A 61 with headphones

Driving down the A61 from Sheffield to Chesterfield I turn off Elgar’s Nimrod and I pull into a layby. I leave the car and with the dog on the lead I find a gap in the hedge and descend through an archaeology of cannabis, strata of clay pebbles and plastic bags. Generations of it now.

Generations of generations.  Generations formed in it, generations fucked on it, fucking on it. Generations dying in it, generations living it, regretting it, loving it and leaving it. And here it is, a mess on the ground.

I cross the stream and climb the hill, such noise and clatter I can’t even bear to restart Elgar, the most pastoral. Even my mind won’t combat and embrace utter noise, the anti-pastoral.

The dog jumps and we land on a forestry track so deeply rutted further up I can barely walk.

Such a young track this, most pastoral of all, a labour in the forest and on it young plants are forming, hollies, chestnut, oak and I have to leave behind solipsism in order to accept that I’m actually doing anything.

Further away from the noise now on the hillside, I’ve seen the map and I know the path is higher and I’ll reach something fit for feet.

Yellow Pimpernel, Climbing Corydalis and Figwort announce the limit of the road noise and with the sound of birdsong I start at the holly and arrive at a Holly Hagg, a proper deep Hollins.

The densest I’ve ever seen. Look at that, the size of oaks. 

Not crossing the road over the A61, but leaving Monks Wood and heading up the hill to Black Piece. Below Bull Close farm and Ouzel Bank cottage, I see from the map  at Black Piece there is a stream running in a gully. 

So I’m doing this, this nothing, this stopping in the car on the way to the market to walk my dog. I’m doing this with some inclination, with some force because.

I’ve only got one chance to do this and it’s now and it’s today and if I don’t it will be gone and I’ll be left alone with nothing.

Nothing at all.

And I need this to be alive.

So now with the road a murmur like a voice you hear and know it’s people from your village cutting wood; a bird you don’t recognise flying into the upper branches of young oak, buttercups amongst the long grass and a single Bluebell you recognise as Spanish.

Now let’s turn on Elgar.

Here where the Balsam has taken root and cleavers grow in the grass.  As if the names were magic and your voice anything other than an idiot’s,

A fool’s voice,

A dunce’s voice

just a liar maybe

who loves Stitchwort

and your dog going mad

So I’m doing it for a reason

and the reason is


I must

when I lie there

staring at the ceiling

it’s this that will





Because it won’t leave regret

and that’s the one thing we all must avoid

And first it’s some stupid vetches and then you start on the track to switch on Elgar but you can’t get anywhere. 

Such a great bloated world hits you, the great bloated world of the forest dwellers just keeps pulling you in.

Again and again and again.

Unbelievable badger diggings. 

Now try Elgar again and the dog shits in the woods and I notice it’s next to a badger latrine and I think of my astounding love of the sight of the sett and the badger’s love of getting home to that dug black earth.

As Elgar builds, this mundane little path now, at the top of the woods, some smells here and there, something to come, something’s been, something underground, nothing wrong, and as it builds its the brain that builds and ideas come and you think:

I should let them go…

Like some mindfulness practice…

But of course you’re always trying to remember, and you wish you had a notepad and you could write down the reminder to yourself, to tell someone that they should train the dog…

Your reminder to yourself about something you can’t even remember now because you’ve remembered it 1000 times and still you forget, still you try to remember, still you think about whether you should forget, whether you should remember…

And the point of it all? Is just to do it rather than not. To acknowledge it rather than not because it’s the only thing you do.

So we reach a fence with private land beyond that borders the path and a man who has lost his phone earlier while walking his dog is tracking it to retrieve it riding his son’s bike.

I am reading tea leaves.

Remember to track yourself, don’t be ashamed of your tracking device, just don’t lose it, if you do go back and find it, there’s nothing wrong with it.

So this is just a tracking device, this is today, a tracking device, I’m tracking myself.

And besides me lies a fence because somebody doesn’t trust me.

Doesn’t trust. Someone wants privacy.

And you can understand why because there is nothing wrong with privacy.

Except that it invites.

So you reach the Dell, the glade, the water.  Black Piece is there now, the marsh, with bulrushes and you keep away from the private property sign, way above it now, my goodness, like you thought you would, you’re above something and there you are, well above it.

Well next time you’ll come won’t you?

But the man can’t find his phone there is not enough data on his daughter’s phone to locate it.

So not everything will tell you something and a lot of the time you can’t be bothered, just like you actually said you’ll come back, to go into that underbelly, that marsh.

It’s an underbelly that doesn’t go anywhere except down into the ground. That’s where you’ll go back to. You’ll end up coming back here, won’t you? When you die.

Down at the deep little marsh, stuck there, smelling like that, clay under your feet, nobody can go there with you unless they want to sink as well, or they can watch from the edge.

You can hide there, like Alfred, waiting for a kingdom.

And you get rewarded as if that were possible by the broadleaf Helleborine.

As you near the road, thrown back to those voices you recognise, the most confusing of all, the loudest one, the one you recognise and you know exactly how dull it is, how dangerous it is.  But you also know how to avoid it until you can’t. And then it’s something you know you have to hide from. So it’s safe and you like walking on these little side paths down back on the woodsman’s tail, the woodsman’s trail.  The great ruts of the logger’s track.

And that’s your journey isn’t it?

You haven’t quite finished the Elgar, you’ve got that last quiet section because the badger shat and interrupted your crescendo and you made your own one because you found your bearings.

There, you remember now?

You’re tracking yourself but you didn’t find it, but you tracked yourself tracking yourself like some stupid philosopher.

So there you are making your way northbound on the southbound carriageway and you find a colombine in the grass and you can barely hear your own thoughts.  But you can actually – you can hear all your own thoughts regardless of what noise is going on. You can always hear your own thoughts, even without thinking.

You see your car in the distance and this last stretch of flowers and grasses bordering the woodland on the road.

You ended on ferns and now passing some silver fish, I don’t know what they are but I’ll call them silverfish.

19th May 2022