Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass (Chapter 6) ALL NEW

*Stonebridge Barling Magna * * Little and Great Wakering *  Matsuo Bashō * * Silence Affords the Gift of Sound *

I have been reading over the course of several weeks a handful of books - Simon Armitage's 'The Unaccompanied,' Haemin Sunim's 'The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down,' Alan Watt's 'Meditation,' Jiddu Krishnamurti's 'The Book of Life,' and Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now."  Where once I devoured books I now take them slowly, savouring each chapter, each sumptuous paragraph, each delicious sentence. These books, like any decent read, have become friends to me. I enjoy their company, what they have to say and the manner in which they say what it is they have to say.

My absence of late has not been an absence where I have sought to run away from life, from depression or anything of that nature but rather it has been a time to allow all the self-enquiry I have undertaken to truly sink in. Changes needed to be made. The man I had become was not the boy I was and I, like any man, am still a boy at heart. When I undertook to really look into my nature, all my nature not just the nice bits, I had no idea what the outcome would be. You'd like to think we all are good by and large and I guess that is true but introspection reveals many things that make you uncomfortable to discover, certain traits you have collected, bad habits formed.

Over the months since I started this process I had no idea what a long, painful exercise it would be. Being honest with yourself, truly looking into all aspects of your character, is far harder than you would expect. There were some things I had tucked away within myself, horrid sides to my personality, things about myself which I have long denied. I cannot express how hard this has been, not that I expect or want sympathy, but now I have faced my own demons.

"To bring about in each one of us the capacity to discover what is true becomes essential, for what is discovered is liberating, creative. For what is discovered is true. That is, if we merely conform to a pattern of what we ought to be or yield to a craving, it does produce certain results which are conflicting, confusing, but in the process of our study of ourselves, we are on a voyage of self-discovery, which brings joy."  - Jiddu Krishnamurti

In studying myself, revealing the worms that wriggle in the dark side of me, brings out all the dark side of my nature along with the good allowing me to deal with them. It is not easy doing this nor quick but dealing with them I am and, glad to say, beating them or at least understanding them, their cause and effect,  the better to free myself of them. Only a few months ago I still had a temper now that has practically gone. It is no miracle, nothing wonderful has happened to me, nothing mystical or magical just self-enquiry and meditation.

All of which probably makes for boring reading. Sorry if that is the case. 

I leave Sutton church behind me turning left down Sutton Road heading toward the fork in the road that leads to Wakering. To my right a huddle of terraced cottages, goodness knows how old, Victorian perhaps, whitewashed with the whitewash yellowing. Fields beyond reveal crops seemingly grey in this grey day. Even the sky seems slate; flat; darkening. The clouds have gathered en masse so the sun is hidden from view. 

These roads seem far older than they probably are. Existing as they have exactly as I remember from my childhood. They remain the same with little if any changes to them. The same can't be said for all this area though. The purveyors of progress promote their falsehoods as they tear up strips of verdant land only to cover them in concrete, a new industrial park here, a set of car showrooms there. Joni Mitchell got it right when she sang...
'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.' 'They put all the trees in a tree museum.' And they call this progress? Progress for who? Who benefits? The makers of empires perhaps. Those few who seek to own so much yet, in the end, die as well do leaving their vast fortunes behind having left nothing at all in the form of a lasting, notable legacy.

Matsuo Bashó was a Japanese poet born in the 17th century (1644 to 1694). His birth name was Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, Bashó was merely a pen name. His legacy has lasted for 400 years with his poems still read, still praised today. Bashó was Buddhist a fact that should come as no surprise for when you read his work today. It is apparent he was a man whose poetry mirrored his philosophy. There is a silence in his work that allows the minimalist structure to breathe. Without silence, there can be no sound. Music requires silence so the notes vibrate so too does poetry for the words to resonate.

Red, red is the sun,
Heartlessly indifferent to time,
The wind knows, however,
The promise of early chill.

Many have suggested Bashó was a monk, even a Zen Buddhist. There is little if any evidence to suggest he was the former even if he very well might have been the latter. It has been suggested Bashó's father may have been a low ranking Samurai which would have meant Bashó was destined for a life as a warrior. This may have given an honourable way of life but it would have robbed us of one of the great poets. Fortunately, he did not undertake this course, to be among "those who serve in close attendance to the nobility" but instead as a child became a servant to Tōdō Yoshitada whose passion for Renku or Haikai no renga (linked verses) was so infectious he passed his love of the form onto the young Bashó.

During his servitude, both master and servant composed a one hundred word renku, a hyakuiwhich also had other contemporaries helping with. It is meant to be very good and, when thinking of the time it was written in, shows a great deal of ambition, bravery and a nod to experimentation.

Sadly, in 1666, Basho's pleasant and comparatively easy life as a servant came to end when his master, Yoshitada died. Still, he did not turn to the way of the warrior. What happened during this period is a matter of speculation and rumour for no one, not one biographer has found any hard evidence of what truly occurred. All we know is from a comment made by the poet which may throw some light on this time - "at one time I coveted an official post with a tenure of land", but also this, "there was a time when I was fascinated with the ways of homosexual love": 

There followed after this many published poems in a series of anthologies but gradually, painfully slowly perhaps in the mind of the young man, his reputation spread, his notoriety grew and fame beckoned.

