Albion, Don and Wen

Writing the story

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We had spent another of those weekends where, given a basic plan of action we deviated from it at almost every possible moment, either through an inability to find what we wanted, or following the trail of the gifts of things we had probably needed to find, even though we hadn’t known it… and even though sometimes those gifts only become apparent with the passage of time and the acquisition of further knowledge and deeper understanding. This is adventure. Sometimes we have simply the impression that what we have been unexpectedly given by the day is of huge significance… but not yet; such things are filed away for future use when the time is right. Sometimes it is the gifts that come in the darkness of night, under the veil of dreaming, and these too carry a feeling… the ones with meaning stand out from those that simply process the events of the day. These things we need to remember amid the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ we find or are given on our travels.

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Between us, though, we have an excellent memory… I am good for places and directions, the visual references, histories and the general ‘feel’ of a place; my companion has almost perfect recall for words, written or spoken, geometries, correspondences and symbols. Add the camera and the synthesis is pretty useful. But some things stand out for both of us and we need no help in remembering them. Sometimes they are burned into memory by the intensity of the experience, sometimes by simple joy in the moment.

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Memory, it seems, is intimately linked to both movement and emotion. When you look back it is always a highlight… or a low and painful point… that stands out. We do not remember the humdrum of every day… only those things with which the heart, mind and body engaged… the movement of a dance, the monochrome cadence of a funeral, or the first glimpse of a face long missed. For me the experience of place… its feel, its beauty or otherwise, captures my emotions and creates the chain-link of memory, and within those places it is the life of them that catches my heart.

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The llama at Abbots Bromley, the playful sparrows in the pub garden, highland cattle and sheep on the moors, a hawk hunting in Monsal Dale… the scruffy robin and the magpie with odd wings… the close encounter with a curious thrush… or the deer in the bracken on that final dawn when the land had curled gnarled fingers so close in my heart that I could not let go and leave it behind.

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There is always this fear, you see, that I will not come back. That it will be the last time. It doesn’t matter that it is illogical… that there are meetings booked, a hotel reserved for the Harvest of Being weekend on the moors… or that there is not the slightest reason at all to suppose I will not return. Fear makes each journey south, to a place ostensibly my home, feel like heartbreak. I spent twenty years a mere two hundred miles from these moors… a distance I now drive frequently without a thought… yet circumstances held me in that sense of exile, cut off from my heart’s home. That, and the certain knowledge that anything can happen to change the direction of a life at any instant, makes the moment of separation keen.

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But, like any keen-edged blade, it cuts both ways and even that fear bears its own gift… that very fear means I drink in every second with all that I am, truly alive in that moment, knowing it will not come again and to walk it in semi-consciousness is to miss something unique, unrepeatable… once past the moment is gone forever and can live only in memory. One day there will, inevitably, be a ‘last time’. We can never predict that, never know when it will be, may not even recognise it as it passes… but at that time the memories will matter. I do not want to open that book of my life on blank pages and grey chapters; I want each page to hold adventure and colour, feeling and life, laughter, tears and love. And if ever I am asked, ‘Did you write that?’ I want to be able to say with a wicked grin, ‘Hell, yes!’

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