Friday, 11 March 2016

Landscapism dispatch #1

Bloody hell! A PhD takes over your life. Expansive blog posts unrelated to my PhD research are probably going to be few and far between over these three years. So landscapism dispatches will have to be brief; no bad thing. 

A good number of interesting things have been kindly brought to my attention or stumbled across already this year, and here is something of a cartulary (damn, can't shake off my research head!).  

As soon as I finish reading Rob Cowan's excellent Common Ground (a distinctive voice in the somewhat crowded territory of 'New Nature' writing) I hope to plunge into From Hill to Sea; the work of the ever-engaging Fife Psychogeography Collective in book form. Those Fifers know how to find the strange brew that soaks the hills and flows to the sea in their kingdom above the bridge.

"And I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey”. Artist and composer Martin A. Smith has produced a new film, Secretly sharing the landscape with the livingexploring part of the Icknield Way in Buckinghamshire, following in the fecund footsteps of Edward Thomas:

You can find out more about Martin's work here.

The daily on-line posts from A Year in the Country provided twelve months of eclectic imaginings on the unsettled bucolic a while back and in April comes an album of sonic accompaniment featuring a goodly mix of collaborators, The Quietened Village: "a study of and reflection on the lost, disappeared and once were homes and hamlets that have wandered off the maps or that have become shells of their former lives and times".

Further audio reports from the landscape edge come in the shape of Justin Hopper's poetry and sound project, I Made Some Low Enquiries, featuring none-other than folk legend Shirley Collins and available from the English Heretic website.

Radio has become my day-time company in recent months, through the fountainhead that is BBC iPlayer. Melvyn Bragg curating In Our Time, 6 Music's Freak Zone, Radio 4's aurally-charged production of The Stone Tape, Late Junction eclectica on Radio 3, The Children of Witchwood and old Sherlock Holmes episodes on Radio 4 Extra; the list goes on. Current enjoyment is provided by music journalist Laura Barton's exploration of the relationship between landscape and music across the British Isles in her Radio 4 documentary series, as described further here.

The music of the crags and cliffs of Red Daren and Black Daren is a song of stone. Here in the Olchon Valley is found the geological rim of England as western Herefordshire sheds its Anglo-Saxon facade and bleeds into the Black Mountains of Wales. A recent Sunday morning jaunt amongst the Old Red Sandstone passed through this hushed borderland, climbing to the Hatterall ridge; Hatterall, perhaps, bastardised from At y Heu: 'towards the sun'.   

And back home the summit of my books to read mountain has moved further out of reach with the addition of Time's Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination by Richard Morris, Bloody Old Britain by Kitty Hauser, Anna Pavord's Landskipping, John Lewis-Stempel's Meadowland and The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Right, back on the Monk's Trod now for me.


  1. Sir,
    As someone who has done a PhD, if the PhD is not taking over your life, you're doing something wrong! Expect for your life to mostly vanish and the PhD to come to dominate. You'll get to the end as an expert in that, and quite a few other things as well. The PhD viva voce will be hellishly nerve racking, even if you have (as I had) done everything correctly and produced publishable research.

    This, BTW, is the objective of your PhD: you are aiming to show that you are a publishable researcher, and the best way to do this is to get some research published whilst you are doing the PhD. Doesn't matter if the paper isn't very big, or is not in a very important journal (though it MUST NOT be in an arse-wipe pay-to-publish journal) but it must be in a recognised, peer-reviewed journal.

    Once you've done this, you've conclusively demonstrated that you're a researcher. This will make the PhD viva a lot easier.

    Once you've done the PhD, expect a slew of employers to start treating you like you've just caught plague or something; a PhD scares some people. Don't worry, you get over this.

  2. Hi Eddie

    Stopped by to see what you've been up to. Some fascinating sounding recommendations - especially the Radio programmes - the Laura Barton on music and landscape sounds great. And As ever yet more books.


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