Meanwhile in Pontefract Castle...
...Continuing to hold to the belief that because he is heterosexual he
should be brutish and insensitive, kill all his enemies, Richard II
nonetheless loves flowers. A love that takes him in mufti - leather
apron tied around a borrowed smock, oversize cowl flapping about
his face - daily to the castle gardens. Where, no sooner arrived than,
he adopts the slow, seemingly pensive, walk of a gardener.
Albeit uncomfortable with his royal presence - having been told not
to bow, and warned not to become familiar - the castle gardeners
have got used to his being there an hour or more, make no
complaint, don’t even grumble among themselves. They are after
all being spared any task the king undertakes. On his royal knees,
for instance, dibber in hand, planting out brassicas. Richard even
seems to take pleasure in the ratchet-creak of his joints when
straightening, remarks to an uncomprehending landlocked yokel
that his knees sound like the boards and beam of the royal yacht,
“When negotiating, as I regally am, choppy waters.”
One of Richard’s favourite tasks that summer is walking backwards
down the rows of gladioli while rhythmically sliding the hoe blade
just below the soil’s surface. Not that he has a penchant for big
flowers. If he does have a preference it is for the smaller, for the
overlooked ordinary - the bravery of celandines daring to be yellow
first every year; or, in the woodland grotto, the languishing sorrel;
and, assiduous as he might be with the hoe, he will spare, if his
gardener’s conscience lets him, the blue-and-pink speckling of
Passed by on those country roads that dip and curve
along moorland’s edges, low village halls seemingly remote
with sides and roof of ribbed metal sheets a faded green.
Out front a patched and pitted parking space, gravel rough,
parish noticeboard beside the closed-tight double doors.
Further on a corrugated chapel, one stained glass window,
tin sheets slant-cut to form a steeple. Valley bottom
huddles of galvanised garages also in shades of
spare-paint green, majority tar-coated black.
Among hillside heather
lone sheds, byres and lambing shelters
- where gales rattle and gusts clang, rain drums -
been patched and extended with sheet metal
of different types and ages, silver recent
nailed atop shades of brown-to-orange rust.
Other isolated garages and one-time coops,
riverside pig pens their black mud gone to weed,
in states of leaning dilapidation, rust-nibbled sheets
with curves and channels variously striped; wet woodland
grown around; below boughs moss-painted green
sheds long ago abandoned and collapsed almost
to the ground, making now darkened dens, thin
bushes and pale-stemmed bracken growing within.