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Photo by Magic K on Pexels.com

My first, when I was young, I sowed from seed,
raked the bare earth, picked out the stones,
the weeds, levelled the undulations.
It was seasons in the making,
but never took the mower well.

And she disliked the way it grew,
the shape of things, and the borders,
as they took on angles, and a sharpness.
She moved her mother in,
and moved me on.
And that first lawn?
It went to hell.

The second lawn was older, long-established.
But I found it weary with weed, and ire.
It was bare in places, too,
scars of abuse, and neglect.
So many seasons, that one,
in the nurturing,
but then such lush maturity,
and a pleasure in the mow.

It was rich, and sweet,
a summer wine, sipped slow.
And her love, it was rose scented,
grown children, from another man,
the only thorns.
When she passed, my love died with her,
As did the lawn.
And the children, vexatious,
they moved me on as well.

Now the seasons they grow numbered,
As I cross the void once more,
Seeking love in loneliness,
And one last lawn to mow.

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rivington pike

Rivington Pike

Rivington Pike, altitude 1191 feet, an instantly recognisable blip in the Western Pennines. When I was growing up in Coppull, my bedroom looked out upon this whole swathe of moor from Great Hill to Lomax Wife’s Plantation, and bang in the middle of it rose Rivington Pike. I knew it in all its seasons, from summer green to winter snow. These are the hills of home for me, instantly emotive, and home will always be anywhere in sight of their profile, which unfortunately isn’t where I’m living now. For much of my boyhood I had an astronomical telescope trained upon the Pike through which I could plainly make out figures ascending and descending. The colours were washed out, and the images would wobble with heat quake and the passing of tractors on the lane behind our house, but it seemed a magical thing and I loved that intimate connection with the hill.

Up close however, it’s not the most attractive of places, not nowadays. It suffers terribly from littering, and the pressures of being a piece of green within easy reach of several million people. That said, it’s been a regular walk of mine this year. In fact you’ll find me here most Friday afternoons nowadays. I’ll have a bacon and egg butty at the Great House Barn tea rooms, around 1:30 pm, then from about 2:00 pm, push myself up the couple of hundred meters of ascent from Rivington Hall. I usually go by way of the Higher house carpark, then snake my way up by the Pigeon Tower, take in the Pike, then descend by various routes through the glorious ruins of the Chinese gardens, part of the former Leverhulme estate.

pike june 2014

The Pigeon Tower, Rivington

Something is happening to me this year, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t think I need to be afraid of it because the feeling is like relaxing as a door opens, rather than panicking in case a door closes. When I started out in the winter, this route would suck the energy right out of me, have me bent over and rasping for breath at every turn in the way. Now I can make it with just a couple of stops, time to feel the air cooling the sweat on my back, as I scan the western horizon through binoculars, and celebrate the start of another weekend.

It feels good, this change in me.

I drove up in the Mazda today. I can hardly call myself eco-friendly, being the owner of two cars now. The Mazda cost me £500 last night, a full set of pads and disks and a new caliper on the nearside rear, because it was leaking fluid. In other words, it was a serious pain in the wallet, but it seems I’ll forgive this car anything, because I barely blinked as I slotted my card into the machine. Had it cost me a grand, I’d still have paid up with a smile, just for the way this car makes me feel. By contrast I’ve resented every penny I’ve spent on my other vehicle, a seven year old Astra, which I use as a commuter mule, clocking up around 12,000 a year, simply earning a living. There’s something interesting in my duplicity here and I want to get at it this evening.

I’m stuck on this quote at the moment – it’s from the Talmud, but I got it from Eckhart Tolle – we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are. I think it’s true, but I’d change it slightly, and say that we see the world , not as it is, but as we see ourselves, and for a long, long time, I’ve seen myself as this sensible, reliable, grey commuter mule, when what really I am, and what I have always been at heart is this small, fast, blue sport’s car, built more for fun than to be subsumed by the grey world. I’m sorry, but there it is. This is the real me. It seems I have spent my whole life being practical and dull; now I wan tot to be frivolous, fun and Romantic.

The sky was an oppressive grey this afternoon. Something thundery about it too as I climbed the badly eroded track towards the Pigeon Tower, But the air had too much of a coolness about it for the weather to be a real threat. Getting struck by lightning is a genuine hazard in the hills at this time of year, so it pays to watch the skies, but I could tell it was just bluffing this afternoon. Further south of me, in the heart of England, the Glastonbury rock concert, just getting under way, was  suspended and the stage cleared as lightning split the sky. Meanwhile I sat on the Pike, sheltering from a stiff eastrly, watching a guy playing Frisbee with his dog.

Poetry features large these days. I write it and I read it – not the poets of old, nor the famous contemporary bards, but the amateur poets I follow on WordPress, and who somehow get under my skin. It makes me realise I am not alone in what I feel. Everyone else feels it too. It’s just that some are better at expressing it than others, but all are capable of expressing it – this thing I feel. It’s half way between rage and confusion, that I am here and I don’t know why – rage and confusion that I too am compelled to express myself.

There was a wedding reception at Rivington Hall. As I set out on my climb, I saw the bride in her white dress, and all the pretty bridesmaids as they arrived, like exotic orchids displayed against a background of dull olive. On my return from the Pike, as I pulled off my boots and sank back into the snug capsule of the Mazda, I heard the rousing cheers from the toast and recalled my own wedding, twenty five years ago next month. Another young couple starting out; a stage of life; children next; then the death of aged parents, aunts, uncles. I look at the group photograph from that wedding and note each time the passing of yet more faces, year on year.  At some point all will be gone, including my wife and I, and all that will remain is the potential of that one special day which led to the births of my own children, who will each enter marriage and hear those same cheers that celebrate it.

It’s a passing on, of sorts; a natural cycling of life.

I drove home over the moors, up the stiff climb by Lester Mill Quarries, the Mazda climbing like a rocket and leaving the cockey van driver who’d been pushing me since Rivington floundering in bottom gear and a haze of blue diesel fumes. Then it was Jepsons Gate, under glowery skies, and down by White Coppice. It had begun to rain by this time, so I couldn’t drop the top like I’d wanted. She’s noisier with the top up, but no less fun. She also stops better now for having fixed the brakes, which I knew were shot. I’m fitting into her better as well. I’ve pushed the seat right back, so my left leg is stretched fully when I press the clutch. I’m a lot smoother through the gears, and she doesn’t bounce off the clutch like she used to. At home, I dried her off with an old towel to keep the humidity levels down in the garage, because I don’t want her rotting from the inside out. She is a dream I want to preserve as long as possible, and its nice to have a car once more that I enjoy pampering, and the means to pamper her.

I repeat, I am not a grey commuter mule. The Astra, old Grumpy, stands outside in the rain tonight and must take its chances. What I am inside is this small, blue, sports car. I shelter it, and cherish it, not for what it is, but for how it makes me feel. I have seen myself as a grey commuter mule for far too long. So take care  how you see yourselves, and make sure your vision is true, because how you see yourself is how you’ll see the world.

And the world is not grey. It’s definitely  blue.

mazzy at rivington

Mazzy, Rivington Hall Drive, Summer 2014

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