Edge of the day
By Maxim Griffin.
It’s six – late afternoon, Good Friday – clear, sunny – one of those in between days, an invisible Sunday – someone up the terrace is cooking chicken – red brick ends weird and bright against radiant sky – a telegraph pole that feeds thirteen houses – a big screen that faces out – The Greatest Story Ever Told, Max von Sydow with pale blue eyes – no one about – it’s quiet – lawnmowers somewhere – no cars – distant ice cream van ambient – he’s playing Barnacle Bill this week – tinny, away, looping – mind that child.
Meg strains toward a blackbird – she doesn’t mean it any harm as such – it’s the movement that she focuses on – the blackbird ascends the shelter of a lime green privet – in the drive is a motorhome which bears the slogan ‘The adventure begins’ and a vectored graphic of the Cairngorms – there are new houses behind the older ones – a dormer bungalow, then a recent build – a style of architecture that is yet to be named – precast Edwardian vernacular, maybe. Meg wants to get going – there’s a brown dog that comes around the corner at 0723 every morning and it is rarely a friendly meeting – territorial, turning ritual – he wears a hi vis cagoule and the sheer slacks of a runner and laughs the encounter off – a washing line of sheets sways very quietly – the first butterfly of the year.
There’s a desire line into the tangles – an extended spread of overgrown market gardens, ruinous sheds in brambles – already the young nettles are up – hedgerows that are merging over the fox tunnels – hawthorn, blackthorn, some holly – everything that flowers is in flower – maximum springtime – the sun has a way to go yet, pop your headphones on – bit of Ryuichi Sakamoto maybe. In a few weeks the grasses will be waist high and the evenings will be even longer – May is a special month – one fluffy cloud coasts left to right – Meg careers onward for the perpetual tennis ball – deer come this way at night – somewhere very close a vixen prepares her kits for the real world – she was almost tame over the winter – not a good thing, a fox should always be cautious.
Swampy underfoot – new boots that have yet to settle – a film of oil on the deepest puddles – a hole, dug in preparation for a housing development that failed to manifest – microscopic insects skating on the film of rippling colours – boot prints and sticks suggest a child or a goblin has been spearing the water. Half six – the Köln to Chicago sails into the west – still and bright still – two hours away from sunset – warm – first walk of the year without the coat – Meg returns, shaggy and black – yellow ball in her chops – she’s come a long way in the last year or so – a long way from the mountains of Carpathia.
There’s a more public route off to the left, half in a hollow and hidden by woods – voices in parallel – on bikes – three, maybe four men, well into their cups – the gist seems to be a matter of who owes whom a sum of monies, which is countered with a complicated list of previous favours – they tumble along and away.
Into the open – sports field, big, green, quiet – empty goalposts, white lines, puddles – heard they want to replace it with little plastic pitches – all-weather grass you see – nasty on the knees – there’re tracks all over the place from earlier games – there used to be a sign – NO BALL GAMES.
Somewhere offside and east, a bee falls out of the air – on inspection, it is found to be covered in money spiders, drowning in money spiders – this would be a strange and desperate end for any beast – the bee still has some fight – with a twig and a blade of grass, the money spiders are removed enough for the bee to return to the air – it wobbles up and away, back on task.
Quarter to seven and still bright, summery even – it was snowing a month ago and now we hear the distant sound of trampolines, lawnmowers and wood pigeons – it’s the wood pigeon sound you really want to tune in to – that soft, big grey sound that spreads for miles – at the gable end of 1960s municipal housing, an old man calls out “Spaghetti!” – this spooks Meg and she yips back in response.
Cross the Rubicon and into the far and muddy fields – nothing properly drains until the droughts hit – not quite wetland proper but give it a few years and it’ll turn to marsh in the way the old canal is turning slowly back into chalk stream. Meg’s ahead – taller grasses – ground nesting birds – reeds and bulrushes – three ditches and a medieval dyke converge and pool up – somewhere for the dragonflies to get busy – out in the middle and statue still, a king heron.
Sun heads west
Flowering blackthorn channels in every direction and the sun is past the spire and approaching the hills – the heron slowly prowls the surface of the water – first thrust is unsuccessful, missing the mark but the second strikes home and the heron swallows – the sun’s at the angle which reveals the density of airborne insects – that hazy quality of colour that is more September than April – from two fields over a great host of gulls lift off as one and the sky is shadowed with the weight and motion for a few moments.
Half seven and the sun is heading west – exploiting a gap between two places that will shortly be built over – those last few minutes of sun, level with the eyes as Meg leads the trek through young nettles and thorns – she’s covered in blossom and happy as a clam – turning off the green way and back among houses, the last sighting of the disc of the sun passes out of sight and the birds begin to turn the dial down – a black and white cat absorbs the heat from the bonnet of a dirty truck – 10 seconds later, Venus becomes apparent and the magic hours begin.