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The ferns are old. Older than the glasshouse, older than the land underneath. They cling tightly to history, gripping on to fissures in time, scattering spores through remote geology. They press themselves into the fossil record, leaving behind ghostly traces of fronds, of damp leaves and spongy curls.
Midnight. The river is swollen, brimming with icy water. It flushes against the bank, slapping frost-brittle leaves, soaking grasses with silt, throwing mud and sticks — searching for a way in. At the edge of the wood, where the land is lower, the water finds an opening. Silently, quickly, it slinks between the trees.
Cinders and ash are tipped, still hot, on to the heap. A volcano smoulders in the autumn air, brooding sulkily over the view of derelict allotments and waste ground where parts of a ruined cold frame lean against rubble from a forgotten building, and weeds clamber over rusted metal limbs.
Frost has licked the ground — stiffening grasses, hardening the earth. Gardeners kick the feet of stepladders with their brown leather boots, securing sturdy triangles beneath the Pergola. They pick the firm, ruby hips for warming teas and bright jellies, trying to avoid the thorns which scratch sticky red jam from their frozen fingers.
The weather is a thief, stealing away the brickwork. Each warm gust snatches at the terracotta — it crumbles and falls as powder on the bracken that scrambles up the earthen bank. Deep shadows are summer resting places — dark liquid pools, shelter from the searing day.
In the middle of the year, the Mound vibrates with summer’s hum. Tall grasses are bleached to scratchy straw; crickets sing relentlessly, rattling in dry, matted stubble — about the heat and the blinding day, which pulses and stings. A plane passes overhead, casting, for a moment, sweet shadow.
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