the m john harrison blog

Category: landscape

fauxthentication

However complete a fauxthentication is, it can’t actually be a world–-therefore the criticism, “This novel is still not fully & properly fauxthenticated” is always possible. The constant bolstering of the “world” constantly reveals it not to be one, ie reveals it never to be complete the way the world is. This seems to say more about the limits of writing & the act of suspension of disbelief (an immersion which can clearly be brought about in other ways) than it does about the actual need for a world to seem to be present in front of the reader. Also, it strikes me as a bit mad to be a fiction writer if you have to struggle so desperately to pretend you’re not. There’s some kind of guilt trip behind that. Fauxthentication seems like an attempt to deny your position as someone who makes things up.

getting out of it

I started hillwalking in the early 1970s because as soon as I got near a hill I could relax. In fact I couldn’t relax any other way. I’m not overstating this. It was a feeling that might be lost later in the walking day for any number of reasons, but for me the venue itself–the upland outdoors–acted like a tranquiliser & an antidepressant. Later in the day–whatever had happened in the interrim: you might get soaked, you might get lost, you might get blisters, you might experience a little low-wattage sublime–tiredness took over & provided another kind of chemical cosh. This never worked for me in towns & cities, or in lowlands. The built environment offered an anxious trudge, a failed yet persistent attempt at leaving yourself–or more likely the venue–behind. Exurban lowlands I just found uninteresting–I’m not saying that’s true now, & I’d rather walk on agricultural land, which I hate with a passion because it’s so clearly owned, than not walk at all. It’s the sense of ownership/not ownership, in the end, that makes the difference to me. I know rationally that I’m not “free” on access land: but at least, for the moment, no one can stop me being there.

alternate world

Long horizons, rising downs. West Sussex pub, full of the ghouls of money. 1947 Concours d’Elegance Bentley in the car park. Light aircraft float to & fro across the ghouls’ own sky won in single combat from the Nazis all those years ago. The weather is fine, blowy mid-May, but when we say we’ll sit outside, the barman responds with a kind of knowing servility, “You’re going to brave it, then?” Yes, we’re going to brave it. We’re going to meet today’s minor but satisfying challenge, we’re going to brave the May weather & have our lunch outside, the way the ghouls braved the Nazis in the blue enduring sky to protect their power & money all those years ago. You can’t be the rulers if you have no country to rule.

poor soul’s light

Further developments at the Curious Tales site. Good to see another tribute to Robert Aickman in this anniversary year. Part of “Animals”, my contribution to the project, was originally told to Lara Pawson, Julian Richards, Dan Jones & Cath Phillips in a spooky house overlooking Treyarnon Bay in Cornwall in, I think, 2005. Or perhaps it was 2006. Lara & Dan told stories too, as a result of which I had difficulty sleeping for the rest of the week. There’s another story–involving kites, Fulham-on-Sea & something called “balsamic cream” –to be made from the same holiday; but at nine years & counting it’s a bit slow in coming together even for me.

nant ffrancon

DSCF7965

i seen things in wales

The hair of the Dead Boys of Bangor beneath the surface of Lynn Ogwen, as they stream east towards the Siabod Cafe for a late breakfast of sausage & eggs.

DSCF7948

DSCF7626

the usual clownish re-enactment

Three nights of rain and the woods are sodden again, standing water where the seeps debouch on to the old railway line. Dogs mud to the armpits, tracks under an inch of limestone slime. Jogging uphill becomes this duckfoot struggle, then cautious slithering and windmill arms on the other side, the green lane a foetid downhill slot where it isn’t polished stone like ice. I thought we were past all that. I thought the year had got going. I feel betrayed. I feel heavy. I thought the problem from now on would be drought, and metatarsalgia from the hardpack. That’s what I was looking forward to. That was to be the nature of my complaint. I expected at least to dance along between the trees. Saturday in the Burbage valley we met a runner with two very small terriers like chopped and dropped poodles with pushed-in hairy faces. They were truncated. They looked like handbag dogs–in some lights they looked like mops–but by god they could keep up with him as he ran between the boulders. They were up for it in every way, boiling into and out of the loud tea-coloured streams, giving the impression that they were an entire pack of dogs. Size was not an issue with them. That’s what I’d like. Be thirty years younger, maybe six inches taller, power round the Burbage skyline every other day with a pack of nameless, grinning little dogs and a wide grin on my face too. Instead, I struggle in the muddy woods like a clownish re-enactment of The Road Not Taken.

a day in the country

People with a European 4×4. People with an Asian 4×4. People with scarves. People who think they have a sense of direction. People wearing a complete outfit of rural fashion clothing– including identical oiled cotton jackets and hats– and carrying a peculiarly long kind of walking stick, who ask you if you’ve “been through the cattle” as if it’s a crime, or a rite, or the adventure of a lifetime. People with a “working dog” they can’t control. People who are telling each other as you pass, “Of course it’s still very Catholic round here.” People who, in the coming days, will have a wall knocked down in their Richmond home and find a great hoard of household rubbish–broken beds, cheap soiled mattresses, used unpaired shoes stuffed into plastic bags–which has been bricked in by a former owner, and for whom there will be no psychic upshot or metaphysical learning curve, only the end of the story. Or so you expect.

the magic of a north-facing scarp

Down to the Iron Bridge. Upstream along the abandoned railway to the power station. Three hundred feet up from there via the first set of wooden steps to the top of Benthall Edge. Over a fence and into Patten’s Rock quarry; out of the quarry and into the woods. Down steep slopes between fallen trees, abandoned lime pits and rotted-looking streams. The light on the moss here is beyond being described as “radioactive”, “fluorescent” or any of those kinds of words. You can’t think of a thing to say except that another world is inside things or implied by things; and you’ve said that before, so many times, and you can never take yourself at your word. One of the pits features a twenty or thirty foot waterfall, less picturesque than it sounds. A further steep diagonal descent across the scarp–black mud under dead leaves, sphagnum moss and hartstongue fern–leads back to the railway line; immediately climb the shorter set of wooden steps up to Workhouse Coppice. Emerge on Spout Lane. Back to the town via Quarry Road. In a garden on Bridge Road I saw a thrush with a beak full of nesting materials. My knee’s a bit sore and I think life owes me a sausage roll.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 441 other followers