Sunday, 24 January 2010

Out and About

Christmas is over, the new year's begun. The snow's turned to slush and melted (well, almost). Life has returned to normal (well, almost). I was sitting in the car in Leyburn the other day. Feeling indolent, I decided not to get out and go looking for photographs, but to simply stay put and take what I could see.

I didn't take any photos of the surrounding countryside. I'll leave that to Kenneth Grahame. We're re-reading The Wind in the Willows here. It's a great book. It's most famous, of course, for Mr Toad. However, the Toad parts of the book are my least favourite. I much prefer the less burlesque bits, such as Ratty and Mole's encounter with The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and their visit to Badger's house in the Wild Wood. Bits like this:

"It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he [Mole] slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off. Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could riot in rich masquerade as before, and trick and entice him with the old deceptions. It was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering -- even exhilarating. He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple."
Personally, I find it hard to feel as positive as Mole. I find the bleakness of winter anything but exhilarating, but reading the book makes me almost believe that I like the landscape that way too. To really enjoy winter I have to get out and run - or cycle. The "high" one gets from exercise makes the world look wonderful at any time of year. It leaves you feeling warm, too.

As I've mentioned before, the beck that runs past our gate has the tenuous claim to fame that it may have inspired the river in the book, as it runs through the grounds of a nearby "big house" where Grahame sometimes stayed. However, I suspect this claim is made for just about any watercourse that passes near any of his known haunts!


Susan at Stony River said...

I admire Mole's observations, but in his place I would have stayed in the parlor by the fire!

Wind in the Willows is great stuff. We haven't read it in a while, and I think I'll be getting it back out again.

Poet in Residence said...

I saw Father Christmas stuck on somebody's roof 3 days ago. He was actually hanging on to the gutter by his fingertips. Perhaps his hands have frozen to the spot. It's -7°C this morning. I don't think we've had any +° this year.

I'm reading Prisoner of Zenda which I found yesterday for €2. George Szirtes calls it a spirited lark. And it is too. In fact, it's exactly the right get you in a good mood thing to read when the clag's down for days or weeks on end and it's too ruddy cold to go outside, Dominic.

Elisabeth said...

I prefer Ratty, his love of the water and 'messing about in boats'. And I love Moley too, like you, far more than the Toad.

The Toad seems to me to be a pompous, 'self centred' and arrogant fellow, hardly likeable at all.

Badger, well I have mixed feelings towards him. I like the feeling of paternal safety he offers but sometimes he too can be a bit ponderous.

Ratty and Mole do it for me every time. Thanks for this post. For some strange reason it reminds me of Mole's spring cleaning efforts. Maybe because you are heading that way weather wise. I think it would be lovely to live near the home and presumably some of the inspiration that ran through Kenneth Grahame's veins.

Your photos are wonderful too.

Rachel Fenton said...

"Hullo" said Ratty..."Hullo" said Mole...I used to have a print of them on my wall as a child...the weasels in the tv adaptation scared me out of my wits...poop poop!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Interesting fotos Dom, Leyburn looks an attractive place.Never read wind in the willows but the piece you've shown is a nice bit of writing.Perhaps I should put it onto my 'To do' list.A list about three miles long fortunately/ unfortunately.

Pauline said...

I love the bones of winter, and the cold and the wind and the snow. Only the ice makes me shiver and curse its slipperiness underfoot. I feel the same affection for the leafy deception of summer, the pull and push of spring weather and the deep poignancy of autumn. And I love The Wind in the Willows. Consequently, I quite liked your post!

tony said...

My early childhood was (mis)spend reading "The Secret Seven" God Knows Why???? It's hard for me feel nostalgic for Enid Blyton. Am I Too Old To Start Wind In The Willowing At my Age? I hope not........

The Weaver of Grass said...

I would say you idle burgher except that I really like your photographs - particularly the door and the pigeons on the roof.

Glad you are reading WitW again - it is one of my favourites - although I always think it is in my comfort zone and maybe I should read somethingwith a bit more meat.
Incidentally - I agree about Toad, I think ratty and mole are much more interesting characters.
Thanks for calling in.

John Hayes said...

I re-read Wind in the Willows about a year ago, & loved it--Ratty may be my favorite character. Love the photo of the pigeons on the roof.

Dominic Rivron said...

Susan: But he was the same impetuous Mole who grabbed Ratty's oars and overturned the his boat. It was good of Ratty to put up with him, really.

PiR: Never read the Prisoner of Zenda. I've just checked out the beginning though:

"I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?" said
my brother's wife.

"My dear Rose," I answered, laying down my egg-spoon, "why in the world
should I do anything? My position is a comfortable one. I have an
income nearly sufficient for my wants (no one's income is ever quite
sufficient, you know), I enjoy an enviable social position: I am
brother to Lord Burlesdon, and brother-in-law to that charming lady, his
countess. Behold, it is enough!"

Sounds a good laugh.

You're very lucky to see Father Christmas. Very few do.

Elisabeth: Yes. Ratty and Mole rule. I'd throw in Badger, too.

Rachel Fenton: I never had a print but remember when I was very small finding the way Mole was drawn slightly wierd.

TFE: Reading it is a very easy job to give yourself. It's here. Chapter 7 is really good and lent its title to a Pink Floyd album.

Pauline: I'm sure you've got it right. To be a person for all seasons is a state I'd like to cultivate.

tony: I suppose I must have read EB, but I much preferred the Comic Strip versions of the Famous Five!

WG: There's a famous US photographer whose name escapes me who said he could never be bothered to get out of his car. I wish I could remember his name! He famously took a picture of a set of petrol pumps at a deserted petrol station.

John: It is good. Nice to know the book is more than a UK phenomenon. (Oh, and please, if you're reading this - do you know the name of the photographer I mentioned in the paragraph above? I keep trying to think of the guy's name. I thought it was the sort of thing you might know).

Nishant said...

it's exactly the right get you in a good mood thing to read when the clag's down for days or weeks on end and it's too ruddy cold to go outside,

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