As a boy, I loved the books of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (who signed off his writing as ‘BB’ after the size of shot used for shooting geese) so when I saw that there was a small exhibition of his ‘Life and Works’ at Lamport Hall, across the road from where he had lived as a boy in the Old Rectory, I set off to have a quick look.
It was a sunny day, the last of June, and the Buzzards were circling, and some were hovering, high above me as I drove through the green countryside with the oilseed rape now green (and going brown) as all its flowers were lost, and the wheat still green, as it was only hinting at turning golden.
The prettiness of Northamptonshire is a well-kept secret. Many of the villages are every bit as attractive as the Cotswold tourist traps – more so really, as they don’t have the tourists! The local stone is warm and gives the buildings a very welcoming air, although you should not judge simply by appearances as this stone emits more than its fair share of cancer-producing radon gas. It’s a dangerous life in rural Northants. Those townies don’t realise how tough life is out here in the country.
Lamport Hall is very pretty. Parking was provided outside the exhibition in the courtyard of the stable block and I hope every visitor is greeted with a low-flying screaming party of Swifts as I was. The exhibition is free, and is open 10-4 each day until and including Sunday. If you are quite local, like me, you should certainly pop in and have a look, or if a massive BB fan, you won’t be able to keep away. There are some of his and others’ paintings, some books, radio scripts and information about BB’s life. BB’s own paintings are not exactly to my taste but many really like them a lot. I preferred ‘A successful left and right’ by Chris Coles which was on view here.
Driving away, I remembered reading Brendon Chase at, I guess, the age of about 12. I think I probably wanted to run away and live in the woods with a rifle and a fishing rod but although I did have a rod, I didn’t have a rifle – that was probably what stopped me.
I can’t remember his writing that well, it was a long time ago, but I do remember that I devoured his books and they must all have come from the school and local libraries because I don’t have any to hand. I’ll have to get Brendon Chase out of the library and see what impression it makes on me these days.
I meandered back home and it was a day of big skies; the clouds seemed piled high in fluffy bundles rather than pressing down on the land. The sky above me felt enormous and the land seemed small. It was a day for looking up at Buzzards, Swifts and clouds.
For some reason the following verses, almost correctly remembered, from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam came into my head; ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears shall wash away one word of it. And that inverted bowl we call the sky, whereunder crawling cooped we live and die, lift not your eyes to it for help, for it crawls impotently on as thou or I‘. I guess it was the ‘inverted bowl’ phrase that was triggered by the blue sky with white clouds which seemed to dominate the gently rolling Northants landscape in a perfectly firm but friendly way that afternoon.
I chose my route home with some skill and more luck and avoided seeing anything very ugly although I caught a glance of the edge of the Weetabix factory out of the corner of my eye. There were some wind turbines to look at but they were very beautiful.
Finedon, the parish of ex-Communards Rev Richard Coles isn’t that pretty but it certainly isn’t ugly. And the sun was shining, so everything looked good in the sunlight – and with all that sky giving us headroom.
And I passed Nene Park (pronounced ‘nen’ not ‘neen’ in these parts), once home of the once-mighty, Rushden and Diamonds football club – those days seem so long ago.
And then I was nearly home to check e-mails and do a bit more writing.
BB always included the following in his books:
- The wonder of the world
- The beauty and the power,
- The shapes of things,
- Their colours, lights and shades,
- These I saw.
- Look ye also while life lasts.