Category Archives: Stuart France

Dryad…

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…That night the world took on strange colours and my dream-girl became a tree.

If I were a Druid I would say that I had fallen under the sway of a wood nymph, a Dryad…

She is certainly very beautiful and pulls me  away from the busy road where traffic endlessly flashes through the ever screaming air…

She always wins.

I always turn from the road and allow her to take my hands in hers.

We roll down the embankment conjoined…

We roll together

for all eternity

but then collide with the bole of the tree

and she is gone.

Chanteater…

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It was probably foolish, I know…

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But I took a liking to this ‘little lady’.

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Who, if the board is correct, could have been supporting the capstone’s weight  for over six thousand years.

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Which is some feat, as you can probably see…

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We call it stone technology and we have been experimenting with sound in a number of these ‘chambers’.

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I was expecting the chant to have little vibratory effect because the tomb was clearly, in part, wrecked.

What I wasn’t expecting was for both the sound and the breath to be sucked from my being, like something or someone was thirsty…

Like I said, foolish, but maybe it also served…

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Trial by Fire and Water…

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It was five years ago that we last attended and actually got to see the  Fire Festival.

On that day too the rain had poured steadily all day and many a lake-like puddle lay in wait for us on the  road into the heart of the West Yorkshire hills.

What is it about playing out at night?

Cold wind and black trees are not supposed to be friendly or inspire comfort…

As a child playing with friends we quite naturally want to ‘stay out as long as possible’.

The loss of light brings with it a frisson of excitement attendant on the haziest of notions that ‘anything might happen’ and this vague possibility is only enhanced by the bone white disk of the moon as it skids like a grinning skull through the night sky.

In later years how many of us get to spend much time outside in the dark?

There were no lights alongside the canal tow path.

The water in the puddles though still glistened and shone reflecting a cloud filled sky… and led to mobile phones pressed into action as torches.

The last time there had been unknown others with us taking the short cut to the dancing ground and the banking, lending security to our muddy madness which had left the crowds and the concrete in our wake as we walked into dark silence.

Unknown others who tonight  were conspicuously absent.

Many years ago the procession itself had trod this path until somebody had fallen into the canal.

Would the tow still be clear?

Memory, playing tricks challenges us with an alternative route through the trees.

A more sensible route, less fraught with possible risk and danger.

In the daylight such descriptions would be ridiculous.

In the daylight no unseen horrors lurk in the shadows.

The sign had promised a five minute walk yet it seemed much longer, and yet, not quite long enough, before the gurgle of water announced our arrival at the bridge and a certain memory…

A train of  compartmentalised light thundered overhead.

We were almost there.

Flimsy paper lanterns swung like beheaded ghouls in the trees as we approached our destination.

The first sign of civilised life.

A fire danced on the hillside left and dark figures hopped and warmed their hands around the flames.

Away in the distance, the steady beat of drums and pipes sounded as the procession made its slow progress to the top of the banking.

They would be here soon…

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Annus Tumulus – Tomb of the Year…

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‘Well almost…quite loosely speaking.’

‘Very loosely speaking.’

‘And no, it’s not a new quiz show. And nor are there any prizes. A tumulus is an artificial mound.’

‘And a natural mound is what?’

‘One that isn’t man made.’

‘Has it anything to do with tummies?’

‘Possibly… Not.’

‘Oh!’

‘Six tombs in one week isn’t half bad though. We’ll  be getting a reputation for morbidity.’

‘And on the seventh day…’

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‘On that day once, somebody quite famous said that if the ruins of Ancient Greece weren’t ruined no one would pay them much heed…’

‘The notion of being ‘quite famous’ tickles me. Like bragging about having once seen the Pope in order to ‘prove’ your spirituality.’

‘ …I sometimes feel exactly the same about our tombs.’

‘A lot depends on whether or not they’ve been opened…’

‘Ah, but the Gates of Pluto must never be unlocked, Little Grub.’

‘Why ever not?’

‘Because within those subterranean halls, dwell a people of dreams.’

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‘…East Kennet long barrow being a case in point.’

‘And it also depends upon whether the field in which they are situated happens to be navigable or not.’

‘I’d go and lie on East Kennet long barrow if we could get up to it.’

‘Well, maybe we can…’

‘East Kennet long barrow in the sun is a pleasing prospect.’

‘Mounds, artificial or otherwise, though especially tumuli, make pretty good viewing platforms too.’

‘Platforms for viewing what?’

‘Platforms for viewing the stars.’

‘The idea of East Kennet long barrow under the moon I like, possibly, even more than the prospect of sunshine…’

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‘Those three ‘Monstrous Mamas’ though, don’t look much like they belong to the rest of the monument.’

‘They were put there quite a bit earlier and were originally covered by earth.’

‘In fact, the recumbent looks vaguely Arbor Low-ish.’

‘More than vaguely, it could have been transported there from Arbor Low.’