I think now, with the gift of time passed, the gift of hindsight, his talent was obvious, notable for its simple style and natural beauty. I have often tried writing in a fashion that borrows heavily from this great master but have met with inconsistent results.

This is Not a Haiku
Beneath the pale lids
green eyes stir in slumber,
a butterfly awakens.
Fingers trail pink folds.
A flower blossoms.
A weeping scent of orchids.

Southend Road forks to left and right. The right road, wrong for me, leads past Sutton Cemetary and then on to Southend. I walking the borders between one parish and another. I take the left fork going down Sutton Road leading me then onto Shopland Road. It is a long road with few curves or bends. Bend it does though in one place curving around and through the fields that hug the route I walk. The River Roach lies some distance to my left. A thick river its waters eddying softly into the thin end where it arrives near the airport. Shopland Road eventually splits. One way, the far left, lies Barling Road and down it, All Saints Church whilst the other way, the nearer left, takes you down Barrow Road and on to Little Wakering. For now, Little Wakering can wait as first I want to visit the Barling Church.

Of the trilogy of villages that neighbour each other, it is Barling where the wealth is, or at least where those who earn above the national salary live. Doctors, dentists, solicitors and the rest own properties the rest of us can only view with admiration and perhaps, in some cases anyway, yearn to live in.

There are some attractive properties I pass. Houses with large grounds, long drives with Mercedes parked on the gravel. I see nothing wrong in there being people richer than myself. I am not communist even though I think there should be a greater share of wealth. If I had the talent to make multi-millions and I have earned it honestly, paid a generous tax that goes toward the NHS and the Welfare State, then I see nothing wrong with that. Would I need multi-millions? No. No one needs that amount of money. I'd like to think, once my family were all taken care of, modest houses purchased for their use, maybe sufficient for me, say a million, stashed into a savings account so that I could earn from the interest enough to live on, then I'd give the remainder away.

When I finally find the church it is almost hidden away from the beaten track. You can see it from a distance by its steeple yet the building lies down a road off of the main road as it were, sort of tucked away. Still, it is as pretty as a picture, old too, in the region of 800 to 900 years. 

In these marshy lands is where the Anglo Saxons first settled. Bone hard men and women, skin scented alluvium, breath the bane of wolfhounds unbound, mud clinging like a second skin. Their fierce hearts finery balanced by their fine framed cultural exuberance. They were not the people history has tried to paint as thugs. Not of one tribe but three - the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. Here would have been the Saxons, their leader was Berla which some believe to be where the name Barling comes from. Others suggest it was two Saxon names merged as one - "Ban" which means Boar and "Ing" which means a meadow. Boarmeadow. I like it. It sounds Tolkienish. What a shame the name didn't survive even if Barling Magna sounds just as good being a Latin word for great. In fact, when you think on it, placing the two tongues together, Boarmeadow Great or Great Boarmeadow does have a certain ring to it.

1988 saw the beginning of a series of quite horrid events in Barling. A mysterious individual who until this day no one knows the identity of began a bombing campaign. He, or she, was known as the Barling Bomber. The first thing to be blown-up was a £300,000 house in the village. Unfortunately modern which, I suspect, was the reason the building was targeted, was one of three. The problem you have when neoliberal policies arrive is not just a self-centred obsession with making money at any cost but also a sense of history along with tradition being crushed beneath the boot of fraudulent progress. It bears no kinship with progress whatsoever but is dressed up as such the better to sugarcoat the pill the falsehood is coated in.

The three buildings were placed on green-belt land having had no opposition to them being built there. There followed acts of vandalism including damage to property, tools and the diggers employed to shift earth. There was much speculation as to who it could be, who in their right mind in this peaceful corner of England had the ability, both knowledge and skills, to create a bomb, particles of which were recovered, that could cause such devastation. One theory was that whoever it was they had to have had a knowledge of chemistry.

If the police had any idea who the culprit was they didn't say so for few facts were released.

Then, after a gap of a few years, in 1991, the Great Wakering Yacht Club was burnt to the ground. The police statement was that the fire was suspicious. Then, back in Barling again, a barn costing £100,000 suffered an arson attack. This act was repeated at the Barling Tip, the municipal waste dump. The total cost of all the attacks when calculated as one was near on £1 million. 

All of these acts happened after nightfall.

As I said, no one has been identified as the arsonist so it is very conceivable that he, or she, are still living in the village or perhaps the area.

From Barling, I step down the road the short distance into Little Wakering. Little may be but lovely all the same.

Wachelinga is, or was, the Saxon name for Great Wakering. This suggests Little Wakering is not only little but of less significance. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, as I said earlier, the three villages are more like family than neighbours. Their close proximity is matched closely by their history, their trades, their roots. Little Wakering Road is the artery that connects all three villages. It is as though the lifeblood to the area flows along this road but without there being a heart, a core to the trilogy for the trilogy are the heart.

