Our hill was not high, but there was a good view from
it. It sloped down to our own bottoms and the main road. Beyond the main
road, a marshy meadow stretched out towards the bog, from which it had been
reclaimed. From the hill, the bog was a vast expanse of purple heather
with two shining lakes; a lovely place to explore. The way in was by the
It had been built a long time before, to bear the turf
carts in and out across the marshy bottoms. It took off at right angles from
the main road, almost opposite our door. The turf banks were nearly
exhausted by then and most kitchens were equipped with shiny black-leaded
stoves for burning coal. The
The few people who walked it, walked alone. You
could identify them by their shape and gait. For a few
minutes they became significant figures in an empty landscape, like the reddleman in
One grassy lane - the back entrance to a farmyard - led off to the left. After that, the causeway dwindled off into the bog. The grass deepened, footsteps were hushed; the soporific sounds of the bog began. A brittle crackle of heather, a murmur of insects, an underground sighing of crushed moss; the blue haze was an incense of honey, heather and acrid peat. The ground swayed and rebounded. Clumps of heather were like bouncy armchairs; there were wild raspberries to sample and bunches of bog cotton to pick. A long sunny afternoon stretched out to the edge of the sky; a bazaar of sensuous delight.
It always seemed to be summer afternoon when I took the
shortcut by the
Maybe it was their oily blink that sent the first shiver up my spine; the eyes of the bog had opened. They were the eyes of a great cat, the moss was a sleeping animal. It stirred and shimmered. Heathery couches assumed the shape of crouching beasts, their claws reached out to scratch my legs. Was it the hum of insects I heard or the breathing of monstrous creatures! What were the scuttling sounds! I remembered the weasel; they said that if you annoyed it, it would put its tail in its mouth and whistle and all the weasels would gather and set upon you and tear your throat and drink your blood.
My home on the hill stood far away in another place and time. My uncle's house turned its back and skulked amongst its trees, the bog went on forever. The sky above, its flatness was a vast dome, unpropped by trees. The sun stared down, unblinking as the eye of God, in a terrible picture of the broad and narrow ways.
Once I located the iron gate leading to my uncle's meadows, I scrambled towards it, as fast as I could. Oh the relief of shutting that gate between me and the enchanted bog. Feeling the firm, drained earth under my feet, hearing the cud-munching cows; the aroma of resinous trees, the tang of smoke, the fragrant flowers in my aunt's garden rushed out to meet me.
The collie came bounding, his plumy tail wagging a welcome. There would be tea and currant bread.