Monday, 21 August 2017

Listen to the past's long pulse

According to this article I'd read, Lord Byron invented 'wild swimming' on 3rd May 1810 when he swam the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. Though our ancestors swam in rivers and ponds for centuries before tin baths became commonplace, to get clean and probably for fun too. 

'Oh, Mum,' scolded Offspring the Eldest. 'Don't you know something only starts to exist when a posh boy does it for the first time?'

The posh boys at hand were wetsuited and occupied the whole of the narrow river beach. We sat down by a patch of goldenrod and waited for them to move on or even just up a little. From time to time they looked as if they were getting ready to leave but then started to jump in and out again. Even their sploshes had posh vowel sounds. In the end we left before the whole afternoon was lost to resentment and ill-wishing.
On the way down we'd been diverted through Stanton Drew following an accident on the A37, and it transpired that Offspring the Eldest hadn't visited its famous stone circles, so we stopped off there on our journey back. 


Stanton means Stone Town. The last time I'd visited was with my then neighbour, Cathy. I'd taken my Collected Poems by U A Fanthorpe with me and read the poem 'Stanton Drew' aloud, to her and the stones and the sheep. 


Two days later U A died. 


There's an argument to be made that you should always carry a copy of U A's poems with you, in case of unexpected happenings like an ad hoc visit to Stanton Drew. I'd overlooked this eventuality, however, and was poetryless. 


In any event we weren't on our own. Instead of sheep, there were heifers in the field, and at the entrance, a father trying unsuccessfully to get his two children to smile for the camera. 


As we approached the stones, the father caught me up. 'I'm so glad you're here,' he said. 'My two kids wouldn't walk past the cows till they saw you do it and live to tell the tale.' 


We watched them running, laughing, climbing and striking poses. They don't know yet that it's the stones that have the power. We were glad to have facilitated this first encounter, however ... 


... since it's good to get up close and personal with the stones. Listen to the past's long pulse, as U A says ... 


... even if you can hear the traffic on the B3130 and an aeroplane coming in to land at nearby Lulsgate Airport at the same time. 


Maes Knoll


U A Fanthorpe's poem about Stanton Drew invites the listener or reader to remove everything from the landscape that wouldn't have been there when the circles were created.


Since I was there last, a couple of beautiful dead trees have disappeared. 


More will grow up and grow old and the stones will outlast them. 











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