Ham­mond Street


The north-western expansion of Cheshunt has long since engulfed the village of Hammond Street, and approached from there along the ridge there are side turns to a series of quiet residential areas. But I have arrived from the north, along a road named Park Lane Paradise, and from this direction the houses are protected by a long fence: a modern palisade keeping the forest folk out. There is no way through to the village. At length, however, I find a place where someone has succumbed to the lure of Paradise, removed a fence panel and made their escape between the hawthorns.


The track through Broxbourne Woods runs over a low ridge and heads down toward the Wormleybury Brook, just touching the corner of this square as it goes. The way is covered with sweet chestnut shells, in shades from green to dark brown, furry-spiky; the chestnuts themselves are already hidden away somewhere, thousands of squirrels' larders beneath the crackling carpet of beech mast.


I have reached the top of Hammond Street, the summit of Cheshunt Common. A right turn here would take me, in twenty minutes, to the point in Broxbourne Woods where I was two hours ago; following the road straight for the same time would bring me to Newgate Street, to a mythical time from well before lunch. But I must turn left, towards Goff's Oak. The clocks go back next weekend, and I have a lot of ground left to cover.

...And it is already a year later, and the clocks go back again next weekend, and I find I have written less than half of these pages. The project takes on a new aspect as my memory becomes more unreliable. The map shards lie in their envelope, and when I have a mind to, I take one out randomly to scrutinize it for places that spark a recollection. I do not know when I will resort to outright fabrication, or even if I will know when that has happened. Perhaps, reader, following your own course through these words, you know something I don't: something I have yet to write has already betrayed me.