Extract From a Letter 2

Life continues chaotic, busy, and wearing, meaning that all writing or planning outside of another long letter is simply not happening. This blog will see a little more action in a day or two when April starts and the infernal nuisance of National Poetry Month begins, but until then have another extract from the never-ending letter:

An odd question occurs to me: what is the earth like where you are? Is it hard or soft? Is there topsoil? Is it the acidic stuff of where I grew up, or the chalky alkaline that turns out blue flowers and spindly trees? The landscape of my childhood was a split between windswept moors with the odd bent tree – the stuff of Brontë novels (I know you love Wuthering Heights) – where the grass is sheep-cropped short and the bracken comes up to your shoulder and every time you fall over you don’t land on the springy heather but on a vicious gorse bush. It is a landscape of rain and continual up and down, with granite bursting out of the thin soil, and bogs you could (and have) lose a horse in.

These vast windswept mountain ranges were interspersed with deep valleys of the sort that end up in Lord of the Rings – shallow, fast-flowing rivers and moss-covered boulders, streams full of slippery round rocks, and mossy, old oak trees. An old landscape and according to some documentary or other it is a totally unique habitat, globally.

The rest of the time I lived in a land of chalk downs and long grass, but both were largely treeless landscapes characterised by butterflies of rarity: Dartmoor had the Common Fritillary (a misnomer, it is very rare), which is orange-brown, and Somerset had the Chalk Blues. These places are so close together by Australian standards, but geographically so different.

What you may take from my letter excerpts is that I spent a lot of time rambling about West Country landscapes in the vaguely nostalgic manner of someone who has absolutely no intention of ever leaving London again.


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