June 24, 2004


Alan Bennett, in an old LRB (1997?) complains about all the cars and traffic in all the "desolate and far-flung" parts of the North while he's looking for some stone circle or other. But the desolation -- the wilderness -- in England has never been out in the valleys, the dales, the tors, the moors -- places where you’re never more than a kilometre or so from a house or road -- but in the suburbs and city centres. Bradford, Leeds, Staines, Slough. Milton Keynes, Neasden....

I can remember my bewilderment and confusion at the thought that anyone could think something as small and friendly, something as well-trodden, intimately-mapped, and wholly-tamed as (say) Exmoor could be thought "wild".... My horror at the idea that you could be in the centre of what the English call "wilderness" and still see houses... my introduction to the English idea of "wilderness" through Ciaran's characterisation at the City Lit, his image of "something fenced off and overgrown, acres of forest, perhaps; somewhere you wouldn't go...". "Wouldn’t go"?...


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