They had a thing about pointy spires, didn't they? Churches that is, almost as though someone thought that the spire was symbolic finger pointing the way to heaven, showing the faithful that the only way to God was through the auspices of organised religion. What a crock. Have faith in whatever you chose to have faith in. As long as no one gets hurt by your faith then what's the harm? But please hold true to your faith within your own mind. You really don't need an authority to shape and define your beliefs any more than you do to act with love and compassion. Love and compassion are the links to all faiths.

There is a feeling of each church within this area all trying to outdo the other. Like siblings, they are all vying to impress. Impress who though? The villagers? The Catholic Church? The Pope? Or perhaps it is not those they seek to impress but rather their individual congregations who spill out of the church after Sunday Mass, head for the local public houses and boast about whose place of worship looks best. 

Barling lies 3.7 miles northeast of Southend so I have been gradually walking south through Little Wakering on toward Great Wakering. Barling to Little Wakering sit less than a mile apart from each other, Little Wakering to its bigger brother Great Wakering is slightly further at 1.4 miles. How long it is as the crow flies I have no idea as I am not corvine. I tried flying once but broke my big toe so gave up the idea.

Great Wakering makes your heart flutter. It has all the hallmarks of small time England, a time way back when people lived in smaller communities, not the Metropolis's so many now inhabit. I love London, love the buzz, the rush, the hurly burly, the very cosmopolitan vibe of the place but once I have visited and had a thoroughly good time I like to return to Smallville.

I could easily live in Great Wakering. It is not as small as Paglesham having a Cooperative supermarket, a bevvy of smallish village shops including a hairdresser but it retains a large amount of character.

You enter the village so that you have to travel through it passing shops and pubs before you get to the church which, as with the previous two, stands tall and proud and very much of its age.

The side entrance reminds me of Ashigdon Church with its shapely porch, wooden and muscular as it has to be to have withstood the elements all these years. 

It was built by the Normans around 1200. You can see its heritage in its architecture, a sort of graceful elegance that remains true to the time it was constructed yet carries the weight of time and modernity with it.

It is a lovely spectacle with its white wooden spire.

So much history here. Not just the village but the area surrounding it, the natural habitat that dates back thousands of years. You have the marshland that waits in front of the coastal path and which is known locally as the Black Grounds on which can still be seen the old military tower called the 'X1. There is a long association with the military here especially as down the road lies Foulness Island, an island you cannot enter without first getting permission from the army. 

There is also the Broomway which pre-dates the Roman occupation and which provides a walkway between Great Wakering and Foulness. Should you cross the Broomway by foot you do so by going across Maplin Sands. The Broomway can be lethal if you are not careful and is now less used than it once was as there is now, and has been since 1922, a military road by which you can cross.

"It would be foolhardy to attempt a Broomway walk in poor visibility, but even in good visibility, careful navigation is required. The route is not marked and there is no track. In addition, there are few features on the coast to use as navigational reference points, and the various objects sticking out from the sands (even the superficially distinctive "maypole" near the Wakering Stairs end of the Broomway) all look too similar from a distance to use reliably for navigation. The walker is therefore required to maintain a bearing and simply rely on dead reckoning to be sure of his or her location. Naturally, a GPS device can offer support but it is not in itself enough; a person who does not have the necessary navigation skills should not attempt a Broomway walk." -

Brothers Aethelred and Aethelberht, cousins of King Ecgberht, were murdered in Eastry, Kent somewhere between 664 and 673. Unable to be buried at Canterbury they were taken instead to the monastery at Wakering whereupon they were enshrined as saints much to the chagrin of King Hlothhere of Kent.

As I said, a richness of history with a generous mix of marsh land nature - Great Wakering has both.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book Five- The Runaway Cadaver - Chapter 5 - "Campaigning"


