Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Blue remembered hills

So wrote A E Housman:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

If you asked me for my blue remembered hills, they would not be the Shropshire hills of Housman, nor in fact the North Downs on the skyline of this photograph, though I wandered freely there as a child. They would be the South Downs seen across the Weald from Colley Hill, above Reigate, or from Leith Hill: a span of landscape that includes the birthplaces and workplaces of both sides of my family for centuries.

Here they are, blue and distant, behind Ben and me as we stood on Leith Hill tower (the top is just over 1000 feet above sea level, so a mountain in height!) during a great weekend away together in July 2009.

We all have our own blue remembered hills. When Dennis Potter gave the title to his television play, I assume he was thinking of the Forest of Dean. Potter reads the poem at the end of the play, and while you can watch it in seven videos uploaded on YouTube, you can cheat and jump to the last part here and enjoy his voice and his Forest of Dean accent. And reflect on the adult children in the play.

Such hills are not a cause for melancholy. We are not the happier for wanting to re-live the past. It's more a question of living the past into the future, holding a present moment that is in a creative and moving space between the two.

I love hills and mountains.

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