christopher james

Poems and prattle

Tag: wood

The Hart

Last year I had the misfortune of hitting a deer on the road. Anyone who has had a similar experience will know that the memory lives with you for a long time. I was driving back through Epping Forest after dark, near High Beech, where the forest is at its most dense when the deer stepped out in front of me. It was three metres ahead and I had no time to swerve or even slow down. I remember its eyes, like white squares staring straight at me. In that instant I knew it would die, and had time to consider how bad it would be for me. I remember wondering whether it would go under the car, over it or even through the windscreen. In the event, it rebounded and sprung both forwards and upwards, its legs limp and came to rest by the side of the road. My engine cut automatically and I ran back to check the animal. It was perfectly still and seemed, in the dark, almost miraculously unblemished.


In the moment
before I hit the deer,
a red hart, that has
slipped from the dark
of a royal forest
I find myself looking back.
Blinded by headlights
I feel the blood
freeze in my legs,
and know in a moment
I am dead; I see my
body flung high
my legs swinging
limp in pairs,
my head coming
to rest on a verge.
Shallow breaths,
and now I remember
running through
a stream, the hot sun
on my fur, my mother,
the smell of grass
an ecstatic cry and
everywhere the
thousands songs
of a morning sky.


Weird and wonderful wood

To the Weird and Wonderful Wood festival at Haughton Hall in deepest darkest Suffolk. A tribal gathering for all wood-ish folk, there were wood turners, instrument makers, carpenters, arts and craft people and lots of wigwams, it was a blissful day out – a sort of music festival without the music. Presumably it was only unable to call itself Woodstock for legal reasons.

The children soon got into the spirit of things; Noah, 4, and friend, made an impressive fish from water softened willow, with a little help from Dad.  He was keen to move into the scrap wood area where fathers, sons and daughters were busy hammering their thumbs and driving long splinters into their palms. Noah walked away with an impressive coat rack which he devised himself, with four nasty nails sticking out the other side. He also created a sort of modern art sculpture consisting of three blocks of wood secured with a single nail. He is still sleeping with this artefact.

The street performers are also coming back into season – a waitress on stilts wheeled a ten foot hostess trolley through the crowds, executing a death defying sprint down a steep hill; two identical  park wardens tut-tutted their way around the park pretending to look for heath and safety hazards, while alarmingly, two trees roamed about, which thoroughly terrified two year old Martha.

Perhaps most impressive were the crafts-men and -women demonstrating their skills; a long haired, giant of a man chopped and hewed a log with an axe before a crowd of transfixed onlookers. It was the most unusual form of entertainment, but entertaining none the less – we simply don’t see this work being done. Chairs appear in Ikea and we take them home. There was also the obvious truth that something created with love, care and attention by skilled folk is going to be a) more beautiful b) last much longer.

It was marvellous not only to be outside when it wasn’t raining, but to connect with a simpler way of life. The final memory was of those returning to the muddy field where we parked our cars trying to bundle giant wood sculptures and tables made from tree trunks, into their boots – only to find them too large. So just like a trip to Ikea after all.