Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I came the closest I’ve been in recent years to getting nicked by the police yesterday. Thinking to take my Visitor from the North to have a look at the school where my children went when we first came to the Edge, we drove into the grounds (once the estate of the Lord of the Manor in these parts) and up to the Kindergarten where we were graciously welcomed in by one of the current teachers there who also happens to live in my road. It looked very much as it did when my son of four and daughter of six first went there – aesthetically pleasing with all the things made from natural and beautiful materials, it being a Waldorf school. I wanted also to show her the upper school building where the older children went, and where I myself had once been for two years as a child. The grounds seemed empty of children, the term not yet begun. An angry-eyed woman with metallic hair and a steely expression had been watching me as I drove slowly to and from the Kindergarten. She jumped into action as she saw us drive (very slowly) along the tarmac road within the grounds that led to the main building. She sprinted towards us and began shouting. Driving rather than walking up the path was never encouraged (I used to give myself license when muscles were bad) but now it was clearly forbidden. I indicated that I was leaving, but she ran in front of the car and blocked our exit. I’m not entirely sure what took hold of me, but instead of stopping and engaging with her I decided to reverse the car and drive off (slowly) the way we had come. She banged on the window, shouting that I was a health and safety menace and I saw her following me with a baleful stare from the rear-view mirror.

Back in the village centre, I felt uncomfortably that I ought to go back and find a way of apologising, partly for the sake of expedience – it doesn’t do to make enemies in a village on the Edge where you never know where or in what circumstances you will bump into a person – and partly because of (I am telling myself now) my naturally good disposition. And, I supposed, I had behaved like a bit of a plonker. I didn’t know if I would find her there, but clearly it was karmically ordained and she came over and began her tirade. It took a fair amount of time for her to hear my apology, let alone accept it. She made stabbing movements with her finger and anger rolled from her like big waves looking for somewhere to crash, but they washed over me and I kept surfacing, still able to keep afloat. I am not a bad person, all said and done, had just been a bit thoughtless about current health and safety regulations and the anger that kept coming was hers and did not belong to me. When she had done ranting there was a flicker of something else that crossed her face; helplessness, perhaps. What does she do when she is not angry? She might be the perfect person to have on one’s side when fighting for some cause, but on this occasion all she had was me in my Nissan Micra, an insubstantial demon who was trying to apologise but would not be diminished by her, however long she kept stabbing the air. Less than an hour later the police were at my house investigating, thinking to find a couple of drug-fuelled teenagers out on a speed-crazy joy-ride.

But all’s well that ends well, and we had a merry Epiphany evening chez Signs with some Edge-dwelling friends who came to meet the Forriner and melt the pewter horseshoes she had brought with her. Extraordinary stuff, you hold it in a large, flat metal spoon over a gas flame and when it is molten pour it into a bowl of cold water where it forms into a new shape, which you hold in candlelight to see what the silhouette might reveal about the year to come. Mine was in the shape of a Madonna, with a mermaid’s tail: Stella Maris, Star of the Sea – one hundred percent auspicious, by anyone’s reckoning.

And today the Icemaiden flew north to stay with NMJ and become Scottish for a while. The snow, it seems, has flown with her.


trousers said...

I can but applaud you on your sheer patience and magnanimity - you clearly prevailed where thousands of us wouldn't.

The pewter-melting Epiphany evening sounds lovely and intriguing, and I'm so pleased that the Icemaiden's stay appears to have been as good as I'm sure was hoped for.

Reading the Signs said...

Thank you Trousers, I did perhaps feel a little wobbly for a while and was tempted to try and get Icemaiden to get me off the hook by pretending to be a crazed Russian tourist (why Russian? - her suggestion, actually). And one does need to learn to behave oneself in a village.

Yes, it was a lovely evening - and a lovely few days altogether.

Collin Kelley said...

Kind of you to go back and make amends.

Zhoen said...

Brave to find compassion for her.

Reading the Signs said...

Collin, I have to admit that going back was more to do with trying to save myself any future embarassment.

Zhoen, it seems to be getting easier.

Cusp said...

I'm so glad you've had such a lovely time with your Nordic Visitor. Sounds like she's doing the Royal Tour of the UK. I love the idea of the pewter horseshoes.

As you say, living in a village -- as we both do -- can be a lesson in patience and diplomacy. It's not like living 'up the Smoke' or in suburbia where you barely speak to neigbours, let alone really know them.

