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Thursday, 4 January 2018

Further to my post about M.R. James...

Further to my earlier post about M.R. James, I have all but given up reading his 'Collected Ghost Stories' because as well as putting me off my sleep, they're creeping me out on walks.  This will not do.  Sleeping well and walking in the fresh air are crucial for most people's general well-being, particularly in the case of anyone who, like me, hovers on the verge of insomnia much of the time, and both are interlinked.  I've learned that if I don't get out for an hour's walk in the fresh air during the day, I will not sleep well, unless I'm physically ill.  And if I don't sleep well, I tend to lack the energy to walk. I cannot allow myself to get into that unhealthy cycle. It's not just the exercise that matters. It's the calming, meditative effect of walking and observing nature that allows my mind to settle and relax.   So, I'm modifying my night-time reading and have returned to Richard Lancelyn Green's lengthy and reassuring introduction to the Penguin edition of E.W. Hornung's The Amateur Cracksman, for about the eleventh time.
I say 'all but' and 'modifying' because I'm still dipping into M.R. James, even though it makes me look over my shoulder to check if some nameless beast is following me from the shadows, and I'm frightened to move the duvet in the dark or put the light on in case I find the same awful be-wigged, hairy-mouthed ghastliness has continued to follow me and is now staring at me from hollow, cobwebby eye sockets.  Yesterday I startled a hare when walking by the ruins of Clunie Castle,  an atmospheric place 'steeped in history' if ever there was, and therefore almost certainly haunted, if you believe in such things, and wondered if there was some significance to the hare, given what we know about the mythology surrounding them.
As I looked at the ruins I thought, of course, about James's story 'A View from a Hill'.  I almost wished I had those magic binoculars so that I could see what the castle had looked like in the 1400s when it was built. There are no surviving illustrations, and I can find precious little information about it, which is surprising given that it's a place of some apparent significance and that the ruins are relatively large.
My quest continues.
Overall, it does occur to me that perhaps being creeped out and unsettled - in a mild kind of way - has its merits - it makes you think about things from a different angle.

To be continued...

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