THE HAWTHORN TREE

 

‘Spring goeth all in white,

Crowned with milk-white may;’

Robert Bridges

Almost over night it seemed Spring had spelled the hawthorn tree in the hedge and great clouds of white blossom ruffed its branches. The notched leaves witched to a bright leathery green. The anthers are red, like the head of a match, so each flower resembles a speckled bird’s egg. Now, in mid-summer, clutches of small green berries hang on tightly and, as summer ages will, like traffic lights, turn to amber and then red. This is not the enamelled red of rowan berries or the polished sheen of rose hips but a modest, sombre red. Old ballads and legends tell that the hawthorn is a tree of mystery and enchantment, a faerie tree. It is said the crown of thorns with which Christ was mockingly crowned was made from hawthorn. In the Lady Chapel at Ely there is a carving showing Mary with her Child set against a background of hawthorn leaves. Mary holds one haw, a sign of what is to come for the Child. At some Palaeolithic cave dwellers burial sites, the bodies have been found wearing similar crowns of hawthorn.

Mary’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, was a merchant trading in tin and, so the stories go, he came to our ancient kingdom, to the West Country to do business with the tin miners. On one occasion, at least, he brought his great nephew, the Boy Jesus with him and this story was known to William Blake, hence the opening words in ‘Jerusalem’,

‘And did those feet, in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the Holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Glastonbury is an ancient town in Somerset and another legend is that Joseph of Arimathea came here after the Crucifixion of Christ and brought the Cup used at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend, with him. He was tired and distressed after his long journey to reach this land. He paused to sleep and thrust his staff into the ground beside him, the hand that held it had smoothed precious oils into the body of Christ when it was taken from the Cross. It took root and every year at Christmas it burst into leaf and flowers. It is the humble hawthorn, quickthorn or whitethorn which, in bleak winter, flowers to greet the coming of the Light not the exotic rose or lily. A sprig from the Holy Thorn is sent to the Queen every year so she has it on her table at

The hawthorn tree is believed to be a dwelling place for faeries and an entrance to their country. An ancient ballad from the Borders tells how Thomas the Rhymer or, True Thomas as he is known, sat under a hawthorn , known as the Eildon Tree and the Queen of Faeries rode by in a dress of ‘grass-green silk’ and on her steed’s mane ‘hung fifty silver bells and nine’. She dares him to kiss her lips and, of course, he does.

She carries him off as he must now serve her. In Elfland she offers him food which he eats and, as we all know, one must never, never, never, eat food offered by the Little People. When he returns he thinks he has only been away for a day instead of seven long years. It is believed he lives on in the hollow Eildon hills. So do not sit under a hawthorn tree unless you have the protection of a twig each of oak, ash and hawthorn bound together by a red ribbon, as one never knows who might come

Westminster Abbey is built on what was known as Thorney Island in the River Tyburn and named after a sacred stand of hawthorn trees. Edward the Confessor built a church here and the present building altered and added to by other monarchs was built originally by Henry 111 in 1245.

The Hawthorn is also known as May as this is when it flowers. There is the nursery rhyme, ‘Here we come gathering nuts in May’. This should read as ‘knots’ not ‘nuts’. Sprigs and bunches of hawthorn were gathered in days gone by and even in some places nowadays to celebrate the Merry Month of May.’

Henry vii chose the hawthorn as his emblem after the Battle of Bosworth as the crown worn by Richard iii as he rode to battle was found in a hawthorn after Richard was killed. Henry, the first of the Tudor dynasty, received this crown on what is known as Crown Hill.

A small tree, a hedge tree, gnarled, twisted and thorny, crabbed. It bends and knots, spiky bones knitted together against wind and weather.

Mediaeval Graffiti in Churches

The OUD’s definition of ‘graffiti’ is ‘a piece of writing or drawing scribbled, scratched or sprayed on a surface’. The symbols, writing and sketches scratched onto church walls some five to seven hundred years ago are a different kettle of fish and, because nowadays we tut-tut at graffiti, thus it seems a different word really needs to be used. Some of the images are intricate and would have taken some time to scratch into the stone and were done in the body of the church for all to see so they were viewed in a quite different way, acceptable, respected and allowed by the Church.

