In the spring the marsh cattle return to the drained fields. Repairs are carried out on dikes and broken sluice gates. Huge flocks of migrant birds come back from their wintering grounds, argue over territory and resources for days.
In the covered wagon the man and the girl and the giant woman follow their noses east. On the raised roads running parallel to the ditches and canals that quarter the country, everyone is on the move. Medicine sellers, itinerant labourers, repairmen, field workers, travelling storytellers. Glasswort and cord grass and reeds grow along the creeks and inlets, on unreliable islands that have yet to be reclaimed from the water. Under the monstrous sky the world is flat as the sea. The man imagines the wagon is a ship and he is its captain. He believes that everyone has their place on earth and this is his.
Everywhere they stop they put on demonstrations and the giant woman performs feats of strength. She lifts saddleback sows over her head and drags boats ashore from the mud. She holds back waterwheels and the vanes of windmills. Children swing from her arms in threes and fours. And then she fights anyone who can afford the price of entry (“Step right up, lads, three-penny a go and treble your stake if you can put her down!”). Read the rest of this entry »