In the dappled shadow of trees we roll a spliff, out of the wind. On the other side of the narrow strip of tarmac that makes up this part of the Pilgrim's Way lies the body of a badger, dead. Roadkill, or natural causes, I hope. I know worse things are a possibility. It's morbid and I find it fascinating. I've already taken a photo. Nor for sharing, that one.
The stones stand above. Spilff rolled, we head back up the gentle incline to Kit's Coty House. It seems appropriate to smoke the thing here. National Trust railings, spiked and weather-worn, surround the dolmens. I try and imagine this place as it once was, millennia ago. Heaped earth around and over the stones, this the entrance to a forgotten underworld. There must be bodies in the soil, or there were, once.
The views here, even in this dull part of England, are impressive. The North Downs stretch away; we can see for miles. A good place to rest your head for all eternity. The name of the thing isn't even correct. It's not a house and whoever Kit was, he wasn't buried here. The first antiquarians, now ancient themselves, got that wrong. Stukeley and his ilk. I've never read them, but act like I have.
We light the spliff, pass it back and forth, inhale. Talk about the writing of books, how this purposeful delving into antiquity, with its layers of scratched history and proximity to the mundane realities of traffic arteries is a way of moving forward. We both have to make time to be here. Away from family, partners. Weekends that could be spent in the pub, at a gallery, at the footy.
Is there a perversity to this? I live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world yet I'm spending my Sunday in a field north of Aylesford, photographing mutilated badgers and placing my hands on megaliths, like every hippy I've ever hated. On some level, I know I'm trying to escape from something.
Look there. At the foot of Kit's Coty rests what I'd call a corn dolly. Straw, perhaps, done up like Little Bo Peep. At her feet rest a few miniature squash. They are just turning, the rot slowly setting in. This sight, so pagan and contemporary, is cheering. Makes me smile. The mystery of who put the things here, and why, is one to be savoured. I never want to know the facts.
Look up, to the stones themselves. Clean carved graffiti I choose to believe is real; by which I mean I choose to believe the dates are accurate. Victorian etchings, the authors long dead but not as long as Kit, or those unknowables who first dragged and erected the stones.The dolly and the graffiti, the towering rock – all markers, quietly insisting 'I was here'.
I, too, am here, and will never know you. But I'm glad I've seen what you left.