We don't often get snow here, and it wasn't really very much when it did come. It was pretty though, and I was pleased with the pictures I took:
There were two routes to choose from in the Town Council’s questionnaire last March, ‘A’ and ‘B’. We were given a choice between the two, with a third space to fill in our own suggestion. However practically nothing was said about ‘B’, the southern route, and nothing at all about any other possible alternatives.
The route that was shown on the Council’s sketch map south of the town dates from around 1970. This is the route that was originally proposed in conjunction with the Actis (Redlands) estate. The Town Council said that the plan was abandoned because of ‘changes in local government priorities’ – though they do not say what these changes were the result of, nor whether they are likely now to be changed after all.
Two possible reasons have been talked about, as to why local government priorities may have been changed at the time. One is that a very firm objection came from Millfield School, effectively blocking it. The other is that Mendip District Council refused to sanction the large house-building project that would have come with it, so close to the Tor. Possibly it was a combination of both of these reasons, together with Glastonbury’s Borough Council being downgraded to a parish.
At the eastern end, this route would join the present A361 near to the entrance of Millfield’s prep school (though probably much better from an engineering point of view if it could go through the middle of their playing fields). The proposed road is actually shown on the map re-joining the current route a little further away from Millfield and nearer the town, rather than following Cinnamon Lane. The map appears to have been simply copied from some old plans, and it is unlikely that either Millfield or Mendip were consulted about the possibility of the road proposal being revived.
At the other end, the map shows the bypass coming through Bretenoux road at the bottom of Redlands, then following the Butleigh road into the town before coming down Fisher’s Hill and then turning left onto the Street Road. At least one Councillor expressed his surprise that this route was being suggested, since it would not solve the traffic problem – it would simply move it along from Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane to Fisher’s Hill and Street Road. The whole debate would be likely to come up once again in the not-too-distant future.
A plan for an extended version of this route has in fact been discussed. This would follow the foot of Wearyall Hill before joining the A39 near Pomparles Bridge, between Glastonbury and Street. This, however, has not been officially made public.
It looked as though the inclusion of the southern route in the questionnaire was just to give a false democratic choice, since the chances of such a road being actually built seem so vanishingly small. What would happen if Glastonbury did agree to a route that was then turned down by the various higher authorities remains an interesting question. Since (as shown on the Town Council’s map) it would be much shorter, less expensive, less intrusive on the landscape and would require less from housing developers, then this was of course a possibility – though people did not see it as a realistic option.
According to planners (who were not consulted before the questionnaire was delivered to the public), neither route ‘A’ nor route ‘B’ are ever likely to be implemented. More likely would be a shorter version of route ‘A’ (tighter to the Tor, from Edgarley to Tin Bridge roundabout), or the longer version of route ‘B’. Either would be worse, from the point of view of the environment and their affect on our landscape, than the routes actually suggested.
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Other, more technical questions arising from the Road Consultation are discussed here:
What are the alternative routes to the A361 through Glastonbury?
The Town Council has said that this consultation is only ‘preliminary’, and that we can consult further when we have ‘all the information’. Is this true?
What is the planning status of the old railway line? Surely the District Council’s Local Plan will spell out what it can be used for?
Why is the Road Consultation being carried out in such a rush?
The Department for Transport’s consultation process, with regard to their proposal for a new Major Road Network (MRN), began on December 23rd 2017 (click here to see details). Very few people in Glastonbury know about that, even though its outcome may have a very important effect on their lives and their town. The MRN will be a new ‘tier’ of roads, in between motorways and local roads, to be created by upgrading key A-roads. The A361 through Glastonbury is on their ‘indicative’ map as a potential for upgrading, and this could include a bypass being built around Glastonbury.
The Town Council is organising its own town consultation on the subject, encouraged by our MP James Heappey. Their consultation is due to be delivered to homes on February 14th (it’s their valentine card to all of us!) Everyone wants a bypass, or at least some way of redirecting through traffic away from Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane. The consultation document, however, does not explain that the possible bypass would be part of this new national network – and would therefore increase the overall volume of traffic coming through the Glastonbury area; or that it would be paid for partly by ‘partnership’ funding from property developers – in other words the road could only be built with substantial housing and commercial development along the route.
The combination of these two things would have an enormous impact on Glastonbury’s iconic landscape. The preferred (and most likely) route would be along the old railway track behind the Tor, from Steanbow to the Tin Bridge roundabout.
