Possession

Field

Last year I wrote about the rooks we see and hear from our garden. Their constant presence, and that of crows in the fields around us was probably what prompted me to read Crow Country by Mark Cocker. It is a fascinating book in many ways but today I have been thinking of what he writes about his connection to both the place where he lives now and where he lived as a child.

He talks of feeling a sense of possession, of ownership of a particular, familiar territory. He describes what I feel about this part of Lincolnshire where I have fetched up. It belongs to me and I belong to it; ever more so as I learn my way around the back roads and through tiny villages. The shape of the land, turns in the road, particular trees are become familiar, even as the views, the colours and the light still make me shout in surprise and joy.

I remember feeling this way about London when I was a teenager and later, in my twenties, when finally I lived there. I revelled in my growing knowledge of the city, each confident step a claiming of it as my own.

I wrote a while back of imagining coming back to this place where I live now at some time when I no longer lived here, sinking to my knees and plunging my hands into the earth like an exile returned. I go further; I imagine that I could, just now, walk out into the nearest ploughed field, lie on the rich, cold earth and disappear, merge, become a part of it. And in that imaginary desire to become one with the dense clay there is such a lightness and a freedom. This connection, this relationship requires nothing of me but love. I possess and am possessed: equilibrium.

Losing the thread

Teasels

Two weeks have drifted by since my post written in the very first hours of 2014, when our New Year guests had gone to bed and I was contemplating the peculiar beauty of a post-dinner-party table. The crumpled napkins, stray unused cutlery, empty glasses gleaming in the last light from sputtering candles, all seemed to hold a faint essence of the people who had been eating and talking there, like ghost or dream-guests come out to play round the festive table while their corporeal selves were peacefully asleep.

This point in the year is always a hiatus, a gap in the normal order of things. Visitors come and go: extended family, friends from other countries, small grandchildren. The house is full of food, the garden is cold and wet. Without our dogs we have been outside even less than usual at this time of year.

And it is outside that makes me write and think, outside where the fields are abstract paintings; where greens and browns are soaked in light and the black of winter hedgerows is deep enough to drown in; where the ploughed earth is rich, scented, edible and my connection to it visceral.

So no outdoors means no blog posts, or not so many at least.

Yesterday I went to Doncaster and took pictures of sunrise and railway tracks on the way, pictures intended for here but I’ve written a different kind of post.

Today’s picture is from a walk of two or three weeks ago and very like lots of photos I took early last year. Passing my blog anniversary and the festive break has left me musing about what this year’s blogging will bring. Will my pictures all be like ones from the same time last year?

I didn’t expect photographs to become such a big part of the blog when I began it in Manchester; but I have loved taking them and looking at them. The landscape always looks like a picture to me now. I wish I could paint it as well as photograph it.

In any case, time to get out more – if only, today, as far as the end of the garden to fetch swede and leeks for supper.

People and places, revisited

Sunset in the winter garden

So I ponder this paradox: that I don’t love this city, find little beauty or joy in its many faces, and yet so many places in it remind me of love.

I wrote this a year ago today, two days before leaving Manchester.

These themes, of connection to place and connection to people have continued to preoccupy me in the past year while I have been writing this blog. Many people, I guess, though definitely not everyone will have a time in their life when they face this kind of split; when the people they love and the place where they feel at home are far apart.

As I have approached the anniversary of us moving here, I have been missing Manchester friends and family very much, both a wider group of people we had known over many years and a few, very close friends, and my daughter and grandchildren, whose company I miss every day.

And yet I wouldn’t go back. There has not been one minute, one time since arriving here when I wished myself living in Manchester again.

In Manchester I used to try to summon up a sense of homecoming as I approached my house, my street after being away; but my pleasure at coming home to my loved ones, my familiar surroundings, was always tinged with nelancholy. How odd to have lived in a place for so long and never loved it. Is it something wrong with me or just that we didn’t fit?

If I left here and came back, I imagine myself falling on my knees, digging my hands in the earth like an exile coming home.

In fact sometimes I want to do just that, even now: the earth looks so luscious in the bare, ploughed winter fields.

Flat Earth, Big Sky joins Facebook

Hundred Fen

I have only recently begun to use Facebook and this week I decided to set up a Facebook page for this blog.

Why? Good question. I’d like more people to read the blog – though I don’t know whether or not this will happen. I also plan to put up more photos here than there is space for on a blog post. And I’d like to see if a page will give a little more scope for people to comment or talk to me.

The blog began life as a diary of leaving and arriving, my meditations on why I wanted to be in one place and not another. I have surprised myself by how right this new place felt, as soon as I got here. I miss people back in Manchester every day; and every day I feel profoundly lucky to be where I am.

This virtual conversation with friends left behind has developed in various ways. Sometimes it feels like my little advertising campaign for this part of England, and perhaps for rural, agricultural England more generally. I have also begun to meet (virtually, of course) other Lincolnshire or East of England bloggers – an unexpected and fun development, so thoroughly twenty-first century.

And so to the Facebook page – the latest development. You can go to it via the link in the right-hand column here. You can also ‘like’ it and share it with any friends you think may like to look at pictures of flat fields and huge skies.

You will also notice that I have today changed the look of the blog a bit. I liked the old fonts and spacing on the page better than this current one, but I wanted to have the archives, Facebook box etc more visible and easy to find. In time I will find some nicer fonts.

House on Hundred Fen

Railway through the flatlands

Sleaford

Heckington, Sleaford,  Peterborough, Ely, Cambridge: these were the stations I visited on my journey to see my mum earlier this week.

The ‘little train’ I talk about (the Poacher Line) has two carriages, runs from Skegness to Nottingham and stops in Heckington once an hour. But the train from Sleaford station (in photo above) to Peterborough was littler still, with only one carriage!

This journey took me through the flattest of the flatlands; with many references to those other Low Countries across the North Sea. One district is called South Holland and the train stops in Spalding where they used to grow acres of tulips and other bulbs.

On the approach to Ely station I catch a glimpse of river, boats and cathedral; and the sense of space and water stays with me. I always like changing trains here, like the openness and green fields nearby.

Between Ely and Waterbeach I see fields of the soot-black, crow-black soil that I think of as typical of the fens. A friend of my mum’s tells me it is not so black as it used to be, because our farming practices are taking all the goodness out of it.

River at Ely

View at Ely

Spring in the dog field

Ploughed earth

A short while ago the fields around were still covered in stubble, but now they have been ploughed. This the third field that the dogs and I cross on our regular walk and I am fascinated by the red-brown soil turned over in fat, slug-shaped ridges, such a rich colour, dense and fat and tactile, like something to be moulded or even eaten.

On the far side of the field is Naughty Doris, spoken of in Spot The Dog. She might be hunting in the hedgerow or just eating grass.

The picture below is the view looking back towards the village when we are on our way home.

Hall trees