As Verity was brushing her hair and Ralph taking a shower; as Ethel was riding her porcine pulled cart around Fekenham, so Parminter Fullcock was settling down to breakfast. With only six months left to the regional elections Parminter Fullcock, happy with the way his campaign was going, now needed to cement relations with local business before taking a hard earned holiday. Parminter had sat at the breakfast table with Henrietta hovering over him with a foolscap pad beside him upon which a half-dozen names were written. She had had a worried look on her face. She was worried about him. Not that he would have admitted it but his recent weight loss was due to nervous energy and Hen, as he affectionately called her, was duty bound to build him up with large portions of food. She had placed a generous plate before him that was filled with two eggs, two sausages, two rashers of bacon, two large fried tomatoes, a hill of beans, a pile of mushrooms and two slices of fried bread.
“Crickey dear, I’m not sure I can eat all that!”
“With all this dashing about the region going hither and thither, you’ll need to keep your strength up and there is nothing better than a full English to do that job.”
She had tickled him behind his big ears, ears that stuck out like those of a bull elephant. She had never, not even when she had first spotted him walking toward her at Fekenham Fayre, been bothered by his looks nor the size of his ears. Years ago, after they had started courting, Wulfric Wainwright had ridiculed Parminter by calling him Dumbo. He had not risen to the bait but instead had laughed it off even though she, beside herself with rage, had wanted to punch Wulfric on the nose. He moved his head away from her fingers giggling all the while.
“Don’t you dare do that, you know how I like it. It still sends me all sort of wobbly at the knees.”
Henrietta had smiled as she returned to the sink to finish the washing up.
“What names have you come up with?” She had asked.
Parminter had tapped the pen against his teeth as he thought about the list before him.
“Rufus Barleycorn, Ralph Ramhard, Arthur Bentwhistle, Shazli Braganza Smythe, Brenda Sharptack, Victor Clapp, Wulfric Wainwright…”
“Wulfric? He’s nothing but a minor businessman. Why him?”
Inwardly Parminter had smiled to himself. Hen had never liked Wulfric and even though he didn’t know why it tickled him that she never let a grievance go.
“His business has a solid turnover,” he replied.
“You always told me ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.”
“Indeed I did. His profit is good though, very good and besides he is an old friend whose support I will need if I am to beat Snatch-Kiss.”
A low grumble had come from deep within Henrietta. “I don’t like him.”
“Who? Snatch-Kiss or Wulfric?”
“Neither but Wulfric in particular.”
Parminter had smiled as he forked in a mouthful of bacon.
“All these years, must be over thirty, and you always disliked Wulfric. Why? He is one of my oldest friends.”
“You have a funny idea of what makes a friend.”
Parminter had then picked up a slice of fried bread and dipped it into the yoke of his egg. His balding head framed by his large ears and small, almost effeminate features, gave Parminter an odd look.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Henrietta scrubbed at a frying pan. Suds had flown as she rubbed. She manhandled her left breast back into the cup of her brassiere then pulled the strap higher up her shoulder.
“He has always derided you, your success, and your company. You say oldest friend; I’d suggest he harbours enmity toward you.”
Parminter had speared a mushroom and then tore of another slice of egg.
“You are missing the point. He doesn’t harbour me any malice. He is envious of me and my family. He always was even when we were at school.”
Hen had rinsed the frying pan then laid it on the draining board. She then dried her hands on a white towel. When her positive her hands were dry she applied lotion rubbing it in vigorously before replacing her wedding band back on her finger.  “Nonetheless, a friend is someone you can both rely on and trust and you can’t.”
Parminter, aware of the time, had balanced an unlikely amount of beans on his fork which he then shovelled into his open mouth. “How long have I been in business?” He asked chomping all the while.
“Forty years.”
He then scooped another forkful into his mouth.
“And you think I have run a successful company without being aware of who and who not to trust?” He said through a mouthful of beans and mushrooms.
“I suppose.”
He had cut up an egg and sausage then had devoured another mouthful of food.
“Well then.”
Hen then sighed. “I worry about you dear. I get concerned that you, being a decent man, might get hurt by all the pressure.”
Parminter, his plate cleaned of food still had a residue of egg mixed with ketchup.
“May I have a slice of bread please?” He had asked.
Hen had cut a slice, a thick wedge, which she had then passed to him.
“Thanks. My dear I work every day with pressure. It comes with the job. Being chairman of a large industrial manufacturer necessitates a constant demand on me. I handled that down turn in trade two years ago well enough didn’t I?” As he asked this he swept his plate clean soaking up the egg and ketchup onto his bread.
“I was rather thinking of that dreadful business with Jarvis Crunch.”
Parminter had flinched at the very mention of that man’s name but passed it off.
“I did what had to be done under the circumstances. I had no choice to sack him. I wasn’t happy that my hand was forced but sometimes hard decisions have to be made.”
Henrietta had filled the kettle with water. She spoke over her shoulder.
“I was talking about his dismissal but rather his suicide. You can’t hide it from me Parminter that upset you more than you let on.”
There could be no denying it. Having sacked a valued employee, a fellow director, although unpleasant, had not left him with sleepless nights. The suicide was a different matter. He felt somehow responsible. He had folded the last of the bread up and popped it into his mouth.
“I confess that did upset me. It made me question myself. Had I overlooked something? Should I have been aware of the man’s state of mind? I never did get to the bottom of why he tried to steal my personal folder. It contained nothing of importance regarding the business. It was all relating to my political campaign. Why on earth was he interested in that? Anyway, having searched within myself trying to assuage my guilt not knowing what I could be guilty off, I came to the conclusion that should something like that happen again perhaps I will ask more questions. See what was behind such odd behaviour.”
Hen had sighed. “So you do think you were responsible in some way?”
Parminter then pushed the empty plate away from him and sighed. “I think we all are responsible for both our actions but also inactions. Now then, I best be going.”
“Cup of tea first?”
“No thanks I have a busy day ahead of me. I’ll see you later.”
Hen had watched him rise from the table. She wondered how such a decent man, when compared to the ruthless nature of others like Rupert Snatch-Kiss, had managed to survive so long in business. He had though. Always honest, forever fair. She worried how he would take defeat if the vote went the other way. With integrity, she told herself, for he had more of that commodity than anyone else she knew.
She had watched as he, car keys in hand, had first waved a cheery goodbye to her before climbing into his beloved Rolls Royce. As the motor car had smoothly pulled away crunching over the gravel drive Hen had gone back to where Parminter had left his pad with the names on. She gazed down at it.
10.15. Fekenham.  Brenda Sharptack.
11.15. Arkenfelt. Cheryl Bunkum.
Noon. Stop for lunch on way to Poole.
2.45. Greet Mandible Pimp, business strategist, at Poole Harbour.
“So,” thought Henrietta, “he’s going to head south before going north then heading east. Silly bugger!”