The Town Council’s ‘Road Consultation’ is being pushed through with inordinate haste. As a result it has been hurriedly prepared, with inadequate background information and badly thought-through questions – creating a bias towards the result that some particular councillors have been wanting for years. There was an attempt to include the half-baked consultation document, printed on Town Council headed notepaper, in with the recent Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire; this turned out to be unlawful, since it amounted to the Council putting undue pressure on the Neighbourhood Plan’s own consultation, and it had to be embarrassingly withdrawn.
At the following Town Council meeting on January 9th, after a heated discussion, the wording was amended, though insufficiently, and the date of February 14th was set for its distribution. The Town Clerk then sent an email out to Councillors asking them to check the revisions. She also made a last-minute addition to the agenda of the Planning Committee’s meeting on January 23rd, where the matter should have been finalised. However, the wrong version of the document was inadvertently sent out with the email; although a second email followed with the correct attachment, the result was complete confusion at the Planning meeting.
The reason for the enormous rush is that the consultation has to be completed by March 14th, so that the responses can be collated and the results delivered to the Transport Department by March 19th. They will then be fed into the national MRN consultation. Once this is done the matter will be more-or-less out of Glastonbury’s hands, however much Town Councillors are claiming that this is just a 'preliminary consultation' and that 'we can consult further when we have fuller information'. If the result of the town’s Road Consultation is in favour of a bypass, then Somerset County Council would apply for funding from the National Roads Fund for designing and building the road, and if that is successful then Mendip District Council would have some say on housing and development issues, but decisions would essentially be made in London.
The confusion at the Planning meeting and continued acrimonious discussion over the Road Consultation’s wording meant that the Mayor was left to organise an Extraordinary Meeting of the Town Council so as to sort the situation out – but this never happened because the Planning meeting didn't know that the consultation document had to be with the printers by the following Friday afternoon, January 26th. So it is not possible that better information and better wording can be included, and the consultation will be sent out without further amendment on February 14th.
However, even if the Road Consultation produces its 'preliminary' result in favour of a bypass, the proposed road scheme would still have many hurdles to jump before it could actually happen. The MRN and the availability of extra funds for improving A-roads were only announced last July, and every town in the country that wants a bypass will be looking for money from the same pot. But James Heappey is an ambitious young MP, he has a certain amount of influence in that he is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chris Grayling the Secretary of State for Transport, and he has been a strong supporter of the railway track route for a Glastonbury bypass since before he was elected. To some extent he has staked his political reputation on it.
Since his intervention (last August) Glastonbury’s A361 Committee has given up looking for an acceptable alternative route for freight traffic, the Neighbourhood Plan steering group has been fending off pressure from influential Town Councillors, and due process in public consultation has been threatened or undermined. If Glastonbury Town Councillors do nothing except follow unquestioningly Mr Heappey’s lead, then they will have failed to stand up for the town and instead they will have sold it very cheaply down the river.
For a discussion of the 'Southern Route' see here:
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Reaching retirement age has an interesting result that I wasn't really expecting. By 'retirement age' I mean the age at which I can now draw my old age pension whilst at the same time still having all the resources I need to carry on working and even running a business. The interesting and unexpected result is perhaps obvious in retrospect, but still not completely easy to explain.
It is this: I am still busy (and plenty of people had predicted that), though what I do is determined less by the intended outcome, rather by some more inner sense of the worth of what I do. Even though I decided long ago that I had (for the sake of my own mental and physical health) to focus more on my creativity than on doing what customers wanted to pay to do, now even the need for the creative outcome to be potentially saleable is becoming less important.
So I have been able to put considerable time and effort into researching and writing up the potentially forthcoming Glastonbury bypass scheme, resulting in an article in the Glastonbury Oracle and a lengthy letter in the Central Somerset Gazette, both of which I am pleased with. Since then, I have been writing contributions to a new Green Movement History website, principally a piece about the early Green Fields at Glastonbury Festival, followed by my own recollections of the first Green Field in 1984, for which I was site co-ordinator.
I am now moving on to re-printing The River, my book about the River Brue, which I have decided to work on improving and adding to first. There is a new group recently started in Bruton, the 'Brue Crew', looking to connect with and if possible to protect the River Brue. I have been invited to one of their early meetings, and to introduce a showing of the Kogis' film 'Aluna'. It would be nice to get the book reprinted in time for that, if it works out ...
