Matthew’s intro…

For now my feet are treading the same soil and sheep droppings that they did all those years ago, albeit a little less lithely than even of late. They say that the air is always moving and that it is healthiest that it should do so but it still has the same cold, fresh smell here that it did that day a decade before Old Scots Solomon died , like a mouthful of fresh apple mint after a part-frozen downpour in the early spring. The buffeting wind blows my hair from the same angle although these sparse locks respond differently – so much less of them there are that my hair takes every opportunity to cling to my scalp unlike its untidier behaviour in freer days. This typical Northern sky, an assortment of clouds – white, grey, black, the purple of some Archbishop’s garments , sometimes even yellow, occasionally a wall of pleated maroon, and patches of divine azure, are the gateway for intermittent rays that illuminate and elucidate the Ribble Valley below and reflect a thin wisp of the heavens above us. They prick out the details an idle or tired traveller close up would surely miss: the dank little stone cottages scattered, the tattered byers, hedgerows broken by straying livestock, a scouting fox, its tongue lolling to one side, the shimmering of the Ribble itself as it separates the realms of Lancaster and York – an artery of English history in itself, some latter-day Tempest Wayman roaming and shabby sheepdogs slipping over the slimy slopes between one patch of worn grazing and the next.

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