Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England
There’s more than one way to burn a book.
“Few will read it. You have to be prepared for that.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“We’re living in an era of fast-food, smartphones, soundbites, selfies, memes. If something isn’t instantly accessible folks get bored. Not everyone shares your passion for words.”
“So that’s it: we give up? Shrug our shoulders, let the English language flatline? Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?"
"Yes, I have to admit mine’s flagging. A sixty litre rucksack of bright ideas has given me a stoop. The boots I haven’t worn-in yet have blistered my confidence. But if I keep on track . . .”
that fraon —
the best part of childhood
lost in a book
“Let’s face it: the old ways would never have existed without someone carving out a desire path. And feet, coming and going, keep the bostles and snickets open. It’s not like we want everyone to find them. Just enough to remember them and hand them down. I’m sure there’s loam that knows my cleats by heart.”
“Well there’s a case in point: why not crotchet, or quirk; foible, or kink?”
a vixen’s snout
in the vole’s smeuse . . .
the shortest day
“You always did take the meandering route. The one with the requisite brambles, or nettles.”
“We have a duty. We owe it to the likes of Lawrence, Vonnegut, Huxley, Bradbury—hey, wasn’t it Bradbury who said leave something behind, even if it’s only your thumbprint on a clay pot? Yes! I think he said it through Granger in Fahrenheit 451. Something about his grandfather shaping him; so much so, that if you could look inside his head you’d see the old man’s thumbprint in the crenellations of his brain. Plant a flower, he said, or a tree. Write a book. Make a child.”
where the sunwheel
came to rest
“I do see where you’re coming from. It’s about keeping words alive. And the minds that conjured them. You used to dig out the same book time and time again, no matter how tired your sister was of reading it. You’d be happily listening to Cinderella or Goldilocks and then she’d break into Hamlet’s soliloquy and you’d almost fall of her lap laughing. It must have sounded like a foreign language to you, but she used to recite it with such gusto, I almost think that was what you were waiting for, not the ugly sisters or the three bears.”
“That’s it! That’s exactly it. So is it really going to be a hardship if a Google search draws a blank?”
“Yes, for some people it will. Or they may not have internet access . . .”
“If they’re the kind of people who head to Google before the Oxford English Dictionary they’re probably never more than twenty metres away from a Wi-Fi hotspot. They’re lost at anything that doesn’t come with an app or a backdrop of ringtones."
no signal —
a falcon’s shadow
quiets the shivver
“You’re such a snob.”
“No, just a lifelong logophile. Anyway, we’ve got to think of our future. And it turns out some of these archaic words and country names aren’t even in the OED. But they’re like a spell. Chant them and you keep them alive. And the landscape that birthed them stretches out, toes in the rock, head in the clouds, arms in the green, breathes easier. I have this daydream about walking among the sun-slatted library stacks, with a little hand in mine, in search of the book that was placed just so because it opens up in the tree-hole that leads to the re-enchanted forest.”
“But you do know it’s going to be tough-going? I’ve got teens who bypass Chaucer and Shakespeare completely because their Mum bought them the Study Guide. Some readers will take one look at your title and go no further."
“Well, if we focus on the positive, at least if they’ve heard of the Bard . . ."
touch of sun . . .
a velvet of frost
on the stunpol’s tines
“And anyway. There’s always a glossary . . .”
doake: a mark left behind; a shallow indentation in sand or silt left by a small creature, such as a flounder or minnow; a cleft or groove created by resting out of habit in a particular spot.
fraon: a natural shelter for someone seeking sanctuary from the elements in hostile terrain.
shivver: from Cumbrian dialect, meaning chip or fragment; refers to scree slopes of shifting slate shards resulting from many years of quarrying.
smeuse: a hole in a hedge or thicket made by the regular passage of a small creature.
stunpol: a tree that is aged and partially dead or in the process of dying, but in aesthetic terms, displays a certain grandeur.
sunwheel: a formation of snow resulting from the clumps that fall from the boot cleats as one walks; as they scud downhill, perhaps aided by the wind, they gather more snow and those that remain upright become discs or wheels.