This map comes from a recent Somerset County Council report concerning potential sources of funding for road schemes; specifically from a section about a government initiative to put part of their National Roads Fund into a new ‘Major Roads Network', under the control of County Councils.
Next to para 3.21 is a little map (I imagine a portion of a national map called something like ‘Indicative Major Roads Network developments’ and originating in the Department for Transport). Just south of Wells and north of a road coloured blue for ‘Strategic Roads Network’ (Motorways and the proposed Expressways, in this case the A303) is a road coloured green – selected A-roads to be part of the Major Roads Network.
This is the A361 and the A39, from Nunney Catch near Frome to Junction 23 on the M5.
The map is ‘indicative’, so presumably shows a likelihood rather than a firmed-up plan, but it appears to be what MP James Heappey is basing a concerted lobbying campaign on. I assume that the A361/A39 is included on the map because it is a designated freight route.
I think what it shows quite clearly is that rather than an Expressway, as I had thought earlier, it is envisaged as a step down from that, an improved A-road; and that the real reason for its inclusion would be because it is part of a national road network carrying transnational traffic, and – though it is being promoted as being the answer to Glastonbury's traffic problems – in reality it has little to do with Glastonbury or anywhere else such as Walton or Ashcott, except that we happen to be on the route.
For it to function as part of the Major Roads Network it would almost certainly need modifications to avoid ‘pinch points’ such as Chilkwell Street, Pilton, Ashcott etc. The resulting Glastonbury bypass (plus associated development) would run just north of the Tor, causing serious damage to Glastonbury’s iconic landscape.
The Major Roads Network is intended to be a new tier of roads, in between the Strategic Roads Network and ordinary local roads. It comes as part of the government’s new Transport Investment Strategy that was announced in July. In August James Heappey came to address Glastonbury’s 'A361 committee’ (set up by the Town Council in order to explore possible answers to the acknowledged problem of heavy traffic on A361/Chilkwell street). He came – so far as I can see – in order to sell the committee members this plan on the basis of supposed economic benefits to Glastonbury. In other words the people of Glastonbury, and in particular the A361 committee, are amongst those being lobbied.
This is an update on the post dated 18/10/17, 'A new Glastonbury relief road: what is really going on?'
It’s a grey, wet start to October, with the mornings struggling to become light. Nevertheless, the longer I sit beside the river the more life that I notice: a few rooks flying overhead, plenty of fish hunting for insects, and a few song birds that I cannot see although I can hear them. The river itself has risen a tiny bit, but looks like it needs some added strength, a minor flood really, to come into its own. Before I leave a single swan comes swimming by, quite quickly, making grumpy noises.
The following morning there’s thick mist and it is cold. Winter weather is approaching much earlier than it did last year. The sun rises through the mist, growing gradually brighter and bigger; the sky immediately above is clear, the beginning of a bright day. As the sun rises a little higher there is steam coming off the river – a real autumn scene – for the first time this year. The fish are more prolific than ever; there’s not just signs of the surface being broken here and there, but occasional splashes, or bubbles, or a big circle in the water where most of them are small. Pike, perhaps.
The third day, and the sky over to the west is a changing array of orange, red, and streaks of blue sky. It’s cold, but a reminder of the most spectacular sights of last winter. A breeze is gently blowing from the west, downstream; the flow of the river itself is very slow, but there’s a fresher feel to it with the surface of the water puckering up and the reeds rustling in the wind. Each morning from then on, it seems to get gradually darker.
Some mornings the fish are busier than others, and some mornings there are more birds about than others, all for no obvious reason. I notice a big crowd of birds that appears each morning somewhere over towards Edgarley (southwest). At first I think it’s a rookery waking up, but it seems bigger than that. Something about the way that they fly, dipping and weaving, reminds me of the starlings – though they are much bigger, and noisier; maybe the jackdaws that spend their day around the edge of town. I wonder whether the starlings will reappear before the end of the month, and look forward to them arriving.
There’s a group of three young swans, still wearing their grey signet plumage, that occasionally come foraging down the river, pecking and pulling at the waterweed. There are also some much smaller birds – I wish I knew what they are called – that live on the riverbank and sometimes come flying low over the river surface, hopping and darting about in the reeds, chirping quite close to me where I’m sitting. There’s a particularly loud sound from one of them just across the river when the swans are coming by – when they are close to the far bank the noise absolutely erupts, and when they move on it calms down.
