Books and Arts; Book Review; English landscape;Up hill, down dale
TOM FORT pedals down the A303 in Britain’s soft south. Paul Barker trudges round Hebden Bridge in the hard north. Both writers are seeking something distinctive about their chosen places. By the same token, both are sensitive to the idea of “non-place”, a phrase Mr Fort uses to describe service stations, shopping centres, airports and the space-bubbles inhabited by drivers. Mr Barker does not name it, but he nonetheless conveys his sense of the same thing—at the fancy grocer’s, selling Japanese wakame and cranberry pressé, or the executive houses with stone bed-warmers on the windowsill and Range Rovers in the drive. These places might be anywhere or, for his purposes, nowhere.
Tom Fort 骑自行车从英国平坦的南部A303道顺道而下。Paul Barker在崎岖的北部的Hebden Bridge附近艰难跋涉。两位作家都在寻找他们所选择的地点的独特之处。同样的，二者都敏感关注 “非场所” 这个概念：Fort 用“非场所”来称呼服务站、购物中心、机场或车手居住的“太空泡泡车”；Barker虽然没有使用“非场所”这个词，但他却表达了同一种概念：在销售日本若目和蔓越橘调酒苏打水的花里胡哨的小店铺、窗台上放着暖床石壶的"行政"别墅，路途中的揽胜越野车。这些地方既可以是任何地方，而相对他的所求目标，又或根本不存在。
Both try not to be nostalgic, but in the end neither can help himself. The conflict is roughest in “Hebden Bridge”, partly because the author himself is implicated. He grew up there and in neighbouring Mytholmroyd. Back in the 1940s the place was “enwrappe”, as he puts it, in “the old ways”. Weaving mills and sewing factories that had claimed generations of his family were still in business, oblivious to their coming collapse. Mr Barker then made the now classic move, the first in his family, to leave home for university, and never come back, except to visit.
Meanwhile, others came in, “offcomers”, with new ways—hippies, artists, pagans—just in the nick of time, as the demolition balls were swinging and the stone terraces falling. They squatted and protested. The planners retreated. Bookshops sprang up; mills and chapels became workshops, galleries and flats—then luxury flats, bringing different newcomers. With great foresight, in the late 1970s Mr Barker began to tape-record the old inhabitants, whose stories now fill the most interesting pages of his book.
Mr Barker has also taped an ageing hippy, a graphics designer, a tattoo lady, puppeteers and others, for he knows how much the place owes to them. But the book only really comes alive when he is talking to the old sexton or the weavers who started work at 13 (part-time at 11). Mr Barker knows these people and they know him—and his uncles and cousins. They speak easily, casually, slipping out the detail that hits the spot: the smell of corduroy in the sewing room; a jar taken to the grocer for “a ha’p’orth[注10] of treacle”; words to a mill child (the author’s father) for steadying himself with one hand and working with the other—“Barker, we pay thee to use two hands.”
Tom Fort’s book, named for a well-used English road, is a smoother ride: elegantly written, with a dry humour and an eyebrow raised at the failed “smart solutions” of transport ministers. His object is to reveal the special beauty of the landscape, particularly Salisbury Plain[ and Stonehenge (pictured). Mr Fort is a charming and knowledgeable guide, who can people the hills with shepherds, and the manors and rectories with eccentric antiquarians; who can tell you about an ancient system for flooding water meadows or the common names of chalk-loving flowers and butterflies. It is enough to make Wiltshire your next holiday destination.
The bits that stick, though, are his “non-places”: the Little Chef restaurant at Popham, Amesbury’s Solstice Park, a business development, and above all a hilarious riff on “The Ancestor”, a huge sculpture outside a Holiday Inn—itself an example of “Neolithic chic”, the brochure says. “Very boutiquey, very contemporary.”