October is an attempt to write consistently for a month – an attempt to challenge myself. October may give way to November, or October may close naturally with October 31st.
October may be a month but its referential frame is much wider – this body of work seeks to explore that.
October will signify my thinking born out of this month, my feelings felt during this month and how they translate into print, and images I perceive (in the loosest possible sense, mental and visual – distinction to be had) in October.
Thatch roofs bow with the weight of winters passed. Lead gutters filled with copper leaves gurgle out – an ode to another era. Scythes doomed to fall silent; reeds felled, bundled and tied no more. Old weathered hands rendered superfluous.
Dilapidated farmsteads, dishevelled windmills and grain stores stripped bare vulnerable to the biting cold. Pained moaning – ice born wounds that will never close up. Falling splinters of anonymous stone swallowed whole.
I can look out into the garden and still see only green. If I crane my neck and arch my back I can see the odd brown leaf lying on the purple shingle. Really my periphery is clear of burning oranges, deep crimsons, muddy browns and other more rotten shades – unbent neck, locked gaze, body rooted.
Yet, for every day that I can remember as soon as I slope off down the street I encounter, conkers, fallen leaves, and eternal damp – in short autumn, in length b-e-a-u-t-y.
Two pronged, three forked, and five fingered leaves. Bloated moss. Neglected conkers – too small or too late for those seeking them. Little rain and yet there’s a perpetual gurgling, collective run-off making for an omnipresent pulse that matches my own.
Spluttering coughs, runny noses – at lunch the local pharmacies are doing a lightening trade. The tea and coffee list has been revisited at work – tastes as well as seasons have changed. Figures to watch, people to please, personas to uphold.
Walk away from home. Return home. Perpetual dawn. Perpetual dusk. 9-5 is really 7.30-6 – sun barely risen, sun already set. Half cast shadows spilling over cobbles, concrete and asphalt. Tap and drag of tired feet – zombie walk.
Dinner is in the oven, butternut-squash baked and shared between five. Books to be read under the brightest light of the day. No need to find the cold side of the pillow it’s already kissing your cheek.
14.20: A car as inconsequential as a black Toyota Prius becomes a warhead. Another smashing of the peace – or so we expected.
14.30: Searing red headline with more details to follow. Another area in lockdown. Whispers of terror in terror.
The Natural History Museum, South Kensington. People poised and ready for what could have been.
A friend lives nearby, I reach out to her. She doesn’t reply. By the time she gets back to me the red mist has quelled – eye contact broken with the abyss. She was with Hades at the time.
Big Reds story is straight, far less sensational, yet overnight the hero image remains as a man in a forensic smock – fingertips clasping onto the coat-tails of terror.
By mid morning he is released with only the suspicion of dangerous driving hanging over his head. Yesterday was Saturday, today is Sunday, tomorrow will be Monday and people are worried past worrying.
Autumn leaves are slow burning fires lit absolutely everywhere – an elemental path along which to walk hand in hand with the incremental shortening of days.
Blazing orange gives way to smouldering brown. Smouldering brown gives way to black ash. Black ash gives way to the pale white light of winter solstice – now building can begin again.
Through the open three paned-frosted glass the post-box red doors draw my eye. After contemplating the depth of the red for a while I rake my gaze back across the churchyard.
The grass is pearled with beads of dew. Damp hems spring to mind despite the stillness of the churchyard – the time of anonymous mourners long since elapsed.
I go to turn away but the apse of the church captures my gaze. Wet sand. Bulging growth. Unsightly scar. The accumulation of pigeon shit or a botched repair? A sole bedraggled blackbird cradling itself.
At this time in September a man had been scrubbing the tombstones, memorials and obelisks. He started early, before I arrived at work. When I sidled out for lunch he was gone.
I remember the steaming water, the ash of his cigarette and his muddy blonde hair – all offset by the motion of his brush over the russet stained stone.
How does one begin to undertake such a task? How does one look past the futility of fighting lichen and moss – the stain that won’t wash off?
I don’t know, but one does…
The water sits still; many boats are moored up one after the other. Kettles whistle. A woman sits alone, half shrouded by a net curtain – a slight twist to her lips.
