Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: England's Pleasant Pastures Seen

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  • Islander,

    Crivens! Nae Pictsie was ever stopped by a jammie wee thing like yon Hadrian's Wall!

    I've been to England & Scotland (ancestral places both, and I deeply love some of the fiction & poetry, art & architecture - not to mention music- therefrom)half a dozen times. I understand the body language in Scotland...

    England has been ascrabble with humans for a very long time and the land shows it- yes, there are the surprising inhabited-for aeons-but still-themselves- places (the Yorkshire Moors for me)-but it is majorly
    human-riddled, and waaay too crowded-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    England has been ascrabble with humans for a very long time and the land shows it- yes, there are the surprising inhabited-for aeons-but still-themselves- places (the Yorkshire Moors for me)-but it is majorly
    human-riddled, and waaay too crowded-

    I loved the Christmas I spent in Cornwall with Kiwi friends, in part because I was conscious of how long humans had been around there.

    We went walking and wandered into a very old church built on a pre-existing religious site and, although I am not of the religious persuasion, it seemed a special place to be.

    Mind you, the mushrooms might have had an influence there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Lovely, David. Even if you are dying of a chesty hoiky lurgy thingy. The sky thing: in my first 7 months in the UK, I toodled along, and then went to Wales for a couple of weeks in summer. The beach at Borth was the first time I even realised how much I missed that tall blue sky with limitless height. And all because they had it too. And re empty tracts of land: I found that disconcerting. Farms with no animals on them in Winter. I was told many farms were arable, but I did wonder where all those cows and sheep were.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville,

    I reckon NZ's about an F-stop brighter than the UK.

    An old boss of mine worked as a technician at Kodak in his younger days and told me that film spec'd for this part of the world was different from the northern hemisphere because the light is brighter and "bluer". If you took photos here and then had your films developed back in the UK they would simply look wrong as the processing was slightly different.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Bruce Wurr,

    Great post David. Sums it up completely! I have a love/hate relationship with this place......every time I sway more towards the latter something good seems to happen. If you've been down dorset/devon way it's pretty lovely down there, but there are more than a few places where the word grim was invented for.....it's a great way to really appreciate NZ!

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    To me, even our local Kodak film always produced shots too muddy and autumnal compared with say Fuji which had brighter greens, blues and suchlike. Slides were a different matter.

    I have no opinion about the lake district, but ta for the pix of the boat, David - amazed those books I loved are that grounded in real life.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • David Lucas,

    What a wanker! Please don't ever come back. As someone who spent 15 years living in New Zealand (and loving it) before coming home to England, I can safely say it's morons like you who give Kiwi's a reputation here as a bunch of smug, self-satisfied whingers. Get a life !!

    London, England • Since Dec 2008 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • jon_knox,

    Remarkable, David Lucas is such a good writer. I read his words and now I'm thinking.

    What a wanker! Please don't ever come back. self-satisfied whingers get a life !!

    Belgium • Since Nov 2006 • 464 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    David Lucas wrote:

    What a wanker! Please don't ever come back. As someone who spent 15 years living in New Zealand (and loving it) before coming home to England, I can safely say it's morons like you who give Kiwi's [sic] a reputation here as a bunch of smug, self-satisfied whingers. Get a life !!

    Thanks for your message, David. Sorry if I've inadvertently hurt your feelings.

    Perhaps I should have given more space to the many things I do like about this country -- especially the English sense of humour and their ability to take a joke.

    I liked the double exclamation mark at the end of your proclamation. Sometimes one exclamation mark just isn't enough!

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I am reminded of the great English literary tradition of travelling abroad and writing very rude (and often funny) things about what they find. Best to consider this homage, I think.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Can you be smug and whinge at the same time? It sounds quite complicated.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Can you be smug and whinge at the same time? It sounds quite complicated.

    It's called smingeing, and it's every bit as nasty as it sounds when you say it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Can you be smug and whinge at the same time? It sounds quite complicated.

    We were just taken to school on how to do it.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Judi Lapsley Miller,

    It's called smingeing, and it's every bit as nasty as it sounds when you say it.

    Looks like Russell is just trying to get in early for "Word of the Year" for 2009...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Interesting how Beatrix Potter's unmodified work retains its appeal, while the numerous attempts at bowdlerisation are quickly forgotten. The ongoing attempts to dumb-down Potter seem to stem from an urge to make the world safe for a certain kind of schoolteacher, while rendering it sterile for most kids.

