From a View-Hungry Window

It would be great to live in a place that could claim to have a ‘real’ view from the windows, a true vista of greens and browns, hills and valleys, trees and water. My double-glazing offers morsels of colour and scraps of tree but that is not enough to feed the famished eye.

Gardens are the ultimate compromise with nature, and as with all compromises, some work and some don’t. I can think of very few domestic gardens that present a ‘view’.

I have never lived in a home with a view, and I accept that this will never happen. That is neither sad nor happy, just one of those realisations that help you focus on what is important, like becoming aware that you will never play volleyball for Japan (despite the numerous offers) or write a song as good as Queen Jane Approximately.

And on the subject of windows, I think it is about time that we began a campaign for the revival of the word “casement”. Everest UPVC casements, tinted casements in limousines, songs like She Came In Through the Bathroom Casement (Beatles) or How Much Is That Doggie In the Casement (Leonard Cohen)…the possibilities are endless (to say nothing of Microsoft’s Casement 8 Vista).

The lack of a view invites self-defenestration, an act that would be much more satisfying via a casement than via a window. I spy a casement of opportunity.

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A man named Paul Salopek is in the early stages of a walk that I wish I had thought of, or had the resources to accomplish. He is walking a notional route that traces the likely journey of humankind from our origins in north-east Africa, through the Middle East, across Siberia, then down the western coast of the Americas to Tierra Del Fuego.

He is sponsored by the National Geographic magazine, and the journey of 21,000 miles will take nearly 7 years. The website below is the link to the trip, and to Paul’s blog via a further link. I came across it only recently and he is currently in Syria (all good wishes to him there of all places).

Apart from the intrinsic fascination of this project, I feel a sense of personal interest for various reasons:

  • the journey began in the Afar region of Ethiopia, where my close friend, Glynn Flood, was killed whilst studying the Afar people;
  • the Siberian landscape and remote wilderness is a desired experience (Kamchatka has featured in Maintenantman’s blog at times);
  • Paul’s walk is a part-reversal of the long trek from New York to Siberia made by Lillian Alling in the 1920s, the subject of my narrative poem Siberia My Eden;
  • my travels in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia have left me with a deep interest in the culture and history of the native people, the descendants of those who first crossed the land-bridge that is now the Bering Straits and populated North and South America;
  • he will be following the spine of the Andes – ‘nuff said.

So all respect to you, Paul, and power to each of your steps along the way.

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Here are 2 poems that will be part of a short series on the experiences of those travellers who first made that journey from Siberia into North-West America.

What We Discovered On Our Journey – 1

We came across a waterfall

and called it Beautiful Chance,

for subtle, casual calibration

of river flow, height of rock face,

balance of cool and warm,

all conspired that day

to mist the tumbling droplets

into steams of vapour

an air-fathom above

the ripple-free, untroubled

skin of the pool below.

Slowly, inevitably, the bead-cloud

rose back upwards,

condensing on the lips

of the cascade tumble-brink,

eager to plunge again but rise,

never touching fall’s end –

a cycle of moving and being.

On another day a dry cliff

or a thunderous boiling

of seething coconut-white .

But that day, Beautiful Chance,

we witnessed our own

circular passage: from

parting to return, loss

to gain, descent to ascent.



What We Discovered On Our Journey (2)

The coming of the ice has planed this plateau’s lake to frosted glass,

shamfering the shoreline fringes to limb-stumps of dun driftwood,

stark and stiffened with such chill loss of wave-washed motion.

Thickening panes at our feet lattice glossy brown twigs

and screen freeze-frame mopheads of yellowed grass.

Where can we pick a path through this frozen desert,

how may we read the blue sweeps of cold contour

crossing this hacked-into-the-horizon gelid plain?

The glacial sky is just as rime-schemed, fixed,

mirror-frozen, a petroglyph in a stone lake:

in this map we find slush beneath clouds

and hard, trusty footing under ether.

We navigate by this shifting chart

for one whole bright starless day,

arrive, safely, on chosen shore.

Now one among us must

seed a story, a tale

to be grown here,

to crystal-shape

this learning



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Thank you to everyone who has subscribed so far. I’m afraid I can do nothing about the WordPress rubric on the side panel which describes you as “amazing”…! Mind you, with more and more subscribers I can qualify for an enhanced package from WordPress, so I might then be able to pop in a more inspiring adjective. Any suggestions?!?


Edward Maintenantmanhands x



  1. Really really great blog!

    I read it in the garden this morning in the lovely sun – enjoying the ‘vista’ (!!!) of snow drops developing in the garden.

    Love the shape of the glacial second poem! Visual and words!

    Will check ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ when I’m back!

    Love you. And I’m really happy to see you getting the writing and blog momentum up again!



  2. “Mind the casements Tino!”

    I think ‘amazing’ should cover your readership for now, other superlatives can be added later X


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