April, Miss Back’s.
The empty house is unexpectedly lovely every time you see it. Built of soft weathered brick, sitting behind and slightly above a small pond, it must be the kitchen wing of a once substantial hall. Two large double chimney breasts and one enormous triple chimney take up most of the front. Tall and patterned, they’ve been cold for years. A grand porch juts out. Stone carvings of grinning heads, wild curls and strange hats. A coat of arms with a horse and a bear. A bear knocker, a bear lock. AD 1620. And a strange energy. Not visible but palpable.
I seek it’s last remaining contemporaries. The ancient oaks that stand still, in the fields here. Each one extraordinary. Their long history visible in their bulk. One, in a bog, huge corrugated toes coming up for air. It’s trunk almost fluid with bubbles. One, fossilised except for a three foot strip of bark keeping the merest spray of twigs alive. One, completely burred, has given centuries to the production of whiskers. One giant, divided into two, each stem the perfect hulking mirror image of the other, even where they’ve split. Each tree full of holes. All old pollards whose limbs have been sacrificed on the alter of those seven chimneys.
These trees come from a time before machinery broke the thread of our memory. A time when trees had spirits and fairies could fall in love with you. When nights were dark and hedgehogs stole the milk from cow’s udders. But they’re still here, alive. Alive and whispering in Jacobean English, thick with Norfolk vowels, of a past I can only catch the faintest glimmer of.