(I am currently confined to the flat with stomach gripes and a persistent diarrhoea that has me shambling towards the loo far more often than I like. Unable to work, I am busying myself with bits of digital housekeeping, which has led me to a short piece I wrote a couple of months ago but never got round to posting.)
From where I sit at work, on the fifth floor, I have a view of a small section of the Pennines as they border the eastern flank of Greater Manchester. As views go, it’s not inspiring, not when compared to the vast majority of the skylines in the Lake District, which does have its dull patches but only a few. It keeps me in touch with the hills.
A long time ago, when I needed to undertake two years of Articles of Clerkship to qualify as a Solicitor, I found myself visiting the City of Cambridge, for an interview with the City Council. I was not successful and it was a long, long day of traveling, three hours on the train each way: Manchester to Birmingham to Ely to Cambridge, Cambridge to Leicester to Sheffield to Manchester.
Though I’ve more recently had enough acquaintance with Cambridge to come to like it and feel comfortable there, my first response was a combination of awe and disquiet at how flat the landscape was. That was emphasised by the downwards journey: waiting for my connecting train at Ely, and traveling across the edge of the fens on my final leg impressed upon me how wide the horizon was, and that there was no horizon, not as I understood it, from our holidays in the Lakes, from the bus into Stockport and the line of hills bordering it when the bus crossed the edge and started to descend into the Mersey Basin.
I was glad not to get that job: I couldn’t imagine how I could cope without the sight of hills.