Sunday, 15 May 2016


If you were thinking of buying a copy of England and Nowhere at a discounted price, act now.  I'm about to move the book onto my public Blurb page, and add a small profit to the various prices.

I'm feeling uncommunicative at the moment, as I've done something unfortunate to my lower back by moving furniture around, and rendered myself immobile. (Is that the time? Almost time for another dose of Ibuprofen). There's something particularly humiliating about not being able to pull on your own socks, at least, not without undergoing some absurd and time-consuming contortions. I read recently that it took men on Scott's Antarctic expedition an hour each morning to get their boots on, and now I know how they felt.

Mind you, this, from the same essay, cheered me up:
Even in the privacy of their journals and diaries, polar explorers maintain a fine reserve. In his journal, Ernest Shackleton described his feeling upon seeing, for the first time in human history, the Antarctic continent beyond the mountains ringing the Ross Ice Shelf: "We watched the new mountains rise from the great unknown that lay ahead of us," he wrote, "with feelings of keen curiosity, not unmingled with awe." One wonders, after reading a great many such firsthand accounts, if polar explorers were not somehow chosen for the empty and solemn splendor of their prose styles – or even if some eminent Victorians, examining their own prose styles, realized, perhaps dismayed, that from the look of it, they would have to go in for polar exploration.
Annie Dillard, An Expedition to the Pole


Anonymous said...

I received my copy a couple of days ago. The reason for me buying your book was that I was curious how you would portray a landscape. In my opinion, this is not an easy job - there are two cliffs one must navigate - between showing the pretty, pastoral on one hand, and documentary blandness on the other. I like how you assembled intimate, subjective pictures (e.g. of river Itchen) with vistas which show foreigners like me 'how it looks like'. My favourites are the pictures of Hockley Viaduct, which on some pictures is just barely visible through layers of branches and leafs.
It is interesting how consistent almost all pictures are with regards to colour and tonality (also beyond this, but I don't know how to put into words what it is). This already struck me with the pictures you have posted on this blog.
Well done!

Best, Thomas

PS: A speedy recovery to you!

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Thomas, on both accounts! You're right, striking that balance is harder work than it might seem. As you suggest, there is also that mysterious extra factor of keeping within the parameters of one's own style and sensibility. I have some stunning shots, in conventional "landscapist" terms, which I have resisted including, as (a) they're not "mine" in style and (b) they unsettle the whole.

In an earlier draft I included an annotated satellite view of the area (high-res image downloaded off Google Earth Pro, which is now free!) but felt this distracted rather than helped. I may put it up as a post sometime.


amolitor said...

I am in love with the idea that ones writing could condemn one to polar exploration.

"Oh god damn it, I am terribly clever, and given to a very pithy manner of speech, I am damned to be a butler!!!"

"I want to go to sea, but I can't swear at all, blast it all for a samovar!"

and so on.

Mike C. said...


Contrary to her reputation, Annie Dillard is an extremely funny writer (or, as Geoff Dyer puts in his intro to her latest collection, "a fruitcake"). If you've never read "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" (it was one of those "cult classics" back in the 1970s) -- and can accept the idea that some people struggle with their sense of a blind divinity at work in the world -- I totally recommend it.