The 'burbs

We live on the edge of London, where the streets and fields merge into suburban Kent, and we are ringed by great arteries of traffic.  I can see the Dartford Crossing from my bedroom window, blocks of lorries edging over its curve. There are always planes above, heading into London, but they are not jets. There is always the low rumble of traffic, apart from on Christmas Day. Most of the time I tune the engines out.
The stars are very bright here, on a clear night. The air never smells entirely clean.
There is an unexpected, wonderful population of stag beetles and many handsome foxes. The soil roughens, turns chalky and flinty a few miles away towards the spine of the North Downs.
 If we drive 15 minutes we are in hopping country and oast houses mark the landscape. Another 15 minutes the other way and we are in the urban city. The Weald of Kent is not far away and seems verdant and beautiful.
I like it here well enough but there is the sense that the county is heavily populated, even in the remoter parts. Sometimes I yearn for the sea, and the moor where I grew up. Particularly the expanse and space and the fresh, ozonic smell. Here the man-made is everywhere, as far as I can see, and smell and hear. We didn't evolve in environments like this and sometimes I feel like everything we consume (in every sense) is one step removed from real nature. Even our broccolli comes shrink-wrapped or barcoded, even our dogs run on concrete.
Perhaps we should have an allotment but I am lazy and busy and maybe we will one day. We used to have hens that foraged for worms and woodlice all day and their thick-shelled yolks were bright yellow.


A February afternoon, lighter, lighter, sun around the world's corner.
A magpie is plucking twigs to wedge in the crown of blackthorn and the walnut tree is resolutely bald.
Grass lies low, the road cutting through the land down to the busy coastline.
Nubs of bud push from the edge of branches and green spears spike the dreaming earth.
The pears slowly rot.
I should be digging goodness back into the earth but instead I stay clean, one step removed from our earth.
Beyond the house there are small fields, with horses in jackets,  and the endless river crossing, its freight.
Beyond the tidal estuary, the North Sea holds its tides, swells and falls.
I know there are seals in Norfolk, see their gray dapple, cigars rolling on the rocks, smell the spray.
There are Eider duck up the coast, and terns and mounds of thrift and wide blooms of lichen.
I turn my mind to this and lose the traffic, the great brunt of perishable goods, plastic games.


There's a beautiful white egret that lives here, on the river banks. It startles and folds up like a white parasol with long, exotic feet. Once I dreamt of it with blood all down its white bib.  Here is a (not particularly clear) picture of it fishing and long may it live on the river fry.


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