A Good Parcel of English Soil

A Good Parcel of English soil - book jacketThis is my contribution to a suite of 12 short books (one for each line) commemorating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. I’ve done the Metropolitan Line (the first to be built), and there’s a bit on the almost sci-fi origins of subterranean travel in London. But mostly the book is about Metroland, that almost legendary corridor of suburbia that stretches out from London into the Buckinghamshire countryside. I grew up there and spent the first half of my life inside it, and was struck by the way that nature refused to play according to the idyllic plans laid down by the Metropolitan Railway Company. Their romanticising of the landscape (‘A Good Parcel of English Soil’ is a phrase from one of their brochures) was designed to create new rural settlements (they had cannily bought development land around the line) from which new settlers would use the Met to commute to London. But from the day our street gang set fire to the field next to one of the new estates, to the time I was sucked into the feral quicksands of the Brent Reservoir, to the odyssey of the red kites, now also commuting to the City along the route of the Met Line, wild nature was always mischievously, opportunistically, nibbling at the edges of Metroland’s serene pastoral plan. “Those days imprinted me with a sense that the border between the domestic world and the wild was porous and mobile; that wherever there was development there would be creative disintegration; and that alongside all straight, organising staves like railway lines, some life would always move in an improvised, syncopated rhythm, contrametro.”

buy a good portion of english soil online