John Steed in the Land of Lost Content
Has the ideal of community always been an illusion?
Barring (or including) colonies of artists or other like-minded souls.
Carrion-crow, loner born, am I seeing it wrong?
Yet I can appreciate it from outside: This Happy Breed[ii], the truth in the myth . . .
also, the nonsense and hypocrisy.
Do you love your country? my youngest son asked by a twilight garden drowning in
crowns and union jacks.
the reddest roses, fish and chips –
All those things I can love about Albion, along with tolerance and saying sorry
but not John Bull with Brexit blindfold, the royal family
the landed gentry or nouveau riche.
We were at Barkby, Leicestershire – The Heart of rural England – claim signs by the motorway
and the richness of the gloaming stole upon my grave, the pedal crank ceasing to turn.
We came to the Malt Shovel and its shade of willows
A pint of Jubilee Ale, bought for me in irony, to contemplate the day
Pomp and pageantry have always made me queasy, Nationalism and Patriotism too.
A dash may help survive a war but the rest blusters, poisons and destroys
Places, feelings, traditions – they are all leaves in a book whose bittersweet pages I like to turn and mostly try to laugh
their shelf gets higher and higher . . .
For reference only.
Beyond Melton Mowbray (bypassed, still unknown) a miniature tunnel leads to a lake
no longer slowing towards a station where once Dame Diana Rigg was tied to the tracks[v] . . .
Here in April 1965 – fantasy of course – in black and white, lived a lord[vi] whose eccentricity and hatred of cars makes him acceptable
Giving generous funds to ailing railwaymen or so he thinks
His toy signalbox houses a lever that will fatally jam Albion’s radar
leaving us open to invasion – but by whom exactly?
To what happened perhaps?
To technology and acquisition:
Forces no partisans could resist
For all its timeless artifacts I cannot make this nostalgia paradise fit
The parallels are obvious, but ‘65 too faint, I cannot get back –
From beer tents, classic cars and strolling Sunday visitors
my faith can’t achieve the leap
The landscapes, the villages there and back, are almost too perfect,
They don’t care about the era.
Via Moscow Lane – a green track thwarted, virtually blocked – to Burrough-on-the-Hill
is the improvised weft and wend of our journey back
until a new garden breathing the air of swooping fields
calls a halt.
Late afternoon, flapping flags aloft
swathes of ox-eye daisies bless this memorial to Arnhem
– Operation Market Garden’s 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment[vii]
billeted here in ‘44 –
(a mere 36 of nearly 600 returned a fortnight later).
If only, within reach, the stones weren’t marred by their clumsy bas relief,
cartoonish figures trite in the face of capture and sacrifice –
What choice is there but to trust,
that it’s the thought that counts?
Eventually we roll on downhill, too far downhill, and have to come back
strike cross-country for the high decaying arches of John O Gaunt
a red-brick viaduct shut before the Avengers’[viii] jaunty visit.
Into this stratosphere, this time-lapse shift
cloud across the eyes and between them – white canopies bloom –
the flowers of death . . .
In the Malt Shovel I realise my misapprehension
– a trivial, forgivable one, in a universe of constant delusion –
of muddling Melton Mowbray with Melton Constable[ix] when the latter
is a hundred miles east
a new town founded by a railway junction whose brief heyday passed a century ago.
There, where the village workshops painted their locomotives in golden ochre[x]
or “autumn leaf”
all directions met – a fact I will force to be symbolic.
Our zenith is seriously past too
But who’s to say we can’t ever get back?
Or am I duping myself with that last-minute wish?
Stapleford Park, 12th June 2022
For Ivo, June 2022
© Lawrence Freiesleben,