    Despite the superficial anthropomorphism, Potter's critters are based on her observation of real animals, and it's this often dark authenticity that ensures their ongoing appeal. Squirrel Nutkin loses his tail after narrowly escaping being skinned alive by an owl. Despite his foppish Gainsborough suit, Tom Kitten is rolled in pastry and prepared for the oven by the ogre-ish rat Samuel Whiskers and his evil wife. Peter Rabbit is trapped by his brass buttons in a bird net in Mr MacGregor's garden - he went there knowing full well that his dad had been killed there - and frees himself by shedding the trappings of anthropomorphism, his ditzy blue jacket.

    While Potter received plenty of critical acclaim in her lifetime she was no sentimentalist. When Graham Greene described her in a 1933 essay as "an acute and unromantic observer", he copped a freociously articulate letter from the author for daring to attempt a little amateur Freudian analysis of her work.

    There was a cartoon from the last years of Punch that Potter might well have enjoyed. Taken straight from Peter Rabbit, it showed Mrs. Rabbit raising her arms in horror as Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail bring the news that that Peter has entered the fatal garden. The only modification to the original pic is that the little girl bunnies are missing the top half of their ears. The caption reads "Mr. MacGregor's got a Flymo!"

    Who knows, Beatrix Potter might even have enjoyed this:

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I can safely say it's morons like you who give Kiwi's a reputation here as a bunch of smug, self-satisfied whingers.

    Wait, Kiwis in England are seen as whingers?

    How ironic...

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    It's like the joke I heard when I was in the UK:

    What's the difference between an Australian and the engines on a 747?

    The engines stop whining when the plane lands at Heathrow.

    Actually, Kiwis in England aren't particularly seen as whingers - they're normally seen as bar staff.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Joe Wylie wrote:

    Interesting how Beatrix Potter's unmodified work retains its appeal, while the numerous attempts at bowdlerisation are quickly forgotten.

    Very glad to hear it. We saw some abridged versions of Potter's books that were shockingly dumbed-down.

    The word 'soporific' had been censored from the 'Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies'. As a six year old, I remember finding it to be a very useful word, and felt grateful to Potter for exposing me to it. It's still a useful word, come to think of it.

    I very much enjoyed 'Peter Rabbit: Tank Killer'. My only criticism is with regard to the usage of 'Schmeisser'. I was once trapped on holiday with a toothless Australian man-slaughterer, who explained to me at great length that 'Schmeisser' was an incorrect descriptor. Unfortunately, however, I've forgotten what the correct term should be.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • chris esther,

    Cornwall-Orkney: 50°-59° N.

    Muckle Flugga!

    Since Apr 2008 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There's quite a lot of industry in the Lakes. Bloody great plutonium factory for starters (they do tours). Plus a shipyard in Barrow that builds nuclear submarines. Making nukes is a profitable business and a source of much employment in the region.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Despite the superficial anthropomorphism, Potter's critters are based on her observation of real animals, and it's this often dark authenticity that ensures their ongoing appeal.

    I'd recommend laying hands on Linda Lear's Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, and wasn't as surprised as I should have been to find out that she could have had a serious career as a mycologist if the botanical establishment of the time weren't such a pack of sexist arse warts. (Her uncle, Sir Henry Roscoe - a noted chemist - presented to Linnean Society of London a paper she wrote because women were forbidden from attending meetings, let alone presenting papers.)

    But it's interesting -- when you think about it -- how much great children's literate does have a heart of darkness that parents would rather pretend doesn't exist. Which, in one respect, suggests there's one way maturity isn't an advantage at all.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    It may have changed now, but I was often surprised by the emptiness of some of the most verdant stretches of Britain -- North Wales, for example. It was as if it hadn't occurred to the city-dwellers what lay beyond their boundaries.

    I wait in anticipation of the day that Gwynedd undertakes a UDI and returns to its status as an independent kingdom (it was the last Celtic kingdom to fall under English rule). There is a rich land and people that sits between the A55 coast road that ferries folks to Holyhead then to Ireland and the A5 which doesn’t actually stop in Betws-y-coed, though there does appear to be an invisible barrier which prevents all but the most bold from going further. Both the University at Bangor and Penrhyn Castle just down the road are steeped in controversy; the former was funded by the disputably “voluntary” contributions of local slate miners and farmers, the latter was almost certainly built form the profits of slavery and the slate mines. A trip worth making is to go to the Royal Academy and take a look at the Watercolours by Turner and the catch the train up to Snowdonia. I am in no way a religious man but the light boiling from behind the clouds captured by Turner and seen for real at Llyn Ogwen on a spring day inspires a sense of godliness and goes some way to explaining the abundance of churches in the area. Typically my old village Deiniolen has three chapels and at one stage had five, though the village itself I reckon only held 200 people if there was a home football match. It should be noted that current statistics estimate there to be one person per 2 hectares in Gwynedd which compares well with the east and south but really nothing compared to New Zealand which is less than 1 (might be wrong on that). The changes in local population continue to be quite controversial not least because of the ongoing battle over holiday homes, which goes some way to explaining the emptiness and relative poverty of many areas. It would be a shame to see some truly welsh/bilingual communities die out up North given the success of the language elsewhere in Wales. Elsewhere communities are looking at new ventures to stay alive such as the community farm/centre at Moel-y-ci for which I am an original shareholder. I don’t miss England a bit, but from time to time I really yearn for the bus ride up the hill to Deiniolen, somehow that always felt like going home despite the rain.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    David:

