I’ve written before about this postcard.
When I bought it n 1978 I was 7 years old and, in many ways, it marked the beginning of my interest in History – the idea that there was a time when the year could be written with just 3 numbers; 9, 7, and 8 – and at some point my interest in the past was conflated with that of my interest in nature; in particular forests. In part, this conjoining came about because of the Cold War. When I was a boy growing up in the 70s and 80s, the threat of nuclear conflict was seemingly ever-present and history became for me a means of escaping to a place where such weapons did not exist; the world of 978.
This world was one which humans hadn’t had the chance to destroy; forests were full and vast, rivers were unpolluted. History then was a means of reaching that world; its portal being the stories I could read in history books; stories such at the murder of Edward at Corfe Castle.
History then was a way through to this other world; a veil drawn between my time and that unspoiled, pristine landscape.
As I grew older, and as the Cold War threat diminished, I became increasingly interested in the people in those stories. It wasn’t only that they were a means to another place; I was interested in the means itself – in the veil so to speak. But in many ways, my desire to see these people, not as characters in a story, but as real people; to see them not with the weight of history upon them, but lightened with the nowness of the present, meant that the landscape of their lives – that unspoiled landscape (or at least much less spoiled than today) was easier to see.
This need to see the past unencumbered by history, to view it through the lens of ‘presentness’ became increasingly important as I began to visit landscapes associated with historical trauma; in particular the landscapes of the Holocaust and the First World War.
Today, we are facing the treat of Climate Change and again I find myself wanting to escape to the world of 978 – to the world before it was damaged; to walk in those full and vast forests; to sail on oceans untouched by plastic; to see unpolluted rivers and the all the wild meadows we have lost.
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