Topographical yearning can’t be one of more common causes of sleepless nights, I would have thought.

It’s not that, in itself, the flatness in this part of northern Europe is any less resonant than it was. More, perhaps, that I made the mistake of projecting too much onto the sense of distance and open horizons when I first came—if such is really a mistake, rather an elemental part of how one goes about giving sense to the world. Maybe it is both.

At any event, this kind of complex relationship with landscape would explain the longing that struck me, out of nowhere, for a different kind of ground a few nights back. It was Durham that came first to mind. Curiously so, in many ways. The attachment had long been a tenuous one (how do you set down roots somewhere where it has, however indirectly, been made perfectly clear that there is not a long-term future?). The notion of returning, too, is painful in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, more particularly the way immigration figured in it.

And yet: I miss still the wooded spur that runs down to the river from Gilesgate, the simplicity of the flats along the Wear, and the shallow valleys where the river makes a turn further upstream. I miss the slopes falling and rising that gave perspective to the start and the end of the day. And from there, the mind wanders still, to a landscape, further north, where the shape of the earth and the form of the rock are those of another age…


One of these days, the academic in me will bring together the other, scholarly side of this particular coin—literary geographies, literary spaces, the north as a hollow space around the Baltic—but that is for a different time.