Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – February 2022

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
February 2022

3rd January 2022 – frost turning clear turning to frost. By Maxim Griffin.

Not even first light – coffee and setting stars – the dogs know the score – wellies mean a big walk with the pack – buckle up and out the door – dogs and boys.

It’s cold – proper cold – ice in feathers up the cars and blooming on the skin of the flooded potholes – first light in the deeper east – magic hour – the market hall clock rings out – 7 – an hour until the sun crosses the horizon – shift change night workers heading home – care uniforms, lads from the plastics factory.

The stars are already switching off – Orion fading westward – a bloke sprays WD-40 on the windscreen while the engine ticks over – the telephone pole at the top of the road slices up the sky with two dozen lines – there’s a blush towards the sea – we head down onto the old railway – head torch on – the dogs pull, huffing and sniffing – the beam from my forehead travels the branches and into the eyes of a cat.

On and out of town – getting the new dog used to the neighbourhood – Meg, she’s from Transylvania and has the quietness of a stone – the track leads down the back of ’70s semis – still a few Christmas trees up – there was marshland out here but it’s all getting built on – the sky is getting brighter, no need for the head torch.

A batch of new builds by the garden centre – usual stuff – enough variation to suggest an organic settlement, bad bricks, roads with twee names – Weaver’s Tryst, Badger’s Drove, Otter’s Pocket.
The diggers are on the other side of the road now – a gigantic nursing home sprouting out of the old strawberry field – if you look through the bramble you’ll find the PYO sign – strawberry fields forever.

The dogs are off – there’s a wasteland at the back of the new builds – last year’s teasels, temporary excavations, spoil heaps – the largest mound is as big as a long barrow and several metres taller – instantly compelling – it’s almost daylight – the mound is slippery, unfinished – paws navigate the thistles – rabbit scat, rubble.

The elevation adds distance to the hurled tennis ball – dogs zoom after.

There’s good stuff on the surface of the mound – chalk and flint – good lumps of flint that would be right for knapping had they met the bulldozer’s blade – there must be a seam underground – no hagstones about – remnants of a silver balloon tangled near the summit – on closer inspection, it’s that snowman from Frozen – one of the boys bags it up.

Scanning the clay – after finding a silver cross a few weeks ago we’re paying more attention to the earth than usual – not for the sake of treasure, but narrative – the mound is a jumble sale of possible stories – one of the boys investigates a shard of Edwardian teacup.

The gulls are coming – the new builds are beginning to wake up – there’s an egret standing in the centre of an icy puddle that is the colour of tomato soup – another dog walker – familiar face, waves – we wave and the dogs wag and sniff.

The sun will arrive soon – Polaris is the final star fading – there’s a turquoise line from north to south and a jetliner high and bright – turbines above a rising murk coming from the sea – call the boys – whistle the dogs – Meg gets it – she lollops up the mound and leans into the old winter coat – Banjo, the old springer, does what springers do, and is assigned the most energetic child – they skid down the slope to smash whatever panes of ice they can find.

There’s a red flare over the east – a cloud the shape of Australia and the colour of butter – there’s ground mist rising off the marshland – a heron menaces the dykes – the youngest boy complains about the cold but is satisfied with the double promise of pizza and cake for tea – the sound of pebbles ricocheting – he launches a nugget of chert across the widest pond – it lands with a crack – we all saw the splinters fly up – the boy fetches a great diamond of rank smelling ice up the top of the mound and holds it before the rising sun – a flock of gulls in direct orange light, our long shadows casting on the kitchens of the new builds – the full disc visible – the boy is trying to focus the heat with the ice diamond – the ice is too muddy to trap the light but the boy keeps trying – the shape of the sun sits inside the ice but can’t get out.

There’s a shout from away – fair enough – we shouldn’t really be up here – there aren’t any signs but, y’know – the shout isn’t warning us off – we look around – down at the farthest new build, there’s an older man in pyjamas at the fence – his wave is cheerful, beckoning – the oldest boy goes with Meg – she’s got wolfish looks – we’re on the mound watching the exchange – the older boy looks back for approval – go on – the pyjama bloke passes a black box over the fence – unexpected – the older boy and Meg scramble back through the frozen ponds and smaller mounds and haul the box up to where we wait – the older boy relays the story – he was going to throw it out, but he saw us and wondered if we were the right people for it.

Open the box, a heavy duty plastic job, the kind you might keep a drill in – we pop the box – smells damp, unopened for a time – it’s fossils – fossils and crystals – fist sized ammonites, fool’s gold, bauxite, amber bullets of belemnite.

The boy with the ice grabs a big crystal – a crisp, clear chunk – he holds it up over the ice – it glitters and dazzles, a beam cutting through cold breath – you can see it reflecting on the new windows, on the frosty roof slates and on the new cars, on the frozen ponds, and in the black eyes of a herring gull – we wave to the pyjama bloke with our crystals and dogs, but he’s gone.

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Calling all UK young artists!Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition Doddington Hall and Gardens, Lincolnshire invites submissions from UK-based sculptors and 3D artists, aged under 30, for an exciting new open exhibition to be held this summer. Doddington is looking for pieces to be exhibited in the historic working Kitchen Garden, which complement the Garden and its surroundings. The Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition will run alongside the main bi-annual Sculpture at Doddington exhibition and is an opportunity to exhibit alongside some of the finest contemporary sculptors selected from across the country and further afield. Prizes: 1st prize – £750, 2nd prize – £250Submission deadline: Sunday April 21st 2024Further details about eligibility, terms and conditions can be found at: apply, please email your submission as a PDF document to ... See MoreSee Less