Brenda, her figure fuller than how Parminter last remembered, stood smiling as he entered her office. Office is rather gilding the Lilly somewhat. In reality the space she used to answer communications, open letters and deal with bills, invoices etcetera, was more a cluttered spare room.  It was also where she, when a little tired, she was after all in her late sixties now, would take a quite forty winks away from the hustle and bustle of the tea room. She had embraced Parminter who had fondly placed a kiss upon each side of her face.
“You are looking as lovely as ever,” Parminter had said smoothly.
With anyone else Brenda would have taken the compliment with a pinch of salt but Parminter, not being one given to either handing out platitudes or someone capable of flirting, Brenda took it at face value.
“Thanks. I do my best,” she had smiled ushering him into her room. “Tea?”
“That would be lovely.”
Parminter had looked around the room. There were two desks. One was clean and fastidiously tidy, the other the mirror opposite. The first had a telephone upon it, a fresh notepad, a pen and pencil neatly arranged side by side, a reading lamp with a green glass shade. There was not a single speck of dust upon the surface. The other desk was covered in folders, piles of paper stacked high, a waste basket with what looked like rotting fruit composting within it is wired circumference. Wilted flowers, their petals fallen upon the desk and floor, dry as death leant inelegantly in a vase bereft of water. What little space there was on the desk was covered in a thick coat of dust.
Beyond the Cane and Abel desks, a little to the left, stood a shelf filled with regimented rows of box folders each one clearly marked with date and content. On the very top were three large boxes. Again, each one was marked accordingly. Slightly to the left stood upon an ornate wooden pedestal was a large potted plant, an aspidistra. Woven across the dark green leaves was an exotic lacework of cobwebs which looked like a forgotten veil from some forlorn bride. The roots of the plant had grown massive and now thrust themselves up and away from the pot they were bound to and looked much like the haemorrhoids of a large bovine beast or the bum boil on the backside of some Botswanan baboon. At the foot of the pedestal was a brass coal scuttle filled with dried pampas grass.
On the wall above the clean desk upon which Brenda was now perched was a painting of Molly Sharptack, the founder of the famed tea rooms.
Brenda had picked the phone up that sat on her desk. “Janet, bring me a pot of tea for two would you? Thanks.” Turning to her guest she had assured him that tea was on its way. “I took the liberty to speak with Arthur, Ralph, Shaz and Cybil regarding supporting your campaign,” she had added, “like me they want you to win so we have formed a business alliance to support you with both our names but also some cash. It won’t be much but significant to our means.”
Parminter’s jaw had dropped. His face had flushed red. The tips of his ears had turned bright pink. “That is unbelievably good of you all. I hadn’t expected any support in that way. I do have means of my own you know.”
A knock at the door had announced Jane who entered the room with a tray containing a pot of tea, two cups and saucers and a plate of chocolate biscuits. Brenda had indicated for Jane to place the tray upon her desk (the clean one) before thanking her. Jane, a mousey looking girl with more freckles on her face than stars in the night sky, smiled demurely. Her head was thinner at the top than at her jaw. Her head was shaped like a triangular shaped cheese, it started small at the top before growing larger and fatter at her chin.  The freckles were also odd. They were not of one singular size, shape or shade. They looked like drifting cut out coloured card falling from on high that could, if you so wished, be joined together by a thin pencil line to form abstract art forms. Jane had smiled then silently left the room.
“We know that but as Ralph said, we all want you to win. We think it high time the Whigs returned to their Distributist roots. We think you are the man for that job.”
Parminter had accepted the proffered cup and saucer declining sugar and smiled to himself.  The reference to Emeritus O’Brien was gratefully accepted. Of all the men of politics he admired, Emeritus O’Brien the top most.
“You think my party leader has lost his way?” Enquired Parminter.
“I think the path he is on is the one laid before him by his predecessor. Like her he cares more about the nation’s finances than the nations folk.”
A little abashed at hearing of this condemnation of his leader’s abilities Parminter had felt he should, somehow, defend his Prime Minister.
“Andrew Flair has decreased national debt, has increased full employment, engaged well with the other three nations of Albion and has consistently championed a compassionate response to Chinese immigrants fleeing their Imperialistic homeland.”
“And put up taxes left right and centre at the cost of the working man. He has totally ignored the little entrepreneur in favour of the larger and has continued to follow Margaret Major’s policies on building up our military not so much as a defence but in preparation for a war he should be doing his best to avoid.”
Parminter breathed heavily. He still hadn’t quite got to grips with dealing with negative issues when talking with the electorate.
“So why are you so avid in your support of me?”
“You are not a stuck up bastard like Andrew Flair.”
Parminter had laughed. Hearing someone who was rather posh themselves use such language always seemed incongruous. In this Brenda was very different to her good friend Verity Lambush who could flay the skin off the back of a rhinoceros with just one well-structured sentence. Where Verity oozed sophistication, Brenda bristled with invective. It was not only their approach to life that differed but also their looks. Verity was, when dressed appropriately, an attractive woman with dark hair now greying, chiselled features and piercing grey eyes. She was also, at five seven, tall for a woman. Brenda on the other hand was blonde, blue eyed, five feet five, fleshy and very irascible. They were in fact like chalk and cheese which is probably why they got on so well when together. After all opposites do attract.
