Monday, 2 August 2010

I Follow Humbly.....

It's been AGES since I have had the opportunity to write anything at all. I've not been lazy, promise! There have been obstacles - stressful work situations, stressful home ones, visitors, DIY and the arrival of hubby's piglets to name but a few.

Still, I'm here now so here goes!

'Lark Rise to Candleford' is undoubtedly the best book I have ever read, first when I was around 11years old, and then at least two or three times a year, each year since! It became my manual for living and shaped my life more than I had realised until recently.

For the uninitiated- I'm sorry that the magic hasn't reached you yet! This book is a semi-autobiography of a girl growing up in a tiny, isolated English hamlet (which Flora Thompson, the author, born and raised there, calls 'Lark Rise') in the late 1800's. It is a fantastic piece of social history detailing life at that time, for farm workers, housewives, children and the ordinary, poor folk of Oxfordshire.

My description of it does it no justice, really, just take my word for it and go read it!

I knew the place still existed as a real place called Juniper Hill, on the Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire border, but I had no idea it was so unchanged since Flora wrote about it.

I met a local historian in Juniper Hill last week, and did a little tour of the places she wrote about. It was sublime! To see the hamlet, walk the paths, even sit in her very pew in church! I could hear the voice of Flora, walking with me, describing the flowers, the scenes, and people she knew so intimately, in the words I knew by heart.

As I walked alone over the very ground she trod, I realised that it was her writings, her outlook and her experiences that have shaped who I am. I long for the simpler times, the horsedrawn carriage, growing your own food, making and mending what you need, keeping animals etc etc. Then it hit me.... without really following a plan I have tried to bring a little 'Flora Thompson' into Zarla all these years!

I have a pony and carriage which I drive, vegetable plots/herbs/edible plants, make rugs/glasses etc and keep sheep, pigs and hens!!!!! In this busy, bustling 21st Century world I am including as much as I can of her 19th Century one.

Back to the trip to Juniper Hill, I had the most amazing time. I'd never been there before, but because it was so unchanged, and I knew Flora's words so well, I just knew where everything was. I walked a path and just knew, even before I got to it, that there was a little copse with a deep forgotten pond. I have never felt so at home in somewhere I'd just seen! A very bizarre feeling.

The flowers she spoke of, in the places she said, all still there! I picked some and placed them in my book! It could not have been better, I almost felt as if the little girl Flora was walking with me, explaining as she went.... I know the book that well!

I managed all this with as many rests as I wanted, just sitting/lying in the long grass, in the tall yellow wheat etc, reading my book! I took all day about it, had food and drink in my pockets, and removed myself from the 21st, back to the 19th!!!!!


  1. I read Lark Rise in my teens and enjoyed it too. I don't remember that much about it except the notion of a much smaller world than we are used to. A world who's area is defined by the distance your legs could carry you. I also remember the pig slaughter scene where every scrap of the animal is used. Even the trotters are thrown to the children who gnaw them enthusiastically. The BBC TV series bears no relation to the book and is a sugared-up pastiche in comparison.

    Lovely post, thanks :-)

  2. I knew before I read this what you would be blogging about Z! You do indeed live the GOOD LIFE - and I am well impressed!

    I will buy the book and read it on my adventure....on a Thia beach somewhere ...although that might change the impact slightly :-)

  3. Jo,
    Yes, it's that idea of a smaller, more uncomplicated life that has always appealed to me. The only world travelling I've done has been to experience other similarly 'simple' cultures- staying wih a tribe in Borneo, and nomadic herdsmen in Mongolia.

    The tv series doesn't ever touch on Flora's early life, or the hamlet proper. They could not have filmed in the actual location either, as the space is too small and enclosed by trees and fields. I'm really excited as the historian I met, lives in the schoolhouse Flora attended, and has invited me to tea!

    I'm pleased you are thinking of getting the book-read it anywhere! I guarantee you'll never look at school history lessons in the same way again!
    Can't be long till you go now...!

    Thankyou for being 'impressed' but I can't imagine what by! We all do our best to live the lives we want, I am severely jealous of your adventuring the globe, don't forget to check in here though H!


  4. Welcome Cusp!
    Great to see you here...
    look forward to some of your witty and insightful comments soon!

  5. Take off the rose tinted specs for a moment and think about what rural life in the 1880s was really like: grinding poverty, no organized health care, pitiful education, women still treated as chattels, the workhouse and let's not mention dentistry! But major changes were coming and writing in the 1930s and in the third person allowed Flora Thompson to allude to that indirectly as when Laura goes to Candleford and experiences the how different it is from her home.
    I believe the BBC series was filmed in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

  6. In response,
    Thank you for commenting, always good to know someone reads this! My post was intended to report on my long awaited day trip to visit a small part of the world I'd read so much about over the last 32 years-nothing more.

    I find it fascinating that we have such a text, detailing part of what life was like at that time, just on the edge of the social changes you mention, when many of the old ways (good and bad) were lost for good.

    Speaking as a person who is so often too unwell to take such trips it was a real treat to be able to overcome my limitations to arrange and enjoy the day.


  7. I'm going to rent the series. I heard about it but reading your description of the book really makes me want to see it (I'm not able to read for pleasure, unfortunately). I'm looking forward to the DVD though!

  8. I understand about the reading Toni.
    I like this book because I can read a paragraph or two at a time. There is no plot to hold on to and you could leave it for weeks, pick it up again and be just as enchanted.
    For me anyhow, it's perfect ME-friendly reading matter!
    The series is nice enough, and a good relaxing watch, enjoy and let me know what you think.

    take care


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