A walk to the shops, Nov 10

Milton Keynes

I call. You are back from a swim with friends in the estuary and walk outside to let me hear the huge mob of cockatoos. You describe one group tearing bark off our Dogwoods. A pair of King Parrots fly past. I can see the colours, their poster reds and greens, the silvered white of your hair and cornflower blue of your eyes.

I was heading out to do some shopping, but the glazed blank was sprinkling. As I hesitated the doorbell rang. It was the District Nurse, a cheerful woman who has swapped ICU for a job she loves. She’s in two minds, whether to dress my mother’s wound again or let it breathe.

I head out under the anonymous, primitive sky, contrails banished. Last night I learnt why Matisse escaped Paris for Nice, though I could have guessed. Returning after the war, he wrote: ‘When I realised that every morning I would see this light again I couldn’t believe my luck.’

I pass an assembly point for the war of the worlds. Green fields are losing their lives.

An inaudible football field is badly lit with basic seating. It is not a field. The focus is soft.

Blackbirds jump in and out of a thin girdle of trees, chlorophyll ebbing, sap slurred. I was hoping I had found a short cut. The subtle scent of damp earth is tinged with sweetness.

Unsure of my direction I climb a rise, find a path, am immediately surprised by a robot. I have never seen one before in real life. Why am I not more surprised?

What’s its mission? Who is in control? Are explanations always useful or truthful? Not for AI, incoming AR and the coming metaverse. The future is no longer a postcard saying, Wish you were here.

The cramped still-life tangles order and disorder with pink roses and neat gravel paths. A standing spade is ready. Half the plots are fallow. There are waiting lists for allotments, thee small strips of Earth can alter the status of happiness.

It’s drizzling carefully. I don’t know how to trust the country I grew up in, or the one I live in. The news should be headlining COP 26. Climate change is about to wreck the future, but today’s headlines focus on politicians and sleaze (misnomer for corruption).

Someone has left a light on. I think of that billboard, Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the lights. I like Seattle, more bookshops per-head than anywhere else in the country, chowder and what was once called wilderness corralling the city.

On the other verge, a man in armour, tall and dangerous, is face to face with shrubs, saplings and grasses and looking undecided as to his next move.    

The shopping centre forms a huge car park, home to exotic starlings, sparrows and passing gulls.

The bookshop has closed down. Indigo Sun has the foot traffic.  Its design in blues and purple is uniquely futuristic. A large, brightly-lit sign announces, Vitamin D for your health. Tanning salons are illegal in Australia, but then we have so much blue sky.

Shopping has become both pilgrimage and ordinary spend, but can never conjure the extraordinary. I grab a bag of King Edwards and begin.

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