 

Norfolk and Suffolk have about 1 100 mediaeval churches and in 2010 a survey of the graffiti in these started in Norfolk, it was the first county to do this. A similar survey was started in Suffolk a few years later and has spread to several other counties.

Stained glass windows, brasses, ornate tombs, monuments in churches speak of the lord and lady, the well-to-do, those of influence and power in a parish but where are memorials to the common man? Where is the tinker, the tailor, the poor man, the thief? In mediaeval times, roughly from the end of the Roman Empire to the Reformation of Henry viii, everyone had a very well defined place in society, from king to knave everyone knew their place. This is demonstrated in the ‘Boke of Seynt Albans’ written in the 1400’s, hawking was very popular but, depending on one’s position in society one could only own and fly a particular breed of hawk. Only a king could fly a ‘gerfalcon’, ‘there is a spare (sparrow) hawke and he is a hawke for a prest’ and ‘there is a goshawke and that hawke is for the yeman(farmer)’and that well known one used as a title for a book and then a film, a kestrel for a knave. The graffiti which in some churches cover, wall and pillar, arch and sill could have been done by poacher, ploughman or shepherd, are these graffiti the memorials to the ordinary villager?

Interiors of churches of hundreds of years ago were brightly painted with pictures of saints painted directly on to the walls. The graffiti were done with care and intent, what was their original purpose, were they prayers, charms, protection? The Church taught that at death the soul went first to Purgatory to pay for sins committed while on earth before entering heaven so perhaps some graffiti were to a saint to intercede for their soul and the more time and devotion given to carving a symbol the greater effect it would have. ‘Fire and fleet and candle lighte / And Christe receive thy soule’. Why were ships cut into the stone in inland parishes, was this to wish that it would give safe passage for a soul on its last journey? Latin prayers, names, geometrical circles and patterns, crosses, heraldic inscriptions and even architectural plans can be found. It was believed that devils lurked round every corner to tempt the human soul so were some of the graffiti for protection? Names too were cut into the stone, ‘John Lydgate made this on the day of St. Simon and St. Jude’ (28 October), this is thought to date from the late 1300’s to early 1400’s.

Records in stone of all our human frailities, love, hope, death and fear, the daily perils of an ordinary life. Many of these graffiti are time worn and it needs a very sharp eye to see them. Just think, to be able to stand where someone else stood five, six, seven hundred years ago and touch the symbol he carved is to be hand in hand with him.

Pat Mlejnecky

‘…. the play’s the thing’

The mechanistic world of twenty first century Britain where we shape our environment to suit us is superimposed on a far, far older layer of being. Now and again a wild and wet winter and even the turbulent world itself cuts us down to size and we wake up to older rhythms of season and time. We live in a richly layered island, an ancient kingdom marinated in ritual and rhyme, song and story which wind the clock of the year. In 2012 we were host to the Olympic Games and the Opening Ceremony, ‘Isles of Wonder’ tapped into this rich seam and in 2016 we did the same with ‘Midwinter Dreaming’.
Over the last twenty or so years ‘Bergh Apton’ has become a brand, a brand associated with innovation, with events that inspire, interest and intrigue. We never set out to decide what to do next we wait for an idea to hatch in our imaginations and so with ‘Midwinter Dreaming.
It was deliberately entirely different to our last production, the Cycle of Mystery Plays, it would be staged in winter not summer, it would take place in one site and it was to be an experience as well. ‘So along comes BACAT with an event rooted in the year’s cycle, with an eye to the past but not thoughtlessly re-enacting it, instead creatively reinventing, a new thing in fact that had a community life spanning half a year with scores of people happily and creatively involved and whose actual telling covered all these wonderful performance areas, costume, decoration, sculpture and light, a moving and involved audience, taste, fire, a surrounding sound and music, song, story, the spectacle of performance, humour and of course the underlying reality of the dark, the night, the cold and the enduring building itself.’
The call went to the Tribes of Ton and not only they but those of our closely related Tribes of Ham and Land responded and Tribes from far flung regions, the Nordovicians, Becclodians and Bungavians, a wide community has been created. It says much for us that the three professionals, well known nationally and internationally, were very willing to join in and work with us.
The play was written in discussions and writing sessions with Hugh Lupton, Mary Lovett created sublime music and singing with our musicians and singers and Charlotte Arculus taught us so much, she took a young idea, turned it inside out, shook it about and, between the three of them and us, we wove a magic, one little idea became a wonder to all who took part and who came to see it. It was not only us humans who created the magic but the time of the year, the season of Candlemas, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and the ancient church itself, assured and reassuring.
‘…..so many people involved in so many different areas but all willingly going the same way. And it achieved what it set out to do, it marked the division of the winter from the days we inhabit now and it brought to life all those characters….the Wren Boys, the Bee-keeper, we could see and know Hugh’s mummers as individuals. Next winter I think we will miss not having it.’ The village website gives a selection of other comments from our audiences.
All those involved will be far too modest to acknowledge the huge amount of time and interest they gave so I have tried to blow the trumpet for them, they were wonderful.
A special mention to Chris Ellis, our new Rector. He arrived in an unknown parish to find a group of people he did not know had plans for an event he knew little about in the church. He was good humoured and allowed us more or less carte blanche to use the church as we needed, I take my hat off to him.
What’s next?

