I’ve been in England and Ireland the past few weeks, researching lots of things at once.
But I keep getting distracted by the many ancient stories all around me, some of them told in stone, brick, weeds and rubble.
I’m reminded of the lovely book The Pleasure of Ruins by Rose Macauley (I like it so much I have two editions – one with photographs by Roloff Beny).
The intoxication, at once so heady and so devout, is not the romantic melancholy engendered by broken towers and mouldered stones; it is the soaring of the imagination into the high empyrean where huge episodes are tangled with myths and dreams; it is the stunning impact of world history on its amazed heirs.
Especially on the west coast of Ireland, the ruins of cottages and whole villages often tell the story of the Famine or the Rebellions and their aftermath, or the expulsion of small farmers, or mass emigration of people like my own ancestors, or simple poverty – or all of these.
Then there are ruined castles and towers, churches and abandoned graveyards, wells and tombs and ancient monuments.
So many stories can be read – or imagined – in ruins, in stone.