A clearing in a wood surrounded by dead trees; the skeletons of birds and small mammals litter the floor. A sunken pond in a field. A man has cycled out to it and he lays asleep on the grass, his feet just touching the water. A morning so cold crows appear to have frozen in the air.
On the news, there is footage of Pakistani villages that have been destroyed by drone strikes. The drones are controlled from a room in Virginia. A few years ago there was that Army advert designed for young people – 18 or 19 perhaps – using Xbox controllers to pilot spy cameras attached to craft that look similar to drones. I think the advert was banned.
…a long sensitive pause is held till almost unbearable; then he looses…his tremulous hollow song. It echoes down the brook, breaking the frozen surface of the air. I look out at the west’s complexity of light. A heron, black against the yellow sky, kinked neck and dagger bill incised, sweeps silently down into the brook’s dark gulf. The sky infuses with the afterglow…
Animal trafficking discussed in seminars a few weeks ago. Belem do Para on the news as well. A tough port where there is a price for everything. Animal trafficking is the 3rd most lucrative business after drugs and gun running; 20 billion dollars a year. The man is speaking Portuguese, but I cannot read the subtitles without my glasses. Get in the suitcase.
…east of my home, the long ridge lies across the skyline like the low hull of a submarine. Above it, the eastern sky is bright with reflections of distant water, and there is a feeling of sails beyond land. Hill trees mass together in a dark-spired forest, but when I move towards them they slowly fan apart, the sky descends between, and they are solitary oaks and elms, each with its own wide territory of winter shadow. The calmness, the solitude of horizons lures me towards them, through them, and on to others. They layer the memory like strata….who are we at war with this week? Earlier, a man asked me for money. Carlos is yelling in to the trees, trying to attract monkeys. He’s wearing a relatively smart shirt. Perhaps I can use this discussion? A bald parrot looks like half a Christmas bird. The animals are terrified of human beings.
On the way to work in the morning, the new tar on the road has created a ludicrous amount of run-off, so it’s difficult to cross the road; the whole thing is more like a river now. Someone’s dog has shat all about the place. The three toed sloth is very easy to catch. One thousand dollars. Carlos is trying to tempt monkeys with a half-eaten banana. Sensibly they are ignoring him. He is described as ‘Brazil’s worst hunter’. He gets thirty dollars for a sloth.
The office is freezing. Strip lighting is painfully bright, and the lamp is too dim to read from properly. I’ve had communications from a number of people, a variety of messages, some of which I misread and respond to with information that is perhaps less than helpful, and later correct myself with apologies. ‘Hotdog Johnny’s is a great place!’ ‘My mother was born 1912 and she’d vote for him’. A reach which other people do not have. Find a compromise.
The first week, my dreams are confused. I am told my trousers are all wrong for the role. What am I expected to do? During the day – the real day – other nocturnal statements plague me, and it takes me a while to recall the separation between the real and the imagined. The man has lost a lot of weight as a result of gastric band surgery. There are explosions outside the window, but my legs ache too much to move over and see if any of them are any good.
…near the brook a heron lay in frozen stubble. Its wings were stuck to the ground by frost, and the mandibles of its bill were frozen together. Its eyes were open and living, the rest of it was dead. All was dead but the fear of man. As I approached I could see its whole body craving into flight. But it could not fly…
Energy drinks keep me awake. I’ve been ill a number of times. First some sort of flu, now an internal infection which hopefully won’t require anything more than time to fix: this is what I’ve been told. The old people flats have crumpled cans and empty bottles in the hedges. What is the matter with these people?
A red-throated diver, sodden and obscene with oil, able to move only its head, will push itself out from the sea-wall with its bill if you reach down to it as it floats like a log in the tide. A poisoned crow, gaping and helplessly floundering in the grass, bright yellow foam bubbling from its throat, will dash itself up again and again on to the descending wall of air, if you try to catch it. A rabbit, inflated and foul with myxomatosis, just a twitching pulse bleating in a bladder of bones and fur, will feel the vibration of your footstep and will look for you with bulging, sightless eyes. Then it will drag itself away into a bush, trembling with fear.
She says 90% of illegal immigrants enter the country and go on benefits. This is clearly bullshit. She strongly disagrees with things she knows nothing about. There are a number of maps on the wall. I can see pretend areas of London. No. Real areas, the areas people create or imagine or move through. Billy is looking down on me, with that withering stare. His eyes are sunken, his hand curled in to a half-fist. His complexion is thin, but you know that he is furious inside. At twelve thousand feet two planes collide. The wind is ferocious and there is fire in the sky for a moment.
We’re at the Jeep, and she bundles me inside. The animals are waking up at this time of day, as the sun sinks a little and the heat drifts off to some other shifting continent, except they all ran away didn’t they? My heart is pumping fast. My pupils are dilated. But I will be OK.