When we go shopping to a particular store we park facing an ordinary wooden fence; it’s made from vertical planks of wood, all the same, all in a row, secured by batons running horizontally. It’s not a composite, it’s actual wood sliced off a log in a saw mill. When we were young we used to go to the east coast for days by the sea and I think it was at Great Yarmouth that there were sawmills and the air was full of the smell of timber. It may have been near the station as I have a sudden memory of arriving by train and there been that wonderful smell a mixture of sea, seaside and wood.
Back to the wooden fence. Because it is real wood there are all sorts of marks and knotholes – a knot, according to some government definition is ‘the remains of a branch in timber. A branch sawn off close to the trunk or shed naturally forms a sound or live knot. A broken branch stub that becomes surrounded by new growth produces a loose or dead knot in the timber.’ Knotholes are round or roundish, but if timber is cut on the slant then the shape elongates and has patterns in it. This fence that we park by has so many knotholes and sometimes grouped together they appear like faces, often animal faces for some reason. We usually ‘see’ bears, and bear cubs, dogs, the occasional monkey, and sometimes they are staring at us, sometimes they appear to be peeping because of the way the plank has been cut and sometimes they look quite deformed in a sinister way.
The fence runs along the side of the carpark, and on the other side is some sort of industrial unit and on that side there are plants, brambles and ivy, ‘old man’s beard’ – wild clematis also known as ‘traveller’s joy’, bell vine, all sorts of creeping things which clamber over the top of the fence, or work their way through the tiny gaps between the planks. This gives the appearance of the creatures being in a wood and shyly peeping out at us, or in the autumn when the plants wither, it looks like fur or a mane. Somehow these creatures are trapped in the wood, so they may be a little creepy but they are never scary.
Today we parked further down and as we got out of the car we saw him:
My photo tames him somewhat, he really was quite extraordinary, slightly deranged, certainly creepy, no humanity or kindness – not an Ent, maybe a malign Jack in the Green, definitely the stuff of nightmares. Will I write about him, yes I will but at the moment I have no plans. When I do, I will write by daylight!