No fanfare, flags, no big parade;
A blanket ban on brouhaha
At my insistence:
Not my style.
I cast back a weary eye and jagged mind
Rewind the rusting, ever-running clock,
Review and reconsider;
And with a certain sadness
But no surprise at all
Discover things are more or less
Exactly as I left them.
I want to write
Not to have written.
Better to bite
Than to get bitten.
Forget I ran:
See how I run;
What counts is can
Not could have done.
It’s about the ride
Not where you’ve ridden;
When you’ve nothing to hide
Nothing gets hidden.
For all I’ve seen,
What am I seeing?
So much I’ve been
What am I being?
The one who makes
Or one who made
Wrong calls, mistakes
A mark, the grade?
Time to look ahead
Not back, because
The older I get
The better I was.
From the hot road
I watched combines make wide-wale corduroy
Of gasping fields cast in bronze and gold;
Racing balers trailing fine brown dust
Build their fleeting henges and tight-rolled scrolls of straw;
Felt the fat, satisfied summer –
The goodness and greenness of the place –
Wrap itself around me.
I come from here. That can never change.
Its deep rhythms are my heartbeat;
By its moods and seasons, I measure out my own small days.
In these dark times I cannot look upon it as I did:
Forces far beyond these gentle hills conflate
A love of one place with a hatred of The Other.
But this country is deep-grained in my hands, clings fast to my boots:
I am bound to it, and it to me
Until I too am gathered in, and finally ploughed under.
Events of the last three years have changed the way I look at the UK. But on a long, hot ride yesterday, I came to realise that it’s not my local tract of countryside that’s changed: it remains as lovely as it ever was, and I still feel very deeply about it. That, I guess, is one of the worst aspects of what our politicians are doing: their nationalism taints any innocent expression of love for the place one lives in. Just one more item on the lengthening list of things I’m not sure how we fix, or forgive. N.
This is the town where nothing happens;
You’re safe to stroll the streets at night.
The town that never makes the papers;
Where nothing’s wrong and not a damned thing’s right.
This is the town you’ve never heard of;
Nobody ever Came From Here;
A place to hide in unseen silence
Where dreams can quietly disappear.
This is the town that took my best years;
The place I never meant to stay,
Swore I’d leave soon as I was able
But put down roots in anyway.
This is the town that keeps on growing
Outwards while its old heart dies;
With each new car and new home sowing
Another seed of its own demise.
This is the town I ended up in
For want of any better plan.
I’ve paid my way and raised a family,
Done what’s expected of a man.
This is the town that’s closing in now;
No wide horizon, open sky.
A place you’d never lose your heart to.
Somewhere to live. But not to die.
Went to see Blinded by the Light yesterday; a great movie full of familiar images and resonances for anyone who, like me, grew up in a nondescript town in the 1980s (and still lives in one, albeit elsewhere, 30 years later) and listened to Born in the USA on repeat. Sat up half the night scribbling afterwards: proof (if it were needed) that for some of us, Bruce Springsteen is still very much The Boss. N.