I am half way through my last month of a year coming, every morning that I can, down to the river. I note that it has changed something in me, though I’m not very clear what it is. Awareness of the natural world is one thing, for sure; and also a sense of being more in touch with my creative self. It has been a momentous year for my health, with two visits to hospital – with the ‘Transient Ischaemic Attack’ (a minor stroke) last November, and E-coli this August/September. The TIA was followed by muscle problems, which I eventually saw as being caused by cholesterol deficiency, as a result of taking statins (eventually I just stopped taking them). The e-coli infection left me feeling very depleted, and the doctor has told me that it may take three months to get ‘back to normal’. My sense is that I am gradually coming to the surface however – I’m beginning to feel batter than I have done all year.
In the rhyne that leads between the field and the road down towards the river, often in the morning I see a heron feeding. Usually I disturb it by walking past, and off it flies. One morning there is a pair of them, but then it’s back to just one. Another morning, on my way away from the river and on my way home for breakfast, I see what I’m sure is a small group of starlings – not enough to call them a ‘murmuration’, but sufficient to have me looking forward even more to them returning in large numbers.
As the mornings get darker the full moon seems brighter, when it is there. And as it gets colder we begin to have frost – so much earlier than we did last year. One afternoon I see starlings making their way home past my house, so they are arriving now. It’s October 26th when I see them coming over in the morning for the first time, though I’m sure they were there before, I just got my timing wrong. At first I didn’t recognize the familiar sound of their approach, a bit like seawater drawing back across shingle after a wave has come in by the sea; then there they were, stretched right across the riverside landscape and moving on further upstream.
I see them a couple of times towards the end of the month, whilst other days I sit there waiting for them and they just don’t appear. Maybe I’m too early, or too late, or maybe they have taken a different route – or they are high up, above the cloud and mist. On the 31st I wait for them, especially keen to see them, but in the end I get very cold and decide to walk home disappointed. I must have been too late; on the way I see a bunch of them, lined on the telegraph wires, looking at me as if to say ‘well, where were you then?’
In Glastonbury, traffic coming along the A361 down Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane is a serious problem. In response to protests and petitions, three years ago an ‘A361 Committee’ was set up by the Town Council to consider possible solutions. This committee has, however, found itself ignored and side-lined by Somerset County Council, which appears to have its own agenda: to build a relief road along the route of the old railway line from West Pennard to the Wells roundabout (formerly Tin Bridge) – ultimately to become part of a proposed ‘Mendip Expressway’.
Before jumping to the conclusion that anything is better than the appalling heavy traffic that is right now ruining our homes and our lives, this relief road scheme needs to be looked at carefully.
It would be funded through ‘partnership’ with property developers, who would pay for the road in return for access to land for building houses and establishing light industry – initially in Brindham and Wick, though this would open up land along the whole route for future development.
The impact on the environment would be enormous. The heritage aspect of Glastonbury as a historical spiritual centre would be severely damaged. The Tor and Chalice Hill would be cut off from the open countryside and put in danger of becoming green blobs in the midst of urban sprawl. That which is most important here would be disrespected, even desecrated, and made subservient to a crass version of ‘economic development’.
Even this, however, would be an illusion. Most new enterprise that might be created in the development area would merely replace existing business that is at present situated nearer to the centre of the town. Meanwhile tourism, on which the town depends, would be flagrantly undermined.
Not many people realise that the Highways Agency was privatised in 2015 and replaced by a limited company, Highways England Ltd. Since then the government has been encouraging plans for a widespread and aggressive new road-building programme. This has been described as ‘saloon-bar policy making’, ignoring the evidence that building new roads simply leads to more traffic, that the suggested economic benefits are largely illusory, but that the damage to the environment is extensive and very real indeed. Construction work on the first wave of this programme is expected to begin in 2019.
In this context, Wells MP James Heappey has been promoting his plan for the so-called ‘Mendip Expressway’. Heappey is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chris Grayling, the current Secretary of State for Transport. In its full extent, the ‘Expressway’ may go all the way from Nunney Catch near Frome, past Shepton Mallet and around Glastonbury, and then on to join the M5. However the signs are that it is to be presented as a series of local by-passes, each apparently meeting the needs of local communities desperate to escape the noise, pollution, damage and danger caused by an overwhelming volume of heavy traffic.
