Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Windmill Hill revelation…

The village yet damped-down beneath the oil of night; the only report, the high-pitched, mock-bark fracas of fox-cub. In the nucleus of nautical dawn, all is grey: green-grey grass; mauve-grey cloud; brown-grey stone; black-grey horizon – the world the colour of mallard, wood-pigeon, blackbird, and rook.

Leaving the Shipston road, the burble of an old valve radio being spun between stations grows with the wheat. My footsteps and stick-falls are silent, here: but still that splashing of song sooner turns trickle; soon turns stream; turns river; turns waterfall – drenching me in an incessancy of resonant comfort; drowned merry in a sea of skylarks. To my right, a crisp rustle of stalk. Then muffle of noiselessness. Only as I move on, the blades once more immobile, threat dissipated or dissolved, does the torrent of Matins restart.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The soul that sees beauty…

There is a hierarchy, it seems, to Tysoe’s with-sun-rising birds. As the first sodium-bright slash of dawn slices the horizon, the barn owl – its wings the shade of the night-mourning sky it haunts – yet circles the windmill: peeved, perhaps, that my presence has quiesced the small creatures in the verges, trembling umbellifers, ruffling daisies. The hedges here serenade me with the river-runs of goldfinch; the gossip of sparrows; the bossy robin; the caution of blackbirds. The crops, a sea of skylarks: effervescent; ubiquitous. But none yet leave their roosts. It is the raptors which rise pre-eminently on the cool air: a lone buzzard, one lazy, subtle flap of its wings propelling it yet higher. A glint-eyed kestrel shearing across my path; grasping the dead branch of a wayside oak from which to study me. There is nothing here to interest such a hunter; but yet he waits until I have passed before busy wings pull him beyond my sight.

A male pheasant, paranoid, dull-witted, staggers away from me: its drunken pose and anguished cacophonies aimed at naught; only rendering it more manifest. Thirty paces I tail this manic meandering, before remembrance of cover emerges between those frenzied eyes.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Is this now My Hill…?

As far as I am concerned, the only thing that can be achieved, when both my mind and body are suffused with deep, thick, viscous torment (echoed by repeated, random interference in both ears: stereophonic sussurations of spite…) – as I have stated so many times before – is walking. Apart from summoning lurking asthma, I know there is little worse I can subject my aching frame to. Plus, of course, my depression will ease, the further my journey. And on a morning like this – clear skies and concomitant summer balm; goldfinch twinkling in the hedges; chaffinch in the fletching oaks; buzzard and skylark floating above; sheep lazily grazing (heavy in their winter coats); and cattle uniformly resting in the shallow corrugations of ancient fields – what else am I to do? It is too generous a day to be shackled by sheets and shocking stair-rods of pain.

The first mile is hard: as if battling through stacked mattresses. But, reaching the sown fields, resistance fades, and my limbs begin to move with supernatural ease. Through my second gate, the path flowing beneath me, last week’s fresh cowpats have been grilled by the new heat, drilled by flies; but fudged treachery lies beneath the further stampede of hoof-prints, incised as the cattle migrated to new pasture. Despite the surface-split soil, moisture lurks. I wonder for how long.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Asking a shadow to dance…

Whatever you may think, or whatever others may tell you, being a classical music critic is an immensely tough gig – one that I have only taken the first few steps of an infinite journey in mastering. It presupposes a huge wealth of musical knowledge: repertoire; orchestration; history; theory; and, amongst a long list (that probably also has no conclusion), an empathy with – an understanding (and, hopefully, multi-dimensional experience) of what it means to stand in the varied shoes of – those who perform it. Should these people become your friends, then perhaps the hardest part is being critical (in the way most people would understand that word) in a less-than-positive – although desirably constructive – way.

I have touched before on some of these issues – and it may be worth your while to click on that link, before reading what follows… – but two tenets, above all, govern my attitude to such writing:

Cardus gave me two tips… One was: don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, and the second was: never write out of a bad mood. I’ve tried to stick to those principles.
Michael Kennedy

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Up Hill and Down Dale; or There and Back Again…

It was always ‘The Hill’ – or even ‘My Hill’ – never given its given name. Not that such mattered. When I was trialling my resurrected skill of perambulation, it was my habituation – requiring a destination that stretched and tautened my ill-used muscles frequently, as a baker will confront his callow dough. And not just those slack sinews of leg and arm; but a locus which tantalized my cognitive tendons, too – for, if the place bore no intrigue, it bore no reward.

It was only My Hill because my excursions were timed for those hours when the dog-walkers, kite-fliers, and recalcitrant children would likely be elsewhere: awarding me a selfish kingdom of solitude; but one where I could practice my eccentricities without fear of shame or chagrin; where I could talk to those whose names were fixed, in memoriam, to benches; or to the grazing, scrubbing cattle… – or simply myself. It was only The Hill because it was the only hill: a quarry-shocked crag; a two-hundred-and-eight-metre climb above the grey flatness of urbanity to the Cotswold Way – a deterrent, a border almost, most effective to the majority of those level-pegged inhabitants of uniformity.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Solvitur ambulando…

Walking is magic. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I read that Plato and Aristotle did much of their brilliant thinking together while ambulating. The movement, the meditation, the health of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps… this is a primal way to connect with one’s deeper self.
– Paula Cole

As part of my ongoing therapy, not only am I increasingly inhooped by a rising bricolage of motivational tomes and workbooks; but I find myself engulfed in periodic upsurges of rippling diaries, forms, and tables: a flux of unsullied A4 wavelets, tiding over me as temporary succour; busying me; until, eventually – when they are progressively overlaid with my records, registers, and particoloured responses – they crystallize into frangible stepping-stones, leading me steadily ashore. Rush ahead too expeditiously, though, and these will crumble, along with my tentative betterment. Forbearance is key – especially when allied with deep trust, hard listening, and terrifying honesty: the underpinnings of hope, if not yet achievement.