Youth was spent amongst trees, in woodland of limited size that seemed much bigger at the time. On a recent revisit to 3 and 4 (3 with Chris, where we attempted to find some of the places we inhabited as children), the scale was gone, the wonder of child-like seeing no longer present, just confused memories of possible events, which I have decided to write down.
- SG was shot by a pellet gun here. The woodland that I once knew as The Icehouse Plantation is part of the Putteridge Bury estate, now owned by The University of Bedfordshire, which is a University of sorts. They have a miniature steel observatory in their garden. My brother and me ran around there in the days when Dad ran his business out of the Victorian glasshouse. People shot pheasants nearby. I recall this as being similar to ‘Danny, Champion of the World’ only with a large amount of Japanese vineweed around the small pond at the entrance to the estate and some fat faced kid jumping on a trampoline in the caretakers house nearby. We played a lot of football on their lawn when they were on holiday. The actual Icehouse Plantation is to the left of the long drive that leads to the old house, perhaps a half mile or so south on the map from No.1. The reason I was there with SG is that he had some porn stashed there, and obviously this was interesting. They turned out to be the unpleasant readers wives style publications, women with the sort of tits that resemble two fried eggs hanging from a nail. He took a piss up a tree at some point. When he was new at our school I went to a birthday party of his where I won a cassette of Showaddywaddy. I never listened to it. He had incredibly short finger nails, and bit the cuticles away until he was bleeding. I saw him occasionally when we were older as he lived nearby. For a while he had a problem with heroin, but after kicking the habit at some stage in the last five years he set up a business which prints use-by dates on to the surface of eggs. Eggs have been mentioned three times.
- This woodland/copse never had a name. It ran along Selsey Drive up to Wandon Park, mostly hidden behind a wall. We rarely went in to it. A man lived there, in a cardboard and plastic sheet house. He apparently collected carrier bags, perhaps to shit in to. He had a ferret which he used to walk on a lead around the small patch of grass on the other side of the wall. He tied his trousers with a rope, which used to hang down to nearly his shoes. A telephone company has built a mobile phone mast on the small patch of grass.
- This is the most significant woodland for me, always known as Great Hayes; it turns out this name is an accurate memory. There are perhaps too many recollections associated with this space to write down now, so I will go with two important ones, and return to others another day. From these tree-based memories, it is clear that pornography was clearly an important part of growing up. The numerous dens constructed by myself and our little cabal were usually facilitating the protection of Club and Razzle (and other titles I’m sure Stokes will remember) from the likes of PE, KO’K and alike. The number of times porn was stolen and rediscovered is impossible to count. One instance involved myself, Stokes, RL and IS. Porn had once again changed hands, and we had lost out to the aforementioned letters, PE, KE and KO’K. They had a hiding place somewhere. I am in the wood with Stokes, RL and IS in front. The wood is snow covered, the field barren and enveloped in dense freezing fog. RL and IS have an argument sometime after we have build ice foundations to a temporary hideout. IS chases RL in to the field where they scuffle. I watch on, Stokes alongside. The figures grapple in the snow. RL picks up a log, and swings it at IS, hitting him in the head. He falls to the ground. Everything is silent and cold and looks a lot like the opening to Fargo. RL runs. On our way back home with the injured IS, RL emerges from amongst pine trees with a bag full of porn, the collection we had lost in the last battle. He holds it out to us as an apology. The other memory is of some sort of chase, with JE (who resurfaces from time to time, largely so Broughall can ‘kick the shit’ out of him metres from his home), but I’m not sure if it is him we need to hide from. We’re out of breath, stung from nettles, my ankle throbbing from a fall over a tree stump. Panting, sweating, we lie on the rough earth in the wheat field, hidden by the tall swaying crops. In amongst the high grass, thin trees and shining bracken, a man with a golf club hacks and slashes away at everything, periodically stopping to listen and yell. Is he looking for us? Is he related to the earlier chase? A summer afternoon spent running and paying attention to the sound a man makes on the ground when he walks, or when a metal pole passes through the air. We eventually leave, once we are sure the angry man has also left. A week later I find a discarded golf club, minus the top, which I decide to use as a weapon for myself (others had makeshift weapons too…MH has a slingshot of some kind, made with a goggle strap…there was also ‘Brick-on-a-Rope’). Being chased happened often.
- This small bit of woodland sits in the middle of Butterfield Green, equidistant from the carpark on the A505 and the Stone Age hill farm remains that no-one seems to know about around Bradgers Hill. Someone was sexually assaulted there once (in the wood, not the hill farm); I was barred access by police tape and fear of what might have happened. A path ran through the middle, opening up in to long grass at one end by some old rusted football posts that had been stacked together. I sat there one summer’s evening with Michelle, Mick, Cherelle and Zoe before we all moved away to University. This became the opening to Sunshine and Power Lines, a book I wrote whilst at University. It was/is a catastrophic romance set in a city that is constantly rearranged by sand and steam from underground fissures. Nearby to this spot was a tree I had once thought of as a good site for a den, but many other people used it for the same thing, so it was ultimately worthless. I find it interesting to think that without ever meeting the other people, we all managed not to destroy each others constructions in the tree. Much later, I went there with Chris, who didn’t remember using the tree for such a purpose; to be fair, it could have been a number of different people other than Chris who were there originally. We hooked up contact microphones to the trunk and branches, and struck them all about using a variety of different woods from the area. We recorded the results. The tree sounded like a xylophone.
Albums of the Week(s)
This last week and a bit or maybe even two weeks I have been enjoying the following:
1. Balmorhea – Constellations
2. Toro y Moi – Causers of This
3. Fort Dax Archive (no image but visit here to download it from Fort Dax’s site without feeling the pang of guilt from illegal MP3 acquisition)
4. Polar Bear – Peepers
5. Trembling Bells – Carbeth
They are not in order of preference this week. I spent much of the weekend recording basic structural tracks for a collaborative ‘hip-hop’ project, and my brain is apparently unable to form proper thoughts related to the description and criticism of music because of this. Instead, it’s just a five item list of things that are good, and should be listened to by others.
A Silk and Dogs based update on Monday.