Norwegian mountains / British history

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Just back from Norway and had their love of nature and especially their beloved mountains impressed on me once more.

Flying from Oslo to Stavanger, the Norwegians on the plane always crane their necks to look out of the windows as soon as the snowy, rather flattened, peaks and fijords become visible on the approach. Not only that, but they talk to each other about them, rather in the way that the French discuss the contents of their plates. They are the world’s gourmets of mountain scenery, distinguishing between the subtle differences, and the effects of the light, in the same way that Finns distinguish between different types of snow, and will point out one tree in a line of seemingly identical ones and praise its qualities.

Admittedly the pink glow of a spring sunset on the white snow was magnificent. But I am always left pondering about how little we average town-dwelling Brits appreciate nature in the deep spiritual sense the Nordics, Germans and the Japanese do. Of course, we had one of the world’s greatest Nature poets in William Wordsworth, but he was the exception which proves the rule.

Funny how in touch with raw, primeval nature the Nordics are, yet so modern. Artistically, the Norwegian Ibsen was one of the first to recognise and portray some of our modern preoccupations with alienation and the chasms beneath the veneer of polite society. Politically, the Finns were the first to give the vote to women. And modernistic minimalism is very much a product of the Nordics.

For us Brits, for whom nature is more controlled and contained by our villages, dry stone walls and formal gardens, the natural elemental side is generally less important than our human interaction with the environment, and our history. It is the tradition written onto the landscape that inspires us more than the landscape itself.

So, flying over the UK some dozen years ago, a BA pilot entertained us with a literary history of the cloud-covered land below. “And now, if we could see it, we are passing over Bosworth, site of the famous battle immortalised in Shakespeare’s Richard III and in the line ‘My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse!’ “

No real conclusions from all this, except how fascinating people and culture are.

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One Response

  1. Guy Cookson says:

    The relationship between the natural environment and people from country to country really is fascinating. I think in many ways in Britain we are at the extreme end of the spectrum in the sense that we have a dense population, advanced communications, a comprehensive (if not entirely fit for purpose) transport network, and, despite frequent declarations of love for the environment, a propensity to micro-manage and catalogue every last inch of ‘wilderness’ left.
    Reading older novels you get the sense that outside of major towns there remained the unknown, where especially at night there were very real dangers in the fields beyond, where beasts still roamed and the elements could be fatal. In many parts of the world this is still the case today. Sometimes I wish we too could experience more of life away from the amber glow of A-roads and manicured footpaths. Having said all that, I’m grateful that the chances of being ravaged by a rabid wolf on a frostbitten mountain are fairly low these days.

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