The image of myself
I have made…
is part of my environment…
What I see…
while I believe I am in it…
is seen through the eyes…
of this image.
This is not vision.
Images cannot see!
…Her hand crept to the feather at her throat.
Her gift from the gods.
The colour of flame.
She had strayed from the path.
Preparing herself for what was to come.
The great bird had wheeled overhead.
Soaring above the trees in the morning.
She had looked down and seen rainbows caught in the feather, bright against the grass and smiled…
…Having exhausted my wish list of trips yesterday I have left today’s agenda to Wen and our first port of call is to another little church, Hulcott – All Saints. This church thing would not necessarily have been a top priority of mine but the discoveries at Little Missenden came as such a pleasant surprise that I find my anticipation rising as we approach the church porch and I start to envisage the possibilities that may lie inside.
… Wen has skipped along the gravel path and entered the church porch she pauses and looks back at me mysteriously, as I gain the porch, and then twists the iron door ring with a yank and leans into the heavy oaken door. The door does not yield. The door is locked…
“No matter,” says Wen, “they sometimes put contact details up, she starts to scrutinise the notice board of the porch and then taps a number into her phone…
Bugger times two!
We content ourselves with a swift circuit of the church but that merely emphasises the sense of disappointment and as we climb back into the car I start to wonder if we are destined for a hangover. It would have been in any case difficult to match the enormities of yesterday’s explorations and maybe we should be spending some time assimilating their significance rather than tearing about the country-side… it is akin I suppose to what as teenagers we used to call ‘Chasing the Dragon’ when we stayed out all night looking for drinking parties.
“No worries” says Wen, “there’s another we can try on the way.”
Wen of course has no such doubts, “on the way to where?”
“The Hell-Fire Caves.” Don’t you remember any of our conversation last night?
“Ah, yes, the Hell-Fire Caves…”
To be honest it feels a little bit off-beam to me but it is a place of interest in the area and we need to do something today…I attempt to retrieve some of last nights conversation from the fog of grape but before I have even got to the Megalithic Behemoth of Wayland’s name, we are pulling up outside the village church of Oving…
The mound of this one is too obvious not to remark and there are several stone steps and a still fairly steep incline before … Wen skips along the gravel path and enters the church porch where she pauses and looks back at me mysteriously… this is already becoming something of a ritual for us and as I gain the porch I find myself hoping against hope that the door will open… Wen twists the iron door ring with a yank and leans into the heavy oaken door. The door does not yield. The door is locked…
“There should be a law against it.”
“It’s sort of understandable I suppose.”
“Desecration of sacred places is incomprehensible on any scale…and besides now we’re on a mission it’s totally and wholly unacceptable.”
“And what mission would that be?” Wen arches her eyebrow in saintly fashion.
“Not sure yet… I’ll let you know.”
‘I know now’
‘What do you now know?’
‘I know what the mission is.’
‘Well, that didn’t take long.’
‘We’re on a mission to feel true.’ …
“It has to be the Stone on Gardom’s Edge…”
“What does?” says Wen.
“My Robin Hood Stone… I mean it didn’t look much like the stone on Gardom’s Edge but that could have been the angle.”
I study the sketch in our guide book.
“A lot of these stones look different from each and every angle you know.” …
…“Let’s go find the Hud Stone,” say I.
“Is the Hud Stone the same as the Robin Hood Stone?”
“Well of course it is!”
“The same stone that we are not totally sure exists at all?”
“Well it most surely does exist if it is what Mr Harris is calling the Gardom Stone.”
“All these names are apt to become a tad confusing don’t you think?”
“Not at all, it’s just one more way of marking time.”…
…A short walk later and we are approaching what are undoubtedly the outer precincts of a prehistoric enclosure.
Just then I catch sight of the Gardom Stone from some distance.
There is always a thrill when seeing a site or stone for the first time, but in this case the thrill is tempered somewhat by the simultaneous realisation that, even from this distance, it is obvious that the Gardom Stone is not the Hud Stone.
“It’s there,” I say, “but it is not the Hud Stone.”
“It’s been called, ‘The Devil Stone’ before now.”
“I can see that too, but let’s face it, we’ve had more than enough truck with that particular personage these last few months.” …
…“Is it significant,” interrupts Wen.
“Is what significant?”
“The fact that a lot of these stones look different from every angle… I mean it starts to look like another involution.”
“It’s spatially significant for your ubiquitous theory but how so otherwise?”
“Well, take your traditional temple of the elements.”
“Which few people ever do…”
…“Of what does it consist?” says Wen, ignoring me.
“It consists of a uniform central point and the distinct cardinals.”
“Eloquently put, O Something Feral, eloquently put,” she smiles.
“Oh I see, the distinct cardinals have been collapsed into a central point…”
“Collapsed and reversed, which is something of an involution is it not?”
“It is indeed, Little Grub, and if that is what they were doing…”
“It is genius.”
“Genius, yes, but to what end?”
