This article is taken from Stand 235, 20(3) September - December 2022.

Olivia Sutherland The Crowd
And I awoke and found me here,
     On the cold hill’s side.
                       – John Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

I arrive on Monday. You will be here by Wednesday. The spot I choose to pitch my tent is beside the perfect oval of a pond, a bent penny dropped silver in the bowl of the Downs. In other seasons I have seen cows grazing at its fringes and bending to drink, great and creamy and painfully shy, and thick slabs of ice coating the surface of the water. Now, in the summer, there is only the brazen sun beating down, and one windswept tree at the pond’s edge, almost teasingly picturesque.

I have come prepared. I have bread and rice and tins of baked beans, fresh fruit and canned vegetables and pasta and cheese. I have teabags and sugar and chocolate digestives and Tennessee whiskey and even two plastic Tupperware tubs of dahl, bulk-cooked the night before. I have a portable stove and a saucepan and two gas cannisters and lighter fluid and matches and a kettle. I have washing-up liquid and detergent and soap and shampoo and a toothbrush and toothpaste and a bucket and a towel and a week’s worth of clothes. I have a sleeping bag and a blanket. I have hand-sanitiser and toilet-roll and plasters and anti-bacterial wipes and a six-pack of two-litre bottles of water, though I intend to use them sparingly, and get by on boiled water from the creek that trickles between the hills and into my pond. I have suncream and moisturiser. I have three novels and a notebook and ...
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