Saturday 27 April 2013

Blue Remembered Hills

This is where I lived when I was about fourteen, in a Herefordshire cottage up a mile of rough country lane, with the nearest visible house also at least a mile away, although there was in fact one hidden just over the brow of the hill behind us.  Aged about fifteen (?) I decided to paint the view from the lawn in spring, summer and autumn (I never got around to painting winter: perhaps it just didn't snow; and I wanted snow). Anyway, a week or two back I found the paintings at the bottom of a drawer. The hill to the right, covered in trees, is Lea Bailey, near Ross on Wye. The blue curve behind the bare elms is May Hill.

So here is spring. The houses over on Lea Bailey do look a bit like sugar cubes and I never could figure out how to paint trees, but I loved that view, and I'm glad to see it again. Even if I could go back, it would not be the same. The elms were lost decades ago. 

Here is summer. I remember the roses being a problem to paint. How to cope with the background behind them? How to deal with the foliage? I was using a child's paint box and A4 paper torn from a pad: you can just see the punch holes over the top of the hill. But lord, that was a garden.  My mother had green fingers, and created beauty wherever she went (she still does) and I certainly couldn't do that garden justice.

Autumn came... with misty mornings and May Hill appearing again behind the thinning elms. My brother and I took a bicycle ride there, once, and I remember how exciting it seemed to ride by ourselves all the way to the horizon.  When you're there, May Hill is full of the sounds of larks singing, and of the wind sighing like the sea through the tall, tall pines which grow in a clump on the very top.  A lonely, gorgeous, magical place, a place to quote Housman. But back then it would have been 'Summertime on Bredon' that would have sprung to my mind, especially the lines:

And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

And now?                                         
Into my heart an air that kills
  From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,       
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.


  1. I live close to Bromsgrove where there is a statute in the main street to Housman and even though I am very much a city child, I love his poetry and even more the wonderful musical setting that proliferated through the early part of the twentieth century. 'Summertime on Bredon' is undoubtedly my favourite. I love your paintings and am deeply envious because I could never hope to do anything like them. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Thank you Kath - I loved this. Please don't be offended when I say there's a lovely naivety about the paintings that's more affecting that something a lot slicker and professional would be. Your love of the scene comes bursting through.
    And 'Blue Remembered Hills' always reminds me of my father, since it was one of his favourite poems, and he knew it by heart. It always makes me sad - but in a good way!

  3. Thankyou both! And Sue, how could I possibly feel offended by such a lovely comment? Besides - the me who did those paintings isn't really the me who rediscovered them. Time is strange, strange stuff...

  4. Never could paint trees? They are beautiful. It’s excellent art. I’d buy it…