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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Project Coordinator - Cisco Partner - £110 p/d

£110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator (SC Cleared), Cisco Go...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The No campaign has a classic advertising problem: they need to turn a negative into a positive

John Hegarty
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone