Saturday, 29 August 2020

Becoming Your Own Troll

Becoming Your Own Troll

The St Mark’s Flies hatched late in this hot spring. Usually they can be relied upon to be turn up on their saint’s day: a fluttering black follow-up to St George’s destructive tendencies, appearing on 24th April with their blundering, drunken flight. While heat should encourage an early hatching, maybe it was also too dry. Certainly, sitting here on gritstone rocks looking own on the moss, I had missed the squelch it usually took to get here. The sense of an imminent wallow if I strayed into the boggy bits was gone and my wellies felt clumping and redundant. Sitting here now, a month later, at last, the flies were out with their bulging eyes (the males) and hairy legs, their feathered antennae (males again) and thick egg-bloated bodies (females), landing awkwardly and wearily on the pages of my notebook before dropping off the edge of a page and wandering away again.


Sleeping under heather and heath.

Inviting grouse to nest in the rich thickets of her hair,

Once a year, eyes of cloud and sky open,

As she rises from dreaming

To dance with her cousins of the Tors.



A beetle takes off from the prow of that notebook, a straight-line, don’t stop me, buzzing flight leading my eyes down and over shades of sand and fawn and green and darker green, grass and rush and moss with the heather somewhere between grey and green and mauve with just the first few frecklings of flowers.


Tussock, the Marsh Boggart

Hidden in the Moss

A clump of rush,

Of sedge and grass and stone,

Pebble eyes opening when you have squelched past,

A rustle and whisper and a slight drip,

Rising from the mud and the mools,

To follow you, to pause, to hide, to sink again,

To follow again.

Sparking marshfire from fingertips,

A lamp to light your way,

Homewards maybe.

Or swampbound.



It is good here in the edge of the ridge soaking in the cloud light and gleams of sunshine

Sit here long enough, quiet enough, casual enough and you become the stone as well and the bird on the next rock sings and a vole forages in the shadow of my stone self.


There are lots of small birds, keeping low, in the heather, among these tumbled tor-stones, in the willow scrub but this warmth of cloudy sky is empty. A single raven flew across earlier but there are no buzzards soaring now, no stray seagulls, no swifts. A summer sky empty of swallows


Gritstone skin on a stoneface troll, folded down, here, with grass in the creases of her joints and something scrabbling holes in a nostril. The ravens come and talk, a crow flies by on lazy wings, a curlew calls. Ever so rarely, a hen harrier will rest on a head-rock watching the moss for movement


I had been reading a chapter about old Norse mythology and a proposal that the beings we meet now as different types of creatures: Aesir, Vanir, Giants and Trolls originally were not seen as separate species but were more like tribes of the same basic lifeform and that was why Giants and Aesir (the gods) could so easily marry and why exchanges between them all were often so evenly matched. The piece went further, however, suggesting that even less than separate tribes, to be described as a Troll, in particular wasn’t because you were in some way troll-monstrous (and you were always very far from some vindictive 21st century digital grouch). To be a Troll was to be in a magical state, to be in a personal condition where you were either ready to, or were already, working enchantments. That quality of “trollness” could descend upon anyone and then they might be called entrolled and that possibly our “enthralled” comes from the same root where thrall was to be caught in that magical troll-state. It felt a bit tenuous, my memory probably changed the detail but I’m a storyteller, point me in a direction and let me go, or light my blue touchpaper and stand back….the thought of people becoming entrolled was enough…..


Stop talking and listen,

Stop listening and watch.

Stop watching and feel.

Stone is good.

The curve of a rock face,

The fern in the fold,

The lichen on the edge,

The moss,


Don’t think. Just look.

Don’t look, just feel.

Don’t feel, just be,

Touch it. Lean on it,

Lie down on it,

Be warmed by it,

Just be beside it until





I have been working on a project for Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. With funding the Arts Council England’s Emergency Fund, the Museum has commissioned work from a number of local artists*, inviting us to respond to both the current exhibition, Between Two Worlds, and to the current situation and offer ways in which the Museum could be a point around which the community turns, or be an agent standing as an organisation between two worlds, the world that was and the worlds that we might be becoming. My work is being turned into a series of story-poem films which we’ll start posting soon…but posts like this, my thinking, gathering, rambling posts, are appearing here…..


A wind blows round the edges of me,

Me, green as the grass,

Me, brown as the earth,

Bristling beech husks, that’s me

And the river runs through the hollow shape of me,

Here I stop.

Here I let go

Here I can be still.

Here I become my own troll.

* Wonderful people like

Martin Olsson

Sarah Males

Aidan Rhode

The Green Man Gallery

Caroline Chouler

and more....

Images: the scan is from one of my troll drawings...sorry it is so poor! Photos are from the landscapes around Buxton where I live


Some of my best friends are Trolls, and Boggarts, 

and  Beasties and Bits

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