The reality of this proposal is actually for a major new road to carry this traffic through central Somerset to the motorway. There are right now several possible freight routes other than along the A361 and the A39, though this is the one preferred by the County Council – in consultation with the Freight Transport Association; it is the shortest route, not necessarily the best route. A new road would have very little to do with Glastonbury, Walton, or any of the towns and villages along the way, and would make little or no contribution to the economic well-being of these communities.
The problems on Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane may be alleviated in the short term, but this proposal would not be a long term solution. It would be a disaster for Glastonbury as a whole.
Updated 6/11/17: Glastonbury and the Major Road Network
After my illness it is four weeks before I have the strength and energy to resume walking down to the river in the mornings. By then the weather has got grey and damp like autumn, though still warm and humid. The river is a little fuller than the last time I was here, and the reeds out in the river have died down – they are reduced to bare stalks sticking out of the water. Most of the foliage on the other side of the river has gone – it has been cut down, and the edge of the river cleared with a digger. This side the reeds are left to gently subside.
An autumnal chill and mist along the course of the river meet me next morning, though soon the sun is up in the sky and shining, almost blindingly if I look straight at it. The day before, when I'd been here later in the day, a pair of white butterflies with black markings had danced along beside me for a while as I walked towards the river; so it still seems to be summer in the middle part of the day. Whatever the weather, I’m feeling relief to be back – so pleased to see the river and to re-connect. A couple of small silver fish jump right up from the water to catch their insects.
Another day and the cloud cover has returned, though it’s still warm and humid. There’s darker clouds coming up from the southwest however – I think we’re going to have rain. The river is looking rather scruffy, though through no fault of its own. The denuded far bank and the shattered reeds in the middle of the river create an impression that I suppose is the modern autumn. The water level is quite low too, and I think that it could actually do with a good fall of rain to give it back its self-respect. The rhyne has one bank cut down to the level of a mown lawn: it already has plenty of duckweed encroaching, now there are dead reeds and a few clumps of grass mowings to add to that – it too looks like it needs flushing out with a strong shower of rain.
Sunny weather, if interspersed with cloud and rain, hangs on for a couple of weeks yet though. A heron is flying around each morning – I often disturb it from foraging in the rhyne. Most of the birds now are dark and autumnal however, like crows or geese (I saw one group of geese in a V-formation, with the lead bird honking to keep them in order). A breeze from the east, against the flow of the river, ruffles the surface as happened so often last winter, which gives me the feeling that the season is moving on. Along the road, the same breeze is beginning to take the leaves off the trees too.
It takes me a while to get back into picking up litter. I get some plastic gloves and a bottle of anti-bacterial handwash, though they don’t really seem to help. Then one morning I see that the tent that’s been pitched beside the river on the other side of the rhyne has in fact been abandoned, and now there is garbage strewn all over the place and if nothing is done it will eventually find its way into the river. After a lengthy debate with myself I do come with a plastic bag and a pair of gloves that I can wash, and collect it up. The tent I leave, I don’t even look inside, but a week or so later it’s collapsed and I prepare myself for another bagful. When I get there next morning, however, I find it’s all been stacked neatly; I go and spend a little time sitting by the river, and on my way back I see a truck stopped there; it’s the little ‘Highways maintenance’ truck that goes around emptying rubbish bins, and it has collected it all. Clearly I have not been the only one thinking about it!
Some balloons that someone had tethered on the opposite bank do of course end up in the river, and I think the river spirit must be cross with all this careless behavior. I make a point of checking out my picture of ‘Copper, the weaver of rivers’ (a print of one of Carolyn Hillyer’s pictures), which seems to express different feelings at different times. When I look, she seems sad rather than angry. When I eventually clear the site of odd bits of litter after the tent has gone, I notice that there’s a tyre in the water, too heavy and too far out of reach to be retrieved; also a fluffy white swan feather.
By the time of equinox it is definitely autumn. The past week has seen the seasons shifting and it has been neither cold nor hot, dark nor light, wet nor dry. I find myself thinking that the river spirit is perhaps sad, although the mess around here is so minor compared to the long, hard sadness that has persisted over centuries. The river is, I fear, in its last time of sadness, its last effort at survival; ‘the only thing it can do from here is to flood, with acres of wet tears’. All the same, I remember a woman called Johanna who has walked down the river, connecting with the river spirit and also carrying water from the source to pour along the lost route of the river across the moors; and another person I have heard of who is approaching the River Parrett in a similar way. I know She is pleased with these things.
