16th July 2017

There’s a section on the M6 heading north, just around junction 37, when the scenery changes and you know you are in the Lake District. You know you are in the Lake District even though there is no lake and no sign of any lake, the lakes are all elsewhere. No: it is the hills. There is something about them, they rise all soft and rumpled like the skin of a pug, there’s a velveteen sheen about them that is just wrong, you know it’s wrong even if these are the only hills you’ve even known, even if they’re the kind of hills which generate a feeling of comfort, a sense of home. They are still wrong. Their nakedness is wrong, their smoothness an aberration. Somehow you know that at this latitude, with hills like those and weather that forms lakes in massive abundance, that those hills should be covered in trees. And they’re not. The reason, of course, is plain in the form of all those little white dots scattered around munching everything that grows above hoof level, but it’s not sheep that interest me in this view. It’s those strange hills, the streambeds like runnelled scars, chunks of flesh torn from the bone. And it is bone they most remind me of, old bones found in the woods or the wilderness, denuded of the flesh that makes them into something more – a human, an animal. Bones so old they’re covered in moss, the kind of bones children find and play with, not knowing, really, what they are. Is this the source of the discomfort? As though these hills, with their cropped nakedness, are just the bones of hills, remnants, the ghostly echo of something once fulsome with vivid life?

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