country lanes, aeolian dugouts and another reversing truck

The more times that I travel between the same two fixed points the more I feel compelled to find new routes; seeking to exhaust the possible combinations of country lanes, trunk roads, suburban streets, village high roads and dual carriageways. Of course I prefer not to make the journey much longer than the quickest possible route but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I head down a country lane I’ve passed by hundreds of times in a bid to understand my surroundings; to surprise myself; to make strange. Perhaps the goal is to turn from the less travelled lane onto a road I have driven down a thousand times but fail to recognise it because I have approached it from a new direction.

Surviving my daily commute – then – means finding as many different combinations of routes as possible between the fixed points of home and office. One of the routes I have explored peels away from Oxford’s Eastern By-pass Road towards Horspath and passes – on the right – the training ground of Oxford United and – on the left – Horspath Sports Ground which is home to Horspath FC. On the most recent occasion that I took this route I was travelling home on a Saturday afternoon. I knew that Horspath FC Reserves had a match with Charlton United FC Reserves in Division Two of the Oxfordshire Senior League. So as I headed east along Horspath Road I turned left into the car park at the sports ground and walked past the athletics track towards the football pitch.

(players and spectators disperse after the final whistle at Horspath Sports Ground)


unlucky then
chin up
switch, switch
man on
man on – man on
well done
come here
turn and turn
get it back
corner flag, corner flag
man on
come and help me out
get back
put him under
you can’t play a high line
drop in
don’t concede another
back a little bit
that’s the one
win it
why’ve i got one ‘ere?
why’ve i got one free?
just get behind the ball
come on
someone bring him over
do not lose him
watch your line
kick it
hey hey hey
pressure him
get ‘em up – get ‘em up
well in
still on
fucking hell
chase it
did that go off?
well done
defensively get set up line
drop in
give it him
get rid mate
coming through
going to make a decision isn’t they
don’t even say that
come on last minute
do me a favour
you’ve gotta see it out man
big head – big head – big head
man on – man on
clear your lines
box him in mate
fucking get up and box him in
listen to me
come over then
keep on talking
away you go
go on
fucking got – fucking – there’s no one behind you
seconds – seconds
get out
out out out out out
no foul
move away
man on
other side of him
no foul – no foul
time time
they don’t give him enough quality
come on raise it
we’ve got our heads down
come on we’re up here
we mustn’t concede boys
we haven’t been good
that’s three points
last little bit
turn it ‘round
go on put it through
keep it under control yeah
go on
behind you
less than a minute left
get out – get out – get out – get out
(you mean losers)
head home – head home
go right
big one
no bounce
free header
head it forward
oh fucking hell
get out there
feet feet feet
win that win that
just turn him ‘round
clear your lines now
good ball
time now boys – time
get rid
man on
time time
get up – get up – get up – get up
get out
keep pushing
man on man on
hit it
oh for fuck’s sake
fair play
you shouldn’t be up there
you don’t need to be there
come on boys
last minute
that’s time wasting
what’s the point of that?
I returned to the sports ground the following Monday and sat in the dugout. There’s a City Council depot just to the north and a series of country paths frequented by dog walkers to the east. There was a strong wind and the perspex and aluminium dugouts became aeolian devices as the wind squeezed through gaps and rattled loose panels. Each dugout is different. One has what look like classroom chairs equally spaced within it and the other has a bench. Each has a small technical area marked out in front.

(the dugouts at Horspath Sports Ground)

7th November 2017
10.10 : Horspath Sports Ground
the call of a wren in the hedgerow; the perspex dugout creaks in the light breeze as the draught forces its way through the joins; traffic sound is constant from the eastern by-pass Road – A4142; passing cars and trucks on Horspath Road to the south emerge from the drone and then recede as they slow down and drive through the village; small birds overhead; distant call of Rooks; a single car passes on the nearby track; the perspex shakes again in a stronger wind now; the sound of tools; detailed birdsong from the hedgerows is hard to identify – perhaps a Robin; the whisper of wind in dry beach leaves; rattle of a trailer; a solitary crow calls three times; a reversing truck – distant; a dry leaf is blown along the turf; a hammer; no wood pigeons here; no red kites; air traffic is lost beneath the shimmering white noise of the bypass; wind begins to form recognisable tones as it squeezes through the gaps in the dugout; possible sound of a distant seagull; dog walker whistling, then shouting his dog’s name; another reversing truck; a small bird flies across the pitch in a series of inverted arcs; truck rattles away from the depot; jangle of a dog-lead beyond the screen of trees; finally the vibrations of a passing jet; another reversing truck.