In the auction room – once a Methodist Chapel –

on the Holyhead Road to Llangollen,

above the gorge the River Dee cut

before the last ice age, Lot 59

is an Arctic Fox: in the catalogue:–

‘A good example of Victorian

taxidermy, with some discolouring

of the tail. Circa 1845’.


That year, Franklin’s expedition left the Thames

to chart the North West Passage: lead poisoning,

learning nothing from the Inuit, ice

killed them all.



The rising wald is auburn, the lake

so still swans seem painted and the hotel’s lawns

that last, lush green before October dies.

Breakfast is muted. Beyond service doors,

a wireless is switched on. Each swing utters

a broken voice. “Oh Mensch! Gieb Acht!…sorrow

is deep…but joy more profound than the heart’s

agony…” And most of the guests look up

towards sun on the woodlands, the war

and smile. But some, as yet only a few,



Turn one way and scores of Little Egrets

are roosting with complaining Carrion Crows

in aged ash trees. Turn half a circle and,

beyond the marsh, in Wales, Tata Steel thrums.

(Ironically, most of this is a built

environment. Canalising the Dee

silted the estuary, created marshland.

The RSPB has re-engineered

the wetlands, constructing pathways and hides

so we can see and preserve). Earlier

there was excitement – a solitary Jack Snipe

was twitched and a Glossy Ibis south west winds

had blown from southern Spain.



Along the avenue of shorn maples,

leaded lights are discreet – distantly,

the cathedral darkens in a rose sunset.

A piano lesson begins, as cars turn

into drives and a door opens broadcasting

the six o’clock news. At an upstairs

window, a woman holds a baby, sees

nothing in the crepuscular room, hears

only the snuffle of breath on her neck,

the small heart’s beat, the swaying lullaby –

amid ordinary, pink perspectives

of curbed greenery, herbaceous living

and bells telling the hours.



On the manicured corniche between Elounda

and Plaka – before the balconied hotels

that rise up the mountainside tier by

expensive tier – is the Turkish Governor’s house,

abandoned for nearly a century.

We venture up the steep, pitted drive

but sudden howling from unseen dogs

deters. On the opposite side of the bay,

where only widows on donkeys go,

the shore is festooned with plastic bags

shredded by the tides and bleached by the sun.

The foundations of the antique city

of Olous shimmer beneath the water.