If you’re a frequent reader of The Lighter Journal, you may have already spotted what appears to be cataclysmic error. “What on earth has this chap done? Has his last withering brain cell finally waved the little white flag, and plunged nucleus first into a mighty white blood cell? It’s called The LIGHTER Journal it’s supposed to have a lighter in it!” Well, you’re right. In my title photo, I am indeed clutching a box of matches, but there is a very good reason for it.
I have travelled to the village of Woodlands, which lies in the green and fruitful county of Dorset. I grew up in this village, and as I drove through it on the way to visit my parents I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I saw a farmer leaning on a wooden sty, head to toe in olive and tweed as he surveyed his field of horses. I saw elderly locals peering over each other’s hedgerows, to voice their concerns about cottage cheese and immigration. I was stepping back to my youth.
Every place bears its own iconic landmark. For London, it’s the Houses of Parliament, for Paris it’s the Eiffel Tower, but for Woodlands it’s most iconic landmark is not what it bears, but what it doesn’t, and what it doesn’t bear is absolutely anything even remotely interesting at all. Traditional English country villages tend to have at least a corner shop, or a tearoom for instance, but Woodlands has nothing – not even a bus stop. There was talk once of a pub coming to grace this remote land, but plans were abruptly stopped by the local parish, for fear it would corrupt the church goers. This is why I chose a box of matches. What better way to represent a village so remote, that if you want something as simple as a glass of milk, you have to squat under a cow and squeeze. If one were to attempt to find a lighter (which is probably seen as witchcraft around these parts) it would be an exercise in the absurd.
As a small boy I remember laughing at the prospect of a Woodlands tour bus; the conductor, standing at the front clutching a microphone, “and if you look to your left, there’s some green. If you look to your right there is a tree, with some more green.” It’s the perfect way to sum up Woodlands, a never-ending barrage of flat, semi grazed fields broken up by the occasional bungalow.
Having returned to Woodlands after experiencing life in a more eventful and convenient city, I feared that living here again would result in a deep descent into madness. By the end of the day I’d be bored, by the end of the week I’d be tired, by the end of the month I’d be mad, and by the end of the year I would be microwaving a cheese sandwich in order to have sex with it.