Thursday, 28 July 2016

Savannah shadows

We've just spent a while in Savannah, one of my favourite southern cities. It's at its best in the early evening, with shadows playing across its shutters, Spanish moss drooping from the oak trees in every elegant square.

Like many of the cities I love, there's a strong sense of the past at every turn. I fully expect a genteel nineteenth century woman in a white lawn gown to pull back her shutters as I walk by or to be revealed in the gloom of her window. This is a place where the architecture is designed to keep the light out, not in, and the shadows trapped indoors are old ones.

It's not sweet. There's a scent of wry, beautiful danger floating along with the dust, the jasmine and the sulphury mists from the paper mill. You can see secrets in doorways, under wrought-iron steps, on the taut delicate faces of the ladies of a certain age.

I sip iced tea in a tiny shop. It's served on a silver tray, mildly tarnished, with a glass jug of sugar syrup. I'm slightly tempted by the Outlander tea advertised in sepia handwriting at the counter, but it has too many warring ingredients. Savannah breakfast tea complements the dark interior more perfectly. It's served by a very pale, very slow-moving lady. I daren't hurry her.

We cross the city to Bonaventure Cemetery. We scuff around in the dust admiring stone angels. And in a moment of dark Savannah magic, J finds his own grave. He died in the Civil War, at 19. His full name. Fighting for the correct side. Shivers run down our necks. We drive away before I find mine.

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