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Pat Mlejnecky

All Hallows Day

Sunday 31 October, All-Hallows Day, the eve of All Saints Day. It will be, as always, the small pleasures that weave brightness into a day. This day dawned into a mist that blots and blurs outlines, blunts sound and smudges the sun to the dull gleam of a well worn sixpence. The last leaves on the bird cherry trees hang limp necked and then, in a stir of air, fall like a shoal of little yellow fish and land as quiet and soft as a hare’s breath. A first flock of fieldfares, the Norse tribes have arrived. In the afternoon, when the sun burned through, my shadow companion’s long legs scissor the path. A charm of King Harrys gather on the feeder. A quiet day cures an overdose of life.

In late afternoon as daylight fades, mist blooms again and melancholy and an unquiet quiet seeps among the shadows, it is Hallowe’en., the time when we pray for deliverance from ghosties, ghoulies and long legged beasties, it is Fright Night! For Celts, it was Samhain, summer’s end, one of their ‘thin’ times, when the veils between the worlds thinned. At dusk, as a half consumed moon rises, the countryside becomes a place of myth and mystery, lanes and lakes, meadow and marsh and unleafed and birdless trees hold an uneasy power and from these are born the songs and stories, rituals and rhymes for the ending of a year. No dreadful American import of Trick or Treat have a place here.

In one of the papers, writers told of their own Fright Night. M.R. James’ stories of a haunted and malevolent countryside, a painting by Ken Currie, films, uncanny clowns with their whitened faces and a piano concerto by Mozart. One writer chose Walter de la Mare’s poem, ‘The Listeners’, she said no matter how many times she read it gooseflesh rose on her arms. Beautifully written and uneasy but far more goosefleshy is the ‘Lyke-Wake Dirge, this is ancient and would probably have been sung by a woman over a dead or dying soul. It is in Yorkshire dialect:

 

This ae night, this ae night

Every night and all

Fire an’ fleet an’ candleleet

And Christ receive thy soul.’

 

Listen to the whole song sung on You Tube by ‘Pentangle’. The words are raw-boned, bleak, uncompromising and speak of a harsh and moral law by which to live. The last line becomes a prayer for the dead or dying soul.

Across the North Yorkshire Moors is the Lyke-Wake Walk,a trail of forty miles.

 

Pat Mlejnecky

p.s.

Norfolk birds

the hours of the day

COUNTRY DIARY

The quiet hours which, when counted on Time’s abacus add to weeks, months, years and the circling seasons. It is easy to miss magic moments in the business of life.

THE HOURS OF THE DAY

Vigil and Lauds

0300

Daylight is beginning and the waning moon, that thief of the sun’s light, is dimming and looks like well thumbed glass. The Moon Spinners are busy, they are sea spirits who walk the shores of the earth. They each have a spindle and onto these they spin the milk white moonlight. Their task is to see the world has its hours of darkness so they spin the moon out of the sky like white wool. As night follows night the moon’s light wanes and at last its light is gone, the world has darkness and rest and creatures are safe from the hunter. On the darkest night the sea spirits take their spindles to where the sea lips the land to wash their wool. As it slips from the spindle it unravels in long ripples of light and see, there is the moon, at first just a thin thread of light. When all the wool is washed and is a white ball in the sky then, once more, the Moon Spinners start to wind its light onto their spindles until the night becomes safe once more for all hunted creatures.