“I hope my policies give greater confidence in me than my everyday man outlook?”
“It has nothing to do with your policies although they are pretty much what the people want.”
“If not them then what?”
Brenda crossed her legs, leant forward and placed her hand on top of Parminter’s.
Parminter had seemed looked taken aback. His face flushed. Brenda continued.
“You have the one thing that neither Snatch-Kiss nor Andrew Flair possess and that is honesty. You mean what you say. People like that. It is the one element lacking of late in political figures. You are the first politician since Emeritus O’Brien to possess equal amounts of honesty, intelligence and integrity. It is a rare gift. Now all you have to do is persuade the electorate that you are the man for the job.”
Parminter had looked genuinely abashed by this comment. He scratched his left ear which set it flapping. A storm of dry skin swirled.
“I have none of my fellow runner’s wealth. I cannot match him on that score. All I have is a desire to do something positive for the region where I live, and have lived, for the past sixty-five years. I very much admired Emeritus O’Brien. He was all you could wish for in a politician. He had incredible vision but also the ability to convey his ideas in the simplest terms so that everyone could understand him.”
Brenda had smiled. It was a warm movement of generous lips circled by lines that revealed she laughed a lot. She had taken Parminter’s empty cup and refilled it.
“Have you spoken to all the small businesses in the village?”
Parminter sipped his tea then replied. “All but one, yes.”
“Which one?”
“Susanne Beaufort’s bordello.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from Brenda taken at a most inopportune moment as she had just taken a bite out of a chocolate biscuit along with a mouthful of tea. The effect of breathing in biscuit and tea caused an almighty expulsion of same which had shot from her mouth and nostrils at maximum velocity peppering Parminters shoes with a brown like artex. She then began coughing, barking like a renegade sea lion more like, as she choked upon the contents of her semi-consumed foodstuff. Parminter had reacted quickly. He put his cup and saucer down and took Brenda’s from her shaking hands and then began to forcefully pat her back.
“Are you okay my dear?” He queried as the flat of his hand beat upon Brenda’s back.
“Aruugh, Aruugha,” sputtered Brenda her eyes streaming as she tried desperately to wipe her nose with the napkin. Parminter had passed her is handkerchief then slapped her back once again. “Don’t try speaking. Wait until you have your breath back.”
With a series of deep sea diver gasps, hearty intakes of air that turned Brenda’s puce coloured face to its normal pink, the tea room’s owner regained her composure. Seeing she was seemingly recovered Parminter had sat down again in front of her.
“Alright now?” He had asked.
“No, I am bloody well not alright. Don’t you dare speak with that French strumpet, that harlot! You do know Arthur Bentwhistle is frequenting her establishment?”
Parminter said he didn’t.
“Well he is. He has gone back to his old lothario ways. I think he is fornicating with Black Betty.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Lupini has noticed him wearing after shave. He is also taking a great deal of care in his appearance and going out during the day claiming he is attending to pub business but Lupini thinks he isn’t. The only place she thinks he could be calling on is that woman’s The Soft Room’s.”
Parminter, unable to resist a chocolate biscuit when dunked in tea, dipped a nibbled corner of one into his brew.
“Apart from suspecting him of returning to his former pursuits do you have any proof he has been visiting Susanne’s shop?”
“Shop? It’s no shop. Cybil’s post office is a shop. My tea rooms are a shop. That place is a veritable den of inequity.”
“Into which you have witnessed Arthur Bentwhistle entering?”
“Not as such, no.”
“I thought not.”
Brenda blushed. Her anger rising to cover her retreating embarrassment.
“Listen Parminter, surely you are not defending Arthur or that horrible business?”
“Defending someone you have no proof of being what you think he is? Yes, I’m afraid I am. As for Susanne, well, better legalised prostitution than illegal. At least her enterprise is properly monitored and besides, as much as you and I fail to understand why men need such a service, need it they do.”
He had then looked to her for response. Instead she stared stoically ahead. It was as if by gazing into some faraway distance she could let a silence descend on a lost argument, as if this inaction might save her face. In this she was not dissimilar to Verity Lambush thought Parminter. The only difference here was that Verity would have neatly changed subject as if to wrong foot her opponent before returning unexpectedly to it again later. Brenda gazed on then brushed down her skirt with the palm of her hand.
“Have you spoken with Clyde?”
Parminter had been unsure of who Clyde was. “Who is Clyde?”
“Clyde Woodclatter, the editor of the Fekenham Gazette.”
Parminters brow had creased into a frown. “No, I confess I had forgotten him.”
“Well, if you are going to speak with the vicar’s mistress then you really should seek Clyde’s support too. He may only be the editor of the village ‘rag’ but his paper is read by many. Would you like me to speak to him on your behalf?”
“If it’s no trouble,” said Parminter as he got up from his seat.
“Are you off now?” Asked Brenda as she too climbed down from the desk she had perched on.
“Yes. I am scheduled to meet with Cheryl Bunkum out in Arkenfelt. Then, once that is done will stop for a spot of lunch before meeting with a business stragegist who I am reliably told will be off enormous help. You know me, I so hate being late.”
Brenda had kissed his cheek then wished him well.
“Do you think I stand a chance; with the election I mean?”

