Dave Seven handcrafted jewellery; unusual one-offs, accessories, such as pelt skull caps, kid suede mitts and gaiters; belts, tan leather drawstring purses – and pretty, iridescent feathered dreamcatchers that snared both dawn and dusk sunlight and dust breeze at the window, as well as the unwanted, darker elements of slumber. It was a skill he had honed in his bronze age: the gleaming pools of summers past, working outside on the farms back east, living mostly rough, be it under canvas in the aromatic forests that shadow much of that part of the world, or as a guest in any number of barn, board or flophouse.
He favoured bone finds as his medium. He twined hag stone neckwear. He handworked aspen and birch and hide into rough bangles; lacquered hatpins and brooches from the hollow heads and brittle bodies of field creatures that he found – rodents and yearlings and squirrels and moles – in the margins of the meadows, on the river’s bank, at the littoral. He also stuffed field coneys and old birds stunned at the foot of the hedgerow, the tired ones that had flown their final, when and if occasion presented. His work had permitted him, over the years, some folding money, not so much, but enough favour and grace for this simple life.
Once, in Hatch Peak county, he woke in a strange and fragrant bed, a woman dressing at its foot; her pale shape – bobby pinning, stretching, balletic – framed in the black-blue glass, all quiet and sweeping from the floor, garments strewn earlier when the pub, bursting below, still rose in bright shards through the boards, anarchic and riotous and whiskey-hued, describing every object that they fell upon with a filmic show of light and shadow.
When the days grew shorter and the dressing woman dressed for the very last morning, Dave, tired by the thought of the coming winter, left Hatch Peak county, settled for that season in the town of Axminner, finding lodge in a caravan at the bottom of the garden of an orthodontist living there, exchanging casual work about the house – fetching wood for the fire and groceries from the town, keeping the garden respectable and, by Christmas Eve, furnishing the ancient orthodontist with favours.
He walked the quiet mile every Sunday, through the woods, the dawn light sparkling between the trees, crossing the tarmac riband of Simes Lane, the furrowed field, keeping the hedge on his left side, cut a corner from Drake’s farmyard, drawing the eyes of the moody cows at the railings, negotiated the stile, the golf course, the pear orchard and, in the dewy, ankle-deep roadside grass, thus made his way to the pretty town of Beamish, where he displayed his delicate jewellery on hemp cloth with labels cut from scrappy rags and scripted carefully, in black cursive, to read Goat Couture, at the Beamish Co-Op Car Park Arts & Craft / Flea Market.
He displayed on a decorator’s table he came across at the side of the Coast Road one morning last October. It lay in the wet, knee-high grass, half-hidden, like cold roadkill, paint scratched and caked with a blue patina of bloom, mud and ditch perfume. The table folded in two on thin hinges and, with the bowed legs tucked neatly beneath, he could carry it under his arm quite comfortably. He carried it to and from the market under one arm and in the other he clutched a brown and battered suitcase, within which, careful and cushioned, compartmentalised, he transported his commerce.
He said, on occasion and for reasons unclear, that he was Scandinavian, though few believed him. He’d never been heard to utter any words or phrases of those metallic and guttural languages associated with that cold and distant part of the world, and though his words came forth with an accent quite different from the locals, it was clearly English (or possibly, Welsh) in origin. He knew this, but he said it all the same, believing it to create an air of intrigue around him among the other traders, among the browsers and buyers. He said nonsense things such as, “the tundra wind will do her bidding” or “hungry wolves hunt hardest” in an attempt to deepen this deceit. He was fond of promoting himself with rumour, half-bake, swift-thoughts and sleep whispers; near-distant things. He didn’t say that he spoke with the dead, though he thinks often to say it, but, in actuality, he speaks with the dead.