Essays

Offshore

Offshore

On the last day of a family holiday I sneaked out of the caravan just after dawn and walked to my favourite spot on the cliff to say goodbye to the sea. The place was near an old stone hut where fisherman used to keep watch for the pilchard shoals coming close to...

Unremembered

Unremembered

The cloud is down. My navigation is reliant on the recall of shapes close up: twisted trees, broken walls, mawn pools, the bends and intersections in tracks. In the past week fieldfares have returned, I can hear them now, ransacking the rowans. A small flock of...

A Desertion

A Desertion

I remember that the sand whispered and sound carried for miles. And dunes the colour of tanned skin - their perfect, female contours. I remember how the desert engulfed the town, dust blowing down narrow streets, gathering and drifting in doorways. There were blue men...

The Nocturnal Bottleneck Theory

The Nocturnal Bottleneck Theory

The most useful thing I learned in an 18 year education was that a white sheet of paper is never white. I learned this by spending five full days staring at an unmarked A1 sheet pinned to a wall, trying at first to draw, and then to paint it. The exercise was set by...

The Roundabout

The Roundabout

It’s an ancient-looking structure cresting a high hill. The stone was formed in the Silurian period, 400 million years ago. It was gathered from the surrounding hilltop quarries and assembled into a head-height circular wall for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. The...

Ryokan and the Rooks

Ryokan and the Rooks

I have a small but growing collection of bird skulls, mostly found on walks in the woods or on cliff-top paths. My favourite is from a manx shearwater. I found it on a clifftop path on Skomer Island, which is home to a hundred thousand of these seabirds in the summer....

Hidden Words

Hidden Words

I’ve been scribbling words onto stones for a few years. The hills around here are littered with small, disused quarries, shallow pits containing loose stones of different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one is difficult as the local mudstone is coarse and it’s...

Halfway

Halfway

The lake is clouded, an almost luminous turquoise. The bottom feels slick, like soaked wood in winter. For weeks the daytime temperature has been over twenty-five degrees yet the water is freezing, fed from the glacier above. I wade up to my waist, then dive. The...

Success and Succession

Success and Succession

The path drops steeply via a series of switchbacks, between granite outcrops and boulders, crossing streams that plummet down the mountain. I hear birds whose calls I don’t recognize, their songs mingling with the drone of traffic far below on the road.  It is hard to...

The Oak and the Swift

The Oak and the Swift

Lately I’ve started to pity swifts.  They arrive around Mayday every year, appearing over the river in helter-skelter couples. They then form larger groups and spread out over the valley, chasing invisible entities which must be far more important to them than prey....

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