I’m always happy to go to Wilmington, in Polegate, even on a cold cold day. We visited my favourite yew tree, chained outside the church and so old now. I often write about it.
Just up the road, carved into the hillside out of chalk, frequently unremarked and easy to miss: The Long Man of Wilmington. A chalk figure rivalling that of the giant at Cerne Abbas.
Abbas has his great club and priapic member. Wilmington has no vast thrusting member, but… he has two long sticks to make up for it.
Maybe he’s ancient, maybe early modern. There’s arguments for both, although certainly he wouldn’t still be in evidence without extensive sustained curation. That very curation over time could have wiped his history, but he stands there on a slope betraying a knowledge of perspective by his makers. Is he the gatekeeper to the fae realm as Gaiman would have it, or is he the expression of some pissed off Tudor? We don’t know. We won’t know. As with so many things with any true age, we can only really speculate about origin, and as ever I prefer the more interesting and esoteric solution so long as it’s still on the table.
We didn’t find the gateway to faerie today sadly. We went and hung out with an old tree and then we stumped around freezing our asses off but loving the bright sunshine and the light on the downs. We stopped in Alfriston and looked at the church. We happened on some delightfully middle class graffiti:
Lunch took us back to The Sussex Ox and bloody great big pie.
Days like this bring hope. We are past the solstice now so the light is pushing against the darkness once more. It’s a way away to equinox but again it is possible to look out the window of a heated car at the bright sharp light and to think “Summer happened here once, and perhaps it will do again one fine day.” And then as soon as you get out of the car there’s ice all over the place and your hands fall off and you start trying to remember why you had this idea in the first place and quickly decide that it’s worth blowing £16 on a steak pie. It was a hell of a pie. I’m still feeling my gut working through it. The farmer bought a pub. Family run and well sourced fresh food along with the best wine list for miles. I had none though. Ginger beer. Too early, not a weekend, driving, with Lou. All the reasons for restraint.
Late evening took us into the lanes though for a quick catch up with a friend down from London. I see her in the smoke all the time, so a treat to see her here, and I got my lunchtime wine craving out of the system with a good glass of rioja. Now it’s bed, again much earlier than I’m used to. That can only be healthy. A happy day in the bright winter sun. It falls so early that it makes sense to flip the day as much as possible if you’re a night owl. Get the heck out into the morning light and then somehow work out how to do that sleep thing earlier than you have for decades. Lou is a patient teacher of such helpful techniques. I’m trying. I still take a long time to wake up. But one thing at a time.