Thursday, September 29, 2016

Call of the Wild

The bookshops in England are packed with books about the countryside and the natural environment. I guess it is not just a contemporary obsession - think of those Country Diary columns in the newspapers and magazines. First cuckoo of spring heard, bluebells in the woods, squirrels gathering nuts, puddles reflecting the clouds, weeds in the hedgerows, skylarks, cormorants and chestnut trees...

The obsession is sentimental, its nostalgic and my theory is it reflects a common craving for a life more simple, a time without motor vehicles and computers, a keen feeling of the loss of rural rhythms and knowledge of the natural world. There is so little of left so people are turning more and more to writing and art in their attempt to escape the relentlessness  of the modern world. Merry Olde England is a powerful concept, and I suspect its power is increasing rather than waning, even though people know that ideas of rural idyll are just that and it never really existed. And that we are getting further and further detached from nature all the time.

I didn't really find anywhere that was actually quiet. All over Kent and Sussex the nights were full of the noise of planes coming into and leaving Gatwick, and the roar from distant motorways and highways.

The beachfront B&B was probably the quietest place I stayed, but I was still woken by the squeals of boy racers tearing around the streets in the early hours of morning (reminding me of nights in Penang and the Mat Rempits "A Mat Rempit is a Malaysian term for "an individual who participates in immoral activities and public disturbance with a motorcycle as their main transport").

The night skies were full of the lights of planes or other man-made things up there moving across the heavens. Sure, blackberries, nettles and ragwort are trying to claim back the lanes and footpaths, but this is just another sign that human greed and neglect are effectively destroying the green and pleasant land that lives in people's hearts and minds.

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