Ancient rituals shine a light on why we need our boundaries.

Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash

A murmuring throng, led by a rector and a red cassocked-choir, shuffles west along the narrow street on Ascension Day. Apart from the cleric, every member of the moving crowd holds aloft a withy of hazel five or more feet long as they make their way down Pembroke Street in the heart of Oxford.

As is the case with many old English streets, the road seems like an accidental route through a jumble of architecture; Regency jostles with crust-coloured Cotswold stone, while genuine, wonky, half-timbered houses from the reign of Elizabeth I rub along with turn-of-the-twentieth century Tudorbethan.

The crowd…

Hometown Memories Up on the Down

A harrying gust of icy raindrops blows along the crest of England’s South Downs as blades of distant sunshine shift and spotlight the town below. It is late October and the afternoon has assumed a burden, almost a petulant sulk. With my eyes stinging, screwed up, squinted tight against a shower of tiny needles, I look for an easier path and head for the coastal strip of suburb below, leaving the high down behind.

I chat with Dad on the way down. I like to keep him up to date with things, the grandchildren he has never met, the wife…

Was it a search as cold and fruitless as my scones?

Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

I leap from a hedge to escape the nettles, arms held aloft like a poorly-controlled marionette, and manage to scare away every single living thing for fifty yards, apart from the grass.

I walked here in search of something special — an eye-wateringly rare raptor — along an old turnpike that crossed the Wiltshire downs and, yard-by-yard, the road had narrowed to nothing. Where once a broad verge allowed cattle to graze, herded along at a shilling a score, the road was now a byway open to only the determined, a wheel rut at the centre of a thicket.

The view from Great Orme Head. Photo by author
The view from Great Orme Head. Photo by author
The view from Great Orme Head. Photo by author

It seems odd to stand on a beach and tilt your head up for a view of the ocean floor, but that remarkable feat can be achieved on West Shore Beach at Llandudno. The cliffs and slopes that terminate each end of Ormes Bay are the petrified remains of a former sea floor — the bottom of a shallow sea, now long gone, that existed over 325 million years ago. This is not unusual; most mountains are made from sediments laid down in the ocean. What is special about limestone uplands like the Great and Little Orme, is that they…

On knowing a father years later

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

The boy knew his father like the back of his hand. The back of his hand, the front of his hand, the father’s palm connects with the boy’s leg in multiple, wild swipes. He’s a man possessed by his own inadequacy. His short temper and busted ambition turn him to a frenzy of hate, barely held, with eyes that betray his fear. Nobody knows in the moment, least of all him, whether it’s fear of who he is or how far he could go. Something inside of him wants the boy to feel it too.

It’s fear stoked by bitterness…

How I washed my hands of anxiety

It seems like an odd time to count your blessings, when the world is focussed on counting its afflictions, punctuated by 20-second choruses of Happy Birthday To You as we dutifully rinse the plague from our hands. But the last year has been all about counter-intuitive, unintended consequences and suddenly being appreciative for any opportunity afforded by extreme threat seems like the least of the contradictions we have to deal with.

Think how half a century of truly global trade and travel have paid us back in economic reversal and complete restriction of movement. See how simple social transactions of…

Ian Vince

Author, writer, online DJ, curios and bric-a-brac.

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