Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – August 2022

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
August 2022

9th July – under the big sky, casting shadows. By Maxim Griffin.

We thunder on – straight tracks through endless fields of shimmering wheat – the wind wolves on our heels, camouflaging the heat – a blizzard of midges and thrips – the grass is tall and parched, almost white – it dazzles – 400 gulls and jackdaws lift off into the mirages.

High summer – there’s enough chaos here and elsewhere to keep things spicy – the boys are going full steam ahead – leaping and teasing each other along – one balances a stick on a finger and will do so for miles – a rippling haze, the drone of a microlight.

An old man, bare chested with a terrier walks our way – he draws on a cigarette and calls the dog out of the crops – he wears ancient tattoos – time served on the sea, a wild night in Shanghai – he says something warm to one of the boys in a voice that only certain old men can project – half boom, half whisper, cavernous – he was a butcher at Dewhurst’s – a memory from 30 years ago – the terrier runs with us a little way before being called back, that big voice shadowed by the breeze.Judging by the numbers of flying ants it must be flying ant day – the clay is split – ragwort, thistle, mummified teasels and poppy skulls – various species of butterfly we do not have names for – Red Derek, Big Flapper, Tony Tony. I set John to renaming all the birds – the rest poke the ground for pipe stems and pot shards – kiddo holds out a decent bit of Willow pattern and a passing Tony Tony lands on it – the butterfly pauses for a moment and flexes wings over the deltas of broken glaze – a dusty hand cups the butterfly Gandalf style and whispers to it. John has found a caterpillar – Saturday, as everyone knows, is a big day for caterpillars.

What is this? A child holds something heavy in his hands – it could be an ancient battered sausage – iron heavy, decades of flowering rust – a horseshoe I reckon – you can see where the nail went – I’m not certain it is a keeper but am told otherwise – in the rucksack it goes, clunking among the water bottles. We are surrounded by an invisible orchestra of grasshoppers – the hypnotic seesaw of a billion tiny Tony Conrads – the eastern fields glitter as though painted by Vincent himself.

We keep going – no, we’re not turning around – see those trees? Beyond those – a collective groan. At a footbridge I bust out sweets – fizzy cola bottles and jelly men – lifts the spirits and the energy – they thunder on – one misses the path and confronts the next ditch with an impractical style – wet-legged with rancid water and dubious spawn – he laughs it off, just – it’s hot enough to dry quick but the smell will remain. We turn from the big fields to a series of tighter lanes – shady and green, in a couple of months the blackberry haul will be majestic – the spitting sound is from a child who has discovered the taste of the unripe fruit. A little sign – church open today – there might be cake – as any fool knows, church cake is best cake.

Yew trees, black against ochre – one of those churches that now serves no homes – there’s a farm down the track advertising itself as a centre for wellness – the smokers of the pipe stems we found are probably buried right here – it is with great interest that the boys find a headstone of slate with still perfect lettering – today’s date but 1888 – we look it up – an eclipse passed across the Indian Ocean and this woman died – Elizabeth, aged 26 years.

We loop around the churchyard and the boys are shown how to tread gently and with quietness – forgive our interruption, please excuse us – a man in yellow sits on a bench by the porch – he is covered in thunderflies – keeping an eye on the marmalade he says – he adds we are to mind for wasps – duly noted. Within the porch are the usual small church signs and flyers, a bookshelf of 10p page turners and a small table with three jars of homemade marmalade and an empty saucer – the cool smell of church – stone and dust and wood – the labels on the jars are written with an old hand in black ink – two are plain marmalade – one is whiskey marmalade – sunlight through suspended orange peel. Two boys are sent outside for a pebble – they return and we weigh the tenner down with the rock on the saucer – a tenner seems fair – there are no prices given – this is weapons grade marmalade. We keenly discuss that scene in Paddington 2 – if you know, you know – we place the three jars in my rucksack and wrap them with an old checked shirt – coddled as though they were baby hedgehogs – we announce the sales to the man in yellow whose eyes are closed to the sun, half-read Stephen King in his lap – more next week, he says – it’s the good stuff.

We thunder on – too hot now – too hot to cross the long straight way across the fields – we hit the green lanes – a chalk stream to paddle in would be ideal but the ditches run dry – the children begin to lag – a motor approaches – much too fast – we clear the lane with moments to spare – a midlife crisis at 70 miles per hour – he didn’t see us.

The sudden realisation that the horseshoe has made contact with a jar of marmalade – check – I feel the stickiness before the cut – blood and oranges – lovely – not deep but it is bleeding well – pour a little water to wash and tear a ribbon of shirt to bind it – shouldn’t need stitches – no time to faff around – we thunder on through the heat and stop at the shop for ice lollies, plasters and beer – in the supermarket the old man is buying dog food and baccy and nods as we pass.

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