Prime

0600

The dog roses are in flower, Keats’ sweet ‘eglantine’ in his ‘Ode to the Nightingale’. This ancient riddle is about the dog rose, can you guess why?

We are five brothers at the same time born

Two of us have beards, by two no beards are worn

While one, lest he should give his brothers pain

Hath one side bearded and the other plain.

Terce

0900

Wood pigeons have learned how to use my bird feeders and I watch them bumbling about, huffing and puffing. Many people dismiss pigeons out of hand because they are everywhere and some, who know no better, refer to them as ‘flying rats’ but both these creatures thrive because of our dirty, careless ways, they reflect our untidiness, our waste and mess back to us. This country is known as ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Pigeons who ‘served’ with the RAF in wartime were the first recipients of the Dickin Medal, the Victoria Cross for animals. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds in the world and are one of only six species with the ability to recognise themselves in a mirror. The passenger pigeon was one of the most numerous birds in the world until we killed every one.

Sext

Noon

Bombus drones round the garden, she takes centre stage on a rose, she is laden with bags of gold. In a painting of Napoleon his red velvet Coronation robes are embroidered with golden bees and so is the carpet he stands on. At the moment of Christ’s birth the story tells the bees deep in their hives hummed the ‘Old Hundreth’. In Somerset there is still someone who makes the straw skeps that bees used to be kept in. She says it is a natural shape which mimic the hollows in trees that bees would naturally use and she thinks the honey has a better flavour, it still retains grains of pollen.

None

1500

He may have been able to juggle the full moon on one finger but I have magic too. I stare up to the sky hoping to see a buzzard and lo and behold, church steeple high, there is one, he glides in slow lazy circles and a second one joins and yet a third, kitelike in the sky, strong magic! Cirrus clouds echo their wing patterns. What does their fierce, meditative gaze see, how do they map the land so far beneath? Like dowsers, do they sense underground rivers, the caves like honeycombs beneath our feet? Slowly, effortlessly they glide away using the power of the wind with hardly a wing beat and I watch their pathway through the sky.

Vespers

1800

The heat of the day is cooling but ringlet butterflies are out and about still dancing their summer rituals over the seeded grasses. Their wings are a browny grey with constellations of rings and dots in yellow and black on the upperside and when in flight these flash mysterious text messages to each other.

Compline

2100

Dusk breathes shadows and darkness to web the trees. A tawny owl’s voice gathers the night, I hear but cannot see him, his feathered cloak makes him invisible. The old Gaelic prayer, ‘God send us all another day.’

Pat Mlejnecky

Full Moon In April

The full moon of April and its light, as always, witches the night.  I remember, on such a night as this, quite some years ago now, another April, when Spring had spelled the plum and cherry trees and each arm of which  was ruffed with white blossom. We stood under these trees and in the soft stir of air it snowed petals. The full moon sailed into sight and he points and, for a long moment, the moon seems balanced on his pointing finger. Masked by shifting shadows and lit by the moon’s quiet light he becomes a magician of the night.

In this country we see the Man in the Moon but in other countries they see, not a man but a hare and here is how this happened.

Prince Siddhartha left his kingdom in the skies and lived on earth and, because of his wisdom, he became called Buddha which means ‘enlightened’. He lived as a hermit and once he met an animal whose kindness was an example to both Gods and Men. The Lord Buddha was sitting in the shade of a banyan tree on the edge of a forest. The sun poured its golden light through the leaves like milk into a cup. He had lit a fire and his pot of water was boiling but, alas, he had nothing to put in it to make a meal. A jay, war painted with blue barred wings, flew by with a spray of little dark cherries, dark as night, in its beak and let them drop into the pot. A monkey swung down and tossed a handful of beans in and a cobra with hooded head brought spices, cumin, coriander and cayenne. A wild dog sneaked near and splashed a stolen egg into the boiling water. Next came a little hare and he spoke to the Buddha,

‘You have the look of a good and gracious man but also that of a hungry one.’

‘That is quite true my long eared friend,’ replied the Buddha, ‘but my friends are helping me.’

‘I have nothing but myself O Lord Buddha. Enjoy your meal.’

With that the little hare leaped into the pot of boiling water. Down he went and the water hissed, steamed and bubbled but to the hare it felt cool like soft refreshing rain. With the speed of a striking hawk the Buddha snatched the hare from the pot.

