I walked along the deserted path, passed the overgrown football pitch, the goalmouth still bare from lack of seeding, hardened mud from the summer heat. I avoided the thistles that hung over the path on the way to the glade that separated the pool and the town’s nearest housing estate. There was a small hump to climb up to enter into the trees that gets slippy in the winter and if you’re not careful sends you sliding into the nettles. Branches from bushes overhang on either side and some entitled kid has usually left a plastic bottle to remind you of the reality of the planet, the sad uneducated child unable to recognise when the beauty of nature is being destroyed. Once you’ve bowed your head below the overhang and hit the top of the hump, the path falls abruptly down to the glade floor. It looks like there’s been some attempt to make steps there once but the idea was either abandoned years ago or constant foot traffic has worn the steps into barely recognisable ledges that help a little but not much. The remains of what might have been parts of a fence stick two inches out of the ground disguised by the muddy backdrop, easy to miss and trip over.
Here I stopped, I often stop here for a moment’s reflection, it’s an oasis between a world of people on either side and although there are sometimes kids here hanging out on the other side of this relatively small area, or the occasional old man walking his dog, mostly it’s quiet and serene and relaxing after a heavy swim and the challenges of the coming day. But this day it was different, in the trees above me to the left there was a constant tsik tsik tsik, chrrrrrrrr like how you might imagine the sound of an injured bird in distress. I looked up into the branches careful not to lose my footing as my balance changed. I couldn’t see any sign of a bird, it’s often hard to see them camouflaged in the branches singing at dusk and this afternoon was no different, lots of sound but no evidence of the creature responsible.
It was then as I scanned the area that I noticed sitting quite still on the floor of the glade a large black cat, white face, eyes staring out above the whiskers looking directly at me. I imagined then the sound of the stressed-out creature was the sound of panic, perhaps a bird trying to protect its young by making as much noise as possible to scare the cat away – it wasn’t working. The sound continued but the cat had no reaction. It wasn’t like it was looking up into the trees, it was just staring directly at me. It was then I heard a rustling and running along a branch, agile and at lightning speed, a grey squirrel appeared – tsik tsik tsik, chrrrrrrrr. The cat didn’t move, the squirrel seemed to be descending from the upper branches of the tree almost goading the cat but the cat didn’t move a whisker, it just stared directly at me as if the squirrel wasn’t there. There was no movement in its ears or head, just a concentrated penetrating stare across the glade at me.
It was then that the light sank as if someone had slowly turned a dimmer switch on the sky. I looked up into the trees to see the light slowly fade and when I looked back the cat was gone and the squirrel was sitting in exactly the same place that the cat had been completely still, staring at me, not moving. Suddenly I heard tsik tsik tsik, chrrrrrrrr in the branches and there was the cat, the two creatures had swapped places and were in exactly the same spots that each other had been in before the light grew dim. All of a sudden the light returned but I was terribly cold. I’d been wearing shorts and had my T-shirt slung over my shoulder which I usually put on as I get back to the shops (not wanting to scare anyone) but now it felt like winter. I quickly put my shirt on and put my damp towel around my shoulders just to have something else to cover my body.
I noticed the ground below my feet had become muddy and I had to steady myself as I looked up into the trees towards the moving cat and then back to the stationery squirrel. I hadn’t noticed the colour of the cat’s eyes when it was just sitting there but the squirrel’s eyes were a deep dark brown, it was if I was being stared at from below the ground so dark were the eyes. I heard a noise behind me, it was a teenage girl in a tracksuit throwing a plastic bottle into the bushes. Then, in front of me, I saw a man with a large dog wandering along the path, translucent. On the other side, I could see bikes and a group of kids huddled together. As I turned I slipped and automatically reaching out I grabbed hold of a nettle and immediately felt it stinging the palm of my hand as my head banged against the remains of the fence post.
I’m not sure how long I was lying there but I’d knocked myself unconscious, I had a large lump on the side of my head and a terrible headache, all I could hear was a tsik tsik tsik, chrrrrrrrr. I picked myself up, my T-shirt was lying by my side as I pulled myself to my feet. It was then and I’m quite sure that I saw a grey squirrel riding on the back of a cat and disappearing into the bushes.
Music today went Fusion, Mahavishnu Orchestra released The Inner Mounting Flame in 1971. The band was led by guitarist virtuoso John McLaughlin with Jerry Goodman from The Flock on electric violin, jazzer Rick Laird on bass, the legendary Billy Cobham on drums and multi-musical collaborator, film composer and the man that composed the theme music for Miami Vice, Jan Hammer, on keyboards. It was one of only three albums that this lineup released that also included Birds Of Fire (1973) and the live album Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973). A third unreleased studio album, The Lost Trident Sessions, recorded in 1973, was released 26 years later. It included the three tracks included on the live album. When the tapes were found and John McLaughlin was asked about it he shrugged it off as the band didn’t seem to be happy about it so it never came out.
I keep on saying this but you have to like this kind of thing to like it, if you don’t it will leave you cold if you do it will sizzle in your veins.
Concert Of The Daze
The Mahavishnu Orchestra – McLaughlin, Goodman, Cobham, Laird, Hammer (Munich 1972):