Friday 27 April 2007

The Dragon Tree

There is something to be said for following the same route every day. When we lived on the Levels, Adrian spent a year photographing our favourite walk every day and posting the changes in his diary. It was a fabulous record of the shifting seasons and put us very much in the Now.
Since we’ve been on Exmoor, we rarely take the same walk each day – there is simply too much choice, too many delights. But we do often drive the same route – from here to Tiverton – quite often day in, day out.

Last year we watched a house being built, following it from the diggers moving in, through the foundations being dug to the walls growing. We cheered when the roof went on and applauded the new hedge of native species that the owners carefully planted. We speculated about who they were and what they were like – we invented names and careers for them, gave them children and pets. Then, to our great disgust, they stuck up a big fence behind the fledgling hedge so we could no longer peer over and see if we were right or wrong. Maybe, like Eden’s naturist watchers, we need to find us some girt big horses (seventeen handers ought to do the trick) and do us a nice easy rising trot past.

We watched another house, small, square, perched on a hill, go on the market, its For Sale sign jaunty and new. It went Under Offer. Then was back For Sale. Under Offer. For Sale. We sympathised (little knowing we were watching the warm-up act for our own house-selling farce) and positively let off fireworks when that miraculous word SOLD was slapped up on the (now painfully listing and shabby) sign. This time there was no fence to keep out our nosiness. A bustling family moved in, stuck up swings and slides, erected a shed. Tubs appeared. Hanging baskets. A bird table. A vegetable plot was sliced out of the hillside. I became quite proprietorial about them, to the point where Adrian once said, ‘For God’s sake, why don’t you drive in and introduce yourself?’
‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous. They’d think I was a mad stalker. We don’t even live that close.’
He just looked at me and raised an eyebrow as if to say, ‘my point exactly.’

The last few days, since we’ve been back, the route has exploded into green. I’m not the first to say it but it has to be said again – every shade of green in the palette. I can never decide which I love the most – it’s a tough call between the acid yellowy-green and the clear paintbox green. When we first moved here, I adored the green of the new beech leaves so much I took a leaf into Homebase and got it matched for our kitchen. It’s actually darker than you think – but so clear and pure. Everyone loved it and you’ll find quite a few houses on Exmoor with beech-green paintwork here or there.

But my new obsession is not a house. We’re watching a work of art appear. On one of the large fields just outside Tiverton along the Exe Valley, a huge ancient tree stood starkly dead. Dramatic, like a fist raised to the sky. We loved the tree and were tremendously sad when, last autumn, it was finally felled. At first we thought it was being cut up for timber but now, slowly, we’re seeing it turn into something quite magical – a dragon is being carved out of its vast trunk. The funny thing is we never see the sculptor – it’s as if elves pop along with chainsaws in the night and snip off a bit more. This morning, as I took James to play with friends (a mere forty-five minute trip) we noticed that the teeth were coming along nicely. I wonder what I’ll find when I got back to pick him up in about an hour’s time?


Blossomcottage said...

When are we going to have a nice picture of this tree, I love your part of the world, think I am in need of a trip that way,ASBO is very like the dog my daughter has just rescued or should I say she rescued it last Thursday dumped it with me Sunday and flew to the Maldives! hey ho that being a mUmmy for you.

Faith said...

That's interesting about the dragon. My sister lives in your part of the world - I will have to send her along to look at it.

Faith said...

Just indulged myself by reading the one about sex and dungeons. I am not entirely ignorant of some of the practices you unwittingly turned up - but nuff said! Shows one thing though - how vulnerable kids are on the net, only two clicks away from goodness knows what.