It's good to build bridges and know when to be (or at least appear) humble for the sake of peace. Cannot understand this woman's extraordinary rant or the visit from the Boys in Blue. Was Miss Nordic trying to smuggle in Nokia phones or something ?

Hope the New Year will be kind to you all.

Love Cusp x

Reading the Signs said...

hello Cuspie - yes village life. A number of people move here (increasingly the rich and spoiled) thinking that life can go on a per and they can behave as they always did. But word gets round, and the woman you were rude to at a jumble sale may well end up being the woman who serves your pint in the pub, or the mother of your child's new best friend.

The WPC was amazed that they'd been sent round at all. So at least I have no criminal record.

The Periodic Englishman said...

......yet. I feel it's only a matter of time before you have just such a record, Signs, and I'm rather surprised to learn that your slate is still clean. What sort of a poet are you, exactly?

This woman sounds unhappy. I'm very impressed with the way you conducted yourself, of course, but can't think of a single reason why you should have been subjected to such an aggressive outburst in the first place. Horrible. You describe it lightly, but I bet it felt absolutely rubbish and upsetting.

You clearly don't live in a crime hotspot, however, if the police had the time to investigate your crime. So that's something. (I sometimes wonder, though, if village life is not more claustrophobic than that of a big anonymous city? I think I might feel more hemmed in by a few upstanding citizens, as opposed to the millions of wee ants in a city.)

Well done anyway, Signs, you dealt reasonably with unreason.

Kind regards etc....


Anna MR said...

But Signs, can you imagine what trouble we would have had if I had done my "Hai am Raashshian" routine, though, when the police came knocking? I would be at Scotland Yard as we speak now, rather than in Scotland. Just saying.

Dismayed to hear about Cat of Signs' demonstrative act of loathing. Just saying.

Reading the Signs said...

Just now, Mr. Englishman, it has to be said that I am a rejected one. It's enough to make one tear around the village at 100 mph firing a shotgun from the window. That might make people take a bit of notice: we'd better publish something or she might come and shoot us, or isn't that the one who got done for driving up a path in school grounds? Sounds interesting, lets publish her. Clearly something needs to be done and perhaps I missed my opportunity.

I suppose it isn't a crime hotspot, but weird things happen in the sticks - and often one knows the people involved. It doesn't get too claustrophobic for me personally because I am on the edge - and I like it so.

Raashian lady, it was not an act of loathing, it's just delinquency and also a kind of compliment. She made herself right at home there. Fortunately the cover was under the table. Tis washed now and the door is shut.

north said...

love the image of your melted horse-shoe - I did same with candle wax and my image was arather beautiful winged creature which my nephew, by mistake (?) bashed on the wings with a rolling pin the day after. Thinking of you and reading signs I felt bashed myself then saw the centre was still intact and perhaps that is where I must nurture - less soaring flight, more inner substance! Or beware rolling pins out to flatten all things creative. Like your lady with metallic hair! xx

The Periodic Englishman said...

It's never too late to go on a shooting spree, Signs. I'm almost certain that an avenging poet hanging out the window of a (souped-up) Nissan Micra, churning up the village green and reciting fierce tetrameters over the noise of gunfire is just exactly the sort of person that publishers would be interested in. So don't lose heart.

Anyway, yes, I take your point about living on the edge of the village, as opposed to in the centre. It's just a personal thing, I suppose, but I often feel that the freedom offered by country living is maybe slightly illusory.

If there was some way of knowing everybody's business inside out whilst they remained entirely ignorant of my own, well, that would be perfect. Villagers talk, though, and have a habit of being more interested than they should be. The mute indifference of a frazzled city-dweller can sometimes seem quite attractive, in these circumstances.

Right so. Time to tool up, Signs. I look forward to reading of your carnage in the papers. ("Local poet shoots local people, locally. A locality mourns.")


Reading the Signs said...

Ms North, Once the image is made it can't be unmade. A mutual friend of ours had an image that meant money but it got crushed by someone later on. Next day she won £18 on a scratch card - not a fortune but still. So you get to keep the wings, I reckon.

Luciferic Horseman, if I go on a mad spree in my souped up Nissan firing iambic pentameters and anapests willy nilly at unsuspecting villagers and knocking them dead with my line breaks, they will be able to come here and see who it was that incited me to such acts.

I think I would still be the edgy sort even if I were living in the centre. But anyway it's fine here. I sees the peeps I likes and I keeps me own counsel elsewhere. And them that talks - well I don't have to hear 'em, and sticks an' stones etc. Ar.