‘Or it could have made its own way…’

‘Oh, don’t start that again.’

‘They still don’t know how the Blue Stones got from the mountains of Cymru to the lowlands of Stonehenge.’

‘They are, though, fairly certain that they didn’t get there under their own steam.’

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‘No, no, no… movement by steam came much, much later.’

‘…It’s the Cap-Stone presumably, or at least, part of it. How about volition, if you’re not happy with steam?’

‘Volition, I like. They have will these stones?’

‘One can probably wish on them to good effect… Propulsion?’

‘One can almost certainly wish upon them, to good or ill effect more than likely and something undoubtedly propelled them but what?’

‘…It is so frustrating not to know.’

‘It is frustrating.’

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‘The recumbent resembles a land mass…

An island of rock in a sea of grass.’

‘The Calf of Man?’

‘Part of a larger map we now no longer possess.’

‘Would it have bridged or spanned the gap in the uprights?’

‘Possibly, or does it represent an internal organ…’

‘Like an exhumed liver from a body we no longer recognise.’

‘A field of hearts.

The lungs of the earth.’

‘No, the lungs of the earth are trees…

…are forests.’

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‘Did the fall split it?’

‘Did the fall split the stones at Arbor Low…?’

‘Did the stones at Arbor Low ever fall?’

‘…Running Elk didn’t seem to think so.’

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‘So what does it say to us now?’

‘What, as it is?’

‘Yeah, just as it is, in all its decrepit, pock-marked, mysterious magnificence.’

‘Denuded of its earth covering, it speaks very forcibly of the vertical and of the horizontal.

Both are separated allowing for ingress and egress.

The one, in and out, the other, up and down.’

‘So, put them together and what have you got?’

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‘A three dimensional portal…’

‘But a portal to where…?’

‘…To wherever you like.’

‘If you please, I would quite like to move from Salisbury plain to Preseli…’

‘Oh, bravo Little Grub, bravo!’

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The Marsh King’s Daughter III…

 

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Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, bow and bend to me…

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…There usually is.

Perhaps one reason for the tale’s obscurity these days is its perceived, overtly, Christian message.

This takes the form of a priest who is captured and tortured by Helga’s Viking fosterers, provokes in her the first stirrings of love and compassion and affords the young girl opportunity to embrace the process which results in the fusing of her day/night time personalities and her achievement of wholeness in mind and form.

However, the culmination of this process is complicated somewhat by the priest’s death at the hands of robbers and his subsequent appearance in a dream vision and by the denouement of the tale which sees the Changeling Child whisked away to heaven by the priest only to return a short time later and find her original home now long lost to the ravishes of time.

The Rip Van Winkle like nature of the priest’s ‘heaven’ may give inkling  to the original story source for this episode, as might his appearance on horse-back wielding his cross much like a knight would wield his sword.

As an other-world component of the story the Christian priest is perhaps less dramatically successful than he might be as a ‘Fairy King’ or ‘Lord of Light’ but still gives us pause for thought and contemplation as to the precise mode of consciousness his figure represents.

That’s almost all, folks…

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 ‘What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

long live the weeds and the wildness yet.’

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All photos – Sue Vincent.

All epithets – The Grateful Dead, ‘Mountains of the Moon’.

Epitaph -‘Inversnaid’, Gerard Manly Hopkins.

Pieman…

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When Pieman was very young,

and living at the beginnings of time,

he often slept with the Cave Bear Clan during stormy weather.

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Over the course of many such nights,

Big Brown Bear who was also very old,

taught Pieman the nature of his belly-roar.

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To this day,

Pieman makes use of his roar in dreams,

but only to pacify strangers and to quiet the rowdy,

and those of us who have difficulty understanding the Ancient Tales.

Solution…

‘Setting riddles is much easier than solving them.’

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… “What a strange planet. Where I come from people solve three riddles every morning before sitting down to first breakfast.”

The ‘High School’ Solution…

The clue in the poem is that the poem as a whole does not make sense. The individual lines make sense but the sense of the individual lines is not picked up by successive lines and does not follow through to the end of the poem.

Also, we may notice that two of the lines are identical.

The lines alone then are significant and as students of calligraphy will be aware initial words and especially letters are often deemed to be most important because the start of anything inevitably colours its conclusion.

The first words of each line then with letters emboldened.

Dark… About… Lost… Great… Ever… Traversing… Yonder

Back… After… Yonder.

Dalgety Bay is in Scotland, or as we prefer North Albion.

The story of our sojourn there is told in, Lands of Exile: But ‘n’ Ben.

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A Riddle…

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Dark the frame and dark the spur

About the light which shines over there.

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Lost to memory, lost to time

Good and great cut down in their prime.

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Ever the longing, we yearn to know

Traversing the ‘now’ via ebb and flow.

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Yonder, the stars circuit their course.

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Back to silence, back to still

After we’ve been and had our fill.

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Yonder, the stars circuit their course.

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Where were we?