Where I live


Summer is rolling on, into high summer and towards her corollary and I am already nostalgic for mid-summer when this was yet to be.

We live on the edges of outer, outer-London and are not blessed with spectacular forms of nature. 
There are no great wildwoods, nor torrents, or indeed mega-fauna. 
My daily paths are parallel to one of the oldest Roman roads - the A2 which is busy with traffic heading into London and out towards Kent and the ring of the M25. The traffic builds and falls as the day goes on, peaking at 5pm when it is full of lorries and white vans and estate cars, moving and then stopping. 
Along the A2 then, and never far from its constant hum, the under-song of this place where the streets run into fields and they run into housing estates and into fields again. 
There are a lot of horses here. And cars. Roads and roads of cars.

Quite often I find myself craving elsewhere, somewhere less built by humans, and less motorised. I imagine a beach in north Devon and looking into the horizon until the Atlantic and the sky become indivisible. 
And yet there are small pleasures in the local and in the repetition of the same walk through distinct seasons and the succession of life and death. 

Below are patches of soft-estate that in high summer are filled with meadow flowers (they have now been mown down by the council). There is a small river, the Shuttle, which flows into the Cray, and along the banks of the Shuttle are well-trodden baths that follow its course.
I have come to know this humble, scratchy place quite well by walking and looking, with a buggy and a dog, and it is hard not to feel that the place accommodates us now as we walk through it. And the other regulars too. 





The first major flowering is the cow parsley, growing almost unstoppably through late April and into May where it  fills the path with hanging heads of creamy froth. Slowly the last buds open and the umbels begin to shed their petals, leaving green seed heads then only their frame before the stems wither and make way for an army of tall nettles, their serrated leaves rich with chlorophyll. Through June, they grow weedy and sparse and fail, making way for the loops of curly convolvulus which twine and roil, their flowers emitting a thin, sweet scent of themselves at dusk. 
Here the bats zigger, and the insects rise in a thin curtain over the water, dancing into their dying night. 
A pair of mallards sit in the shallows, watchful. Swifts, which arrive (miraculously) in early May, begin fledging and the juveniles fly around in twos and threes, pealing sideways and calling in the exuberance of flight. 
There are a lot of swifts here, locally, over a particular street (nesting sites, perhaps?) and I cherish them. 

Now, there is a carpet of clover, and vetch, and under the young oak is a fox cub with soft fur, which slips away as I pass. I am certain it is watching me whilst hidden.  Butterflies - meadow brown, admiral, large white, and moths I cannot name. I saw a kingfisher again - the sudden gleam of blue low along the bank.  The first blackberries at the tip of the bramble snarl are dark and the baby eats them. There will be mushrooms later and hips and haws. High summer is humming and the air is luxuriously warm with energy 
and the flowers rebound in my tread and I smell them sometimes at dusk if I pause.






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