    The word 'soporific' had been censored from the 'Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies'. As a six year old, I remember finding it to be a very useful word, and felt grateful to Potter for exposing me to it. It's still a useful word, come to think of it.

    If I hadn't seen that kind of thing done I'd have difficulty believing it. There's a particularly awful Peter Rabbit from the 80s, re-illustrated with photographed soft toys, where the description of the rabbits' home "underneath the root of a very big fir-tree" has been reduced to "an old tree". God knows why.

    Craig:

    But it's interesting -- when you think about it -- how much great children's literature does have a heart of darkness that parents would rather pretend doesn't exist.

    I think the great childrens' authors are those who've discovered that you don't get the enduring light without the dark. C. S. Lewis famously cited Squirrel Nutkin as an early encounter with the religio-mystical quality that he described as "joy", and claimed to have returned to the book throughout his life. While the marvellously eccentric Marianne Moore wasn't exactly a childrens' author, she was dead serious when she included Squirrel Nutkin and Peter Rabbit among her list of greatest literary works, along with Henry James, Stendhal, Trollope, and, uh, Ogden Nash.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I think the great childrens' authors are those who've discovered that you don't get the enduring light without the dark.

    Craig, I'd agree completely -- although Arthur Ransome didn't see fit to drown any of his unsupervised little sailors, and is still a great children's author. (BTW David, how did you resist the temptation to sit young Roger, I mean Bob, in the bows for a perfect photo op?).

    But in general, yes, a heart of pragmatic darkness anchors the very best writing for children. You inspired me to dig up an observation by Joan Aiken that I cited in a very old blog post:

    There is a current fashion for suggesting that everything is very easy, if it is properly explained. ... I can hardly state strongly enough what a mistake I think this is, to tell children that they will find a solution to every problem they are likely to encounter.

    [Instead] it is the writer's duty to demonstrate to children that the world is not a simple place. Far from it. The world is an infinitely rich, strange, confusing, wonderful, cruel, mysterious, beautiful, inexplicable riddle. We too are a riddle. We don't know where we come from or where we are going, we are surrounded by layers of meaning that we can only dimly apprehend, however much we try to learn.

    And how much more enjoyable it is for children -- how much more it accords with their own observations and instinctive certainties -- to be told this, than to be told that the world is a flat, tidy, orderly place, with everything mapped out and accounted for by computer, with no unexplored regions left; that somewhere, neatly waiting, each person has an identity, like a parcel left at the post-office to be collected; that a naughty bear who doesn't like playing with other bears has only to be invited to a party, and he will soon change his ways.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Moira Goldie,

    I really enjoyed your blog David, but perhaps your awful cold meant your view of things was slightly jaundiced!

    I was in the UK in July – the height of the holiday season – and certainly didn’t feel the place was too crowded. On the contrary, I kept marvelling that 15 minutes out of Sheffield you were on the Moors with hardly another person to be seen. Sure the motorways are packed but we did most of our travelling on B roads and it seemed that once you were out of the towns, the landscape was enchantingly rural and I kept feeling I had strayed into a Merchant Ivory production.

    Even in the Lake District, where admittedly the towns and tourists spots are packed, it is still possible to find some out of the way lanes where you can enjoy some wonderful views without too many people around.

    We visited a few typical seaside spots and the vast expanses of golden sands seemed to be sparsely occupied. At Great Yarmouth on a sunny day, it certainly proved difficult to find a parking spot, but once we did, we were able to stroll along the long Pleasure Beach promenade without feeling at all crowded and as for the beach itself – well I’ve seen more people at Piha or Cornwallis on a summer weekend. Perhaps everyone was in Spain for their holidays!

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2008 • 4 posts Report Reply

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