Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Wilful Walks of C.J.Duffy part seven

* Where the feet of Angels Fail * Full winds and Fanciful Feathers * A Misfit Mud lark * Here be Badgers * * Did Jesus wear drainpipe jeans? *


Did I say, in a previous chapter of these wayward missives, that Battlesbridge was the sight of a famous battle? If I did then slap my thighs with nettles as that is a load of old tosh. If there was a battle here, and there may well have been, it is nothing to do with the place’s name. The name Battlesbridge comes from the Bataille family who maintained the bridge that spans the River Crouch. A lovely old bridge it is too and just wide enough to allow one vehicle to cross at a time. Below it the Crouch flows thick, slow and steady, coming from the place I have recently left: Stambridge. However, before I start to tell you of Battlesbridge with its scattering of quaint, rustic buildings, it is only right and proper that I let you know how the devil I got here and by which route this mud lark misfit took.

Having left Stambridge and my home behind I swing a right into Lower Road. It is a road that typifies an English country lane. Hedgerows gather in crowds to bully what little pavement there is while trying to reclaim the road. The road twists this way and that and often hairpins back upon its self. It is a great road to drive a Mini Cooper down especially when the rains fall and the river rises to flood the way with large watery puddles. The rush of water flies over the roof of the car and you can make believe that you are in a rally. It is an old road and one that takes you deeper into Essex and away from London should you follow its spirited path. As with my walk to Pagelsham, the houses down here lie far apart and are highly individual; consisting of old farms or small holdings. To my left is Hockley with its lovely old church and delightful Victorian schoolhouse that was built in 1830 facing as it does the old Manor House. Hockley is an ancient Anglo Saxon word that means small hill. Hockley also has a much loved old wood: Hockley Wood that covers some 280 acres stretching some three miles from Hockley to Rayleigh. It has had the likes of Henry VIII ride through it as he hunted deer or perhaps on his way to his hunting lodge in Rayleigh. Much of the old wood was destroyed in the hurricanes that hit Britain back in ’87 but there remain a good body of trees and many new that were replanted after the storm. The wood also harbours many a variety of wildlife; from Hawks to Voles, Hedgehogs and moles, from Woodpeckers to Grey Squirrels, Nightingales and Stoats, from the Nuthatch to the Rabbit and of course the Fox: but also, albeit far from least, old man Brock, better known as the Badger, an amazing, teeming array of stalkers, sneakers, squawkers and diggers. The trouble with photographs of trees is that, by and large, however beautiful a wood may be in the flesh so to speak, a photo never gives you the full perspective and certainly not if they are taken by me! So, rather than display a bunch of trees that quite frankly could come from anywhere in the British Isles, here is an old one of three members of my family. We used to walk these woods, my wife and I, This photo was taken about a year ago and shows, from the left, my son, Jamie, my wife, Jasmine and my eldest daughter, Thumbscrew.
Jaime, Jasmine, Emily

A Woodland Path

Hockley Church
Away from Hockley and further down Lower Road is Hullbridge with yet another river crossing and yet another ferry. The river it crosses is the self same one that runs through Stambridge and into Battlesbridge. On my way past my house I picked up my I-Pod loaded with its odd array of different musical styles and genres. Earlier Miles Davis was blowing ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess and now it is, aptly, George Harrison from his final and possibly finest album:

Oh lord, won’t you listen to me now
Oh love, I got to get me back to you somehow
I never knew that life was loaded
I’d only hung around birds and bees
I never knew that things exploded
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life, looking for my life

Oh boy, you’ve no idea what I’ve been through
Oh lord, I feel so stuck that I can’t get to you
Had no idea that I was heading
Toward a state of emergency
I had no fear where I was treading
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life

Caught up on me with intensity
Had no idea where I was heading
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life, looking for my life

Oh boys you've no idea what I’ve been through
Oh lord, I got to get back somehow to you

I never knew that life was loaded
I’d only hung around birds and bees
I never knew that things exploded
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life

I never got any G.C.E.’s
I never knew that things exploded
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life, looking for my life
Looking for my life, looking for my life

I always thought that I was pretty much a ‘Lennon man’, of all the ex-Beatles it was John’s first album, John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, that I felt hit all the right spots with its sparing production and its sparse, almost primitive sound. It was almost as though John, with his new found freedom and all his Arthur Janov leanings was saying a brutal goodbye to the Beatles with their sparkling form of pop music. However, as I have grown older, it is George, with his flawed and very human outlook, his devout spirituality that so often conflicted with his own desires, that appeals to me. I listen to this song and I identify with it, the way it highlights so many confused thoughts that only offer a sensible conclusion when you have reached the lowest point in your life. For me this says so much. If Jesus didn’t wear drainpipe jeans then Krishna must have.

Lower Road reaches a point where the road bends to the left and takes you toward Rayleigh, as it does so another smaller road appears in front of you, an even smaller road than Lower Road; Watery Lane. It is well named and floods regularly during winter months. I Wonder as I wander whether any Highway men travelled these roads, not to hold up stagecoaches but as a means of getting away from pursuers? Maybe, although I doubt it. Dick Turpin of course hailed from Essex but, like so many other rogues, chose to hold up coaches that travelled from Essex into London. It was down these roads that in 1991 a paranormal event took place. A huge dog, described as being the size of a small cow was spotted by a passenger in a car. The creature was roaming the blind black back roads with hunched shoulders and an evil demeanour. A halo, like a faint glow, surrounded the beast. The driver didn’t see a thing but the passenger was apparently ‘very shaken’.

