Thursday, October 8, 2015

H is for Hawk

Here is an excerpt of a book review from Death of a Million Trees.  You can read the entire blog entry here.
Origins of the inhabitants

At the end of a challenging hunt, Helen and Mabel encounter a herd of deer.  Helen describes the scene:

“The running deer and the running hare.  Legacies of trade and invasion, farming, hunting, settlement.  Hares were introduced, it is thought, by the Romans.  Fallow deer certainly were.  Pheasants, too, brought in their burnished hordes from Asia Minor.  The partridges possessing this ground were originally from France, and the ones I see here were hatched in game-farm forced-air incubators.  The squirrel on the sweet chestnut?  North America.  Rabbits?  Medieval introductions.  Felt, meat, fur, feather, from all corners.  But possessing the ground, all the same.”

On this bucolic scene, a couple appears and admires the herd of deer:  “The deer.  Special, aren’t they, those ones.  Rare…A herd of deer.  Doesn’t it give you hope?  Isn’t it a relief that there’re things still like that, a real bit of Old England still left, despite all those immigrants coming in?”

The encounter with the deer is ruined for Helen by this xenophobic comment:

“It is a miserable walk.  I should have said something.  But embarrassment had stopped my tongue.  Stomping along, I start pulling on the thread of darkness they’d handed me.  I think of the chalk-cult countryside and all its myths of blood-belonging, and that hateful bronze falcon, of Göring’s plans to exclude Jews from German forests.  I think of the Finnish goshawks that made the Brecklands home, and of my grandfather, born on the Western Isles, who spoke nothing but Gaelic until he was ten.  And the Lithuanian builder I’d met collecting mushrooms in a wood who asked me, bewildered, why no one he’d met in England knew which were edible, and which were not.  I think of all the complicated histories that landscapes have, and how easy it is to wipe them away, put easier, safer histories in their place.”

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