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06/01 Direct Link
Fury was eating him up inside, the thought that she could just go on with her life. She should feel pain – there must be a way to show her he was suffering.
She saw him walking along the street, again: his face looked brutish, bullying, and people in his path were stepping to the side. This was the third time today she had looked up and seen him pass by.
He looked again at her building, knowing if he went inside he would just shout and make a fool of himself, but he couldn’t stay away. She had trapped him.
06/02 Direct Link
Life as documentary #1: Tunnel vision occurs when focussing on one area or aspect of life so that what is not related blurs and fades into the background. My buried mind, a subconscious algorithm, a patterning of rationalised logic, weighs the relevance of initiating external actions and discounts them on my behalf: I focus on red and miss the dancing gorilla dressed in blue. How can this mechanism, running unchallenged in the background, be unprogrammed, be stopped momentarily, and then, with everything swim clearly into focus, what would I see and think? Is this the path to sanity or madness?
06/03 Direct Link
We are told that rules about how the world is constructed are understood from observation and interpretation, experience and assumptions; these rules link the whys and wherefores into a seamless, undeniable fabrication.
But, what if the world is from our dreams?
I know the world extant is a fantasy; it resides in the remembered realm, in places formed through theory before they become absolute. How else can I explain yesterday and tomorrow if not filtered through some transformational lens into the present - a telescope? a microscope? - revealing details that plot and solidify reality for the awakened five senses.
06/04 Direct Link
‘This is terrible,’ she said. ‘I’ve come out without my umbrella.’ An emotional puddle threatened to fall as she jigged about in the doorway, tears shining in her eyes.
We were standing on the library steps, streetlights shining on the wet pavers with winter and the shortest day fallen around us. I felt none of her gloom and despair. With a plastic raincoat and handknitted scarf, nestled in a cocoon of warmth, I was shielded from her terror and the island of grief she was raising. The sympathy she was seeking did not come from me as I walked away.
06/05 Direct Link
‘I present myself to you - a woman of many extremes,’ she said and bowed, her arm sweeping a deep arc including everyone in the room, even while she maintained eye contact with those looking down from the high table.
‘I am a woman who has a heightened self-regard, a rarity in any time and place; I carry age lightly, although the wraps and folds to compact its length occasionally hinder my movement.’ Light laughter, randomly dispersed, mingled with the quieting of shifting feet, chairs resettling, cutlery, as the crowd, anticipating an interlude to the formal evening, turned to watch.
06/06 Direct Link
A large man rose ahead and rapped on the table calling attention. With candles flaring in the draughty hall, it seemed his shadow danced up the wall behind him. Pulling his gilded and embroidered robe closely around his shoulders, he waited for the murmuring in the hall to cease before he spoke: ‘Welcome to our celebration: we celebrate winter and our harvest.’
‘I ask your forbearance if I miss a courtesy and offend, we do not know your customs, pleasures or vices; we have not come to bargain or trade but are passing through and seek shelter for the night.’
06/07 Direct Link
‘We have been following the seasons in our travels, the cold has been catching us up as the days become shorter.’
She walked down the hall between heavily laden tables. From the entrance, it had been difficult to judge the size of the smoke-filled room, the number of people. Evening had fallen as they'd entered the village and followed the noise here.
As her eyes adjusted to the semi-gloom and she saw a long high-ceilinged room extending back filled with crowded tables. The men were eating and drinking; women were here too, mainly carrying trays of food, pitches of drink.
06/08 Direct Link
Seated at the high table, dressed in rich embroidered robes, were three men and five women.
The women were silent: pale and statuesque with hair bound up, pinned with luminous jewels, their necks hung with ropes of pearls, their shoulders bare. Had their privilege been bought by wealth and favour, through marriage, or were they possessions on display? She saw no sympathy there, no sign of support or recognition.
In the body of the hall, at long tables, she passed crowds of battle-weary men, their tables over-burdened with food, constantly replenished by serving women carrying heavy platters of smoking meat.
06/09 Direct Link
As she entered she’d noticed the silent exchange between the three men as they glanced over the smooth shoulders of their companions. There was a dangerous conspiracy awaiting here. It would not serve her interests to come between them: a rebuff to one would be taken as an insult to all.
Still standing, the man who had addressed her earlier, beckoned her forward.
‘Will you dine with us?’ he said. ‘Many would be entertained by tales of your journey. This road is not often taken by travellers this time of year.’
‘Your offer is generous,’ she said. ‘We thank you.’
06/10 Direct Link
I was leading when we first saw the lights in the valley. We were walking single file and, turning along the path away from the setting sun, lights could be seen blooming up through the thickening mist below. We weren’t going to get to shelter tonight, and when the path forked off, it didn’t make sense to go on in the dark: eventually we agreed and took the downward branch towards the habitation. We had been travelling for days, avoiding all settlements and contact with other travellers, but now it was time to re-group, rest and plan the next stage.
