‘Street View’, 2010

A road. Obvious exits: north, south.

Below: flecks of copyright, easy to ignore in lichen and moss, spiral dead centre—away from the small drain buried in the curb. A drain!

It might have rained. It was damp in the cave for sure. We lit it with the flash from our cameras—shrieking as we aimed at the backs of each other’s eyes.

Crane up and the sky flashes white. There’s a halo to follow round, pink and green over the hidden cave then reset to azure over the west. It’s not the winter. Wait a little and the sun on the far hills will spill onto this one, brimming the walls. The van’s in the way, map folded open on passenger seat, but behind it there’s a windowless barn. Behind the barn the ground’s been levelled by a Scout troop. Good old Scout troop—level the dales!

The photographs showed us that the cave was damp in ways we hadn’t seen. We studied each shot on our screens before choosing how to move.

In the oven, in the barn, the potatoes, unpricked, burst.

Swinging back (see! you get used to the distortion) the slope rises as a good cake should: it ruptures, just a little, and the soft soil underneath shows. On the horizon, fringed with the artefacts of a digital compression we’ll laugh about in our lifetime, could be cairns.

You were so determined over that cairn! We just set the cameras to record and watched! Each time you felt good about the height it fell. You wanted to see it from the road.

And you wanted the warmth of the barn. So we left.

Could we have turned back?

No, the hillside would have moved on.

Besides, the potatoes were ready.

Wait till you open the oven! Then the night. You had never been so cold—or maybe it was hot, maybe it was the stove. You’d never relied on a stove so much, you needed as much practice as it did, Andrew’s father feeding it over the summer to ready it from new for the winter. Your face went red!


Burnt sugar cannot be stressed enough. Okay?

Obvious exits: none.

What a lie! You really felt trapped?

Turning back was not an option.

I found a way, didn’t I?

I tried. I got onto the railway track.

Three kinds of fence protect the railway. Buddleia patrols. The track and streets on either side have been straight for hundreds of miles. The architecture gave up: houses and pubs only just pull off six-sidedness. Flair is saved for the road, patched and cobbled. In the corner—

Dead end.

—corner (the slightest road sign proves it) —

Blurred for looking like a numberplate.

—the slightest road sign directs away from a gate that happens to be unlocked. Look up and angle the screen—mess with the brightness a little—for a sort of vertigo where the sky is white with sun.

The railway was too muddy for you. I chose the satellite dishes—you remember the signs said London Telepad!

You had the better imagination! I had the quicker eyes. I found signs to point at and you took the photographs, spinning them out on Facebook.

You were scared to turn back. You always were. You were scared you would have seen the picket line sprayed on the wall fade some more and the van of racing pigeons confirm its stasis. You would have hoped it had been the other way.

I didn’t have to—through the satellite dishes you found the ferry.

Zoom out and it becomes small and clear and winter.


The end of a small road at odds with the beginning of shingle dunes. Yes, we can see into your garden. No, we don’t mind. The road is lined with cars, most of which are large enough for holidaying comfortably. To the south there’s easily more sky than land.

Obvious exits: back.

But then we were higher than normal, our seven-seater upgrade snuck past the sleeping guard in the rental car park.

The view lacks the frame of a car: a mirror and a mascot would help. On the east side of the street there’s a ruined castle pegged by park benches—not that we noticed.

We were thinking about turning back.

Thinking! It’s a dead end!

Could we have walked?

We were driving. We were meant to be driving forward! Melis had the wheel, you had the stereo.

Ca Plane Pour Moi!


It would have made a good picnic spot.

We’d already eaten—toasting the same sea with fish and chips, each of us after the flattest the closing takeaway would batter.

There’s a parking space past the wall.

You’re watching that man pull of his shirt. He’s watching back.

Look down too long to really start doubting yourself.

On the brow of the sea wall a man with a surveyors tripod stoops to fix something. Reverse up the street—

Melis drives just as well backwards!

—and he stands up looking west, ignoring where it smudges and folds. Perhaps he appreciates the view into the garden!


A building, a lawn, a hedge, an esplanade and a sea—all as long as each other.

You forget the parking bays!

All empty. It’s not so hard to line the word ‘Esplanade’ alongside them: Esplanade forward, Esplanade back. To the south, beyond the sea cabbage, sail ships to almost anywhere you like. The horizon buckles a little. The length of things betrays the curve of the world and the shingle on the beach, some of its joins.

Look. Obvious exits: follow Charlie.

Charlie, a dog, has learned to pick out any pebble thrown for him. He knows the salt of your hand from the salt of the sea. Good boy! The poor resolution does not matter to him.

To the east (for now) a blue Ford makes a lonely parade. The driver’s wound down the window.

Zoom out for an ice cream van.

We turned back here.

We had to. Look! There are too many windows, it was all too improbable. Any further might have caused a sort of damage. There were too many windows and too much horizon.

But it never felt wide, it never quite made it as a panorama, instead it was just this repetition, a thumbing-through of sea and lampposts.

Imagine! From every window the same view!

And Charlie wasn’t into it.

There’s a breeze off the sea that passes through the Ford’s window and catches a line of flags outside the barracks.

You forgot the wind—you were so concerned about choosing a future. You’ll only eat rice tonight, borrowing a little of the sauce from ours. In a few months two of us will have the same job and a sympathy for the closed door of a technician’s cupboard. Let’s enjoy the wind.


What a disappearing act! Applaud!

A forest, a road and the interruption of a stream. Stream and road have challenged each other for miles but for now it is the road, smug, that makes it on the map. Forest, in secret, wins.

Obvious exits: east, west. But you never were obvious.

And it rubbed off, didn’t it?

On the north side of the road a small foot bridge and the brightest of the sun. To the west the road, wet, carries all the blue of the sky. Centred overhead a handful of new leaves is all it takes to reveal the beach-ball-curve of the world.

Should we have turned back?

Could, not should. We might have. If you’d asked we might have. But walking on I blended for you all memories of the Little Pond and the Great Pond to the south. I shook the pollen out of the trees.

That was different! It was dusk then. You’re blending it now.

The soil, only a short splash from the ford, is sandy—more than good enough for the pine. The trees here are more used to being seen from under the hoods of bright ponchos, fringed by grey rain.

You’re wearing a hat? A sort of dish? And some sort of condensation? No? There’s a clear rim…

Sweep around at eye level and little surfaces bounce back off branches. The forest is all planes.

I explained that the zing of bluebells was impossible to photograph. We rubbed the heads of pigs.

No! That was different! Look: there are no pigs here and besides the trees only bracken.

You tried to photograph the pollen but it disappeared!

And you tried to photograph the zing.