Pilgrimpace's Blog

writing by walking and walking again

It’s been a full week, so no time for blogging.  Here, leading on from the last post, is some of Iain Sinclair’s introduction to Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside.  It brings together for me important connections between urban life, nature, the increasingly harsh political situation, and how we might live in a way that is fully human,

I remember the bright moments of my rock bottom employment, loading and unloading shipping containers, by the railway yards of Stratford East in the early Seventies … When Angel Cottage, a rustic gem festooned in creepers and blooms disappeared overnight as part of the great redevelopment package, I cried out, in my ignorance, for a small portion of the precision and lightly worn scholarship with which The Unofficial Countryside was mapped.  Without a proper accounting of loss, these acts are final: not a scratch on our consciousness when the listed building is replaced by a loud nothing, protected by a corrugated fence and a battery of surveillance cameras.  No record has been left behind of our shame in failing to resist.  And no memorial, in Mabey’s direct and effective prose, to the processes of weather, the complex entanglements of predatory humans and indifferent nature.

Now, in the age of the Grand Project, Richard Mabey’s excursions from thirty five years ago, undertaken in strong heart, never succumbing to impotent rage, seem prophetic.  Which is to say: true and right.  Inevitable.  Writing by walking, and walking again to gather up the will to write, was an obvious tactic; a mediated response to a dim period of failing industries, social unrest, power cuts: suppression of the imagination after the unbridled utopianism of the sixties.  But nobody else, at the moment of the book’s composition, took on the job in quite this way; and not, for sure, in this territory.



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