The Castle Hill area of Cambridge is almost certainly the oldest continuously inhabited part of the city – it is here that the Roman fort was established in the first century CE. Perhaps this is why the whole area, which is still a tangle of streets and alleyways, once you leave the wide ring road that snakes through it, has a sense of strangeness and dislocation. You are very close to the hyper-busy tourist areas of the colleges and shops, but there is a sense of being threaded into the density of the past, the whole area has a slightly eerie quietly brooding atmosphere that clogs the arteries of one’s immediate concerns….Continue reading “Castle Hill at dusk”
A walk in Cambridge on a razor bright February afternoon. The market square below is in shadow with warm slumberous lights beginning to glow from the various stalls. Long furtive shadows from bicycles and pedestrians on the streets. Even manhole covers seem scalded with an otherworldly radiance. Up above old bricks are etched with light as if they were made of some strange kind of opaque crystal. The sun melts mediaeval pinnacles into molten gold – everything is changed….Continue reading “Cambridge on a winter afternoon”
Woke to find a blank impassive wall of fog, plaster board grey, utterly featureless, where there would normally be a view of the estuary from my father’s back garden. Every few minutes the fog horn would let out its erie drone, to be absorbed immediately by the blanketing silence.
Two hours later and the first faint shapes of the oil refinery terminal at the seaward end of the estuary were beginning to appear. The grain of pragmatic reality condensing out of the ether…
There is a local beauty spot just next to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambs, called Nine Wells. Here in a small wood several springs rise from a chalk aquifer and wind their way through hidden water-courses amongst beech trees and scrub. A magical place, but these days very close indeed to ‘civilisation’ – an entire city of gleaming bio-tech complexes is being built on its doorstep.
However, there are two other woods called Nine Wells in South Cambridgeshire. One assumes it must be a very ancient name for a wood with several springs, perhaps sacred to a local goddess. So on a cold bright Friday morning in November I set off by bike for the Nine Wells wood near Whittlesford. Continue reading “In Search of Nine Wells”
A morning walk on the borders of Cambridgeshire and Essex, shimmering fine rain, heavy cloud and bursts of sun. A sultry, thickened end of summer day. The village of Great Chishill is marked on the OS map as being 479 feet above sea level, giving its fortunate residents expansive views over a land of sprawling cornfields and caucuses of dark woods clumped on the hill tops. To the north the land drops sharply away to the plains of central Cambridgeshire, to the south the more wooded, gently bounding lands of north Essex.
Next to the church the road drops away down to the plains, with cottages on each side, a little bit like Gold Hill, Shaftesbury:
Werner Herzog Talks about nature, art, and filmmaking. This has got to be podcast of the year. His advice to budding filmmakers read, read, read great literature. The book he wants to highlight: JA Baker’s great classic of English nature writing ThePeregrine. Herzog finds here writing of a calibre that has not appeared since the short stories of Conrad – truthfulness, passion and ecstasy as the author seeks to become one with the bird he is tracking over the woods and fields of Essex.
Robert Harrison of KCSU Stamford, has an occasional and highly erudite podcast covering all aspects of the humanities, in this episode he talks with Professor Jean Marie Apostolides about Guy Debord, situationism, and psychogeography. In an earlier episode he goes into more detail about ThePeregrine with Andrea Nightingale.
Coton, pronounced with the first 0 long as in Seb Coe, is the nearest village to Cambridge on the west side. Beyond the village wide, lazy cornfields open out, glowing in the morning heat at this sultry end of July.
The Berkshire Downs, not open country but deep woodland scaling the hillside. Just after rain, wandering through the heavy feast of rain soaked boughs, green shadows dripping all around me, festering silence, rich but a little sinister. Solitary dog walkers loom out of the stillness, a black labrador bounds up, then disappears into the resiny gloom beyond the gravel ride. There are adolescent Wellington firs, splayed at the base like rainforest trees, large ferns and parties of very young firs clustered at the edge of glades, eager for their share of the light. I lose myself in the rich resiny silence, an hour’s walk seems like a lifetime of tramping, the wood goes on spreading upwards, there are freaks of golden light beyond the thickest trees in the distance, but this suggests the top of the hill not the end of the wood. There is no discernible end. Like Buddha saying that there is no discernible end to time or matter, so long as one continues to believe in them.
Geoffrey Hill’s valedictory lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry is powerful final plea to maintain standards in literature. His hectoring, pungently oratorical style has to be heard to be believed. He is irreplaceable. Listen to it here: Oxford lectureContinue reading “Geoffrey Hill on Larkin”
The Solitude of Small Doors, Ananda (Stephen Parr)
Wolf at the Door, Bristol 2015, £11.52, pb, 250 pp
(To order go to Lulu.com and search for Stephen Parr
Reviewed by Ratnagarbha
Ananda’s major new collection, The Solitude of Small Doors has a distilled reflectiveness about it. We get the feeling that this is the fruit of a lifetime of reflection, observation and wrangling with the intractibles of this precious, confusing all to brief event we call human life. But human life, in Ananda’s universe, is always reflected and refracted through things, things vividly alive that speak to the poet, each in its own idiosyncratic voice. The kind of things you find in dank back yards: