online: 1 february 2006
modified: 1 february 2006

31 january 2006 concocted memories

17:00 Two buses took me swiftly to the edge of Sandy Heath and immediately i was at home (how many walks in an unfamiliar place before this happens?). The trees and the rustling leaves on the ground, and even the hedges recently constructed to keep people out of the wilder spots, all these and everything i saw this afternoon seemed to welcome me or at least had ceased to repell. Cold air, yes, and fast walking, but to thoughts of decreasing surprise and the beginnings of recognition and pleasure. It's become a nice place.

And now in memory the tree-deep valley is to my left and there is a less deep one on my right as i walk on the ridge that leads to the high fences protecting some modern houses that border the wood. A place where i'd like to live.

I'm now descending on a steep path, to a road that divides Sandy Heath from the Heath Extension and as i write of this region i imagine being in the strange vision of afterlife described in Childermass by Wyndham Lewis:

The city lies in a plain, ornamented with mountains. These appear as a fringe of crystals to the heavenly north.*

...this description does not in the least resemble my remembered walk in the woods but nevertheless both places seem heavenly, permanent moments in a literary reality perhaps more real (or more human?) than the actual walking.

I sit for a minute or two on a seat by a small pond half overgrown by bullrushes with tall cylindrical seed capsules and pale dry leaves that have died and become bent. I get up and continue walking across playing fields until i reach the Great Wall - a long barrier of dark red brickwork with occasional doorways and steep-roofed towers reminiscent of medieval towns in Germany and of the realised dreams of William Morris and John Ruskin, in whose imaginations i or we live, at least when we visit this Hampstead Garden Suburb if not when we encounter the semi-detached suburbia of most of Britain now. The city wall.

Do i have to describe shopping, in a health food shop, a greengrocer's, and a supermarket? My memory is of suspended living - as if the time spent doing the work of a consumer was a not-so-brief period subtracted from life in order to keep down cost - though the 25 or so pounds (35 euros) paid for 15 or so items seems expensive indeed. I remember when a bag of groceries cost about 2 pounds and now, 30 years later, it costs about 20.

And now, resting in physical comfort while i wrote or concocted these memories... (semi-fictional and fragmentary approximations to the indescribable whole of what happened)... i cease this bit of writing and contemplate the egg pie that i intend to cook and eat while listening to the news. The news.

*The opening words of Wyndham Lewis's novel Childermass, Methuen & Co, London 1928, Jupiter Books, John Calder, London 1965. This is Book One of his trilogy The Human Age

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