Sunday, 14 May 2017


Why do my legs feel so heavy?  The weight of the weather I think - dark clouds bearing down over the fields of rape, close to touching them but still not dulling their acid yellow hue.  My fluorescent running top, designed to make me stand out, blends right in.  I am in countryside camouflage.

Afternoon running is not my thing.  I'm normally an early bird, it gets me set up for the day but with a huge burst of rain having just refreshed the earth I can't help but be drawn, heavy legs and all.

The Ridgeway path is giving to one and all this Sunday afternoon; walkers, horse riders, cyclists and a family trying to teach their daughter to drive.  She grinds gears as the sparrows make fun of her from the hedgerow.

I try to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth; it's supposed to lower your heart rate but I'm aiming mainly for the avoidance of swallowing the flies that are in abundance right now.  My nose burns and my lungs beg for a huge gulp rather than the thin wisps afforded by the little airways that come with having what was once fondly called a 'button nose' by my mum.  I give in and run slack-jawed up the hill.

Ploughed fields open up to one side and I can hear the Skylarks, their call reminding me of squelchy acid house.   I scan the sky and spot one calling out to its mate on the ground.  Hovering, trilling, making me marvel at the juxtaposition of these amazing little creatures and the towers of Didcot that I can see in the distance.  Nature and nuclear. I am satisfied.

I reach the turning point of my run and head back down the hill.  Counting off the fence posts and telegraph poles that will take me home.  A blackbird perched on a wire is singing his heart out.  I slow, then stop in the hope that I can carry on enjoying his show but he sees me as predator - or maybe as sport.  He flits 50 metres on to another resting point, daring me to catch him up.  Whistling his beautiful tune. 

(c) RSPB

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Pearl and Dean

It's a Saturday in October 1988.  October isn't known for sunshine but in my memory it's a sunny day and I am part of a long, snaking queue of children and teenagers that wraps around the front and side of the ABC Cinema in Basingstoke.
(c) Basingstoke Gazette

We throw sweets at each other to pass the time; shove our friends out into the way of people trying to edge past en route to the taxi rank and shout loudly.  Michael Jackson's Moonwalker has arrived and we can't wait to see it.

The doors open and we force our way through; frantically fishing for coins in our jeans pockets whilst straining to see how many people are running to the swinging doors that lead to the screen.  Will we get our place?

Feet pound like a drumroll on the patterned carpet as we race through the doors and force our way up the narrow stairs to find the 'best seats'.  They're near the back and grant easy access to a covered window which we plan to open during the adverts to let light in for a laugh.

We balance our buttocks on the edge of the flip-up seats, causing them to come down with a thud that sends up tiny particles of cigarette ash which reminds me of the smell of my nan's sofa.  The children call out to each other and throw Mint Imperials at the back of smaller children's heads.  There are no adults.

And then....the lights go out and a pale beam the colour of moonlight streams from the back of the room.  Dust dances and small hands raise up to interrupt its journey to the screen.  This action is something we will repeat a few years later when we start going to raves but for now, it's all harmless fun. The usherette flashes a torch around searching for the culprits amid shouts to "SIT DOWN!".
They sit down.  The torch goes out.  We follow the line of the now steady beam to the screen and we wait.  A fit of the giggles is met with a "SSSSHHHHHH!".

There is a crackle.

The screen goes from black to grey to blue.  And we know.  We all know what's about to happen.

We draw in our breath and sing as one.