‘Those who give of themselves little Leaper-in-the-Corn are greatly blessed, it is the greatest gift of all. You will live for ever Little-Racer-Round-the-Field to dance for joy on the moon.’

Then the Buddha hurled the hare up, up and up till he landed on the moon. Now all of us in this world can look up at night and see the Buddha’s friend, the little hare and remember his generosity and nobleness.

 

Here’s hoping that those people who think it legitimate sport to hunt and harry the hare will be equally generous and merciful.
Pat Mlejnecky

Ammil* to Zugs* by way of Pirr*, Blinter* and Eit*.

If, like me, you are the ‘Compleat Bookworm’, interested in the natural world and a big fan of Robert Macfarlane’s books then you will have greeted his latest, ‘Landmarks’, with  great pleasure. If you have read his other books you will also have appreciated his knowledgeable, elegant and precise use of language. His books are not a quick read, they need a meditative turn of mind.

‘Landmarks’ is a return to a lost vocabulary, the language of landscape, both formal and dialect. It is a defence of the spirit of language. For years he has collected words used by fishermen, scientists, climbers or walkers, words used in geology, archaeology, forestry and mountaineering, words connected with water, mountains, woods and edgelands. It is a word hoard from Gaelic, Welsh Irish, Scots and English counties.

Even flicking through this book one realises how impoverished our language is today with its thoughtless and empty clichés, ‘over the moon’, ‘keeping you in the loop’, ’it’s all gone pear shaped’ and ‘taking a rain check’.

Man has always named places and actions and this book reveals a vast and imaginative treasure trove of words, either lost or now only used by a few. He tells of other writers who he admires, who loved and knew well their particular landscape. Nan Shepherd, Roger Deacon, J. Baker and Richard Jefferies, he sees their particular places through their eyes and experiences.

An unusual book, thought provoking and a great call for reconnecting with the natural world. Hooray for Robert Macfarlane.

Ammil: the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost.(Devon).

Pirr: a light breath of wind such as will make a cat’s paw on the water. (Shetlands).

Blinter: an ice splinter catching a lowlight. (Scots).

Eit: placing quartz stones in moorland streams so they sparkle in moonlight and attract salmon in late summer. (Gaelic).

Zugs: soft, wet ground, a little bog island about the size of a bucket. (Exmoor).

Pat Mlejnecky

The corner of his eye

THE CORNER OF HIS EYE

A day cold as sea shells, his breath smokes and the silence sings in his ears. It is the Winter Solstice, one of the hinges of the year. It is foggy and frosty and the day, young as yet, seems to hold its breath. Winter is bolting and barring the door to the coming of the Oak King. The lane is flanked by high banks and the winter weary tussocks of grass lie long and lank. The hedgerow at the top of the bank is a huddle of black shadows. Late autumn had buttered the field maple leaves and, alone of all the trees in the hedge, it held stubbornly on to them. Now and then a stir of air brings two or three floating down and he catches them, a handful of fairy gold and, like those deceitful coins, they will soon shrivel and turn to dust. Rain runnels lace the high banks and knuckled roots have elbowed through. The little Holly King, the robin, perches among them singing his wistful ritual song to the Solstice. The banks and lane are like a suburb of the wood, they know different changes of light, lives briefly lived, seasons which keep the balance of the year, changes of weather, they are a constant in continual change. The wood keeps its secrets to itself, fox, deer and mouse know, sparrow hawk and pigeon know but they too stay mum. Scrambling to the top of the bank he looks out over the field. Rain has filled ruts and hollows, furrows and folds and it reflects the light, calligraphic swirls over the skin of the land telling of more secrets. Out of the corner of his eye he catches a movement in a big sprawl of brambles and there is a wren, quick and quiet as a thought it moves. Then, there is another, a pair of cutty* wrens. They search the thorned stems moving deeper inside, living up to their name ‘Troglodytidae’, a cave dweller. In a few days time he thinks it will be St. Stephen’s Day and for generations it was traditionally the day when a wren was hunted and killed. Its body was fixed to the top of a pole and a great wreath of holly and ivy surrounded it. The Wren Boys went from door to door singing their song:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen’s Day was caught in a furse,
Although he is little, his family’s great
I pray you good lady, give us a treat.

