Road movie

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
May 2024

By Maxim Griffin.

The wet, grey winter passes – night turns into day – the birds are singing a different song – wood pigeons purr across the breadth of town – there’s a lost hour to make up for – British Summer Time is upon us – aim west and keep going – the passengers have finally got their boots on with the promise of pop and maybe some chips – dog in the back – music on – skip Leonard Cohen, skip Pink Floyd – Odelay, good – you get going with sunglasses and slide guitars.

The ash trees by the back of Morrisons are coming into green, catching the first breath of the sun and all about the bottle banks are the petals of shedding cherry flowers – a fella pulls up with carrier bags of empties and begins to make his deposits – the sound of glass breaking as gulls drift over and someone, somewhere is already mowing their lawn.

The road west is lined with big houses hidden by drives and evergreens – you point out the only example of art deco architecture in the area – Homes & Gardens House of the Year 1922!

Beyond it, new builds are birthing in what was once a meadow – you hung out there as a teenager – cider and first kisses in long grass – so it goes, another one for the list – when the houses stop, evergreens turn into beeches and oaks – a rising tunnel of chlorophyll and limbs until the road opens out onto the hills.

The blackthorn is very much up – miles and miles of frothing, deep hedgerow and the shadows of rogue clouds pacing across green and yellow fields – it’ll be a bumper year for sloes – this year’s blossom is extremely full – white avenues frame chalk tracks either side of the road – look at it for long enough and the effect is similar to gazing at fire or TV static.

Over the hills all the blackthorn tracks will lead eventually to prehistoric burials – white flowers at the barrows – indeed, sloes are a common find among Bronze Age burials and were fed to the bog people as a last sacrificial meal – there’s none about today so you pull in and take a few steps toward the mounds – there’s a red kite circling and the birds of the hedges are playing Eric Dolphy – not a breath of wind and you feel the sun pass across your face – good.

First blush of heat
On – four white horses stand in a paddock with daffodils and herring gulls – the red gable end of a tenant house, yellow sheets on the washing line – a field of ochre with a five o’clock shadow of green – a copse in the shadow of the sky – junction of village signs – a combination of thorpes and bys – this road of the main artery of the hills – a flock of men dressed for the hobby of cycling cycle past – from a gap in the boundary is a view from the sea to the city – you can make out the rollercoaster at Skegness, superstructures on the Humber, the tower of Grimsby and beyond to the Trent Valley – a bee cruises over the hedge and you feel the first blush of actual heat from the sun.

Someone fancies some pop – you fancy some pop – a detour into the next settlement – a small supermarket with a river in front of it – that’s important – that the river is in front of the shop – people are using the river – sitting, walking, playing, etc. – a toddler holds court with ducks – he drops his sippy cup – two lads step into the river and fish it back with a stick to the relief and gratitude of the parents – his favourite, you see – you crack open the pops and watch the river – mmm, it has been ages since you had a Fango.

Best get going – still heading west – signs promote Easter things at a farm park attraction – signs prohibit the staying overnight in laybys – signs protect the wildflowers of the verge – signs deny the pylon – a line of brown bungalows with tiny walls at the front – those spacer bricks in the shape of the Maltese cross, neat bushes and sprawling, magnificent magnolia trees – an older gentleman in sport casuals sweeps petals from his drive while the breeze blows more down the narrow pavement – he seems happy enough – a content terrier sits on an iron chair, basking.

Riding Roman style
An A road wasn’t the plan but you’re happy to ride Roman style for a few miles – big field time – green, green then the yellowist yellow – it’s a wayward, joyous colour, the oilseed fields – and there’s that smell from them – heady and thick – as a child you hated it but you’ve since acquired the taste – you’re looking for the turning, crest of the hill, a crown of ash trees – bit further – there – right – got it – yup, brown sign – you lean over to address the passengers – there was a battle here lads – but you’re drowned in the combination of brotherly sniping and Kraftwerk.

Are we nearly there yet? It’s a cliché and they say it with mischief – yup – couple of miles – the dog is ready for a run too – an orchard in full tilt – left here and round – they’ve spied the pub – you said there would be chips – after – dog first, then chips – pull up as ‘Autobahn’ hits the motoric mid-section with Florian on flutes – everyone piles out and pegs it through the gate to the ruins – sticks are found and combat is reenacted – they’ve steam to burn off so you deal with the matters of the dog, who is delighted to be here, delighted to be anywhere – from the earthwork a rallying call goes up – they have cried havoc and now chips, chips, chips, chips – dog first, then chips.

The sun’s still warm – beer garden – wait here – you go and order – mmm pub – low ceilings and horse brasses and pub men who drink from special cups, Johnny Cash on the stereo – ‘Big River’ – soon you are 20 quid lighter and gingerly carrying a tray of lemonades, one coke and a pint of ordinary bitter to the table outside – chips’ll be 10 minutes and there’s blackthorn in the hedges.

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