(More from ‘The Human Race”) Chapter 1: The Green Room

What follows is more from my new prose, ‘The Human Race’.

Chapter 1: The Green Room


Thunder shakes the earth, winds swirl; waves crash against rock, eroding stone into uncountable shards.

Rain comes, sharp and sincere – that first drop to reach the earth.

Then a ray of sun touches the first green shoot to break through newly formed soil.

A first flower unfolds, and with it, the first hint of hope.

How immense is that? Is that big enough for you?


Long ago, I sat near the thrombolites of Lake Clifton, where life is said to have begun. I sat near those living rocks with a Buddhist. Green-black trees hemmed us in.

‘The lizard has been here longer,’ the Buddhist said. ‘It taught me the meaning of stillness and silence.’

I wait…

Perhaps for an eternity.

‘The Christmas spider,’ the Buddhist said, ‘taught me how to shine.’


Under the cover of snow, how easy it is to forget: grass is not the enemy; green is not something you should envy. How easy it is to forget.


Travelling through this sick-stained land is not to travel to more verdant times and places, when orchards and waterways were filled with fairy folk. It is the oldest joke, this myth of merrie England. More likely a curse: England’s bedrooms and battlefields filled with the wrath of unknown gods.

How to transform these old metaphors:

Shrunken rock set in a briny sea.

Shrinking rock swarming with Brexiteers: unhappy breed.


In between Aprils, spring waters spark a plastic disaster.

A pool forms. Alongside it, a weeping willow grows.


In the schoolroom, pastel pictures of skies and suns and seas and flowers are pinned into the walls. An old globe gathers dust. Children lose themselves in books. A teacher strikes the rulers of England across the palms of their outstretched hands. A school bell signals the end of another day of maps and signs and symmetries and certainties. The children chase into the sun-clad smell of sweet grass and meadow flowers. They make daisy chains. They skim flat stones across the ancient river.

How refreshing to know that the soul of a child is still full of play in spite of the solidity of straight lines and tidy handwriting.


Was the alchemist’s dream to re-create the sun?

Was Midas wrong?

Was it best not to fly too near for fear of being burnt?

 I didn’t know the answers during those gold and delicious days of girlhood, as I lay on the banks of high summer, counting the lucky stars.

I didn’t know anything.

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