In a (probably misguided) attempt at coming to terms with my exile in the hills of the Asti wine country, I got me a copy of John Seymour’s classic The Countryside Explained, which – if nothing else – has the right reassuring title.The very fine used copy of the hardback kept
The very fine used copy of the hardback (with great illustrations by Sally Seymour) kept me company in the last two days when we were snowed in and with erratic grid services. As expected, the book is absolutely wonderful. Lots of information, packaged with wit, a sort of gruff, down-to-earth but precise language that works just fine.
As expected, and as I said, the book is a great read.
For the uninitiated, John Seymour was one of the original proponents of the Self-sufficiency Culture – the idea of a return to the land as a means of escape from the alienating urban rat-race.
Which sounds somewhat romantic, but hey, it was fifty years ago.
But Seymour was no hairy freak – he had a direct experience of a lot of different cultures (his books about India and Africa have been on my to-read list for ages), and he was a broadcaster with BBC.
His books are considered classics, and he was one of the forerunners of the current eco-friendly movement.So yes, The Countryside Explained is quite a good book – the only drawback being, it’s very focused on the British countryside.
So yes, The Countryside Explained is quite a good book – the only drawback being, it’s very focused on the British countryside.
Which again means I’m still stranded in the wilds of the Asti province, without a guide.
And indeed, one of the things that came to my mind, while I was huddling under a stack of covers and reading Seymour’s book, is the distinctive lack of books like this one in my country, and of this area where I sit in particular1.
Apart from agricultural studies textbooks, and very very local memoirs and nostalgia pieces good popular books about the countryside are noteworthy for their non-existence.
Which in the end is just an opportunity – what if I drew my own map of the hills so to speak) and then try and publish it.
- there was a fine publisher once, who had a fine line of pretty expensive books about countryside lore and traditions… but they recently found out that publishing rubbish about “the luxury lifestyle” and cheap entertainment is more lucrative. ↩