Posted by: Linda Proud | September 1, 2011

Lewis through the Looking Glass

We were asked to stop strimming on the allotment yesterday evening by a man who came over to say, ‘We’re filming.’ You immediately presume an episode of Lewis is going on, although it could equally have been the zoology department doing a video on rare snails.

We staggered home later with yet another barrow-load of harvest and slumped in front of the TV and this week’s episode of Lewis which, oddly enough, mentioned our village and featured our meadow. We prefer Lewis to Morse. The stories are better (sorry, Colin), and the characters more interesting (sorry, Endeavour). Sergeant Hathaway is a gem and has a moral and intellectual depth so much greater than his boss’s (although last night he encouraged Lewis to dump a mattress on a skip, which gives him a shadow side and makes him even more interesting).

We love the hallucinatory effect of the locations. Last week the villains went through the door of the Sackler Classics Library and entered a nightclub! We’re used to them running down a street in the north of the city to enter the centre from the south. The murderous academics  almost always live in the houses of multi-millionaires and last night’s opened on to Radcliffe Square!

Last week’s episode, written by Dave Pirie, was a knickerbocker glory of Inkling references and even included mention of Perennialist Titus Burkhardt. But for all its literariness and intellectualism, Lewis, like Morse, like most crime fiction, remains completely implausible and no less lovable because of it.

Although Kevin Whately is a Geordie, Lewis himself must surely be Welsh, which gives me the weakest possible link through to another topic. I’ve just finished reading A Dreaming for the Witches by Stephen Yeates. Great title, great blurb, but really only a book on archaeology with useless maps. I say ‘only’ because archaeologists, even more than other sciences, I think, have reduced their subject to a dead rat pinned out in a dissection tray with what made the animal interesting long gone.

Somehow, through a text that carefully avoids incriminating him as a man of imagination, Yeates implies that Wales once extended as far east as Gloucester and the Cotswolds, that the Dobunni tribe of that area, which became the Hwicce people in Anglo Saxon times, gave rise to the name ‘witch’ and that the Vale of Gloucester is the source of the Grail legends.

So careful is he not to say what he means that it’s a difficult read, but I did enjoy catching up with current thinking on the source of the English. Genetics, apparently, show that all the incomers, whether migrants or invaders such as Vikings, Saxons, Romans, Normans, Celts etc., each contribute less than 5% to the gene pool while a whopping 45% is contributed by the first people to arrive after the ice withdrew. We are the Bronze Age folk who built Stonehenge, unless they too were later incomers, in which case we did the work shifting stones, or rested on our hoes moaning about the changes to the landscape and saying the project will never work. But we’ve been here since the year dot and I find that pretty exciting. It leads on to all manner of thoughts about Englishness – and Welshness – best saved for another time.

Yeates is a hard read because academic discipline won’t allow him to say what he can’t substantiate, but I would love to have him round for dinner and hear what he has to say after a few glasses of wine.

There is fog on the meadow this morning and ‘the Spanish wild horses’ are grazing peacefully as only English domesticated horses can.  While Lewis makes hay with the facts, archaeologists reduce them into bone and dust: there must be something in between, some form of literature that is both truthful and imaginative. And so there is… Back to work then, after a short session of strimming if filming will allow it.

English tame horses on Wolvercote Common, our house in the background.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: