Tuesday, 29 March 2016


When the weather’s against you, you have to explore inside the house:

When you stay in a converted barn worth a million pounds,
A weathered old long red brick structure: The Threshing Barn
(‘Sleeps 12. Large barn conversion, on the edge of the village 
overlooking open countryside and Horton Tower,
 fitted to a high standard in a contemporary style.
The house has 6 large bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.’),
And your extended family drive out in their cars
To share National Trust membership cards,
You choose to stay to wander the lanes in the high Easter wind,
Passing a newly thatched cottage:
‘R. Hayward and Sons -Thatchers since 1780’ -
And it’s easy, when you return to the empty house,
To imagine the discussions in the winnowing dust
Of the hard, harsh winter of 1830,
Right there in the kitchen where you sit writing these lines,
Listening to the rhythmic thrash of the flails,
Watching the drift of the choking chaff,
Eavesdropping the muffled talk of threshing machines,
The burning of hayricks, the messages passed along the village lanes:

‘Who will write a letter like they have all over Wiltshire?’
‘Let’s ask for eight shillings a week,
And no damn threshing machines to come here.
We can sign it Captain Swing, like the other villages do.
‘And if farmer won’t pay us, then we’ll damn well burn down his hayricks.’

But other voices speak of the gallows, the gaol, the squire,
The yeomanry, transportation, Van Diemen’s Land …

They eat their bread and cheese,
Smoke their pipes, burn the letter,
And pledge their selves to secrecy.


‘Who hath not seen thee oft amid they store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.’

Phil Smith’s On Walking … and Stalking Sebald Axminster: Triarchy Press (2014):

‘Multiplicity is the key mythogeographical principle, the principle of multiplicitous narratives and many histories, disrupting the established narratives not only to introduce subaltern ones, but … to invent our own’.

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