06/11 Direct Link
Wilderness is a myth, an illusion. After cities, you pass fields and settlements; leaving them behind, space and the horizon opens out before you. You crest a mountain and see nothing under the sky but bush then, further out grasslands and water, birds flying. But, what you see cannot be yours. Nature wraps around; you feel peaceful, shielded; it gives you a false sense of ease. This feeling is an emotional response to the absence of humans, but we walk on bones. There is nowhere on this world humans haven’t set their feet and held on with force, with prejudice.
06/12 Direct Link
The first response to something new and shiny is to take ownership of it and exclude everyone else, to keep it for yourself. Humans are not an innocent species: we consume and prey on the environment and those around us to live; we ruin and destroy and move away; we are the disruptors seeking our own advantage. As newly born, when there are no consequences, when we can consume without contribution, we learn these behaviours, and this privileged life makes us cruel and selfish. Life teaches us to expect more and if it isn’t given, to take it by force.
06/13 Direct Link
Smaller territories, those located far from legal armies and laws are where we have frequently encountered aggression. The inhabitants in these places were more self-reliant than average settlers and this made them distrustful of strangers and rebellious. We had moved at a fast march and were a good week away from any central agency protection if we had wanted it.
Our path descended steeply and then flattened out as we approached the lights. We saw evidence of cleared ground and harvested crops, fencing to keep in herds and to keep out other predators and in the distance, some prominent buildings.
06/14 Direct Link
The main settlement could be easily defended: set in a cleft in the mountain they looked down on their farmland in the plains. We could see shelters perched on the cliffs above where small fires were lit and sentries watching our advance down the narrow path. On a flat area, within view of the settlement, we set up a temporary camp to rest and wait. It would not be long before they sent out an envoy to question us.
We saw the harvest had been recently gathered in the fields. Across the stubble, the setting sun bathed the ground red.
06/15 Direct Link
We camped outside the fence-line where the vegetation was plentiful and varied, green and sweet-smelling. Many years must have passed since this herbage leading to the main gates had been needed to feed their stock: an indication of good management or good luck, possibly that the inhabitants had a level of prosperity and lived comfortably. The defences we passed were evidence enough that they guarded what they had. If we approached peacefully, posed no threat and were accepted, we might be able to winter here. If there was resistance, we could rest, exchange services for fresh provisions, and move on.
06/16 Direct Link
The damp evening air descended, and shadows lengthened around us. We had put up three small shelters where the children had been settled, but not lit fires as we waited. There were lights ahead, and black silhouettes of sentries moving across the gates, the number of people behind the barricade increasing, no doubt, as news of our arrival spread. Before long a group separated itself and Avron and I stood and met them as they advanced down towards our camp, the last of the sunset blazing in their faces exaggerating angles and lines, their heavy clothing creaking, metal weapons clanking.
06/17 Direct Link
No doubt, sentries had passed news of our journey down as we approached.
‘Greetings, sirs.’
I had walked out far to meet the group, as I spoke they halted. There were six men standing behind a leader, strategically fanned out, so their weapons were unhindered, and with clear views in all directions. Restraint and discipline evident, their movements precise and co-ordinated.
‘Welcome strangers,’ was the leader’s response, though there was little welcome evident in his face as he peered past me towards our temporary camp, his eyes narrowing. ‘You seem to have travelled far. Tell us: what are your plans?
06/18 Direct Link
‘My name is Aneil,’ I said. Turning to my left I gestured widely, drawing attention behind me, to Avron. ‘My travelling companion, Avron.’
Details of objects and people in our camp would be limited seen from this distance, in the dimming light. Wearing clothes designed for travelling quickly, leather boots and close-fitting garments, it was evident we were unarmed. My hands were free and as I turned they saw I concealed nothing. Behind me Avron bowed, his arms dipping to the ground in a curving arc. An element of pantomime, no doubt, but entertainment has powers to soothe jangled nerves.
06/19 Direct Link
Openness is a form of misdirection, an illusion; it allows us to reveal only what we want known, what we want to tell at this time, and to deflect suspicion and questions.
With the guard’s attention focussed on us and away from my companions, I continued: ‘We will camp here tonight as the young children are fractious after a long march. Tomorrow, in daylight, with your permission, we will formally approach and introduce ourselves.’
There was a pause before the leader spoke again, long enough to be orchestrated by the clang of metal as his companions became restless behind him.
06/20 Direct Link
‘Your fellow travellers must say in your camp. There is information you need to give us tonight.’ He pointed to two of the outlying guards, gesturing them towards our camp. ‘Your friend can go back to tell your people what is happening. You must come with me.’
There was grit in his voice; his natural tendency no doubt was to be over-cautious, probably why he was chosen for this work. Avron nodded to me turned and followed the marching guards. At the camp several members of our team stood, looking anxious.
‘At your service,’ I said. ‘Please lead the way.’
