It is important to approach the act of reading as clearly as possible, and this cramped study, the view of the courtyard and the noise from the street were proving too great a distraction. So, with my Literary Critical Detective bag carefully packed, I headed out of the building early one morning a few days ago. I was looking for both inspiration and clarity.
I travelled into the hills and villages.
What a joy it was to be en plein air once again. Even the weather was kind - it only rained briefly, albeit just as I sat down to eat my lunch. It is easy to see how the Romantics became entranced by these northern landscapes of both rugged and refined beauty.
There was much here from which to draw inspiration. Through the trees, up on a hillside, a church suddenly appeared, its square tower looking to have been cut out of the ground itself.
Opposite, a single gravestone lay almost forgotten behind an old rusty gate. The weeds had grown up around its base, so that it appeared to have fallen into the world directly from a nineteenth-century novel. This stone no doubt first stood tall in the 1800s, so this impression is only fitting.
Down below, the local houses and shops were crammed into the small patch of level ground in the middle of the valley cleft, the buildings’ stone work seemingly clinging to the sides of the riverbank, worried that at any moment it might give out, let go its grip and be washed away.
I have returned refreshed, ready to take up my reading once more. The fresh county air still fills my lungs.