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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005
    The zeitgeist on the John Clare trail
     
    Lurid sunshine on a red-grey road. No cars, no delivery vans, no people. Welcome to Middle England. Xanaxshire, in the wake of the Lloyds fiasco, the debt mountain, the Blairite establishment of urban fixers and spinners (no fox-hunting, acres of GM crops), is the home of dolour. State-sponsored clinical depression. Valium villages under the ever-present threat of imported sex criminals and Balkan bandits; human landfill dumped in an off-highway nowhere, an uneconomic airship hangar, a reclaimed bunker. Enclosure, suddenly, is a personal matter: you have been shrink-wrapped in your own skin and you can't get out. That's when the blameless horizon, that wood, those hills, begins to hurt. Immaculate properties from catalogue. New furniture under plastic sheeting. Television sets murmuring softly in empty rooms.

    Oh, this is an excellent week for the muse. Yesterday, the latest MES epistle (which is a grower, I blogged too soon on that). Today, just into the latest of Iain Sinclair's uncategorisable masterworks, and this quote, well - it's fantastic. The writer captures the zeitgeist whilst wandering a Peterborough backroad on the John Clare trail.

    In 1841 the mad peasant-poet John Clare escaped from High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest and headed towards Northamptonshire on foot on a crazed mission to find his lost love, Mary Joyce, a woman already three years dead. Iain Sinclair, a walker-writer-straggler, five years after his epic route around the London Orbital in avoidance of the Millennium Dome, took himself and a crew of erratic companions, stray dogs and his wife Anna to tread their own connections with the mad poet into the same soil he walked. It looks like I've just read the intro to another richly amusing, amazing hike.

    In his New Statesman review of Sinclair's book Ian Irvine suggests that Sinclair's lifetime's project 'appears to be to re-energise mythical England and - through the power of imagination - to re-enchant the lamentable wasteland of contemporary life.' Spot-on observation. He certainly does that for me.