“There is a stone which would be worth visiting. It is in Baslow which is on our way to the Symposium so we could stop off there, grab some lunch, check out the stone and then head off to our meeting.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“If I can remember where it is.”
“I thought you knew where it was; why else tell me about it otherwise.”
“I do, sort of, only we will be coming at it the other way, the last time I visited I came down off the moor but we won’t have time to do it that way.”
“How long ago was this?” says Wen becoming somewhat suspicious.
“About ten years. It’s a huge stone. You can’t miss it and I know the general direction of its whereabouts.”
“How big is the stone?”
“It’s massive. It’s the largest free standing monolith I’ve ever come across and we found it quite by accident.”
“Bigger that the stones at Avebury?”
“Not bigger, but taller than the stones at Avebury.”
“By accident you say?”
“Look, there’s nothing mysterious about it, I’d taken Al and Sal to see the Park-Gate stone circle and then we walked back over the moor, which is another necropolis by the way, to Baslow and lunch. There was some sort of monument giving a rather splendid view of the area and just after that we came down off the moor and found the stone.”
“A necropolis you say? It is not marked on the map,” says Wen with some conviction.
“Well, not all of them are.”
“The big ones though, they usually are, surely?”
“I didn’t imagine it. We even took a photograph. Al and I were laughing because of the, shall we say, somewhat rude reputation of such stones, so we got Sal to stand next to it and Al took a photograph on his phone.”
“Okay, if it’s as big as you say we should be able to find it again quite easily.”…
… Our-Father, Lady, Countess-Grae passed light and demure across the softly shifting shades of a turquoise beach.
Formless as beauty likened to the morning mist, her presence cleansed and refreshed the air as she danced; flitting capriciously between the stark but numerous clumps of white seaweed which lay sprawled like bleached and dying spiders: upturned and struggling in the yet cool but rapidly warming, morn-time sun.
They straddled the beach like shredded robes with their puckered strands wafting playful death throes in the sea breeze and as robes which had been wrenched, torn and wildly flung to lie forgotten upon the rising mounds of the blue dunes they appeared to have been discarded and scattered amid the sea’s insatiable passion for the sand.
And in her innocence, in her uncertain, whimsical passing Our-Father, Lady, Countess-Grae’s ruby feet caressed that same dry and now sullied sand: with all its succulence spent and with its surface baked-dry in the aftermath of the sea’s relief.
Yet cajoled and enticed by the arch of her feet and the spring in her step as she ran, the sand was compressed and spilled forth a deeper moistness; the dark clammy grains of which clumped and clung in a rich blue pulp and which squashed and squelched between the niches of her toes; cold, and invigorating as the new day which dawned all around.
A girl again, her laughter bubbled between short gasps, gurgled, giddy and pure as she moved; her reckless spirit sprightly and unabashed, flowing swifter and swifter, until, exhausted from running but still in playful mood she succumbed, collapsing onto the blue-green terrain beside a large vermilion boulder which squatted upon the lip of a small rock pool: its shade only vaguely unsettling her as she fell, splaying out her pale, slender limbs in limp, abject surrender to her surroundings.
As she gradually began to recover and her breath grew more even, her fingers scratched and gently scraped at the purple moss that spread like speculative boredom in dark, sporadic patches across the rock’s hunched and brooding form.
But she remained unmindful of the delicate intricacies and patterns which she so idly created for she was lost in the emerald-green sky and there she bathed her resting soul in the lushness of its translucence…
Earl Grae slumbered sardonically in his shell.
“…Still on your mind then?”
“Is what still on my mind?”
“I don’t understand.”
“The ‘he’ look, behind you.”
The etchings which she had scratched in the moss spelled Samuel.
“I still don’t understand.”
“The ‘He’, that is his name.
That is what he is ‘called’. That is what he is ‘known as’ or ‘goes by’.
That is his title; ‘hearkened unto’, or ‘requested by, the Lords’.
“Oh!” She read the name pronouncing each letter “… Who decided?”
“…When you were bathing…”
“Sa-M-U-El… mmm, I like that.”
“I like it too. A commendable choice…”
“Why, thank you, it was nothing… but, does Sam-U-El struggle, does Samu- El hurt?”
“Yes, of course he does but he loves it to death.”
“Oh death, Samuel has touched death then?”
“Grasped dear, grasped.”
“Sorry, grasped. How do you know?”
“I read it somewhere…
Here, tell me what you think.”…
…“But the Angles were a British tribe, right? And the Saxons were German?”
We are back in Wen’s study after the half triumph of the first of our Glastonbury talks, which aside from a few timing problems, went as well as could have been expected in view of the weather and the somewhat intricate complications of the run up.
“No, that’s not right either; both the Saxons and the Angles were Germanic tribes.”
“Our country is now named after a Germanic tribe! I think we need to know more about the Anglo-Saxons and the original Britons who could, perhaps, be more or less synonymous with what we now like to call the Celts.”
