Corona Diary, Day 18

Thursday, 2 April 2020

A windy day but it was still pleasant to cycle to the post office to collect my company post, the last time I need to do this as it’s now being forwarded to my  home address. I’m surprised how pleasant it is to cycle; with the exception of a holiday cycling along a canal and a brief spin in Massachusetts, I haven’t cycled for over ten years. Uppsala is flat with a well-developed network of cycle tracks so I shall probably continue to do so post-Corona.

On my return to the flat, I tackle my in-tray which was showing imperialist tendencies and spreading small colonies of paper around the rest of my study. The brief warming-up activity of my imagination disappears in a time quagmire of subscriptions that need renewing and finding new homes for displaced papers. I manage to collect my Dorset church books in one place but don’t get any further with this project.

My Dorset project is really about softening the loss of exile. Moving from England where I was brought up and spent my youth to Sweden where I’ve lived most of my adult life, I’ve always been very aware of having gained and lost; gained another floor to my existential house where I could look at the world from another angle and learning Swedish, which has given me countless insights into English. But always too a sense of loss, a gradual drifting away from my English identity, a longing for the softness of the English landscape and its climate (well, some aspects of its climate), the wealth of cultural, historical and geographical associations of a densely-populated country. I’ve learnt to appreciate much about Sweden and Scandinavia but the sense of loss is always there.

As a self-employed translator, I’ve spent considerable time travelling around and being in the UK. It’s been very valuable for my well-being but in recent years, I’ve wanted not just to preserve but to develop my Englishness. To that end, I’ve chosen two projects – one more political to study the economy and political structures of the UK (to try to understand, for example, the underlying forces and roots of Brexit) and the other, more of a “leisure” project to take my familiarity with the county of Dorset in the south-west, to a much higher level, to know much more about the county’s history, archaeology, geology, buildings, dialect, etc. etc. I started with Dorset churches, as this was a typical area where I knew quite a lot but also suffered from “false familiarity”, where I could recognise a lot of churches but there were great gaps in my knowledge.

I chose Dorset because I have family roots in the northern village of Marnhull on my father’s side, at least from the early sixteenth century and because I spent my teenage years in the village of Templecombe, which is in Somerset, but only a few kilometres from the Dorset border so I have many memories from that time of cycling and being in Dorset, although I know the county a lot better now than I did then.

Studying Dorset churches has taken much more time than I expected but this hardly matters as it’s the journey that’s important for me rather than the destination.

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