I realised quite a while ago that I often find myself looking for an excuse to write something, anything, just for the pleasure of writing something.
This search for short-notice inspiration is usually dependant on finding a “hook”, not to draw in readers, but to allow me to fish for any random ideas that may float past in the synaptic soup.
They come in all forms, these mental grappling irons, and sometimes they’re just too subtle for me to notice their existence. But even when I am aware of being hooked, it’s not always by what I expect.
The other night I watched the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road.
Now, you wouldn’t think that the post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son travelling through a world on the edge of extinction, plagued by violent gangs and the ever present possibility of death by starvation would lead to a very positive creative frame of mind.
However, it seems as if “road” must have been the hook that my brain got snagged on this time, possibly due to some imminent changes to my daily routine.
I work about twenty minutes drive from where we live, a journey I have made nearly every week for the last seven years or so.
For most of that time I have driven down the A361 North Devon Link Road, in one direction or another, depending on what shift I’m working, between 5.30 and 6.00 in the morning.
But due to a reduction in hours at work all that is soon to change, and I will be starting work at 8.00 along with the majority of the working population.
Obviously this is of some concern financially, as we will be losing a considerable number of hours pay each week, but I’m not here to complain about my wages.
It’s something more ephemeral that I’m going to miss.
At this time of year the Devon countryside is especially beautiful at sunrise, with the wild flowers in bloom and all the trees resplendent with lush greenery, and I have always considered it a bit of a bonus, even a privilege, to be able to witness the landscape at it’s peaceful best, before the dawn mists disperse and the rest of the world wakes up and people, traffic, and noise break the spell.
Over the years that we’ve lived down here I’ve had a few jobs requiring early starts, and many of them have taken me down the A361 to one destination or another, whether it was for my current job, or as a double glazing rep (don’t ask), or my all time favourite job as a market/County Show trader in high quality garden furniture (who wouldn’t love a job that was essentially driving to various attractive parts of the countryside early in the morning, setting up a furniture display, then sitting around looking as comfortable as possible whilst bantering with holiday-makers and taking advantage of their good humour by convincing them to part with their hard earned cash?)
And on these journeys there have been opportunities to see not only the scenery along the road at it’s best, but also the many types of wildlife that flourish in the area.
Whether it’s the many buzzards circling over the fields, the small, timid Muntjac Deer, badgers, rabbits, or the large number of pheasants in the surrounding fields, there is always something to make the trip interesting.
I have even been lucky enough to catch sight of that most majestic of birds, the Barn Owl on more than one occasion, swooping noiselessly down across the road like a white phantom.
A friend has even had the good fortune to have had one of these ghostly hunters fly alongside his car for some distance, silently shadowing his progress before vanishing into the trees.
So I shall miss the quiet, unspoiled morning scenery when I have to join the commuting conveyor belt in a week or so, but no doubt I’ll still catch the odd glimpse of the inhabitants of this road-bisected landscape.
And, failing that, there is always the small enclave of semi-tame pheasants – descendants of escapees from a nearby country estate that runs a shoot – which I have been feeding, along with the many other species of birds, on site at work for the last few years.
Here is 2Watt the pheasant (he was christened for his apparent lack of brightness) and friends, a couple of years ago, taking advantage of the free food.
Please ignore any off-camera bad language and chattering from me and the others in the now defunct smoking shed.
It just goes to show, in the early hours of the morning when the world is still half asleep, even an industrial park can look reasonably attractive.
(Incidentally, I should just like to say that despite my expectation that The Road would be somewhere between downbeat and downright depressing, I thought that not only was it a great film but that it was also genuinely touching and uplifting in many respects, and I would highly recommend it.)