19 May 2017 Entry: "Deep England"
It came into my head the other day that whenever I moaned or wept on Julia’s shoulder about how unconfident and dissatisfied I felt about my writing, she’d say ‘Good. That means you think you can do better!’
She always managed to find a way to turn a negative into a positive. Her memory and voice is still strong in my mind and in everyone who knew her. It’s coming up to the announcement of this year’s Julia Darling Travel Fellowship award winner - June 4th at Ouseburn Farm in Newcastle 4.30 - 6.30. Tickets include a cream tea and a glass of fizz - very Julia.
Last year’s winner, Michelle Green will be talking about her award, that took her to Hayling Island. I’d never heard of this tiny place, off the south coast, until friends moved there, and they were as surprised as anyone that a writer should want to visit and write about it. I went there myself in April, before a trip to the Isle of Wight (another of Julia’s old stamping grounds). Hayling’s a bit like Stepford Wives country, apparently stuck in the 1950’s, but some of the seaside amusement parks have died, leaving it like a piece of flotsam after the tide’s gone out, rather sad and dilapidated in places. But it’s on the rise; with London house prices so prohibitive, people are buying in Hayling and commuting. Who wouldn’t want to live surrounded by huge skies and wide seascapes filled with an ever-changing vista of tankers, liners, yachts and ferries and a hazy Isle of Wight on the horizon? I’m sure I’d swim every day if I had the sea literally on my doorstep. But, like the Isle of Wight, it feels a little like Deep England, which is, to quote the Guardian Pass Notes:
“The Good Old Days, the home of decency and sportsmanship. The home of well-kept lawns. The home of leaving your front door unlocked. The home of Kiplings, both Rudyard and Mr…Deep England is a term coined by academic Patrick Wright, but the notion is being resurrected in the hearts of the villages and market towns that voted to leave the EU.”
The thing is, it’s possible to live a sort of head-in-the-past type of lifestyle down there. The world looks unchanged, and feels far away from the problems of deindustrialisation and a shifting cultural demographic.
So I think - If parliament has to quit the Palace of Westminster for a few years while it undergoes a refurbishment, let the MPs come and base themselves up here in Newcastle or Hull or Leeds. Let them see a different sort of Deep England at close hand.
Julia may have lived in Winchester and holidayed on the Isle of Wight, but she never lost the desire, or let an opportunity go by, to be subversive. And I quote from one of her early poems ‘Janet’ in Modern Goddess:
the tourists have complained about me and you
the music, our faces, cracked hard with make up
pop up at the windows when they take their photos
we are the mosquitoes who buzz round the cattle
the lazy fat tourists, the boys in their gowns
So I urge anyone to buy a ticket and come down to the Ouseburn Farm on Sunday 4th June and celebrate writing, travel, Julia and subversion, before the 8th when who knows what will happen.