online: 16 august 2004
modified: 16 august, 7 september 2004

15 august 2004 civilisation

12:21 Sunday morning, beneath pine trees, the ones where I keep imagining Noh plays being performed... I'm remembering my walk here.

There was music from someone's window, the house on the corner; I could see someone inside. And two men were unloading a gas cooker from a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Near pond 1 there was a man looking closely at a London street map. A woman stood close to him while she rearranged her hair (by feel, without seeing it). That done, she leant even closer to see what he was looking at. An older woman went by and looked me up and down ('not him' I imagined her thinking). An older man looked at me sharply - was he looking to see if I was looking at the woman beside him? A young man was attending to a small child - there was a Shakespeare play in the buggy. And half-naked woman was sitting in the sun to read an intelligent-looking book. And a woman was feeding a baby from a bottle.

This is our civilisation and it's not bad... What if today was the last day of it?

A low-flying jumbo of British Airways climbs slowly and noisily into the grey but sunny sky... 2 minutes later another one passes, flying slightly higher. Today they are taking off towards the east.

12:48 And now (having got here to this imagined noh theatre before the heavy rain that was forecast for this afternoon) I pause to reconsider everything...

...but my thoughts go to two older women who are sitting together affectionately - they seem to be looking at a handheld computer and writing on it, just as I am... A young man wanders about this little glade - he seems to be blowing at something, perhaps it is a dandelion clock? A young woman walks about also. She gazes at a pine tree and then leans against it. Does this spot attract those who have something to think about? The two women with a handheld are now conversing and gesturing seriously about some shared interest... a flax-like seed sails down towards the earth and it touches my shoe before it lands.

At Kenwood (where I have not been for some time). In a shady corner of the valley of birches I see an elderly couple who are evidently both artists. He is painting the scene and she is drawing him painting!... He smiles as I look at what they're doing.

An added memory: in the outdoor cafe I eat a piece of orange sponge cake and drink water. A man at the same table tells me that his dog, a large black collie of mixed breed, can understand syntax. His baby sleeps in a buggy and a smiling woman arrives with a meal to share between the two of them. She also brings several little cartons of cream or milk which he feeds to the intelligent dog!

On my way back I find a large blackberry bush full of ripe berries with no signs of anyone else having picked any. I empty my plastic bottle and quickly fill it with big ones.... then I sit down to read some pages of John Cowper Powys writing about pre-Celtic Welshness. As I read I hear a female voice speaking English in the gentle accent of South Wales, or of Mid. I think it is this self-evasive rhythm that he is writing of, and its word order. These he sees as pre-Celtic. I copy out something he wrote*:

...what we call expression or intonation is the essence of any human language.

Five o'clock - and the forecast rain has not arrived. It did not arrive all evening.

*John Cowper Powys, Obstinate Cymric, essays 1935-47, The Druid Press, Carmarthen, 1947, Village Press, London, 1973, page 9.

(these pages are designed to be read with the window set to two-thirds of the screen width)

what's new


digital diary archive

daffodil email newsletter

© 2002, 2003, 2004 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj at