Mist and quiet. These are what the weekend brought. Two cool tranquil rides through a landscape almost devoid of people. Soft weather into which trees and hills melted. It was beautiful, melancholy and healing all at once.
Karen mentioned how she misses music out on her long ride, and how she sings to herself on the way. I've been using my rides across the empty fields to practice singing too. I do struggle learning lyrics, which are about the longest narrative I've had to learn by heart - we weren't set to memorise poems at school. However repetition is imprinting a couple of songs. One of my favourites is the Bonny Black Hare. This is a great song to belt out for the fun of it.
On the fourteenth
of May, at the dawn of the day
With me gun on me shoulder to the woods I did stray
In search of some game, if the weather prove fair
To see can I get a shot at the bonny black hare
I met a
young girl there with her face like a rose
And her skin was as fair as the lily that grows
I says, my fair maid, why ramble you so
Can you tell me where the bonny black hare do go
answer she gave me, O, the answer was no
But under me apron they say it do go
And if you'll not deceive me, I vow and declare
We'll both go together to hunt the bonny black hare
Well, you can see where that song is going....
Today it occurred to me that through the old songs I do have a link with the era when that barn mattered, when these tracks were used by farmers and their labourers. It was such a long time ago when the hills were busy, hiring fairs punctuated the years, and sheep were sold in their thousands at great gatherings.Through song I have the sense of a simpler era. It might have been no less tragic than today, no safer, perhaps even more unfair, crueller too. But it was simpler. The certainties were greater, or so it seemed back then.
I shall try to avoid nostalgic pining for the Edwardian era. However I am reading the late Tony Judt's Thinking the Twentieth Century. It's the book that I've been hungering for, clarifying pre-First World War Middle Europe. Yes, for a few decades there was a peculiar stability across Europe, here too. It seemed as if history had ended. (Didn't it feel like that for a couple of years after the Soviet Bloc fell? How we deceived ourselves!) And then that great unifier, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, fell. Well, no wonder the European project gives such a sense of comfort across great swathes of the continent. For some a distant protector is better than locally-brewed repression. So, I am nostalgic for that long-lost era. And, I think, I am feeling that way principally because of places a thousand miles further east - or, rather, the people that lived there, or might have done so. I am thinking of the intellect which grew up there, and the ideas. I'm thinking of places to the east where I lived and worked amongst the ruins. So I can't consider European history without pangs of loss. Whereas the history of these hills inspires plain curiosity and an awareness that, a century ago, I'd most probably have been toiling rather than reflecting.
Sometimes it's a lot easier and far jollier to daydream about the Bonny Black Hare....