A lifetime ago, almost to the day, it turned cooler after an uncustomary warm and dry couple of weeks. Synoptic charts show high pressure moving up the country dragging with it frontal systems. No doubt, on that day, some looked at the clouds and grumbled. And life carried on as it had the days before. Engines shunted in sidings. People waited at bus stops. Shop tills rang out. Dogs barked. And, in the cabin of a small boat moored on the bank of the Grand Union, I took my first breath of air; sweet with cow pasture, and nettles, and paraffin.
“27th April, Tuesday.
This morning dawned with frost and golden washes of light.
I discovered a new patch of cowslips and hawthorns budding, and the first mallow and bugle clusters shouldering their way into the sunshine.
It should have been perfect.
The birds sang with a brilliant clarity managing to subsume the aural gash of traffic.
But it wasn’t.
Everything felt a little off kilter.
My shoulders and legs ached.
- Not so much in pain – just an awareness of them being there,
So that walking was not an automatic act,
But a conscious and deliberative one.
Consequently, it felt awkward, clumsy – not natural.
The morning chill lost that exhilarating feel and sank into my bones.
A racing mind that gravitates to the dark edges
Where formless unease lurks.
It was not that I was untouched by the world in which I walked,
Those spots of beauty – touches of joy,
But sometimes perfection and beauty lie in the small details
Not the whole.
Even Eden had its serpent.
Et in Arcadia ego
‘Even in Arcadia , there I am.’”
In this episode I talk about my mother’s memoirs that she wrote about her time living on the canal. You can hear more about her in Episode 2 The Erica behind the Erica and hear me reading an excerpt from her writing in which she described the harsh winter of 1963 in Episode 9 The Winter of 1962/63.
In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at archive.org.
Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded to Freesound.org on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence.
Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.
All other audio recorded on site.
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