Of course there are pubs; two in fact but Battlesbridge is far more than a pub headcount. It is a veritable treasure trove of exciting finds. It even has a railway station that hides away from the beaten track and is so secluded that rabbits run free over the paltry bit of tarmac that pretends to be a car park. Car park? If having room for three cars warrants the title ‘car park’ then my drive can keep it company. The line that runs through Battlesbridge links Wickford to North Fambridge and beyond allowing the people who live out where trains fear to roll a means by which to connect to London. There is but one single track and so whatever train heads north has to return south by the same way. It is kind of spooky late at night standing in solitary silence with just the single street lamp to light the area but first thing in the morning the outlook is all the more cheery.

The Barge Inn

The Bridge

The Hawk
Village Pond

Tidal Gates

River Crouch
Grateful thanks to Wikipedia for the original images

It isn’t just the ramshackle way that the village of Battlesbridge seems to fall into place that gives it its charm, although it does add to it. It is not the fact that once again history drips from a leaky faucet that gilds this rural Lilly but rather the ingenious and industrious way that crumbling old buildings have been given a face lift and a second chance. Modern day Battlesbridge is used as an antique centre. The old structures have been turned into a wonderful gaggle of shops and arcades that are filled with some real deals and one or two items of bric-a-brac. There are a tea rooms and a classic car museum for those who prefer the golden and silver age of cars. There is all manner of beautiful furniture from tables and chairs to old Victorian fun fare type toys. Sometimes we English are neglectful of our history but here the reverse is true; a splendid use of aging bones. Talking of which, I wonder what my kids will do with mine when I pop my clogs? Have me stuffed and used for a coat stand perhaps.

Another me

This could be another me.
See the man down there with his suit and polished boots?
This could be another me.
All confidence and cock-a-hoop bravado.
Feeling this world shift glass to chrome with all the emotion of a cactus.
I still recall those tender days when the monkees fell about and television didn't reward the talent less.
And the hope and hearts of humankind lay in the hands of children with flowers in their hair and foolish dreams in their rolled up reefers.
This could be another me.
Not trapped within these cold confines that limits imagination and brings my days to a close, a life of chasing paper.
I could dream.
I still dream.
And in my dreams I dance with the ghosts of tomorrow who hold me close, in arms verdant fresh and strong, and spin the dance on polished floors down mirrored walls where silver cobwebs hang and trophies watch from lichen lintels the passing of my thoughts.
But who will hold me when the spotlight fades? when my children’s faces retreat from me?
The door will close.
The light will cease.
A failing of wings and cloudless mumbles of goodbye.
Such a waste when summer trips into the fallen leaves.
Crumbling brick face.
Ivy marks the windowsill where lovers once would climb.
And in the garden there is a pond and in the pond a statue stands but the fountain has gone dry.
I’m rambling now
but let me ramble for what harm can it do?
See the man down there?
A shrivelled husk of once-a-go whose children used him like a slide, a climbing frame for them to bridge.
Arms will grow to jelly and the spine will twist as wire but the darkness doesn't scare me just the missing of them all.
This could be another me.
Maybe I could make a deal with god?
Cheat the fates and bone collectors as I thumb my nose and skip away with all memories and loved ones still with me.
This could be another me.

Leaving the antiques centre behind along with the pond and the pubs, I veer upward and under the railway bridge that takes me toward the A130: a road that ultimately leads to Chelmsford. Chelmsford is the ‘capital’ of Essex, or rather, to give it its correct title, the county town of Essex. Chelmsford is old, going back to Roman times.
The town was given the name of Caesaromagus (the market place of Caesar), although the reason for it being given the great honour of bearing the Imperial prefix is now unclear — possibly as a failed 'planned town' provincial capital to replace Londinium or Camulodunum. (Wikipedia).

I often go shopping in Chelmsford. I like the place. I like the Waterstone’s that sit there with its café that serves a delicious iced Latté in summer and a spankingly good cuppa tea during the winter. Like most large town’s these days the real personality of the place has been deleted and replaced by the corporate look that exists in virtually every major town. However, there is still some charm about the place and, seeing as it is a university town, it has a certain buzz of youth with its waterside café’s that team with students.

But that is enough of Chelmsford for now but maybe for another time? Not sure if I am headed that way or not. I quite fancy heading off into Danbury or maybe Burnham-on-Crouch seeing as the later has that twisting river running through it that connects Burnham to Fambridge via Battlesbridge. But who knows where I am headed? Who cares? “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

These essays are now available as either a PDF electronic book or as a fully finished and bound chapbook. Volume one is now published and should anyone want a hard copy then E-mail me with your address details and I will send you, free of charge, a copy. Volume two is also finished and will be E-mailed shortly. Apologies for the lack of photos here. For some odd reason I don't seem to be able to upload images at the moment.

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all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.

5 comments:

Aleksa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hobbes said...

Looking forward to Volume 2.

White Magpie said...

Yes, there is something about George. Particularly, "All Those Years Ago" appeals a lot. Do you listen to Eastern music?

C.J.Duffy said...

Hobbes>>>Be with you soon!

C.J.Duffy said...

White Magpie>>>I have some Ravi Shankar and one of my all time modern favourite films is Bride and Prejudice. I also like the sound of Hinduism. It seems a warm and generous faith.