An old boy with white hair and rough hands wolfs down his cigarette. He wipes at the condensation on his boats windows with a blue cloth. His head ducks in close to the glass. The ash nearly meets the pane, its own subtle attempt to help things along. As he finishes up he chucks his cloth to his friend. The ash remains sitting atop its mount stoically.
Leaves and twigs ride on the slow moving water, roaches skit below these vast continents. A sign warning of restricted access to pleasure boats marks the base of one arch of the bridge. Across the road sits a pub where beyond the old city walls of Norwich suspected witches were hung and burnt alive.
I walk onto the bridge its flagged in two different patterns as well as cobbled – a mismatch tapestry of stone. Two men, one old, one haggard, mutter together on the other side. As I swing close by I can hear them discussing crack cocaine. One pulls out a pouch, the other looks unsure, they both peer inside.
I press on past rows of pretty houses, converted outbuildings and the back of a school field before emerging into the cathedral grounds. Endless limestone. Pines with fingers stretched to the floor. A women walks towards a corner with an air of ofference, palms facing outwards, arms straight – a banana skin chucked into a black bin.
Warmer days, August rekindled out of smouldering leaves. Sun cascading down, curtains swiped open and then drawn shut – too little light, and yet too much for eyes accustomed to grey.
Daytime damp waning, no need to wipe your feet. Mass graves of mulching leaves offered a shot at redemption, reanimated they begin to flutter, like burning butterflies in mid July.
Mowers steered by the bleary eyed gnash at the freckled grass – the last cut of the year. Perhaps one more than last? Memories of insignificant events long since elapsed.
The mercury stretches its back and tips its toes – a high of 20° is achieved. In disbelief the brave quickly light BBQ’s. For them the shortness of days is a mere memory, the impracticality of which lies on another plane. Burning charcoal wisps up into the atmosphere, the toasted smell of the evening as it draws in will enriched by it.
Two days ago, the sky burned orange, sulphur and then grey – apocalypse now. A cosmic harpy flipping through atmospheric filters.
The craning of necks skyward,
The twitching of office blinds,
The countless images taken,
The jokes about the end.
Today the warmth is all but gone but the wind remains and old grey is back. I nip out of the office, I find it hard to focus, where does one look now?
Down. Down at the wet ground and shuffling feet.
Down. At the mushed-up paper and the destitute in doorways.
Walking home back past the cathedral. A woman crouching on the ground between two cars, a phone in the palm of her hand, a sports bag behind her – deadly still except for a single finger scrolling ad-infinitum. A modern-day sphinx.
The cathedral plane is lit up, two burning lights mounted onto two adjacent cobble fronted buildings – one light sits slightly higher than the other. A burning, pulsating hew of water particles dancing in the lamplight. The buildings are too far apart to be Victorian London, or 1900’s Prague, although they give off that illusion. Yet Dickens nor Kafka scurries past.
A limestone monolith, an unthinkable amount of time, skill, weight. Spires like spears with which to kill the gods of old. Inside a choir has started up, loud, clear, beautiful, but hidden from sight. These invisible voices affect me, a sense of knowing which cannot be relayed accompanies me on my drudged walk home.
The vampiric cold nibbles away at my nape. Blood rushes out to my capillaries – rose petal skin. Fingertips soldered to my plastic phone case. Scrolling, clicking, tapping, stretching – the trappings of a modern day acrobat doomed to arthritis and wavering vision.
It is the weekend. A man sits across the aisle on a train, he pants and heaves as he declares to his lover that he has made it on time. He asks her about her lunch and they exchange goodbyes. Five minutes later he is at the bottle – screw top white, one third guzzled down.
The train punctuates the flats which conjoin Norfolk and Suffolk with a juddering purposiveness. Leaves rip by the windows like slithers of starlings. Besides me four cans of own brand larger are cracked and tossed into a bag with haste. All it takes is forty minutes. I depart, he remains – another drink in hand.
Saturday quickly turns to Sunday – an hour gained without any discernible gain. ‘Turning back the clocks’ a phrase sentenced to death, these days clocks turn back themselves – those which don’t are forgotten about. Grandfather calls out at all the wrong times in mothers hallway.
It is four days since we gained an hour and my wristwatch still isn’t up to speed. Who looks at their wrist for the time? Timepiece? Or the creation of another border between thin wrist and plaid sleeve. My desktop clock and the faltering light frame temporality well enough for me.