The soul, after sufficient incarnations, begins to understand the reason for its cyclic return to the earthly realm and in preparation for its next conscious life considers where the best possible opportunities for development and learning will occur – and chooses accordingly.
Sometimes it’s not obvious and only extended periods of contemplation and meditation bring about this wakening.
So that in my twenties I was trying to work out what it was about being born and raised in south Bucks that could make my present – and, now I know – final incarnation occur in this region. There is more to say about this, but for now…
I mean, there’s nothing obviously remarkable about the area whatsoever.
But then again –
John Hampden – after whom my abhorrent secondary school was named – was an English Civil War hero, on the side of the Parliamentarians against Charles I, born in Great Hampden, a village where my nan used to walk to, after hitching up with my Bucks born grandad, from her house in Widmer End to work in a big property there. Maybe one of John Hampden’s descendants. Times change, after all.
Our little family often went to Hampden woods on Sunday afternoons for a picnic on the grass beside the beeches, where we’d play badminton and take long walks amongst the trees and honey-suckle.
We’ve got the best music-makers in Bucks, otherwise known as – birds!
To walk through a summer meadow in the hot Bucks sunshine and listen to a skylark singing three-hundred feet up in the air is to be transcended into another realm, as Percy Bysshe Shelley discovered…
Waking or asleep
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?
… while trudging through Bucks farmland on the edge of some woods on a freezing cold sleety day in winter and hearing the cawing of the crows is to experience an inner desolation you would hardly think imaginable. Such is Bucks music. Along with the silences.
Poet and political writer, John Milton, was also a staunch Parliamentarian during the Civil War and, in particular, a real champion concerning FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Anne and I visited the cottage where he lived one rainy afternoon a couple of years ago when I wasn’t feeling too good because of blocked Chi energy resulting from an enervating lifestyle and subsequent iron overload in my liver (after stopping at the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden High St, above which we had lived for a while when it had been a shop). Milton’s Paradise Lost is probably the best known poetic composition in the entire English language canon.
All the more odd then, that for as long as I’ve known the area it has always voted in the blue anti-proletarian Tory Party.
Actually, conservatism and affluence generally go hand in hand, it seems.
If I head north from Naphill Common towards High Wycombe I pass through Benjamin Disraeli’s old pile in Hughgenden – the Manor, NT owned, where I worked on a ridiculous government-funded Manpower scheme for the unemployed back in the eighties – now rebranded to reflect its use by the UK Air Ministry during WW2 (and in whose grounds stands St Michael’s and All Saints church where my mum’s funeral service was held at the start of this year); if I go in the other direction, walking through Lord Dashwood’s property and more NT land, then I quickly come upon Strike Command – previously Bomber Command from where Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet (no less) launched the RAF’s campaign against German civilians during the same war, most notoriously in Dresden. Go east through the woods down to the dene and pretty soon there is Flowers Bottom where my great-aunt Ishbel – daughter of the UK’s first Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald – ran the Plow Inn with my great-uncle Norman before his death; while going westerly leads eventually to the start of the Vale of Aylesbury road, West Wycombe village with its Hellfire caves and up to St Lawrence church with its golden ball atop the spire, and an amazing view of the Chiltern Hundreds.
Stanley Spencer and his Cookham paintings depicting the Resurrection are nearby; not to mention the notorious Eric Gill up at Piggot’s Hill where my grandad worked in the pigsty, and his forbears sawed logs in the local forest after gravitating from Stokenchurch/Radnage/West Wycombe, and where our family reunion takes place every year now. In the woods hangs a carving of the crucified Christ made in Gill’s workshop there.
Right now there’s a plaque recovered from the local museum hung on the exterior wall of the old Methodist church building at the bottom of the slope where an annual commemoration concerning old Uncle Charlie from Bryants Bottom in the dene below is to become an annual event.
Our family is making its mark in the area once again. In favour of yet more war imperialism, now twenty-first century British-style, unfortunately. The exaltation of a dead man in the shade of a dead empire might appear somewhat necrophilic to some.
When my mum used to take me in with her occasionally to her job in Beaconsfield we’d drive past Enid Blyton’s old place and I’d always look out for hobgoblins, elves and the like prancing on the large front garden. Didn’t see them often, though.
Or, at least, not often enough.
Another house we drove past belonged to Karl Popper, the philosopher of science and my favourite writer from the twentieth-century, but I didn’t realise he was living and working there at the time; I was more interested in the pond where we’d skate when it froze over in the wintertime, or the strangely hollowed-out trees that we’d climb in summer. Not to mention John Ives’ bike shop along the connecting road.
Bicycles and trees and the overhead sky were – and still are – big parts of my life, as the various injuries, scars and memories testify to the present day.
My home village dates back at least to Anglo-Saxon times and has the meaning of ‘hazel by the pond’ – Hazlemere.
Trees, water, sky, bird-song, agriculture, philosophy, art, politics, war, peace, mysticism – FREEDOM TO THINK, is what the Bucks area immediately conjures up for me.
When I ran out of puff and grey matter in London in my twenties – a casualty of post-punk excesses – south Bucks and its woods was the place I turned to for my complete rehabilitation.
Over the undulating Chiltern Hills covered in ancient beech forest and under the big Vale of Aylesbury skies I walked and wrote and pondered – inspired by the names and places mentioned above. While doing so I saw a whole world emerging in my mind, one of common people living out their lives in dignity and freedom and mystical union…which had to be arranged on paper so that others could share in this vision also.
Until, at last, I had all the ideas put in order…and further…in one joyous upsurge felt the innermost whole of the harmonious universe mingle and merge finally as one full-on spout of experience inside the centre of my being before exploding out again to encompass existence in its love-filled entirety…
All under a south Bucks sky.
So, for me at least, my beloved tree-concealed corner of this 13-billion year old universe residing in south Bucks…is, obviously, special.