The head photo here is a twilight view from Berry Head over St Mary’s Bay, at Brixham, in Devon – not that you could tell in this kind of darkening light, but it’s nice to be geographically oriented. Some friends and I have been discussing, on Facebook, Devon and Cornwall, and the A303 and A30 roads that take you out of London to the south-west of England. I have spent a lot of time on those roads, hitchhiking and then driving to visit my friend in Devon. This reminded me that I’d written a poem about this drive, only a couple of months back. The poem is about driving back from Devon, but if you read it backwards, it works that way too…
Chasing the Way Down
One is always nearer by not keeping still – Thom Gunn
I feel the need.. the need for speed – Top Gun
Square something over 2.5 litres –
A proper bruiser cruiser – on the road:
The A30, then, at some time between
Exeter and Honiton, past midnight.
Ninety-nine on the clock, “Sailing By”
On Radio 4, then the hypnotic
Mantra of Dogger, Fisher, German Bight –
Sea areas heading westward – Thames,
Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth – while the car
Heads eastward. It is late enough to be
A dream when you line up the bends and blind
Summit through Monkton Combe, then onto the
A303 over the Blackdown Hills.
Too fast around the Ilminster by-pass
Past 1am, chasing down Pertree Hill,
And sailing by an unseen Ilchester –
A Roman road now to Podimore Cross,
Soothed by the perfect enunciation
Of a World Service announcer’s voice
Telling you of Nepal and Niger,
As an empty roundabout, ghostless,
Filters you away from Sparkford village
Onto yet more empty dual-carriageway
That grooves you up along Mere.
You slow now
As the road narrows to a sinuous
Single carriageway up and down the hills,
Then slips you on to the A350
Dashing past the Pertwoods, over Lord’s Hill
Through the Deverills, around Warminster
And home again, home again, jiggety jig:
One hundred and fourteen miles
In one hundred minutes.
And as you exit your car beneath
Hard, bright, impersonal stars, you know that
These devices, forged by mind and technique,
Provide you thrills nature never could.
The black metal door closes heavily.
Fingertips linger lightly on the frame.
It would be easy enough to chase
The cold night again, back into the west.
Note: I do not, of course, condone speeding…