“Bit late to be having concerns now, you are only a couple of months away for polling day but yes, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. People like and trust you Parminter. Good luck.”
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass (Chapter 5) - REVISED

*Selling England by the Pound* - *Crows with Creases* - *A Mind Like a Leaking Bath* -   *Buddha and Ego *

Stambridge to Sutton, or rather Sutton with Shopland to give it its full title, is 4 point 6 miles give or take. The roads that lead from one village to another are winding. At one stage you leave the bliss of the countryside behind you as take to the noise of the major roads that form part of the journey.

The tarmac black roads slice through the lush green fields creating a thin, winding ribbon that is probably of interest to passing birds and anything airborne. The level land lends itself to a marshy resilience being so close to waterways, rivers and such but also its close proximity to the Thames estuary means water features large here.

I haven't walked much of late. My old partner-in-crime, Smudge, has left this earth and is now walking where dead dogs tread. Maybe there is a canine heaven and he'd make one heck of a canine angel. He and I walked a lot. Smudge had got to the stage where, still a puppy at heart, he and I would walk for miles. In truth, he never accompanied me on these walks as he was still too young. A puppy dog, like a child I guess, would damage their legs and joints if allowed to walk over long distances. The only difference between a human child and a canine pup is that the pup wouldn't want the shoulder carry.

My reasons for not maintaining these walks isn't just because dear Smudge has popped his clogs. I just haven't been in the right frame of mind to but my mind now, largely due to meditation, is on the mend which makes my mind sound like an old tin bath with far too many holes in it. An appropriate metaphor perhaps.

Anyway, enough of that. Life, the living of it, should always be held in balance with death. The latter is inescapable and the former too short not to enjoy so I intend to do just that. 

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Sutton with Shopland. There are only 135 people living in this tiny village. By that I mean Sutton, Shopland is, or rather was an even smaller hamlet that used to nestle neighbourly next to Sutton. In 1933 the two neighbours merged and then in 1957, following bombing damage to Shopland's church inflicted during World War 2, St. Mary Magdalene was demolished. This spirit of St.  Mary Magdalene now resides within the walls of Sutton's, All Saint's Church. Once though, Sutton was a flourishing village which had a regular market and even boasted an annual fayre. Now it is mostly farmland with two industrial parks at each end of a road that stretches from the Rochford to Southend. The church is of Norman build. 

To get to Sutton from Stambridge I have had to walk through Rochford. There may be short cuts, there almost certainly are, but I do not know of them. Rochford is much the same as it was the last time I wrote about it, a little run down, a little in need of a lick of paint. The very old buildings still lean against each other like midnight drunks leaving the pub. They seem to be supporting each other.

It is Tuesday so the market fills the square. It is an unremarkable market selling cheap and cheerful goods from DVD's to shoes to articles of clothing none of which appeals to me.

My route has taken me from Ashingdon church to Canewdon church to Pagleshams then onto Stambridge. Today I pass by Rochford church, another St. Andrews, as the path I am taking leads me first to Sutton.

The old Police Station has been closed, put up for sale and subsequently sold. Neoliberalism gone mad. We now have insufficient police officers patrolling our streets but don't despair, property developers will benefit as the building will be turned into prime residential homes. It looks a sorry sight now with its windows boarded up.

Way back, possibly the late fifties, there was a cattle market in Rochford. The bovine beasts were herded across the railway lines into the centre of town where the market still exists. Nowadays the market remains but no longer with livestock nor saddlers or candle makers.

Next, I pass The Horse and Groom pub then the fire station.  The pub still attracts punters sitting, as it does opposite the pond where the geese once attacked Squid, Tweezil and me. I rushed to defend my girls only to face an unprecedented and vicious attack by these lovely looking animals. It is surprising how aggressive they were.

