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I Spoiled My Ballot

Monday 19th November, a clear morning at seven, darker now. The long-tailed tits on the elm tree and the maple again, how very small they are, and how lively and pretty and insouciant. I hope they're finding what they want, and that they'll make ours a regular venue. Yesterday, bright and clear and mildly chilly, we walked out from Lancing to Coombes. Draggled Old Man's Beard in the hedges; not a very good year for berries in Sussex, but vintage autumn colour. In the hollow way down to Coombes church I stopped to listen to a robin, in an astonishing glory of yellow-gold maple leaves, above me, all around and under foot. Last time we passed this way, records show, was in 2006, so it was a relief (one always expects the worst these days) to find Coombes church where we had left it, tiny and humble, with its bellcote no bigger than a beehive at the West End. We sat for a long while watching a sparrowhawk, perched on the bellcote, until she flew off, probably annoyed at us for nattering and scaring the game. The church restored since our last visit, and thanks to the work of Ann Ballantyne, their wall painting conservator, the fragmentary paintings more vivid, and (a bit) easier to make out. The earliest, and best of them, date from about twenty years after the Conquest. What a riot early mediaeval churches were! And then on to the South Downs way, which passes above Coombes through a large free range Pig City these days. What splendidly untidy animals pigs are, so human in their capacity for making a heap big mess and frolicking in it. How cheerful they seemed, with their crowds of commensal starlings, trotting in and out of their barrel-houses, and watching us with interest. The sun was going down, and as we turned towards the sea the wintery grass ahead of us was full of gossamer, skeins and skeins of it, strung quivering and silvery between the grasses. So much of it and so fragile we were mystified, until crouching down to ankle level revealed the presence of tiny, tiny green spiders, the creators of this ephemeral art work. There must be hundreds of thousands of them up there. It's easier to get away from the feeling of the conurbation if you head east from Brighton, but westward and up onto the downs there's a different beauty, especially approaching sunset on a bright winter day, with a quarter moon straight above, getting whiter and whiter in the deepening blue, a wide sunset sky, and the Channel all flat washes of aquamarine and silver. Walking into this frame, with the silver leads of gossamer rippling away from the path at my feet, like distant frail reflections of the high fair-weather clouds that dappled the sky, made me think somehow of Seamus Heaney's poem A Kite For Michael and Christopher (scroll down). Something about, the gossamer of happiness, (or joy?) being anchored to the strumming, rooted, long-tailed pull of grief?

Anyway, I spoiled my Police Commissioner ballot. An APB went out from 38 Degrees that day, imploring us all to vote, to save the police from privatisation. But I reviewed all the Sussex candidates' answers to that question, and none of them said no, definitely not. Specially not the Labour guy, and besides, this is Sussex. I knew who was going to get in. I've got a feeling about these Police Commissioner elections. I think there was no cock-up, not at all: they happened just the way they were supposed to happen. Under the radar. David Cameron is very happy with a low turn out, all he wanted to was to get the mechanism in place for making the interior security forces into what he wants them to be. Answerable to political bosses and the profit motive, not to the public. And he's done it.

First the butter, then the guns. It's worked before, it'll work again.

No, the keynote photo is not a tree. It's a C11 seraph, apparently. Six wings and four fine feathered feet too. What weird skeletons they would have, but since in real life so to speak, seraphs are sentient energy-forms that shepherd the stars or something (cf Henry Gee's Sigil trilogy), that's probably not an issue.

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