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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 1, March 2014


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Nothing is for ever

The day no more than warm, with his light clothes and the slow pace at which he was now compelled to walk, he'd scarce broken sweat. Yet the sun seemed to be pressing him earthward—as if angry that not once that day had he acknowledged its presence. But then, neither had he noticed certain specimen trees that once would have been greeted like old friends; nor, as he walked the long herbaceous borders towards the house, had he paid much attention to their planting. All now owned by local council, much had changed in the 40 years since his first visit. The gardens, altered and added to, were still well maintained; but gone were the gnarl-handed sun-baked gardeners who had been a fund of advice and always ready to lean on their forks and talk of the old times. The house was now part offices part cafeteria. Its whitewashed frontage, once covered by a large golden-flowered shrub that had long since flowered itself to death, now staged a varied display of low growing plants.

He took his tray to the part-shade of a copper beech within scented reach of a bed of wallflowers. The magnolia avenue to his right had dropped its blooms into pale pools of light; but beyond, he knew, hidden amongst other trees, was a later flowering variety. Too tired to find it now, he closed his eyes to remember its low branches that invitingly held out large cream saucers of heady perfume; and woke to question the wisdom of having walked so far. Wiping his cup clean of the fruit-cake smear that coated its rim, he stick-tapped his way to the toilets at the back of the house. A sacred cold as of some old church, and the flowery fragrance of soaps and air-fresheners contrasted with the gardens outside; and standing at the stall, he stared at rough lemon-green stippled walls—unchanged since as far back as he could remember; while behind him came the roar of new-fangled hand-driers. Outside, the large Magnolia Grandiflora, 50 years old, tall when planted, now held its last few sickly-scented flowers well out of reach. He laid his hand on its cool bark for a few moments before starting back.

a child in passing
keeps looking back in puzzlement
at the old man's stick



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