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  • Michael Smith

Book Review: Field Notes by Maxim Peter Griffin - a walk on the wild side


Lincolnshire is so often a forgotten part of England: east of the A1 heading north, sandwiched between the Humber and the Wash, it is easily by-passed by travellers heading somewhere else. Bomber county, tick; the great cathedral, tick; Skegness or Mablethorpe, Tattershall castle maybe, tick. But then what?


In his magisterial study of this most moody corner of England, Maxim Peter Griffin has produced an exquisite document of the county he calls home. Taking the form of diary of a year in Lincolnshire as its author walks alone across it, Field Notes is a document of experience, of feelings, of a land that gets under the skin, its author extracting the county's juices from its richly spiritual essence.

The words are brief, but they are powerful. A tramp in a hedge - a "fading" life - is discovered by dogs; a Saxon graveyard revealed by a crashed Junkers in WW2 still speaks from below the ground; pathways forgotten by maps still attract snogging couples secretly under the skies, uncharted by authority and watched by none.


Overflown by Typhoon jets, the land is vast, dotted with old Nissen huts, a derelict Comet tank, crumbling churches, tin cans and sexual graffiti. People eat chips, seaside towns endure the cruel winter of rejection, and an ancient barrow laments its former power, its incumbent lost to time, memory and the empty winds. Trees and hedges are unkempt, brambles scratch and starlings on a power line are too languid yet to begin their murmuration.


This is the Lincolnshire landscape of Field Notes. But there's more to this than words, richly instinctive though they are. What makes the book truly remarkable is Griffin's tremendous illustrative genius, his ability to minimise the visual scene by abstracted light and to capture all its presence by a sharp observation of sense.


His scenes each have a quiet drama; if some colours seem impossible in the wild, they are completely feasible in the mind, a palette of experience and mood, intensity and feeling. A blue sun seen down a lane, a scarlet sky against a black sea, an intense cerulean sky seen through a canopy of trees in stark yellows, browns and reds. Black clouds on sunsets of orange and fading crimson. This is the world as we see it at the end of days, captured at the moment when fact transforms to memory.

I love this book. You can read it quickly in one sitting but to do so would be churlish. Each brief line demands reflection, each of its many paintings desires consideration. This is Lincolnshire, the land that many forget, which politicians ignore and then wonder why things happen which turn the world against them.


Field Notes tells a tale of people, forgotten histories, inconsequential acts of human behaviour. Great events have happened here but time and tide, like the transatlantic airliners which Griffin tracks so high above, wait for no man; the world spins on regardless.


And yet. And yet, Griffin's Lincolnshire is alive to the transience of its denizens and the role they have played in the shaping of the land; inconsequential to so many they are here rendered eternal. His county is a guardian and watcher of all who dwell within it, captured here with such rich empathy to its landscape and its light.


A diary of a year once lived and a land once walked it may be, but Field Notes is so much more than this. It is a diary of the soul.


Michael Smith


 

Field Notes, Walking the Territory


Author: Maxim Peter Griffin


Published 2022 by: Unbound


ISBN: 978-1-80018-118-2


 

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