On Tuesday I left the office and stepped into as sweet and golden an evening as God is ever likely to bestow on this island. The moment I climbed into the car, the full absurdity of my plan to go the gym struck me. Evenings like this, I reasoned, are not so commonplace that one can afford to simply ignore them. So rather than do penance on a treadmill, I boldly cast off the bonds of routine, left the car where it was and set off on a long walk through the lanes of South Gloucestershire.
Dear me, this is the business, I thought, resting awhile at the top of a hill. The scent of distant bonfires, a bubbling of birds in the tree-lines and a burnished haze across the valleys. Ratty and Moley floating about on a boat somewhere below. The world was washed in the light of the Magic Hour, like in the Kubrick movie Barry Lyndon.
At one point a wee deer shot daintily across my path. I was suddenly reminded of Appleyard’s brilliant remark a couple of years ago:
I don't understand going out into the countryside to shoot things. I feel it's a terrible failure of the imagination, like taking a television set on a hike. The wilderness is complete and self-justifying; all we are required to do is look at it.
And that reminded me of Duck’s equally brilliant retort:
Your self-contained wilderness is no such thing, it is a manicured garden devoid of predators. You feel no need to shoot game because you eat beef and pork raised on some factory farm and slaughtered and butchered by low wage laborers. Your idyllic stroll in the woods is only possible because of modern man's absolute dominance over nature.
Obviously I couldn’t remember the exact wording of this exchange– I’ve looked that up since – but I pondered the essential conundrum on the homeward stretch and, as ever, came to no solid conclusion.
I finished my walk with a pint of Badger at the Upton, detracting from the physical benefits of the exercise but enhancing the spiritual ones.
A solitary man in a pub garden with a pint and a copy of Anthony Burgess’s Malayan Trilogy. It’s noble, but is it English Wabi Sabi? Not quite, I don’t think, though it’s in the same neck of the woods.
True Anglo Sabi appears either completely spontaneously or through rigorous and precise ceremony, I think. Keep an eye out for it.