The story tells that Stephen had been preaching and he was running for his life from those who would kill him because of this and he hid. A wren near where he was hiding from his pursuers began to sing very loudly and attracted their attention, Stephen was discovered and stoned to death. Hence the hunting of the Cutty Wren. In the song he is referred to as the king of the birds, another story in which the birds held a competition to see who could fly the highest and be given the title of King. Up they all flew and away the eagle soared, high as a giant can hurl and just as the birds were going to call him the winner, above him who should be flying but the wren! He had held onto the eagle’s back, not just cutty but canny as well! Hunting the Cutty Wren died out in the early 1900’s, other days, other ways. However at Middleton in Suffolk a similar tradition was born and the wren this time is a carved from wood and is honoured and celebrated by song, dance and story by a side of Molly Dancers, ‘The Old Glory’.

‘Cutty’ means small or short. You will doubtless have heard of the ‘Cutty Sark’, she is the last of the tea clippers and is preserved in dry dock in London. The name comes from a poem by Robert Burns which tells of a witch, Nannie, who wore a ‘cutty sark’, a short shirt. The clipper’s figurehead is the witch.

Pat Mlejnecky

MIND’S EYE

In the evening he sits by the fire, it is not really cold enough for one but he looks upon it as a friendly companion. In his mind’s eye he sees again the small wonders he has seen and heard as he walked the path through the Small Wood earlier in the day. He polishes each memory and salts them away.

In the early morning mist bloomed and shrouded sky and land, nothing was defined and it had left a feeling with him of a presence in the air, an inward looking, a formless anxiety. The sun, pale as a sixpence, had gleamed now and then as it gathered strength, it still spoke of late summer while the mist spoke of autumn.

A robin cocked an eye, dark as a bramble pip, then perched and swooped, perched and swooped, darning the air. It sang its Autumn anthem in a thread of bright notes, it was composed from leaves, the fallen and the falling, the mist which blurred and blended, thinning sunshine and sharp showers. For a minute or two man and bird were neighbours, a moment of sharing.

He had picked up a shell of a hazel nut, brown and shiny as Spanish leather-oh! It had been carved into a bowl and the teeth marks gave the clue that the little craftsman was a vole and not a wood mouse or squirrel. There were no marks on the surface of the shell but the edge was ridged by sharp teeth. He had put it in his pocket, it was a gift, a luck nut and he sat fingering its smoothness.

The wind had freshened as he walked and it stirred the air plucking leaves from the poplar and blowing them away leaving the tree fish-boned. As the leaves fell they twisted catching first sunlight then shadow flickering like a shoal of little fish.

He saw the banks on each side of the path had colonies of domes, towers and spires, some pleated or frilled, fairytale architecture. Some were pale as milk and others aged to russet and gingery tones and some peppered with holes till they had become ghostly ruins. These were fungi, they connect underground in tangled webs, and he remembered thinking that it just like the fibre optic cables which brought his broadband.

The sun shafted through branches and zebraed the path. Hogweed stems had dried to fluted columns the colour of old pound coins. The seed heads like spokes of an umbrella support spider webs, they hung like little hammocks gemmed with moisture from the mist which sparkled in the sun and attracted his attention. He thought that otherwise he might have missed seeing the webs, all these alternative lives lived parallel to ours and are so often missed.

Pat Mlejnecky

Relentless

He stands, not only looking but seeing, not only hearing but listening. In this sunken lane enclosed by high banks sound lingers. In Spring it is full of bird song and movement; in winter the winds pluck the trees and hedge and it thrums like a great harp. The tall grass stems, green in this early summer, lean over from each bank, seed-head meeting seed-head softly like hands closing in prayer. Oxeye daisies, Goldilocks, Lady’s Smock, Mouse-ear and Crane’s –bill string their bright bunting along the high banks luring hoverflies, bees and butterflies. He sees the tracks which thread through the grass, narrow pathways of those who live by the flanks of the wood. Fox, rabbit, hare and deer, creatures who have the impudence to survive snare and shot, hunting and harrying to steal a living. They and other subversives turn this sunken lane into a republic of outlaws. Feathers from a woodpigeon lie scattered like white petals, tufts of grey fur, randomly scattered hazel nut shells bearing teeth marks of squirrel or woodmouse are all the dark matter of a parallel world going about its own business.