It’s been a fine day for a cold and today at lunch I took a sandwich to the bridge on the outskirts of Tolly Maw. I’m snuffling and scratchy, somewhat tired, because everyone was sick this weekend - and because everyone was sick I couldn’t be. I love my sprouts but to be honest by Sunday morning I wanted to get away. But Sunday is a day without busses and we’re a long way from the railway since our branch was closed – even then it took coffins and mourners on the rural branch on the old Necropolis. Many were stranded here as the closure took place without warning. Many remain. That explains rather a lot. I can walk, and happily, for miles and here there is an awful lot to walk. Fells and hills, mountains, rivers and lakes, but sometimes and the more you have of the great wild places they rather become not so wildly great. When I lived in cities, I longed for the country. Now in the country...
It’s hard to sometimes. The good smell of the country is wonderful. The hoo-hoo of wood pigeons is so much more preferable than the eternal siren-somewhere-nearby. I ran from London a little more than ten years ago when it hit me that from none of my windows could I see the ground. Only patchwork grey, and tall buildings indistinct in the haze. Visiting the smoke and the smell is terrible, hot tin and something stale, a scraped but unwashed ashtray. It’s a cliché too but it’s true that people are nicer out in the sticks. Everyone says hello, people help out if someone is in distress, or lost, or just muttering. There’s also that lazy sort of bigotry that’s probably just closer to the surface. And they’re not defensive. They really don’t care if it’s better in the sticks or the smoke, or what that means anyway.
But I grew up in both town and country. My family is Lambeth born and stamped. I might have been raised in the country, but not far from London and we had family there, and I was there a lot. I know London better than some, in that everyone that’s lived in London has lived in a different London. And there are times when I miss it. And Sunday I just wanted to walk to the museums, to ferret out an old and hidden pub, to troll the South Bank at dusk. To hit the pubs to see a bit of proper theatre. To have tubes and busses and lots of people just there, that you know, any time you want. I wanted bustle (astonishingly). It was a lovely day and if I wanted to play pool and sink a pint then I wanted to do it with the doors open to a noisy street.
I need to be somewhere with both. A town with character and oddity and the country all muddled in to which I can walk whistling. Salisbury was the best for that. My missus and my sprouts are all northerners, but I’m a southerner and it’s not only the past that is a foreign country.
Sometimes it’s just that a bread roll is not a teacake.