Local knowledge


They’re lost. I know before they tell me. So
I offer help: consult their map and guide
And see at once which way they’re meant to go;
There are no secrets that this place can hide
From me. I could, if asked, say how this lane
Links up with every other; bend their ears
For hours with village gossip; and explain
Each field’s crop rotation down the years.
Yet though I speak with such authority
This local knowledge, intimate and broad,
Is not the resident’s, but memory:
I’m long gone – no house here I can afford.
Life’s handed me this pair of travelling boots,
But it will never rip me from my roots.

13 thoughts on “Local knowledge

  1. Hi Nick, home sweet unaffordable home…
    I can relate to this poem, as it happens here too, but now the houses go down in price because of the crisis. Which is good, homes should be affordable, not investment objects?

    • Hi Ina

      I love your comment: Home sweet unaffordable home – that sums it up perfectly. Hardly anyone I knew when I was growing up still lives in the village today; we all had to leave to study or find jobs, and now it’s way too expensive for any of us to go back, even though many of our parents are still there. House prices have come down a bit in the UK, too (or at least, stopped rising so fast!) but the gap between town and country is still enormous: my parent’s place, for instance, is actually slightly smaller than ours, but is ‘worth’ about 30% more simply because it’s in a ‘desirable’ village. The irony is that the village itself has almost no facilities and very poor public transport links: seems the less there is in a place, the more people are prepared to spend to live there! Houses should absolutely be homes rather than investment objects, but there’s still such a fetish for home-ownership and property generally in this country, I think it’ll be a long time before attitudes change. And around here, at least, even ‘affordable’ houses still typically cost five or six times the national average salary. Madness.

      Anyway, thanks for taking a break from your NaPo labours to read the piece: only 20 days to go! N.xx

      • 🙂 A few years ago, a house would cost like 300.000 euro and that would be a very small one. (Houses can go up to a million. Just a farmhouse, being refurbished,)
        Now they go for less than 200.000 euro, stil a lot of money for a small house I think. and banks are reluctant to give a mortgage. It is a housing crisis.

        NaPoWriMo : I am not following the prompt every day 🙂 and I think I missed a day! xx

    • Thank you John – I guess I’m lucky in that I’m still within cycling range of the old place, so get to see it fairly often; and that my folks are still there. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to live there now: the character of it has changed completely in the 20-something years since I was last a permanent inhabitant. And not for the better, I have to say! N.

  2. What do I say about this Nick? You are wealthier than all of those who can afford the houses. Most of those living in those houses would not be able to tell you the difference between a Plutarchian and Shakespearean sonnet. Still, they dominate a place that they are only a small part of, missing the true spirit that resides in every tree, every stone, the stories that echo back and back into a history that we all are only faintly conversant with in our more perceptive moments.
    In the end their houses have life, but it is not the life a poet lives, and you, of course, are a poet extraordinare.

    • I know for a fact I wouldn’t want the kinds of jobs they have to do in order to afford those houses, Tom! It has been truly said that poetry is a calling, not a career; and I’d rather be living here in my humble suburban house with the time to go out into Nature, then come back and write about her, than be earning a six-figure sum and stuck in a London office all day. And there’s no currency required for memories and dreams. My best to you, as always, my friend – a poet extraordinaire if ever there was one. N.

  3. Oh Wow, this is wonderful–I really like it, can almost hear you speaking it, deep inside me. Maybe I’m crazy–or maybe it’s the “Thomas Davis” influence. At any rate, I’m very glad he pointed me over to your blog. Wonderful stuff–thank you!

    • I owe such a lot to Thomas – he’s a great friend and mentor. He recorded his reading of one of my earlier poems for me; he has the most wonderful voice.

      Thank you so much for your comment – it means everything. N.xx

  4. Another gem Nick. I can almost see you holding back the words of this poem as you were helping to direct them!

    I smiled at “I could, if asked, say how this lane links up with every other”. It reminded me of a sketch (Monty Python I think) where someone arrived at a boarding house and proceeded to recite the numbers of all the roads they had been on to get there!

    Wonderful poem 🙂

    Christine xx

    • Thank you, as always, Christine – I did have to bite my tongue a bit! I did, however, manage to point out the very large and exceedingly beautiful house owned by Bill Nicholson, writer of (among other things) the screenplay for ‘Gladiator’. I judged, correctly, they were that kind of crowd. N.xx

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