Random DWJ discovery of the day

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Mar 9 11:17:26 EST 2005

>> I think there may be a fair amount of that bit of England in TMC.  It's
>> fairly central, and the Berkshire Downs are a good sort of Heart Of The
>> Country place by their feel.

>I know what you mean, but even I (a still more extreme southerner) wouldn't
>describe the Berkshire Downs as 'central'!

I'm not talking modern geographical bounds, I'm talking gut-feeling.  Walk
along the Ridgeway, and you know that it knows that it is the centre of
things, and Old and Wise and not to be messed with.  Everywhere else, says
the Ridgeway in a lofty way, is a mere Region, not the Heart Of The
Country.  Walk along it at owl-glim and you can hear the voices murmur
three thousand years and more of that certainty.  He who holds that part of
the island is the ruler of the island, and the peripheral bits can think
what they want about it; nobody has ever suggested governing Britain from
anywhere north of ... well, London, actually.  And before that it was
Winchester, which is even further south.

One cannot include anything that was disputed territory or held as part of
the Danelaw or not really conquered by the Norman incursion as being
"England", which rather wipes out Yorkshire (even if William the Tanner's
son hadn't razed most of it and sown it with salt, the North never sat easy
as part of England when the seat of government was several days' journey
south of where one lived: it had its own governor for a lot of its history,
John of Bedford for instance), the Lake District (which held out against
the Normans for several generations in places) the Fens (ditto),
Lincolnshire, Cornwall of *course*, most of Devon, and almost anything on
the Marches of Wales or Scotland, which went on being debatable land for a
long time.  All of these have their feeling of Old, but it's a *different*
feeling of Old; it's of themselves but not so English, more (say) Mercian
or other such ancient area.  I'm not knocking the regions, just trying to
explain the feel as opposed to the logic.

In Yorkshire we sortofvaguely acknowledged England, but were Yorkshire
first, English second; in York, of course, we were rather proud of not
being in Yorkshire really...  Just as Bristol was never part of "Avon".
<spits over left shoulder to dispel the curse>

>I think the heart of the England must be somewhere round York. The Pennines
>are clearly a kind of spine, as has often been noted - and the Black Country
>is a kind of nicotine-stained, tarry lung. Berkshire works out by my
>reckoning somewhere in the groin area -

I think you are assuming that the country follows the arbitrary
human-geography rule that north is at the top, and the anthropocentric idea
that it is human in its general outline (as Philip put it, the Witch rather
than the Pig).  If you cut loose from both of these preconceptions and go
with the notion that the island wots not of nor cares about human mapping,
and does not think of itself as having a vaguely human shape (why should
it? it might be rather more like a dragon in its own-self, after all, and
that is certainly suggested as a possibility in TMC) then the whole
question becomes rather more open.  A dragon-spine for the Pennines rather
than a human one alters the perspective entirely -- and if the heart of a
dragon is located in its chest, which I for one have no evidence about
either way but I'll go with it as making a certain amount of sense, then
the heart would be somewhere in the Berkshire Downs area.  This would leave
the Fens and Lincolnshire as the underbelly, which now I look at it seems
entirely feasible.  :-)

>and Swindon, by popular consent, is Port Esquiline.

Oh?  I thought Swindon was just the most demographically typical place in
the country, and for that reason is where they always try out the new
designs for chocolate bars in the shops.


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