Monday, February 21, 2011

South Riding

Humber Estuary at Sunk Island
I tried not to watch South Riding. I sat at the other end of the sitting room and tried to look at Tweedeck, but before I knew it I had put  #southriding in a column to see if it was trending.  I have been on an emotional roller coaster ever since. Its not the book. Its a great book. Its not Winifred Holtby. Anyone who once lived with Vera Brittain  wrote great books.  I wonder if Shirley Williams ever did a trip to the real South Riding. Its not the not happy ever after end of the book, or the empathy with the schoolteacher thing, especially after last nights romp thro the snobs of Literature with Sebastian Faulks, and my wonderfully wrong Miss Brodie, who I could so easily have been. 
It was the place

  • Oh !the road on Sunk Island, that tree lined,ditch lined road to the prospect of mud
  • Oh! the talk of 1953 High Tide
  • Oh ! the landscape of dead trees from the salt bath
  • Oh ! Skeffling
  • Oh ! Hilston and Withernsea
  • Oh! Connor and Grahams
  • Oh ! Mulberry Tree
and all the more poignant because I always always remember my childhood haven in Holderness when the snowdrops are out. 
I know that as my sisters read this post they will too remember fondly maybe, a beautiful Georgian house, once the vicarage of Skeffling,  we visited often . It was the home of Whitfield and Margaret Carter, friends of my parents. It was an outpost of all that was different, exciting and stimulating in the seemingly dullest of landscapes that I now love, and in a tightly controlled 50's childhood where conformity and towing the line defined  and provoked the wild child in me wanting to get out. 
Everything about Skeffling was about Possibility after escape. I write this as the house here is silent, the road outside as quiet as  that road to the Humber from Skeffling- That road past the sloes, and bullrushes to just a bank looking out to the Humber , and the prospect of mud and clay. 
I am thinking of all the forays around those coastal half villages , where every visit before the  scramble down the boulder clay cliffs  would be pre-ambled by a discussion of how much of the car park had fallen into the sea since last time.
The Old Vicarage was full  of glorious objects fashioned by  Michael , the son of the house, from the Skeffling Clays, and his alarming paintings all like my own of his , with its sticker mark from an exhibition in the 1950s. The kitchen was where I learned things so removed from the 50s austerity and bland recipes of home, for Aunty Margaret brought French Canadian flair to Holderness . I learned to grind coffee into the waiting wooden drawer  in a little hand  grinder. I smelled the bran mash machine where the chicken food was made, and  always hoped for waffles with maple syrup, or a walk to the Mulberry Tree.

Skeffling Clays - - 316537
Skeffling Clays

The real people who lived in my  Holderness have had a huge impact on my outlook and interest as an adult .
When I married, the first thing I did in my own garden was buy a packet of  Nasturtiums ,like those  that came up year after year in the garden at The Old Vicarage. I thought they were magical, the colours and the smell,and the way they grew over everything. I could not understand why everyone didnt grow them. And then the Elderflower  and Elderberry wine which I made every Spring and Autumn until a few years ago when I stopped drinking,  as a drink always made me want a cigarette, which I gave up in response to nagging and my own good sense (for once).
So , all those railway carriages , which as the Shacks in South Riding , are remembered  by me , as 'Holiday homes' of the 50s, or chicken Houses, lurking next to a hedge in the fields of Patrington and Easington,  Hilson and Hollym. 
Michael Carters 1950s painting of 'God knows What but I like it'
I am not going to re-read my battered copy of South Riding. I might just go to Rudston tomorrow and look at Winifred Holtbys grave, or re-read the wonderful Sunk Island of Hubert Nicholson. As soon as it gets a bit warmer, but is not a school holiday I'm off for a drive to the real Sunk Island again , with its Crown farms and Stone Creek, lunch at the Hilyard Arms in Patrington and home thro all those tiny coastal villages , Roos, Tunstall , Rollston Camp and maybe Hornsea  with Pevsner. I wonder if David Hockney fancies Holderness for a change, only 10 miles from Brid in another direction from His Bigger Puddles and Trees.

1 comment:

  1. I think I now have a similar yearning for that familiar landscape . Have I remembered correctly that there were masses of snowdrops at Skeffling ?