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Friday, 30 August 2013

Fecundity and Desire

It is, I suspect, a symptom of the depths to which modern urban life has sunk to that, to a man and a woman (but mostly the latter), we dream of some rural idyll in the depths of the countryside where the splendid prospect of isolation and a simpler means of existence acts in stark contradiction to our busy, cluttered lives. That is, whenever we have time to dream, for in these days of corporate identity even these private acts of rebellion have been seized upon by a ubiquitous mediocrity.
María Inés de la Cruz The Woodlanders (with apologies to the late Mr Thomas Hardy), Virgin Black Lace 2004
The Carteresque landscape - full of erotic menace
Here’s a confession that’ll immediately lose me half my (admittedly meagre) readership and probably have me up before the courts martial of progressive geography and liberation theology: I have an unnatural – some might say morbid – fascination with feudalism. A fatal attraction; that which ought to repel me lures me into its baited, decadent trap, like a moth to a flame.
It’s been a suppressed yearning, only daring to raise its shaggy-haired head above the parapet on rare occasions. Like the weekend just gone when I ventured out into the erotically-charged landscape of Cranborne Chase. Something about wandering across and through this pastoral landscape brings out my inner sado-masochist; not the kinky fetishism of a bit of slap and tickle but a full-blooded, full-on sado-masochism that’s as cerebral as it is sexual. More Angela Carter than E L James.
In fact, it’s all Angela Carter and absolutely no E L James.
The Chase is the perfect backdrop for indulging these daydreams, walking the perfect ritual to conjure up images of fecundity and desire; it’s not dissimilar to saying the Rosary; the rhythm of my booted feet like the cadence of a Hail Mary, repeated over and over again. Both act as a conduit that translates one from the mundane to the metaphysical. It takes me not so much back in time – to some faux halcyon-haloed rural golden age – but out of time. I am the land, the land is me.
The forest is always encroaching, like a game of ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’ You turn your back for a minute and next thing you know it’s stolen another couple of metres on you. In Angela Carter’s The Erl-King, a maiden wanders into the woods and is seduced by a personification of the forest, a ‘tender butcher’ with ‘white pointed teeth’. She’s intimidated by the forest, terrified she’ll ‘diminish to a point and vanish’. Yet she describes their relationship as ‘two halves of a seed, enclosed in the same integument’. She is both seduced and repulsed my him as his touch both ‘consoles and devastates’ her.
‘Watch your back!’ warns my guardian but I’m no innocent Red Riding Hood; no passive victim, more victim as aggressor. The Chase brings out the wicked feudalist in me and dream myself the Lady Squire, a woman whose earthly benevolence belies a dark side. A woman who demands her droite de seigneure but toys only briefly with the groom and saves all her lust for the bride.
Then, as I emerge from the wood and approach another isolated country house the reverie makes a volte-face and I’m the Lady Squire’s trembling maid, suffering her anger in a delicious mélange of fear and anticipation whilst she admonishes me:
You fail the to realise that as far as this part of the world is concerned, democracy and liberalism are mistrusted as modern concepts that have never really caught on in the popular imagination. On the contrary, people trust and respect authority. They like rules, they know where they are, where they stand in the scheme of things. I think you will find that any attempt to subvert my jurisdiction will be met with contempt and disbelief. Think about it, which of us has the greater honour and integrity? You, a jumped up, common or garden whore, one of the great unwashed – or me, the Lady Squire? As far as everyone here is concerned, I am democracy.
María Inés de la Cruz The Woodlanders (with apologies to the late Mr Thomas Hardy), Virgin Black Lace 2004
See what I mean about being given the could-shoulder by my disillusioned acolytes? I know I shouldn’t give these visions credence but I don’t try very hard to expel them from my imagination; the faster I walk, the harder I pound my feet on the sun-baked tracks, the more lucid and focused they become. Reminds me of St Jerome, an early Father of the Church, whose detailed descriptions of women’s clothing and exposed flesh turned his condemnations into pornographic exhortations. Like self-flagellation, the greater the pain and the punishment, the more profound the pleasure.
The earth in late August feels like it’s slipping away in a post-coital ecstasy; having shagged itself senseless spring and summer long, it’s turned onto its side to enjoy a last cigarette before falling into a lengthy, blissful sleep. I recite a few lines from Ode to Autumn, the ones about watching the last oozings of the cyder press hours by hours but then write in my notebook: DON’T GO DOWN THE KEATS ROAD.
Don’t go down the Keats Road. Now there’s an imperative on which to ruminate during my next hike ...

1 comment:

  1. Ohhh, this was a good post:'the erotically-charged landscape of Cranborne Chase', the woods, feudalism and a farewell to summer. Love it!