries between them at times being complex, appreciate the difference between them?  Yes

Some inappropriate behaviour can be dealt with by an immediate rebuttal by the victim – but that only works where there is no power difference.  The junior at work, the actress in the audition, the assistant with the master have very limited power and exercising it can destroy jobs and whole careers.

I do not believe that the solution lies in better ways for women to report problems, in HR Departments or Trade Unions.  Whilst these are useful, the solution lies in men learning to behave themselves.

The first step is admitting that it is in all of us and it is in the culture.  We, the men, must accept that if we are not part of the solution then we are the problem. 

If we want the women in our lives respected then we have to respect all women – and speak up when other men do not.

If you think the differences between my questions are too grey and too difficult, then please ask the women in your life to teach you.

With thanks to the women in my life

Steve Marshall

16 November 2017

Mist has closed in upon us holding in its tight blanket everything but heat.  Trees stand in an opaque pool as if they had been detained; leaves lie on the ground fixed in place as if no wind or storm could move them; and grass lies limp and lanquid.  Then along the river runs a deer and then another; with all the pace of angels set upon by demons.  Young dog denies the certainty of failure and joins the chase.

17 November 2017

There is a mighty ash that stands a little from the rest.  Twin trunked it has lost every leaf of Summer and now stands naked but not forlorn, dormant but very much alive.  At the end of almost every twig a bud is waiting curled tight against the coming cold and tempest; protecting the small beating heart that come the Spring and triggered by the rising sap will open burst and spread into new life.

18 November 2017

A week or two ago at a turn in the river just above a little fall of rocks an ancient bird’s nest big enough for crow or rook, loosened from high in a denuded tree, leaves and twigs glued together in a dried out layering, landed in the water; intact it floated gently down and settled rested nestled in the water against a rock and cannot now complete a journey to the sea.  And this morning it has split and began to fall apart and let the world reclaim its essence.

19 November 2017

Light frost but sufficient to burst the cells of yet more leaves and let them flop and fail but not fall; their connection to the community of bush and tree was stronger than their hearts.  Even nettles begin to blemish, black unpatterned markings as if from a blind tattooist.  Only brambles seem to survive unscathed, spiked and aloof like the inheritors of great wealth who know they will own the world.

20 November 2017

Mist thick and dense close in swamping sight of all but the nearest trees.  The next layer hang in the mist’s embrace their limbs splayed like men succumbing to a vertical sea.  Beyond is a pale wall broken only by the birds that appear as if transported and are suddenly in the air black against the grey.

21 November 2017

Mist once more but under a pale blue heaven, made paler by the remains of contrails criss-crossing the sky; few even count as recent, none new capable of demarcating spaces; most dissipating showing their age; one broken falling apart collapsing under his own weight; an Atlas in the sky unable to carry on the burden of the earth.

22 November 2017

Like some monstrous foul skinned toad fog squats in mastery of the battlefield, his weight and inertia holding down the ten thousand year-long night of patriarchy.  But sister sun is rising from behind the trees and slicing dicing burning churning lighting and dismantling the very fabric of this fog to mist to haze to vapour until it is so thin it cannot be perceived.

23 November 2017

There is a patch of path that on clear mornings basks in sunlight as it tumbles down the hill and sparkles across the stream before settling into every nook and cranny of the wood and leaves beyond.  A golden bounty more than sufficient for a rainbow’s end lay there today; more oak leaves than could be counted fell last night like molten gold poured deliberately from the crucible.

24 November 2017

High in the bare branches of oak and poplar beech and ash there is still life and growth; the last remnants of sap are being pulled up and extracted by a parasite that has worked its roots deep beneath the bark.  Mistletoe hangs alone in air; vast sails that no storm seems capable of dislodging.

25 November 2017

Bright sunshine cuts through the still air under-lighting the faint mist that sits apparently unaffected by gravity.  Trunks break the flow of light creating vast ghostly buttresses that would hold up those trees as they soar into the sky.  Dark shadowy spaces lie under trees as if hiding the homes of mistletoads from the brightness all around.

26 November 2017

As if lost from the shoulders of a passing traveller and fallen down the hill a silver shawl drapes over hedges and cools its tassels in the passing stream.  All is still and silent until a roar lets rip that would bring down oaks and tear open the very gates of hell.  And on the skyline the culprit turns, nods his donkey head and bends to eat.

27 November 2017

Street lights pierce the darkness of the dawn.  Lawn, paved path and tarmac road.  There are trees but most feel contained and held in place, not sprawling wild and untamed.  There is the kind of neatness I lived in for half a century and now that does not feel natural.

28 November 2017

Urban birds wander outside the window.  Firmly fixed to earth and stone an owl of stone and metal heron survey the lawn; flitting back and forth from branch and twig to the feast of nuts hanging on the feeder blue tits hardy manage to come to rest; whilst up above sitting on the highest branches a team of pigeons watch malevolently.

29 November 2017

One for sorrow seems appropriate on a funeral day.  Solitary magpie on the table eating remnants of nuts left out for gentler birds; huge tail iridescent vermillion straight edged sword more than a foot long; great puffed chest consistent with a cannonball; and when it spots me light as a feather it gently flaps its wings and flies into the branches.

30 November 2017

And life continues unimpressed as a Robin alights upon the fence to bask in a shaft of cold sunlight.  Worms may be deep and out of reach but insects offer sustenance.  A few flakes of snow begin to fall adding a traditional touch.




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