Wednesday 18th September 2019
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Words: Maxim Griffin
Featured in the August 2019 issue

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4th and 5th July – Blue, blue, electric blue by Maxim Griffin.

Not an encampment as such, but an earth from which to operate – a stick propping up an ex-Czech army poncho – just enough shelter to provide cover should I require it and just enough to shield the colours in flame of the tiny stove from any eyes who might chance it – no need to make a nuisance of myself – quiet, unseen, undisturbing.

What time is it?

Just after 10pm – a couple of weeks after midsummer and the evening stretches out, the only real darkness occurs after midnight and only lasts until about 2am. The days have been humid and buggy – thunderflies on ice lolly days. It’s nice to be out in the fresh – a ripple of raspberry mackerel in the west and the vapours from the airliners following the sun across the North Atlantic. Flights westward bound, home perhaps, to their perception of the east. And here is mine. Here is ours.

I fix a brew. No milk. It’s a faff to carry – another thing to spill. Black. There are nettles – might make some nettle tea if I want to go all Ray Mears later.

The coast is ten miles or so before me – I see the breadth, from Humber to Skegness – now night has fallen and the warning flashes of the offshore wind farms ripple on the mists of the horizon. It is difficult to discern the street lamps of the ports and towns with the illuminations of shipping – there’s dredging being done out there – sand from below to be hauled up onto the beaches of Chapel and Sutton – patching up the redoubts and banks, replenishing the dunes so the boundaries hold firm.

Looking back west – the moon, a waxing crescent with bright earth shine is rapidly following the way of the sun. I pull out a pair of Japanese binoculars and full focus – Look – the shadows of mountains along the rim of the Sea of Tranquillity, the Sea of Cold, the Sea of Conflicts – Look – Mare Crisium! Of course, these are no seas but basalt plains, stains from a time when the rock flowed with white heat at the far side of time.

Nearby – the machine gun flap of a startled pheasant – can’t see where it came from – I check my surroundings a little and let my eyes grow confident in the darkness – fields on all fields and out of sight for the most part – the harvest is yet to begin, everything very still – a few cars on the far off A18 – hardly a sound now.

What time is it?

1am – Hmm perhaps time to eat something – a supermarket variation on the Mars bar – sickly, a bit crushed – does the job.

Those lights from the boats are reflecting on the North Sea – how the beams travel! There must be a mist out there – I’d hope that the range at Donna Nook would be active this night, but nothing stirs except the occasional burr of a toad towards the beck at the foot of the field.

Time to take a look around – I’m in a copse – some oak – woods below for a lane, an open path through to my position – the barley shivers and shimmies as is its want. Somewhere to the north, a road or two away, I think, the bark of muntjac perhaps – horrible sound if it catches you by surprise – like a wet cough that pitches into a scream. Headlights dip into a valley I can’t make out, but the shine carries like the boat lights on the sea – up from the tarmac into the canopy.

East – the earth must have turned, always does – the light will come – the measure of it is subtle at first, and the night has been clear enough to mark its progress – like a candle gradually being brought down a dark corridor. The stars in their positions have spun from first darkness towards first light – Pegasus wheels, Orion spun, Jupiter and Saturn and their unseen moons – a moment or two trying to gauge the difference in their locations – the spaces between them – those spaces are local – just a pin prick in our arm of this galaxy.

I return to my shelter and pack a few things in my bag – light the tiny stove for another brew and an egg, fried with a little Spam (I’ve begun to acquire my father’s taste for the artificial meats). The pan spits loud – a sound recordist I know says that the sound of an egg frying is a stock effect used for rain – a secret joke – the pitter patter of fat on my kneecap as I squat.

An airliner passes from the dark west – the ones from America and Canada use the Humber and our coast as a point of navigation and as the vapour trails extend I see the light of the sun glimmer off the fuselage as the plane careers eastward. Pulling focus with the binoculars the movement of the sea is quite visible, individual waves – low tide turning out there – the tide bell at Mablethorpe will be ringing soon – I’ll get to that in future days.

What time is it?

Out in the deeper east the clouds are yellowing, uplit – the sun will not be long – the forest of stars folds away with the night except one.

What time is it?

These are the dog days of summer and here comes Sirius, herald of the day.

“Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat

And fevers to suffering humanity.

Achilles’ bronze gleamed like this as he ran”

So said Homer.

Sirius – Lucifer, Son of the Morning, arrives to the horizon before the sun.

I pack the rest of my gear quick.

And far from my position, the sun in its vastness appears from the sea – another trick of angles and light. I’ve said so before on these pages – when the sky is right and time allows, the rising of the sun is a profound spectacle – profound and daily and free.

A blush of heat on my face, cobwebs lace me – Oh – I spent so long looking to the sky I had not noticed all the spiders.

Green orbs with intricate silks.

Onward.

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