Saturday, 16 November 2019


I'm walking to the end of the track in this penultimate month of the year, when winds strip branches, leave a blood-red slash of haws.  It's the redness I notice, the haws hanging in clusters, so red and shining after the rain, their redness emphasised by the sharp winter blue of the sky behind them.  The thorn tree is growing in and has completely taken over a ruined cottage which I didn't notice at first, though I knew there had once been a hamlet here, hunkered down in the shadow of Garn Fadryn.  There are thousands of haws - ruby red, royal carpet red, plush velvet red, none of which the inhabitants would have had in this little house on the hillside.  A blackbird flies up from feasting, uttering its urgent alarm call.

I slither down the muddy slope to have a closer look.  The builders would have used the stones at hand, rough slates quarried not far away, local timber for purlins and rafters.  A simple beaten earth floor.   People whose livelihoods depended on the economic vagaries of the local estate.  I clamber over the fallen lintel and go inside.  There's no roof.  The chimney gable has collapsed, the hearth fire is replaced by the haws' red glow ...

random seed-spit, opportunist quick,
this squatter has an assured tenure

Brambles and nettles are squatting too, and a scraggy elder bush. Ankle-twisting boulders are concealed by cushions of bright moss.  I struggle to the back wall.   There had been a lean-to scullery behind it.  I stumble back to the entrance and stand at the threshold, looking out as the inhabitants must have done.  They took care to make a path, bordered by two low stone walls, from the door to where a garden gate must have been and where an ash sapling now blocks the gap.  The land falls away to the sea, the Skerries light, the Irish ferry.

November - when only a skin-thin membrane separates
past and present

Wandering round outside I see the remains of a pig-sty, a few stones which might have been the foundations of a corrugated iron ty bach.  Looking at my phone pictures later I notice the faded blue flowers of a mop-cap hydrangea waving at what once was a small window - as if someone from the past has just called round to see who's home.

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