A Thousand Laurie Lees

A Thousand Laurie Lees by Adam Horovitz

Book: A Thousand Laurie Lees by Adam Horovitz Read Free Book Online
Authors: Adam Horovitz
process that continues as surely as the stream runs under the bridge, as seasons shift and find new ways to express themselves.
    It paid off, this study of landscape, became, three years later, the first poem I wrote that marked for me the change up from the pretty poems of childish preoccupation and the bleak angst of teenage fear (although it combines elements of each). It was written on one of Gillian’s courses, but it looked back at the Slad Valley with a keener eye than I had managed before.
    A N O WL B REAKS THE S ILENCE
    In the deepening contrast
    between night and day

    when an owl breaks the silence
    and the foxes bay

    when the chattering chaffinch
    lays down its tune

    and tissue moths
    flit past the moon

    when millions of fireflies
    wisp in the dusk

    and the butterfly’s cocoon
    is merely a husk

    when the badger is starting
    its nightly round

    and the rabbit is keeping
    its nose to the ground

    when snails creep out
    from under rocks

    and the chicken begins
    to forget the fox

    then the humans in offices
    will do something rash

    and when it snows
    will it snow ice or ash?

    Encounters with Laurie were relatively rare before I was old enough to drink in a pub; the Woolpack was too much a local’s place to get away with brazening a pint aged sixteen or seventeen – I had The Pelican in Stroud for that, part vice-den for the traveller community, part working man’s sinkhole, a pub that promised anarchy and table football and the chance to stare forlornly as the girls from school one fancied were being picked off one by one by older men. Or there were small off-licences selling Thunderbird, a toxic, chemical-addled perry which stripped brain cells, stomach lining and, if you were really lucky, inhibitions. No first long drink of golden fire, this. Never to be forgotten, perhaps, this acrid precursor of alcopops, which stung like factory smoke and clouded the eyes to reason. It made even the occasional quarter bottle of bad blended whisky taste like nectar. Never to be forgotten. Never, please god, to be tasted again.
    Once I reached pub age, however, I saw him every so often in the Woolpack, exchanging pleasantries with him and occasionally talking a little about poetry before moving on. Some of the most memorable encounters with him, however, tended to take place in the impersonal surroundings of Stroud railway station.
    Coming back from college, hauling a heavy backpack, I encountered Laurie several times at the beginning of his canter home from London and the Chelsea Arts Club literary high life through the pubs of Stroud: one at the Imperial, one at the Shunters and see where else might be reached before hitting the Woolpack and home, a rascally glint in his eye and Kathy next to him, making sure that nothing went wrong.
    Charming and just a little bit roguish, Laurie was always a pleasure to meet when gently in his cups; in these high and expansive times he was a purveyor of the finest, most convincing-sounding whoppers and shaggy dog stories to admiring passers-by, glancing over his glasses to see how much was being swallowed. He told people in all seriousness that the planning department was intending to raze Slad and build a motorway through the valley, much to the delight of those he pranked, and he constantly suggested to people that it would be inadvisable for them to get him to sign their copy of Cider with Rosie as it was the ‘rare, unsigned copies that made money nowadays’.
    Laurie was also known to take his new wireless landline phone to the pub with him, his house being near enough down the hill to pick up a signal, and he would apparently hush his drinking buddies when calls came, in a most likely vain effort to conceal his whereabouts. He didn’t keep this impish attitude just for the pub, however; when a newspaper called his friend Val Hennessey to ask her to update his obituary, Laurie, who happened to be there when the call came, took enormous delight in trying to persuade her to

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