In the sunken lane
friable, lichenous concrete posts,
their surfaces and clefts infibulated with barbed wire
and embossed with the oxidising nodules of iron rivets.
Briars and brambles spring and coil among the untensioned wire,
and ligatures of ivy bind the concrete, like the carved decorations on Victorian tombstones.
The wood is becoming inert and stoney in decay, while the thorny stalks and stems merge with the wires that mimic them. The organic becomes atrophied and mineralised, the man-made, metal and silicate appears vegetal. The boundaries between states are mutable, uncertain here.
" There is a dead body in the old car, Miss! David saw it, there is..."
The well is not a grave, but a child might think it one. Death and murder, not altogether shielded, stalk the child's imagination.
"Someone was murdered going over the Blue Bridge last night, on her way home from school..."
And yet, and so, the boys appropriated the rusting wrecks of cars in the hollow, through the fence and out of bounds, just as we crossed the Blue Bridge in secret to build camps in the ruined lock-keeper's cottage. Ivy and sycamore saplings colonised the fallen walls, and we made man-traps over holes in its bewildered garden, to catch the bad men.
We crossed the Blue Bridge and skipped across the forbidden lock-gates, far from fearless, daring ourselves on the vertiginous edge of the basin, its stones greened with algae, ferns sprouting from the cracks around its rim. To fall would likely have meant death: I could not swim.
The well is not a grave, yet wells are uneasy, deathsome places. Like darkness by electric light, their necessity in our world has been largely banished by mains water. We fear the bottomless drop of them, their cold blackness, their slimey, inescapable, vertical sides:
" Ding dong bell, pussy's in the well..."
and Little St Hugh, child martyr, found dead in one, victim of a child-killer, blame and penalty for his death laid on the Jews at the beginning of a darkness of unplumbed hatred that submerged Europe.
Springs are clear and bright and healing, the living fountains, bounty from hard rock, images of purity, but about wells we are more ambivalent. Yet they are also sources of deep abundance, of hope and possibility. We pollute them at our peril.
The lane rises gradually and emerges, peters out, beside the long, kindly field whose hedge is palnted with mirabelle trees. Their blossom is fine and white early in the year, and, spring weather permitting, their amber and ruby fruits are there for the taking in the summer, heavy and glossy and falling in the furrows.