The reeds on the river bank are still more or less whole, but they have lost their vigour – the leaves are turning brown at the tips and the stalks are beginning to lean at angles; they have begun the process of dying back that will finish with bent broken dried up stalks by next spring, when they will be overtaken by next year’s growth. As I turn to go back home, the Tor is shrouded in misty cloud. By the last day of September, it seems a long way from the first when it was still summer.
The truth is I’ve always been in denial about getting older. I went jogging round Glastonbury Tor every morning and wouldn’t stop till my knees hurt. I think my teeth look good and I don’t like to mention that they’re plastic, made in a dental laboratory in Wells. And I regard the expansion in my wasteline, compared to what it was until ten or twenty years ago, as strictly temporary. But now a new kind of change is fast approaching: I am shortly to be drawing my old age pension.
This is quite different. This means freedom. It means I no longer feel that I have to go out to work, that I have to give my time and attention to whoever might be able to pay me. My time is now officially my own. This is something to celebrate, not to deny.
Not that I intend to stop working – just to stop doing what I don’t enjoy. So I have closed down my office in town and moved my working life to integrate it with my home. I am no longer available to the public, only to people who I would like to invite in. I can go off and do some shopping, or take a walk in the sunshine, if that seems like the best thing to do just now. I can have a snooze after lunch (or I can follow the creative urge and work till midnight). It suddently seems much easier just to be me.
When I reached 60 I decided that I must take my writing more seriously. It is, after all, the only ambition I’ve ever had – to be a writer. Five years on and I have done quite well: I have published five books, locally, and in different ways they have all been well received. I can call myself a writer – not just a ‘provider of office services’ with writing done only on slack afternoons or when the photocopier has broken down.
It was a struggle getting everything home, including the photocopier and the office furniture, up the narrow stairs and into what used to be the front bedroom. Besides the bulky items there were boxes and boxes of paper, books, stationery, files, a laminating machine, a spiral binder, and endless assorted other bits and pieces. They filled the living room and took four days to get sorted out.
It’s all here now though, and I’m enjoying the result. My desk is beside the window and the cat is curled up behind the computer, in the sunshine. The time has now arrived for me to make the most of my good fortune and to start reaching out more to the wider world.
This was written for the Unique Publications newsletter, which I sent out initially to people who have bought my books through the website. The intention is to be more in touch with my customers, to let them know about recent or upcoming publications, to tell them more about Unique Publications and about my own process with writing, and to offer special deals on past publications. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like it sent to you.
The month begins with thick cloud and a rainstorm that lasted twelve hours or so. By the following morning the river is much fuller, and where the water passes through the reeds that have grown up across it, there is a strong though narrow stream that looks like a miniature rapid. It takes several days for the weather to clear and for some hot, sunny weather to arrive; for a while from then, even when it’s cloudy it’s warm. The river settles down to be still and quiet – it seems happiest in the winter when there is plenty of rainfall, though it’s in the summer that there is the lush growth along the banks, and plenty of bird life. Most of the summer birds are gone by now however, and the lush growth is beginning to die down.
Signs of scummy pollution get washed downstream sometimes, and are usually washed away again in a day or two. The fish are busy; one comes to the surface, and very strangely then moves sideways before disappearing back into the water. I have never seen that before – in fact I’ve never even heard of it happening. There’s a chill in the early mornings, and it’s misty more often than before; though the days are warm and usually sunny.
Finally we are getting a sustained period of real summer weather. The stillness of the river is something that I’ve been aware of since back in April – I described it then as ‘settling down into its bed’, and most of the time it’s been very sleepy ever since. I haven’t realised before how static, with no sense of flow, the river can be. The weather is very pleasant though – but I have become ill.
For the first few days I lie in bed, ‘travelling with Petroc’, working out the next part of my story. The weather continues to be hot, and after five days – having been told that the hot weather is about to end – I get up to walk to the river again. It’s a gorgeous day and I feel inspired. The sound of the reeds swaying in the breeze is like wheat or barley; it made me think of Egypt by the Nile. In the bright early afternoon sunshine I can see fish swimming in the water, something I have never seen in the mornings when the sun is low. On the way back I see a beautiful bird of prey languidly circling above the field, spiralling down until it had seen that whatever it had noticed was not edible, and it flew away.
I thought I was getting better, but by the following morning I was definitely worse and by the end of the day I was in hospital; this is a different story altogether ...