Friday, May 29, 2009

May is the month for confetti whites – hawthorn blossom, horse-chestnut candles, wild garlic, and cow-parsley, my favourite, drenching the river banks and fluttering along the lanes like a ragged peasant army returning glorious. This seems a specially good year for these wonderful wayside umbellifers everywhere.
I’ve been travelling up north staying with friends: Hazel my bard-buddy now living near Worcester (which counts as north to a Watford-orientated south-Londoner like me) then way up into the wilds of the M6 – to Ribchester, a tiny Lancashire village on the banks of the Ribble, which traces its provenance back to Roman days and celebrates its farming status with two pubs called after bulls.

I’ve come to visit Anya, who I first met in Tobago over a decade ago; we now have one of those friendships that picks up effortlessly with each connection. With her new partner John we explored the noble history of Hutton-in-the-Forest, the industrial history of Salts Mill, and the natural history of High Head Sculpture Valley, where the cow parsley was as impressive as the art trail.

Writer and social psychologist Stephen Whitehead is staying too, and we spent Bank Holiday Monday walking the fabulous unpeopled landscape around Anya’s home on the hottest day of the year so far.
Stephen’s specialism is gender and unusually for an academic his published work includes popular & accessible books like The Many Faces of Men – featured on Richard & Judy among other media worldwide – as well as course readings on feminist post-structuralist theory.

And after a stop-off with my brother on the borders of Derbyshire, I'm back home in Frome, where the lilac really is in bloom, and the white roses out too, and there's a literary look at nature next week at the library. Organised by John Payne for the Lost World series of events, Nature Friend or Foe on June 5th is based on John's upcoming book The West Country: a cultural history. I'm specially pleased I get to quote bits of Kubla Khan, written by Coleridge "in a sort of Reverie brought on by two grains of Opium taken to check a dysentery."

And finally... definitions for Tories: Louise Marnel, the Bromsgrove housewife who organised a petition against Julie Kirkbride for fiddling her parliamentary expenses, denies that the 4000 signatories she amassed mean she used "mob rule".
Quite right Louise. It's called - or was once - democracy.


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