A sweet disorder in the dress Kindles in clothes a wantonness; A lawn about the shoulders thrown Into a fine distraction; An erring lace, which here and there Enthrals the crimson stomacher; A cuff neglectful, and thereby Ribands to flow confusedly; A winning wave, deserving note, In the tempestuous petticoat; A careless shoe-string, in whose tie I see a wild civility: Do more bewitch me, than when art Is too precise in every part. (‘Delight in Disorder’ – Robert Herrick)
Ordinary, unremarkable life is the norm for most places and most people. But sometimes stuff happens, even in remote villages like Little Wigborough, a habitation on the salt marshes of the Blackwater estuary in Essex.
The Empire expanded, cess-pits were banned, water grew thick with steamships and sewage and the docks pushed east out into the marshes, breaking the horizon with a forest of cranes that unloaded meat, cloth, tobacco and grain from countries that my school atlas still colours pink. (‘River History’ – Lavinia Greenlaw)
Like a library in a dream or romance, Thomas Plume’s Library is reached via a stone spiral staircase. Low light and low ceilings, bookcases of solid oak, displays of ancient bindings, oil paintings with muted tones: a pocket of 18th century spacetime somehow enduring on Maldon High Street.
The driver is a taciturn man but holds immense power over the passengers on the journey. He determines the route but does not share it with them, he speaks to the border officials in incomprehensible tongues, he tells them when and where they can eat, piss and shit.