A Little Bit Country

The whole read-a-book-a-week-and-lighten-your-load idea has taken a dive, since I haven’t read anything this week. I started David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green last week, and got well into it, particularly since as a child I spent a short spell in the Worcestershire countryside (where the book is set thus far) , round about the same time that the book is set. This gives the book a certain personal and sentimental appeal that a book about, say, a band of Mexican revolutionaries might not have.

Nothing further to say about the book at this point. But it has prompted me to think about the English countryside and how it compares with the Irish countryside. From what I’ve seen, I’d opt for the former every time. It feels far more…established, perhaps for obvious historical reasons. The trunks of trees are thicker, the leaves are..leafier. The fields are bigger! And they have lots of blasted heaths and windswept moors and things for acting out period dramas.

Leaving aside the mountainy areas, which are wild and spectacular, but wet and windy, all you have in the Irish countryside are streams full of agricultural waste and sheughs full of prams and Argos catalogues.

I like almost everywhere I’ve been in the English countryside: the Cotswolds, and Worcestershire and Malvern, the Fens, Kent, and Cumbria. Yorkshire I’m not all that familiar with, but it certainly looks nice on Emmerdale. Occasionally I read someone in England say stuff like ‘I’d love to retire to a little house somewhere in Ireland’ and I think: is this person off his head? Do they mean the Ireland in John Ford films, or do they really want to live in a tiny-windowed bungalow two miles from the nearest shop with a pair of white eagles wearing trousers perched on the gateposts?

I wouldn’t live in what’s left of the Irish countryside if you paid me. I wouldn’t live in any countryside, but that’s beside the point.

2 Responses to “A Little Bit Country”

  1. 1 godsaveireland March 22, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Speaking as someone who loves Ireland dearly – particularly the sainted damp fields of Fermanagh and the wild open spaces of Mayo – I have always felt guilty about thinking the English countryside was somehow just a bit – I dunno – classier. Much more variety too. It’s the sort of place where your run into a different cheese or bottled water around every bend. I’m glad someone else is of a similar mind. (Can I admit to liking the Archers too?)

  2. 2 Hugh Green March 23, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Well, if it’s mineral water we’re talking about, I must also disclose a preference for Malvern over the likes of Ballygowan. I like my mineral waters to be sober and reflective, and not tinged, however faintly, with Celtic twilight.

    Like the site, by the way.

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March 2007

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