There is something about walking in a secluded place that gets my creative juices moving. Tunes come fairly easily for me. I tend to just have to sit with a guitar or mandolin and ‘noodle’ for about 20 minutes and a tune (usually the hook of the chorus) will arrive. But tunes can stay just tunes for years (I’ve got an iPhone full of recorded bits of tunes) because I don’t find writing lyrics as easy. The tune is what draws me into a song, but the words have to say and mean something.
If I want to find the lyrics for a song I tend to pop Oscar’s lead on, and head out into the Sussex countryside. I find myself walking along a secluded country footpath, and after a while I’ll just start singing the melody of the tune out loud. It’s only happened a few times that another walker will turn a corner and find this 6 foot, long-blonde haired Viking singing nonsense and walking towards them. I probably just strike them as a rather happy bloke. Little do they know the creative artistic noise that is going on in my mind.
Almost all of the lyrics for my Sabbat album were found this way. There’s an old disused railway track that runs alongside the River Adur in Sussex. It’s a beautiful path now that stretches almost all the way from Shoreham to Guildford, and that’s where I head with Oscar. Every day we are there. We meet the same people – some other dog walkers, some cyclists, and a few people on horseback. It’s good to stop for a chat with, what are essentially strangers, yet over the years we have seen each other, so talk about stuff English people talk about, then move on along the path. All the time my mind is working over the tune, and placing the odd phrase here and there. Creating the song.
There is something to be said for walking exactly the same route every day too. Each day there are subtle changes. Between now and Beltane there is a total transformation, but again it is slow. In the next few weeks the Spring flowers will begin to appear. I remember last year the excitement I felt seeing the dog violets, celandine, and nettle flowers opening to the growing warmth of the sun. I felt the same way, as I walked and felt the warmth of the sun on my face once more. It’s not too far off to be honest. Just a few more weeks until the clocks change and Spring will be here. I can’t wait. Although, as I stop on a bench along the way, pour myself a nice hot tea from my little flask, and sip it looking out across the bare hedges to the flowing river Adur, I find myself feeling the magic that Winter holds more and more each year.
So now as I walk along this old path across the Sussex countryside my mind reaches out to Wales and the stories of the Mabinogion. But then I know that Blodeuedd lives in these hedgerows too. I remember the breathtaking display of the May Flowers dripping from the branches of the Hawthorns last May, and the flapping wings of Blodeuwedd as She soared above my head, hunting food from the field and edge of the river. A ghostly white shape flapping her wings then dropping onto the green earth.
These stories run through the veins of Britain and sing from the landscape.
I’ll be listening.