Friday, 23 October 2009

Terence, you didn't go far enough

This article, I largely agree with, which is surprising, because it is in the Independent.

Recently I have taken to tutting at the Independent. Tutting. That has to be a sign of middle age, hasn't it? Once I might have donated a fiver to an anarchist cause of firebombing their offices. I am growing up.

I tut at the Independent because four days out of five they find some pathetic excuse to stick a photograph of Carla Bruni in my face. If the article tangentially refers to the French banking system, there will be a photo of Carla Bruni's legs, possibly because she once walked to a bank. In the mind of an Independent picture editor, the state of the Société Générale probably justifies a quarter page given over to Bruni's ankles.

I could go on. Like the Pandora section is complete waste of space. Seriously, are they paying money for junk? Pay me and I'll write pointless junk. And don't get me started on the 10 best or 50 best, all of which are fine if you are the type of person who can lose the odd £600 down the back of the sofa in spare change. Then there's all the family travel tips which are so very useful if your family is loaded and comes in a 2adult2childrencosyunit.

Their worst crime, but the one we laugh at proper bellylaugh, is of course, the education journalism: the advertorial. Pages of this masquerade as independent journalism. They must think they get away with it, and no-one can see the single reason to that copy: to support Thursday adverts.

Anyway, none of that is what I want to say here. I just needed to get that off my chest.

Today in the Independent Terence Blacker writes of English fields, tourists and ramblers. This is an area of special interest, Terence, and you don't go nearly far enough. I'll fill in those ordinary people gaps for you; they're in Grit's fields.

We have stumbled across fields in all directions from our town - round edges, through middles, over topside and downside, into ditches, up trees, under fences, through cowpats - and I can tell you that our English fields are crawling with eccentrics, gentle enthusiasts, and small straggling groups, criss-crossing those spaces looking like oddments and allsorts, but all standing still on moments to purposefully, wondrously, point to grass, sky, tree, and earth.

They may first come, townielike, to these fields because they seek antidote before heading back to the office come Monday morning. Or they may be dwellers in chocolate box villages wrapped in lace curtains. They may be both and neither; I don't know. I see people who use fields, woodlands and open spaces as a resource, a place to learn, a place to grow; a place of belonging; a place where we can teach children what it is to build friendships, neighbourhoods, communities; a place to meet people who share your special interest, no matter how bizarre, eccentric, abnormal, laughable.

And these people found in fields I probably admire more than anyone else in the world, because these people truly are independent minded. They know you laugh at them, and let's face it, sometimes that is easy, because amongst their numbers count hippies and druids and mad people. But it doesn't stop them. I admire their resilience and determination; their refusal to give up, no matter how odd-ball and off-beat. They do what they do regardless; because they want to follow their enthusiasms, interests and desires. Do you go with them? You can if you want; makes no difference. They are building things that are theirs, and things that are loved, and you can share it if you will, and they would be delighted with that.

In these fields we've met hundreds of people with their quiet passions: parchment maker, charcoal burner, twitcher, lichen expert, herbalist, fungi collector, historian, storyteller, geologist, telephone pole enthusiast, organ maker, flint knapper, sewage farmer, morris dancer, archaeologist, and woolly mammoth hunter. Hopefully, we have hundreds more to meet, and all to celebrate.

Like I said, I am just getting old, and joining them by degrees. But it is of some relief to me that among this number I can yet count hunt saboteurs and anarchists. And you never know, I could soon be visiting ecowarrior Shark chaining herself to a tree; Squirrel, enthusiastically exploring the world of woodlice, and Tiger, digging the earth in search of a sabre-toothed cousin. Their enthusiasms, communities, and loves have to start somewhere. May as well be a field.