In the clouds or on the level?

I was born and brought up in Cambridge; which is quite a low-lying city which grew up road a bridge over the river, then called Grunta or Granta and now the Cam. It’s given altitude is 55 feet above sea-level, a little higher than the surrounding Fens which are between 20 and 79 feet. Local stories have it that Cambridge, like Rome, was built on seven hills, Castle Hill, Peas Hill, Honey Hill, Pound Hill, Market Hill, Senate Hill (which doesn’t sound very traditional since the Senate House wasn’t begin to be built until 1722) and Mount Pleasant…

The only elevation I came across as a young person living there was Victoria Bridge over the river, the Mill Road railway bridge, and the slight rise of Hills Road – leading to the Gog Magog Hills just south of Cambridge. So until the age of sixteen when we moved to the west country, I was very much a flat land person. We moved to a house just south of Weston-super-Mare on Bleadon Hill… a steepish hill which was quite a challenge to our legs! Since then i have lived in Manchester and Oldham which had plenty of elevation, but now we’re back in the west country, in a different small village, Uphill, a mile down the coast from Weston. Uphill doesn’t refer to the hill beside the village, but to a local village chieftain Oppa, or Uppa, and the wharf or pill which he controlled – hence Oppa’s Pill, or Uppa’s Pill…

Somerset is a county with areas of low-lying fens, the Somerset Levels, and hills, the Cotswolds (1,083 ft), and the Mendips (1,066 ft) and the Poldens, the elevation of which I have no idea! However, I still am basically a flat land person, and struggle walking up steep hills – I have to confess I’m not a great walker anyway, more of an ambler, wanderer, stroller… As for landscape, I love the wide open space and huge sky of the fens or levels, and I sometimes feel a little intimidated by hills, lurking watchfully.

I sit here writing for many hours of the day, evening and night… and I’m in the smallest room of the house, at the back, looking out over the back garden. Our house is by a small ginnel or alley, which leads from our road, through to the main street running through the village. I can see people wandering along the alley, I can see them in the little cul-de-sac it leads to, which has houses on one side with quite generous front gardens, and the village hall on the other. There is a car park by the village hall which other people use too. From my little eyrie I can watch all the comings and goings, flows of people at different times of the day – paper boys and girls first thing, and the milkman, people in the houses going to work, parents taking children to school, people wandering to the village shop for milk and papers if they haven’t had them delivered, more people going to the village hall for pilates, dancing, karate, meetings… or any of the activities conducted there.

As the day, then evening and then night passes, I can see all the comings and goings; I glance up from sitting here writing, and see all sorts of inspiring things – not least the sun rise from behind Bleadon Hill, and then the reflections on the clouds and houses as the sun goes down in the west.

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2 thoughts on “In the clouds or on the level?

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