06/21 Direct Link
‘Avron,’ I called out to him. ‘Can you bring me a coat, please, friend?’ When I saw his arm rise in reply I turned back to the guards. ‘I didn’t come out prepared. Can we wait a moment, he will be quick?’
It was not cold that made me do this, I didn’t like obeying commands. By asking them to wait and not asking permission first, I had taken charge. It was not outright disobedience, it was a test: I wanted to see how the leader responded to my request and see how far his manners and patience would stretch.
06/22 Direct Link
His behaviour so far had been severe and correct: he had not acted without manners, but there was an underlying threat. I wanted to know much it meant for him to be in charge and what would he do when he wasn’t obeyed. ‘How should I address you, sir?’
‘Stay here and bring the garment,’ he said pointing to two of the remaining guards and turning to me: ‘We will move now. You can call me Captain.’
In the dark, his expression could not be read.
As we started walking, movement behind the barricades showed growing interest in our arrival.
06/23 Direct Link
‘Captain, excuse my curiosity, but is your title something carried with you from the sea? I know of captains of ships.’
As we started walking side-by-side with the two guards following I had checked my pace to match his. From running the hills with moderately light packs I was used to a long stride and quick pace; he marched, his speed dictated by the heavy clothing and armaments he carried, probably learned in military training.
‘I have no ship,’ he replied.
‘But, you have trained soldiers with you, heavily armed,’ I said.
I lengthened my stride, increasing the pace slightly.
06/24 Direct Link
Six guards had come with the Captain to our camp; we had seen other sentries on the trail down; and a barricade around the settlement that would be continuously guarded. But, we had no idea of the capability of the force they had to secure this settlement or total numbers. Inside the barricade, I might be able to assess the threat they posed; I might even see what it was they were protecting.
It was clear they did not think us very much of a threat, with only two guards were monitoring our camp and two guards waited for Avron.
06/25 Direct Link
There are many ways to control situations: for all these, surprise is the key, achieved by being in control of a situation, or knowing where control resides and how to unsettle it. You can surprise by being quick, but not too often. Quick is what people look for, what they expect. Most preparation is put in place for how to confound that first quick move. I choose contrary moves.
‘What is your hurry?’ Captain said.
I had increased the walking speed significantly until, about halfway to the settlement, I could see the guards were struggling to keep up with us.
06/26 Direct Link
‘Captain, you worried I’ll get there ahead of you?’ I turned around laughing, and started slowly walking backwards, watching the guards behind catch us up. ‘You play a dangerous game,’ he said. ‘One that could make you enemies.’
Approaching the lights, I could see his face, but he still gave little away.
‘Stand here,’ he said. The barricade opened, and he walked through, disappearing into the crowd that parted before him. Behind him the gates closed.
‘Not a very friendly welcome,’ I said to the guards. ‘Your Captain doesn’t say much.’
I saw them exchange glances, stand firmly to attention.
06/27 Direct Link
It wasn’t long before the other two guards jogged up, one bearing my coat over his arm. While waiting, neither guard had responded to my questions and I could see nothing though the gates. The coat was welcome when it arrived: we did not get any warmth from fires in the compound, the night was clear of clouds, the crystal clear air cold and bracing.
I was carefully watched, the guards prepared for resistance or flight. Controlling my movements and containing me at the settlement was important to them, the Captain probably saw it as an advantage in future negotiation.
06/28 Direct Link
When you enter settlements the first thing you notice is the politics, how people act together: deference towards that person, invisibility worn by others, how people group themselves and band into parties where they seek comfort from their familiars. Small groups form, secrets grow, closely followed by jealousies, mistrust, and greed.
Towns and villages tended to be more open and egalitarian; they rely on each other, share more. They trust each other and hold common purposes and values: their walls are thin. Settlements grow like bubbles, building walls between competing or disparate groups, maintaining secrets to control supply or skills.
06/29 Direct Link
The barricades and high fences, the number of trained guards and sentries surrounding this settlement, indicated a siege: they feared or were cautious of the world beyond their enclosure.
The settlement in front of me probably used intimidation or coercion on the nearby towns and villages where food and clothing was sourced in exchange for protection. Could it be that the villagers now need protection mostly from those tasked with protecting them?
Maybe shortages or a bad harvest had soured the milk, had changed everything. Inside there was glut and opulence, and the people were well-fed, healthy and warm, yet overly-suspicious.
06/30 Direct Link

It had been seen before, where power corrupts and undermines even the best-made plans. I was seeing it now as I walked up the long hall to the main table to take up the voiced invitation.

The Captain had collected me at the gate and we moved, together with the escorts, without explanation past large stone buildings to one rumbling with talk and laughter, the clatter of dishes. The doors opened expelling plumes of smoke, the smell of rich food, and the level of sounds within turning to a loud roar.

‘Go,’ he said, and stepping forward the story began.