Rural Life

    Tiptoe through the bluebells…

    Just to get you through the last few hours until the weekend1:

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    1 Strict urbanites need not apply… ;-)

    Walking in the Cairngorms, March 1989

    Adam, Walker

    Back in my final year of school, a group of friends invited me on an Easter holiday with them. It wasn't expensive; we took the train from central Scotland, where we lived, up to Aviemore, and then stayed in a youth hostel for the week. We cooked ourselves dinner, and entertained ourselves by spending our days walking through the Cairngorms, stunning mountains in the Highlands.

    I was 17, and this was my first real holiday with friends, and I loved it. After a small accident, involving ice, gloves, my face and a swinging frame in a children's adventure park, I had a blast. I had experiences that week I have never repeated since:

    • being caught in a whiteout, and then finding our way to a nearby bothy to shelter, by holding on to each other's backpacks. 
    • going from snowy winter to glorious spring simply by heading down from the mountains to the valleys between
    • being so tired at the end of the day that sleeping in the communal bunkrooms was easy

    It would be four years before I would go away on holiday with friends like that again, but this really felt like the first big step towards independent adulthood that would continue six months later when I left for university in London. Sadly, I'm no longer in contact with the four other people who were on the trip with me - Daniel, Phylida, Claire and Katy - but scanning my way through the transparencies I shot that week reminded me of what a great, life-shaping week that was. 

    The whole set's below:

    A Little Summer Preparation

    Campingprep 2

    Campingprep 4

    Campingprep 3
    Campingprep 1
     Camping time is coming…




    Suffolk Melancholy


    ...there undoubtedly is something unnerving about East Anglia. Whether it's those huge skies, that almost aggressively flat landscape -- or the sheer, slightly agoraphobic sense that the world could at any moment tilt and swallow you up -- it's a place that makes the heart race, the blood quicken. It's a landscape that makes you tread cautiously, glance behind you, check your tracks.
    -- Julie Myserson in the foreword to Line Dancing: Stories from East Anglia

    Suffolk is a strange place.

    In part, I love it. That "two decades behind the rest of the world" feel, the friendliness of the staff in the market town shops and the beautiful rural countryside. I spend quite a lot of time there right now, because it's where my mother lives. I look forward to my visits there, and quietly dread my return to the thronging metropolis at the end of my stays. 

    And yet. 

    When talk turns to the idea of moving to Suffolk, both Lorna and I hesitate. There's something uncanny in the beauty of Suffolk, an edge to it that keeps me from loving it fully because, truth be told, I'm more than a little afraid of it.

    Even in the height of summer, when the sun beats down on the fields of the county, and the village fêtes and church fairs are well under way, there's something autumnal about the place, an edge of melancholy that infuses even the most pleasant afternoon. It's as if there's something in the very soil there infects the area with a sense of the impermanence of life.

    Suffolk lacks the great, imposing hills of other parts of the UK, and supplants them with wide, open horizons and flat vistas. This takes from it the grandiose beauty of the sweeping views, and replaces it with the small beauty of copses of trees, or a hedgerow, or a well-formed cottage. And because of that, it lacks features that tell us that things will outlast us, of great mounds of rock that create the illusion of permanence in the face of inevitable entropy. Impermanence, transition, they cycle of seasons and, yes, death, are always in the air there, and they seep into everything that occurs.

    When I walk the streets of Halesworth, shopping and chatting and laughing, it seems like an ideal place to settle. But on the long, and often bleak, road between the town and Bramfield, I find myself unable to even countenance the idea. It takes a bravery in the face of mortality to settle there, a bravery that I sorely lack.

    The Mystery Of Food

    Brits in the dark over food production | Food | Guardian Unlimited Environment:

    "Farmers produce 60% of all the food consumed in this country, yet many adults questioned didn't associated everyday foods with British farms.According to the survey, 35% did not know that porridge comes from a British farm.

    The origins of bread were a mystery to 23% of people, and 22% did not believe that sausages and bacon came from British farms."

    This is just depressing beyond belief. That our understanding of the link between food, farming and plant and animal life has broken down so badly is very worrying.