Landmarks in a flat country

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I’ve written before about my pleasure in being back in a landscape full of medieval churches. This one is in Folkingham, a village about ten miles away from us, with a nice campsite where we stayed in June and August 2012 while looking at houses in Heckington. We walked through cornfields, our route a triangle marked out by the churches of Pickworth, Walcot and Folkingham itself.

I think that soon I will be able to find my way around by the church towers I can see. Some have squat, square towers, others soaring, pointy ones. You can see them from miles away because the land is so flat. Driving back from putting daughter and family on train at Grantham yesterday, I stopped to take a picture of the church in Helpringham (below, in too little light at dusk) which I think particularly pretty. Then as soon as I leave that village, I can see in the distance Heckington’s own church, marking my home – though there are two more villages, two more churches to pass before my journey’s end.

Hundreds of years ago, other people would have seen these same towers, guiding them through the flatlands.

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A landscape that I love

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I took this picture on a walk with friends on New Year’s Day, on the way going north out of Heckington near a very small place called Howell (with a lovely, very old church – picture another time) on the way to another village called Ewerby.

It was one of the few days since we moved when it wasn’t raining and the light was nice enough to take photos. This shows the flat fields of the fens and the black earth; the wintry colours that I love and a landscape that warms my heart and makes me feel at home – far more than I realised it would when we decided to move here.

I barely know Lincolnshire, but the views across these fields remind me of the landscape I grew up in, around Grantchester, near Cambridge. The village of my childhood is south of Cambridge so not in the fens proper (which start to the north of the city), but it is still pretty flat and an agricultural landscape like the one here. I look at medieval church spires, visible from miles away, and the leafless, winter trees black against the blue/white sky on the distant horizon; and I feel right here, feel I can breathe here, am allowed to be.

Plum plum pudding

I’ve been looking for years for a Christmas pudding recipe that I like enough to use more than once – and think now I’ve found it. Called Plum Plum Pudding – plums twice because it uses fresh plums as well as prunes – it’s from Dan Lepard’s recent book, Short and Sweet and is delicious. I also made Figgy Pudding and a more classic Xmas pudding from the same book, but we’ve not eaten them yet.

Just now I’m too full of Christmas dinner to think about eating anything else for a long time…

Less rain today. Took dogs out for v quick walk before we sat down to eat, a little before dusk. Had brief glimpse of the kind of view I love – vast sky of bright, pale blue washed pink around the edges, green grass and skeleton black trees, intensity of colour that catches me by the throat. Turning back, I head for the church spire standing tall in the flat landscape.

We’ve been here a week. In some ways it’s still like being in a holiday house where you don’t quite know how everything works. But out walking in the fields it already feels like home.

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Yesterday’s landscape photos too dark, but here is a picture of the village green with the church behind.

And now we’re here…

What I said on Tuesday, as we drove away from Manchester, about goodbye rain…

Ha! It’s been raining non-stop since soon after we arrived in Heckington, the village where we are making our new home. Hence no pretty pics of the garden, house, fields etc. Will take some photos when the sun comes out.

We unloaded almost all the boxes into one room, an annexe to the main house, which used to be a shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it is terrifying seeing all our stuff piled up in boxes, all in one place. So much too much of it – never get to heaven or through the eye of a needle or whatever with all this in tow…

On the plus side, have found where to walk the dogs, organised daily delivery of Guardian, found even more shops here than I remembered, including hardware/DIY shop and chemist’s, all ranged around the village green. Jolly useful. Tuesday night was rather noisy, being bell-ringing night. Church is just along the street, as is a good butcher’s.

On people and places

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This avenue of trees in the park near our house makes me think of walking back from school with our daughter in autumn, very slowly while she looked for conkers among the fallen leaves. And even further back than that, of walking with our first dog, in the days when I didn’t know that I would have a daughter or that she would go to the school in the park.

In these last days of life in Manchester I wonder how I will feel about the place once I don’t live here any more. I’ve spent so many years grumbling, never quite felt at home or at ease. And yet, it is here that I have had most of my ‘grown-up’ life, here that I became a step-parent and a parent and came to terms, of some sort, with my own troubled childhood. I have found good friends here, got to know whole families, watched my friends’ children and my child’s friends grow into young adults (some now with children of their own).

I conjure up the places where I have walked, where I have eaten, bought food, watched plays or heard music; and I see and hear the people who have been there with me.

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.

It’s been grim these past few days: partner really ill with flu, me with cold and the packing an impossible task. At last it’s nearly done, with help from two brilliant cleaning/decorating women. Tomorrow, come what may, it all goes into the removal van; the morning after that we leave.