“As you may have already surmised my sense of history is somewhat sketchy at the best of times but in relation to the Anglo-Saxons and what went before it is practically non-existent.”
“That’s hardly surprising. Much of their contribution to these lands was conveniently forgotten after 1066, for obvious reasons.”
“Well, they certainly seem to have got the proportions of their churches spot on at least for the smaller sites. There is an Irish reference to the coming of Christ in one of the Conchobar stories, something about a ball being shaken loose from his head and killing him. He was also regarded as a sort of giant if memory serves. I had always assumed that the story, or at least that particular aspect of it, was merely a monkish interpolation.”
Wen is checking something in the Dictionary, “Get this… ‘Ætheling from O.E . . . . Æpling, ‘son of a king, man of royal blood, nobleman, chief, prince, king, Christ, God-Man, Hero, Saint…’
“Wait a minute… wait a minute… give me that last bit again.”
“…Christ, God-Man, Hero, Saint…”
“Didn’t we call our Arthur, Aeth in, ‘The Heart of Albion’?”
“And didn’t we set his story in Mercia?”
“And didn’t Mercia grow to become the largest and most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Albion at one point in its history?”
“It did indeed.”
“Well that’s it then…The Anglo Saxon kings were claiming divine descent.”
“…Along with most other European kings at that time no doubt.”
“That’s true, but the Anglo-Saxon kings’ descent wasn’t from God it was from Christ.”
“And how did they get there?”
“They got there from their very own High One who also hung from a tree with a spear in his side… shrieking.”
“They evidently regarded Christ as an avatar of Odin.”
“Blimey, you’ll not read that in any history book!”
“Just as well we’re not writing a history then isn’t it?”
After much to-ing and fro-ing of furniture…
We had finally embarked upon our pre-tour of Wales and were approaching the border of our eventual destination although it would be some time before our actual arrival there…
Road and more road…
So much road in fact that I may have dropped off…
“Where are we?”
“Monmouth-shire’s ‘Golden Valley’.”
“Shouldn’t that be M.O.N-shire?”
“No, it’s definitely Monmouth-shire, and anyway, you agreed we should check out Arthur’s Stone.”
“I have no recollection of this.”
“Just before you dozed off.”
“It’s not easy being Narcoleptic, and in any case, if I did agree to it, which I seriously doubt, I did so before I knew where it was.”
“We still don’t know where it is, technically.”
“But of course we do, it’s just a little further into the middle of nowhere, you’ll see.”
Road and more road…
“I am going to be very disappointed if this turns out to be an erratic.”
“We don’t know what it’s going to be that’s the point. We have just completed an Arthurian Workshop, we are on our way to Wales and there happens to be a stone called Arthur just out of our way…”
“In the middle of nowhere…”
“A slight detour, that’s all…”
“A slight detour into the middle of nowhere…”
“It may be a standing stone.”
“It may, but a lot of the ‘Arthur sites’ have to do with Giants… and battles… and the hurling of huge stones… which is why I suspect it’s going to be an erratic.”
“Why, the connection with Arthur then?”
“Because in legend, Arthur was a Giant Bear.”
“And Giant Bears… are mountains… which is why in legend Arthur and his knights still sleep in one.”
“Huh, huh… you don’t know do you?”
“It’s not a standing stone…”
“Nor, is it an erratic.”
“It’s a neolithic burial chamber!”
“As I was saying, another reason why these type of constructions are named after Arthur is because the Ancestors sleep there, just like Arthur and his legendary knights…”
“Or rather, a collapsed neolithic burial chamber.”
“It’s three sites for the price of one…”
“We have erratics, and lots of them… we have standing stones…
or at least, Leaning Stones… and we have a burial chamber…”
“A collapsed burial chamber.”
“Non the less impressive for that though.”
“I’d be inclined to agree.”
“Maybe it originally took its form from that of The Plough?”
“The Great Bear.”
“Maybe it did.”
“That may even have been its original name.”
“I like that. Arthur’s Wagon.”
“So do I.”
“Makes one wonder what the sky-scape was like from this vantage five thousand years ago.”
“Doesn’t it just.”
“Where to now then?”
“Next stop… The Middle of Wales.”
“From the middle of nowhere to the middle of Wales.”
“You keep getting the emphasis wrong on that.”
“It is now here not nowhere.”
“So do you.”
“It’s not the middle of Wales it’s the middle of Cymru…”
Had there been any doubt about where we were going next…
Which there wasn’t.
For once, our destination proved quite easy to get to.
A car park was suggested by the guidebook and in the car park were easy to follow directions.
Not too far away to be too uncomfortable.
But just far enough away to deter commercialisation.
These are all metaphors.
And the metaphors continued at the mouth of the cave.
Whose approach to the interior provided an effective deterrent against the casual tourist.
But not to us because we are not.
The thing about caves…
You never want them to end…
But they always do.
Which is why we deal in metaphysics.
The way beyond the end of the earth is Geometry.
Which does not so much measure the earth.
As inform it…