“We’d like to apologise to viewers in the North: it must be awful for them.”
Someone from Kent, who I don’t think was quoting Victoria Wood, said this to me once. He said it must have been dreadful to have grown up with such ugliness, industrialisation and whatnot.
The first time I went to rural Suffolk, I experienced a terrible culture shock.
There wasn’t anywhere to walk. It was either roads or farmers fields, “private” land. It was Countryside, which I had not previously encountered, where neither wasteland, nor the Right to Roam seemed to have been heard of.
It has proved difficult to communicate, more than once, that finding beauty and wildness, or rather, its leaping out, in urban, industrialised landscapes is a because of, not an in spite of, experience. That the wildness is not compensated for, it is there, in the complexities of metal and concrete and abandoned places, claimed by vetch, fireweed and moss, cheek by jowl with patterns of gum, graffiti, cracks in the pavement. What I imbibed, growing up somewhere near Wigan, was that everything, everything was alive. No exceptions. Bridges, their molecules quivering with footsteps and the metal tang of the river, clouds, grass, earwigs, sugar-stealers, washing on the line, smoke, canal banks, moths. There was nowhere that aliveness and complexity was not. This is my Wild, passionately loved, every last drop and jot, the elbows and knees of it, human and made by human, like birds and nests, ants and anthills, more than human, other than human, jostling and bumping into each other, all of it pulsing with the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.
There is nowhere I need to go, nowhere I need to search. Life reaches for me, in the bluebells, yes, but also in the alleyway. Bricks speak, of heat, and sun, baking and built, weeds split the path, reaching and twittering, holding time, alive as the tiles shoaling the street or the men in jackets digging the road, desire rolling through in noisy waves, silence and pause and pulse, between the traffic, everywhere an ecstasy, always now.
whatever is strange, or seems foreign about ourselves- is exactly what makes our old habits of self, like knowing and understanding, sound irrelevant – Adam Phillips