I’ve been away somewhere exotic. A place where the taxi drivers call you, “Me duck,” and the cobs are something you eat for lunch, not get on.
Yes, the East Midlands.
More precisely the city of Nottingham and the former mining town of Eastwood, just outside the home of Paul Smith and Rock City.
Nottinghamshire boasts a slew of literary connections, notably Lord Byron, Alan Sillitoe of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning fame and, the subject of my research trip, David Herbert Lawrence.
Lawrence is known best for his outspoken views on sexuality yet, like Wordsworth (the subject of another of my recent commissions), his description of the sensuous quality of nature is the most compelling aspect of his work.
In Sons and Lovers, his breakthrough and unabashedly auto-biographical novel, which celebrates the centenary of its publication this year, he writes:
The hills were golden with evening; deep in the wood showed the darkening purple of bluebells. It was everywhere perfectly still, save for the rustling of leaves and birds.
Local Heritage Assistant Carolyn Melbourne (pictured above in the doorway of 8a Victoria Street, the cottage where he was born and now a museum to his early life) took me on a whistle-stop tour of the sites associated with Lawrence and his early work.
She will be leading Sons and Lovers theme tours of Eastwood during the D.H. Lawrence Festival in September.
Lawrence was an outsider and spent many itinerant years travelling the world with his lover, Frieda von Richthofen. His journeys informed a new genre of travel writing, different to the likes of Patrick Leigh Fermor.
But it’s the way he describes the flawed interior lives of his characters, many based on real-life people, that sounds so fresh today. These people, facing emotional turmoil and struggling to reconcile it, are living amongst us now. They are us.
Lawrence writes in the short story, Odour of Chrysanthemums:
Was this what it all meant – utter, intact separateness, obscured by the heat of living? She had denied him what he was. She had refused him as himself. And this had been her life, and his life. She was grateful to death, which restored the truth.
Do you have a favourite haunt of D. H. Lawrence around Nottingham? Are you planning to visit the city during the festival?
Post your comments below.
Read more about D.H. Lawrence in Nottinghamshire here.