Wed Aug 27th, 2014
I've started two novels about Malaysia in the mid-20th century and can't bear to read either. It's obvious to me now why the Communist party should have been popular; I need to read some wiki to find out why it didn't succeed.
Meanwhile The old ways: a journey on foot is beautifully written and totally mystifying. That's because I'm a city child in a very large country where there are plenty of ways to get you where you want to go, not a single well-trampled narrow road to the deep north. Once out of the city I can certainly start walking, but there won't be old traces of old pathways, that I can still follow, leading across meadows to some paleolithic ring barrow. (This is why I maintain that Britain is a place where the past piles up and remains accessible.) Maybe there are old portage routes out there, but I suspect they lie under six-lane highways. Best one can do in TO is the occasional curvy break-the-grid and follow-the-landscape road, which was possibly a Mississauga Indian trail. Outside TO the landscape is concrete and undifferentiated and very hard to get anywhere on foot. (See: very large country.)
Maybe if there'd been photographs in the book, or more photographs, I might have had an inkling what he's talking about with his list of various kinds of pathways. As it is, I can only envy a land so deeply marked by human history.
(Oh, and here's a mention of my neighbourhood oddities. I did wonder about that elephant in the front yard.)
Walking past the Carreira house and the Parashos house and the buggy van always a highlight of visiting with you, I have to say. XD
I didn't think The Old Ways was that mystifying; but I guess I have a really visual imagination and the prose is vivid...
I just have no idea what to make of sentences like: 'Pilgrim paths, green roads, drove roads, corpse roads, trods, leys, dykes, drongs, sarns, snickets... holloways, bostles, shutes, driftways, lichways, ridings, halterpaths, cartways, carneys, causeways, herepaths.' At least, not without google and The Geograph Britain and Ireland Project with its helpful photos. The grey photo of a field with a dip in the middle that Macfarlane provides gives me no idea at all of what I'm looking at. Soil subsidance, I'd have said.
'The way-marking of old paths is an esoteric lore of its own, involving cairns, grey wethers, sarsens, hoarstones, longstones, milestones, cromlechs and other guide-signs.' It all sounds lovely and it makes no sense to me without a deal of research.