Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Imaginative Travel with H.G. Wells

Hello Reader,
Got imaginative travel in this mundane realm?

January. Gaining speed on a new year’s road, seeing the crest of a low hill just ahead. Then what? We may drive on past newly dreamed of gymnasiums, past bogs with wispy new year’s resolutions: This month, according to the travel agencies, is when folks make travel plans. How ’bout that jet to the Isle of Wight? If it’s not too dear.

Of course we are careful about our dearly earned money, but I’ll tell what’s always free: imagination. Like travel writer H.V. Morton: Look out to sea, and over to that rocky natural harbour. Can you see them? Pirates, Vikings, and Pilgrims? That’s three different worlds, three visits for the price of just one harbour.

Travel is like a carrying out a new year’s resolution: The hardest part is getting started. I wanted to romantically travel to the land of invasion by evil Martian fighting machines, up high on three stilts. I managed at last to get going, and wrote a poem too.

Three Legs

The hardest thing in my life 
was to leave the old farm, 
where the easiest and proper number of legs 
for a dirt floor milking stool
is three.

Easy to search the big city for a nice flat.
Hard to keep my new digs tidy and clean.
Hard to get out into the neon bustle.
Easy to stay in the yard by starlight
pressing my eye to a telescope
on a tripod.

Easy to have careless cables and cold screens.
Hard to get off that deep couch.
Hard to roll over the bumps for getting a passport.
Easy at last, to get airspeed for flying to Gatwick.

Easy then 
to stand painting romantic colors 
using an easel
on three legs.

I imagined the first cylinder from Mars silent in the sandpit on the common.

On Horsell Common

Heat-Ray periodically sweeps 
black sticks on purple heath

Gay ladies, unknowing, stroll out
to view the Thing in the pit.
The coals of their waiting hearth 
fade to cold black.

Have you read The Time Machine? Or The Invisible Man? Both from the mind of H.G. Wells. You may recall that in the 19th century, while living in the town of Woking, Wells wrote his classic about his neighbours being blasted by Martians. I journeyed there, (population now 60,000) to see the sandpit where the first Martian cylinder landed on Earth. Here’s a poem I wrote of my travel.

Into Woking

I flew the strato-jet from Calgary to the airport,
from the airport I rode a passenger train to Woking,
from Woking station I backpacked to the historical society.
I met Duncan who expressed his regrets 
that Occidental College is now Occidental Shopping Centre.
We both remember how the Martian Heat Ray 
blasted the college, 
putting the chimney 
of Mr. Wells’ house 
in line of sight of the Ray.
Crack! went the chimney.

The house of H.G. Wells has a little plaque.
I stood outside his home 
with my back to the raised rail line across the road.
Wells knew the station was close yet too far
so he borrowed a cart and drove his wife to Leatherhead.

The cart was borrowed 
from the owner of the Spotted Dog.
The horse, 
poor brute, 
suffered a broken neck.
The owner, 
poor man, 
was found dead in dark of night.
was innocent of
what was to become of Leatherhead.

Today there is no Spotted Dog.
Locals raised on Wells tell me with distaste
a few years ago 
a car dealer 
levelled it to make a paved lot.

A bar named Ogilvies has a sign of a telescope.
Inside are many old pictures of telescopes—
etchings, lithographs, engravings,
but no mention of Ogilvie, 
a friendly astronomer
and a good man 
who perished under a flag of truce at the sandpit.

A bar of the Witherspoon chain has a Wells theme.
On the ceiling are two great illuminated glass circles,
a clock face,
and a circle of book pages,
readable from the floor. 
A local eagerly asks, 
“Do you want to see time go backwards?”
He rushes over to the secret switch 
for the Time Machine.

Someone says George over there 
was the model for the Invisible Man.
George raises his glass to salute
while the Man sits alone 
in the window 
wrapped in his bandages.

I pull out my walking map from the town library.
A drinking buddy tells me the sandpit isn’t marked. 
“Just go there, and turn here,” says the friendly man.

No one wants to drink under the gaze of nasty Martians. 
Far down the hall to the loo is an old steel etching,
a stiff Martian holds a projector to blast a bridge.
Be thankful those times are long ago.

Sean Crawford


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