Now there was Norah Trott a lady murdered back in 1978. Norah owned a boutique in North Street, Rochford. The name of the shop was Felicity Jane. The shop was no great shakes. The clothes it sold were typical of the customers it sought to attract - conservative. Norah's death though was a shock to the local community especially as the town, populated by working folk, is small with hardly a blemish to its name, certainly not murder. Norah's body was found in Ship Lane where it was self-evident Norah had been battered to death. The only clue regarding the murder was that a young, thin man was seen running from the scene. Fingerprints were taken and house to house enquiries was made but all to no avail. Whoever the killer was he had got off scot free. At least he thought he had until 2005, some thirty-seven years later, when Wayne Doherty, having been arrested on a drink-drive offence then after having his DNA taken was identified as the killer. He was 50 years old.

I have said before how attractive I find old churches. Once you walk inside there is a quiet, a stillness that somehow is akin to meditation, a sort of beatitude that fills the mind lifting the spirit. I can imagine sitting in here, in this ancient old building seeking mindfulness. 

Staring at the glass window, a replacement I feel for some long broken historical pane even if the stonework is original, the more a sense of calm fills me. The window is the frame through which the sky can be seen, the fields and beyond. Perhaps I could sit here in quiet contemplation with that window to gaze through.

The architecture is beautiful with a beauty defined by the age it was built in. The pointed window frame with the floral apertures below. The three sections led crisscrossed to let in a suffused light into the hall beyond. You can imagine some child, some urchin of the past, turning their head mid hymn to gaze out the enchanting glass to the surrounding land beyond.

The ghost of St. Mary Magdalene following the demolition of the church in 1957, a bunch of volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore the churchyard if not the church building. "Until September 2013, Shopland Churchyard was in an impenetrable state of disrepair. An enthusiastic group of local volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore the site as a Garden of Reflection and a Centre of Learning to ensure that local history is preserved. Our intention is to maintain the site for the many generations to come."

This enterprise seems sound. There is most definitely something vital in preserving local history and the faith it represents becomes almost immaterial in that preservation. It doesn't matter the faith or religion. What matters is we should retain a connection to our roots. 

Mary Magdalene, or Mary Magdala as more likely, has long been overlooked by the Christian orthodoxy. There is no mention of her gospels within the King James Bible and, as far as I know, no representation of it anywhere within the Catholic faith. However, Mary Magdalene was a disciple, that is one of the hundred or so individuals who followed the man we now call Jesus. Her gospel is brief but still significant. It is also worth noting that rather than cast Mary as a repentant prostitute she is one of those disciples early Christian's would have held in high esteem.

The tiny fragments found of Mary's Gospel's were found in Egypt in 1896 near Achmim. The first version is in Coptic. Note, not in Greek nor Hebrew but in Egyptian Arabic.  The various translations of the Bible suffered massively from being altered, amended and censured. When scholars speak of things Theological it is worth asking them if they have read the original scriptures for to do so would mean understanding Hebrew, Egyptian Arabic and or Greek. It is also worth noting that Jesus loved Mary more than any other disciple. Not with a physical love but spiritual and even considered her worthy to receive special teaching.

I leave the church with its Norman architecture and history as I explore the graveyard but also the area surrounding this property. The first point of interest is the gravestone seen below. 

Death. The final frontier or the return to the eternal? It isn't death that concerns me but loss of loved ones. I cannot bear to think losing any of my children especially should they die before me. I think that outcome would drive me to despair far more than my own demise.

Here I am surrounded by the reminder of death. The gravestones tumbled and crumbling hold sway over the intellect. All they are are whispers of a life lived, of a shell releasing the energy they once contained. 

From outside the resemblance to St. Andrews in Ashingdon is notable. The two churches have their differences but the historical similarities are striking even though St. Andrews is the older therefore not of Norman design. I guess it is much like modern day cars, they all look much the same be they American European or of the Far East.

Image courtesy of

These walks, part local interest, part spiritual sojourn, are wonderfully healing. My sense of spirituality owes nothing to the supernatural but everything to the poetry that exists between mother earth, humankind and the universe beyond. It is the understanding of our place within that vastness, that grounding of self, the removal of the ego. Easier said than done. As I proceed I am learning a deal more about where I live and have for the past forty years.

The ego. The self. What is that exactly, the self? Is it not just a series of memories? Countless projections received from innumerable sources? Familial, societal, the media, the length of time we have existed. Our collective memories stored. Projections passed down then gratefully received. The memory, a thing thousands of years old, has accumulated so much stuff, so much of it unwanted, unneeded yet still, we cling to our belief in the self. And the voice in the mind, the one we all have had constantly chirruping away, that compulsive chattering. To silence the mind is to discover joy. To be free of those incessant thoughts, we all have them, racing through our minds unbidden leads to enlightenment. 

"A man asked Lord Buddha - "I want happiness." Lord Buddha said first remove "I" that is ego. then remove "Want," that is desire. See now you are left with only "Happiness."

Now my walk takes me to the furthest out reach of what I think of as my manor. That term is one as used by Cockneys when talking about the area they live in. I do not own Rochford District surprisingly enough but you know what I mean. Next, Barling Magna and Great Wakering.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.