My new book takes what I hope is a radically different approach to the question of rural England. Here is a short abstract from the opening chapter.
"It is late when I arrive at the crossroads. A Thursday evening in November is approaching the time of twilight. The stubble fields behind me appear grey in the ebbing light, but ahead there is a startling mix of ripened auburn leaves, still green grass and golden seedheads. The eye can’t help but follow the line of the road on the far side of the intersection, drawn to a vague horizon that merges with soft clouds like distant smoke.
Leaving London is like climbing up a very old tree. You start by crawling up the trunk and then take the biggest branch off to the left or right at the first opportunity. Keep turning along smaller and smaller boughs until you arrive at the final forked twig. I am not actually that far from the crown of the tree if I’m honest. This may not be the Home Counties but it’s scarcely the provinces. Since leaving London I haven’t passed through any towns or built-up areas, but I know I’m in “the countryside” now as I’ve just driven through a village with numerous thatched cottages, and the road is barely wide enough for two cars. Still, according to the estate agents, I am within 'easy reach”' of one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth."
For more about Return of a Native, click here.
This is a work in progress that has occupied me for nearly ten years. Co-authored with Alice Cree, Antonia Dawes and Mitra Pariyar, our book - now in final editing stage - paints a unique portrait of an English army town: Tidworth, a historic garrison located on the edge of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Targeted for expansion under government plans to restructure the British Army by 2020, the garrison and associated camps have grown considerably in the last few years. This project explores the contemporary military bootprint in a locality shaped by more than a century of continuous war preparation.
One of the starting points is that the British military is an extremely secretive institituon. During the early 2000's the army, in particular, acquired enhanced public prestige at national level, despite its deployment in deeply unpopular wars. This book investigates the gap between public perception and the reality of living on and alongside an army base, and considers why this might be important for the future of British democracy.