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Three girls on the underground – as a I change from hammersmith to district to northern – that catch my eye one after the other.

The first has long hair that catches and blows in the wind from the open window, like a misted spidernet, cobwebbing the thick air.

The second has tattoos of swallows flying across her feet, indigo ink wings and forked tails.

The third sits opposite me – and draws something with a stubby pencil on a scrap of card, the lead licked black and shiny with use.

This week I cycled along the canal to Hackney past the green water and gas station and power lines. There is blossom falling to my face and the ring of the bell echoes under the dank arches of the bridge. Locks and sweeping willow and graffiti spray and smell of standing water and weed. I think of Alice Oswald’s Dart – that slim little volume of poetry, slippery to the touch, and read in an hour curled up in a chair in the old flat. I can only dream of writing like this.

“What I love is one foot in front of another. South-south-west and down the contours. I go slipping between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out

listen

a

lark

spinning

around

one

note

splitting

and

mending

it

and I find you in the reeds, a trickle coming out of a bark, a foal of a river

one step-width water

of linked stones

trills in the stones

glides in the trills

eels in the glides

in each eel a fingerwidth of sea”

In Victoria Park the beech trees are flowering with white blossom lanterns like candles, alight in the dusky, early-to-bed afternoon.

Over the weekend I am in Manchester seeing friends: Sarah – gin soaked with eyes like almonds – and Lauren – my old flatmate who is back from China. She and I haven’t seen each other for a year and a half but it doesn’t feel like a day.

In the bus station on the way home, two old men sitting behind me remind me of Trods and Grandpa Les. They are discussing football and the weather and their grand-daughters, their voices thickening with pride. “Our Julie was saying she can’t be mithered with this new boyfriend” one was saying and the other mumbled along, “weren’t Blackpool unlucky? Them three points… were that with the elbow? Wey I wouldn’t be in town tonight for no-one”. They make me smile and I watch them as they go off to get the tram, stooped a little against the light rain.

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