Yesterday I travelled with Jenny up North to visit the Grandparents. If I had had my own way the first day of 2012 would have been spent in bed or on a sofa reading, starting as I mean to go on, but duty impelled me towards Rochdale. The sky never decided what it wanted to be. Blue and grey skies were present in almost equal amounts. As we reached the summit of the M62 I commented that the then rain soaked landscape Jenny saw for the first time was the landscape of my childhood.
Most Christmases or New Years in my life have at some point involved a drive up the M1/M62 to a suburban home on the edge of the Pennines and in earshot of the motorway’s drone. I have traced this path at least one hundred times. When I imagine a fantastic landscape I do not envisage colossal forests or lonely mountains, and I have never had time for extravagant castles. The geography of my childhood is one of boggy grit moors, dead sand dunes covered in heather, and at night a sprawl of orange lights.
And now that I am thinking about this I am drawn to conclude that this is why most fantasy worlds don’t resonate with me. My childhood was spent sitting in the back seat of a car dreaming of stories to describe the vistas I passed.
However I am currently reading The Snow Spider Trilogy by Jenny Nimmo and enjoying it. Part of this, I suspect, is because deep down I have an empathy for the landscape of northern Wales, which isn’t my own landscape but is similar. The lack of resonance with other fantastic geographies, I’d hope, is not because my imagination is necessarily weak but because The Snow Spider aligns better with a basic template of nature I possess. It is more solid as it describes the essence of a familiar place rather than attempting to invent something entirely original. See also Howl’s Moving Castle.
So I am lead to wonder how the imaginary geographies of other people have developed. How do people get the landscapes they dream of?