A suburban field guide to the identification of packaging

January 25, 2008 at 12:05 pm 2 comments

I went for a walk yesterday, leaving the town by the winding, high-hedged road that runs past the grand houses, climbing the echoey steps over the railway bridge and suddenly feeling in a different world. Oh, it is a peculiar, south-eastern illusion of countryside to be sure, the horse-jumps scattered in the fields betray the fact that it would have been built on long ago if it hadn’t been for the wealthy and powerful equestrian set, and it is a far cry from the hilly expanses of my youth (and even the slightly less expansive and less hilly West Berkshire countryside), but it feeds the soul better than nothing and within walking distance of my front door.

I met a friendly chocolate labrador on the bridge and chatted to its owner about the weather.

After the bridge, the path divides. Straight on takes you past the brambles, to the prep school and eventually the farm shop, and you can come back along the road and stop for a drink in the pub on the way. I come from a line of keen hill-walkers and have a genetic distaste for going home the same way I came from.

Alternatively, you can turn right, and the path disappears downhill behind some bushes. I have been tempted by this path many times, but I have always been on a mission to pick blackberries or go to the farm shop, or it has been boggy (this is Berkshire – it’s flat and rains a lot) and have never explored it. Yesterday it was still boggy, but less so, and I was undaunted. I branched off to the right and squelched down to the field. Crossing the field brought me to a path. Left seemed to take me towards someone’s house, and although signed as a public footpath, I’m not sure of the etiquette down here, so I turned right again, past the stables where some small girls were running about industriously with bridles and shovels.

The path brought me out next to T*sco. I knew where I was, but I felt conscious of my muddy boots and ruddy cheeks, and didn’t fancy walking home through the town centre with the yummy mummies on parade in their eerily clean landrovers. I turned back and noticed litter everywhere, plastic bags hanging from trees, cans thrown into the stream.

I meant to take lots of pictures, to show that there is beauty here if you look. The evening light hitting the Victorian red brick terraces in an explosion of misty gold; the painted-pink wall of a house flaking away to reveal the bricks underneath at a rakish angle next to the water butt; the pointed windows of the convent; the hazy grey of the long, thin gardens in the morning; there may only be one field, the rest of the countryside a middle-class playground of PYOs, stables and school grounds, but it’s still full of rabbits, there are still robins if you’re patient enough, the trees are still majestic and soothing, there is still a carpet of scrunchy leaves…

I listened to the bird calls on the way home, how familiar they sounded, how I hadn’t bothered to learn what they were when I heard them all the time. I ached to know what they were now, the way you ache when you know what you’re missing. When we moved to Northumberland my parents bought a set of pocket guides to birds, wild flowers, mushrooms, trees, and they sat, pristine, on the shelves, because we had all the time in the world to learn about birds and mushrooms, because we soon learnt you could ask someone instead of relying on books. It was only in Oxford that I really appreciated the smell of cherry blossom in spring, because until I was 19 I’d never known there were places that the smell could be special, extraordinary.

The things we take for granted.

I only took one photo, and I hope it’s clear enough to read the exhortation to care for the environment.

I hope someone with a less keen sense of irony and a few inches more in height takes it down some day soon.

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Inspirational blog

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greentwinsmummy  |  January 26, 2008 at 6:49 am

    cooo that photo sums up so flamin much doesnt it :o(

    Reply
  • 2. Hamster  |  January 26, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I know.

    I went out with such good intentions too! I kept telling myself, ‘Look, there are wonderful, inspiring things everywhere and there are ugly things everywhere. There is nothing clever or original about complaining about suburbia.’

    And, ‘Look, supermarkets cannot be held single-handedly responsible for climate change and peak oil – they are part of a complex web of socioeconomic factors.’

    And I came back wailing and beating my fists, moaning about T*sco and yearning for my four acres and a cow again…. So, so cliched! =)

    Reply

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