Squashed gothic churches, beheaded saints, mysterious alleyways and a preponderance of dustbins.
It doesn’t take much to make a familiar place unfamiliar. A change in the weather – rain, bright sunshine, or more dramatically, snowfall or fog can all do it. Smells too – who hasn’t found themselves aware of sniffing more consciously than normal when drains are blocked, or there’s a whiff of barbecue, bonfire or worse in the air?
And then of course there are a place’s distinctive sounds.
At the inaugural Balham Literary Festival, a gathering of Nature Writers, Landscape Writers and Writer writers came together to discuss the state of the natural world. Here’s my report on what I saw and heard.
Let’s say I was there.
In a hotel near three reservoirs for Wigan.
Let’s say I slipped out back on an unexpected walk,
on a circular path…
In 1837 London was growing rapidly and expanding at the edges. The city had an urgent need for space and not just for its living – the metropolitan dead also needed somewhere else to go…
In a city of hills, one in particular stands out. Today Brandon Hill is a leafy, peaceful, city centre park, but over the course of more than 900 years, it has been the site of political protest, feasts, riots, celebrations, farewells, gun emplacements, hermits’ chapels and public clothes washing.
From the blurb on my copy of H is for Hawk it was pretty clear that the book was about Helen Macdonald and Goshawks and TH White and grief. I didn’t mistake the book for the Observer Book of Goshawks and feel outraged by all the snot and tears.
I read it and loved it. Only then, did I discover that there are, apparently, very strict rules, about how Nature Writing should be done…