It only feels like yesterday I was trying to teach my boys to read and write how to form letters and where full stops belong. It felt such a struggle in those early days. If this is you now, searching for those on line education resources to give your child a little boost and checking school bags for pages of homework and reading books I say stick with it, make learning fun and encourage your child. It will all come good.
2 years ago I shared a short story written by my eldest son Alistair who at the time was preparing for his GCSE English Language exam. I was bursting with pride at the language used. Now I am thrilled to be in that same position all over again for my second son Felix who will take GCSE’s this school year.
To set the scene, he had been inspired by accompanying his older brother to a few of the University open days, realising the grades he would need to be part of this himself we had a little chat about the effort he was putting into his course work, which was frankly below what was needed, especially on core subjects. I knew he had a piece of descriptive writing due to be handed in and sent him down to the Coombe Mill River with a pen and paper. He returned about 20 minutes later, sat at the PC and taped out the following. Now I know he has it in him to achieve the grades he needs if he puts his mind to it and stays focused.
A View of a River
I sit alone on the river bank happily allowing the rest of the world to continue without me. I am content to just perch and take in what I am amongst, here at my spot along the river. It is an early hour on this dry autumn morning, my breath clearly visible as it escapes me and mixes with the cool biting air coating the river. I am wrapped up warm in my heavy black overcoat that protects me from neck to knee. My hands and face are gripped by the mean grasp of the invading cold air, both of which sting painfully when a frozen breeze invades my little space.
I close my eyes and focus on breathing. This is when I am hit by the smells surrounding me. The unmistakable scent of grass is intoxicating mixed with an earthy musky aroma emanating from the freshly churned river bed. I listen to the sound of the fast running water, crashing and turning over itself as it tumbles its way down the river. The birds in the trees above are breaking into song, each adding to the tune of the last; marking the dawn of the new day. Their chirps fill the air as they crescendo, creating a playful atmosphere.
I open my eyes and look upriver to the small caves that have been formed under the relentless assault of the current. The caves are half submerged, shadows keeping them in an eternal blackness where light dares not enter, but makes my imagination flare. A thought of hands emerging from the depths and pulling me under sends a chill down my spine. Above the water line however, a different story altogether, light leaps around, reflecting off the water to the roof of the caves and dancing along the walls. Dark and light are represented by an almost impassable line in nature, reminding me of the might of the Berlin wall.
Completely dead in the water lay a fallen tree, grey and weak as if it had been there for all time: strength sapped in an eternity of torture. I marvel at how it must once have stood tall and proud, a force of nature now totally consumed by a stronger one. It looks like a ghost with its distorted colour and bare features stripped of all the beauty once held within. The roots have spitefully ripped up a piece of ground as though punishing the soil for failing to hold firm.
In front of me there are stepping stones to the other side of the river where the land is steep and rocky. The rocks that make this patchy pathway across the gushing water are dangerously slippery with dew. Any attempt at crossing would be a suicide mission with an ice cold hell waiting. The water converges when going through these steps, akin to infants flooding through canteen doors. There is even some of the water that becomes confused and stuck behind the rocks, not quite sure what’s going on. The river floor suddenly drops away creating a waterfall, where the current thrashes and turns sinking under the surface in a cloudy mob of anarchy.
There is a clear flat stretch of the river to my left, where the water appears serene and inviting. It is a lie of course. If I were to leap in it would freeze the blood in my veins. But it looks so peaceful with its calm slow waters. The bottom of this stretch is golden with patches of bronze, like a royal tapestry. I can see all of the colours through the pristine water as though it were liquid crystal; it is a welcome image in this world of grey. Minute insects land and hover over this spot as the river reflects the sun light, which is now just breaking through the natural canopy of leaves. The sun light comes through in beams where it can, as an enemy breaks a shield wall in battle. I am hit by one of these breaching rays, its warmth challenging the numbness that has hold.
So as I sit here in this place and open my mind to its beauty, time has moved on. While I have been sat, day has broken and the sun has invaded my shaded spot on the river bank. The birds’ song has retreated as they busy themselves with their day. The dew is leaving the rocks and grass, taking with it the smell of morning. The gentle numbness in my fingers is dissipating as I stumble to my feet preparing to leave I stop to take in the whole scene, untouched by man it is becoming an increasingly endangered site. It is of course just my view of a river.
By Felix Cambouropoulos
It may not be perfect, but I’m sure when I was 15 I would have struggled to deliver a piece as good as this. There is something very magical about our river and I am grateful for it’s beauty everyday, seeing it appreciated and expressed through the mind of one of my teenage boys makes me incredibly proud.
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