Alex James: Joy of the countryside gets lost in translation

Rural Notebook

Share
Related Topics

It wasn't until about the sixth or seventh time that I went to Japan with Blur that we managed to get out to the countryside there. "We'd like to go out into the country," we'd say hopefully, every time we arrived in Tokyo. To me, it was a perfectly straightforward inclination, but it didn't seem to make much sense to the organisers, our carers. "Where exactly?" They would say, diligently. "What you want to do in Japanese country?"

I suppose, having grown up in Bournemouth, I was a man of leisure from an early age, at my happiest fiddling about on beaches, on the sea, in the New Forest, the Purbecks where there is nothing remotely particular to do, where it's all just magnificent scenery, a fantastic stage.

It was as if, to the Japanese, a conscientious people, the idea of venturing off towards nowhere, going somewhere that is beyond the bump and grind, beyond industry, beyond the everyday, didn't add up. At least, it took some explaining. "Well, we don't really want to do anything; maybe walk around a bit, jump off some cliffs, throw some stones. You know, that kind of thing."

Eventually we got as far as a little spa town in the mountains, and of course it was well worth waiting for. There is nothing in nature that is not fantastically beautiful. Well, some parts of Iceland smell a bit eggy, but even those are unforgettable and look rather nice.

The countryside does happen to be the factory floor of farming but it is a paradise, too. There is a tendency to assess rural Britain only in terms of issues, problems, disasters. Even the phrase "rural Britain" is enough to make the heart sink – and I think it does, evoking squalor, poverty, deprivation – but as a nation I think we are probably better connected with our countryside than we give ourselves credit for. To me certainly, rural Britain will always be, first and foremost, a massive playground.

Shadow lands

I think I may have found the remains of a motte-and-bailey in the railway field – a Norman castle. I've been messing around all this time looking for an overgrown cricket pitch on the other side of the farmhouse and this has just been sitting there quietly all along.

The best way to investigate further is to take aerial photos when the sun is low in the sky. The shadows might well tell a story. Fingers crossed.

Digging up the past

Whether there ever was a castle there or not, there's a lot of "ridge and furrow" in that field, a gently undulating landscape, the relics of a medieval cultivation system. That these earthworks remain shows that the field hasn't been ploughed for many centuries. I didn't even know this until two weeks ago. Always so much still to discover.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Think I'm living the high life on benefits? Here's what being disabled costs me every day

Hannah Buchanan
 

Like many other black men, I grew up with only women around. Now I'm worried the experience has ‘feminised’ me

Tyrell Williams
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones