Jacaranda – A writer’s response
To celebrate the opening of Jacaranda by Lorna French at Theatre by the Lake in November 2021, TBTL, in collaboration with Pentabus and Anti Racist Cumbria, held an open callout for a local Black or Brown writer to create an artistic response to the play. We are delighted to share Wambui Hardcastle’s response below.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our artist development opportunities, join the Cumbrian Creatives Network.
“I’m thinking of getting away from the city. Moving to the countryside.”
Ah…picturesque rural living.
Is that what you see for yourself?
Is it an old stone house you’re vying for?. Dotted across a hillside along with a few others? Fair enough.
A quaint village shop? Where there is always fresh local free-range eggs to buy?
Some well earned “peace and quiet”?
You wouldn’t be wrong, of course. There is all that. But like all things in life, everything is never that flat in nature
Yes, there are old stone houses.
But a friendly heads up-the gaps in the stone mean these houses sometimes are prone to quite the unforgiving draft.
And I hope for your sake, before you think of moving into one, you prepare yourself for knowing some rather large spiders on a first-name basis.
And the village shop does have free-range eggs straight from the farmer down the road.
You will soon discover though, that the prices of their wares are severely marked up compared to your standard Aldi or Lidl. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself on a Sunday pilgrimage to the nearest city for your weekly shop instead.
But then not long after that, you’ll understand properly the meaning of “Use it, or You’ll Lose It”.
And there is, of course, peace and quiet. Which can be resting or deafening, depending on how easy each day goes.
But there’s something all the Pinterest boards miss with their collages of cottage-core.
Proper rural culture.
There’s summer fêtes and winter cèilidhs. And pints down your local boozer with your neighbours turned mates of many years. Fierce annual harvest vegetable shows for the local parish. And of course, the scarecrow competitions-there’s always a hay-filled spiderman hanging to a chimney on someone’s house.
All of It just doesn’t quite fit in the quaint visual of seclusion some have.
Not to mention pheasant season. Which lasts from the start of autumn to the first sight of spring.
I didn’t realise that was still an actual thing until I came home one day and saw two pheasants tied by their necks to our gate.
Dad wasn’t a hunter himself. Just blessed with the gift of the gab which had lent itself to us being given free game for tea.
I offered to help. Truthfully, out of curiosity than innate goodness.
Dad proudly stated: “It’ll be a free biology and cooking lesson all rolled into one”
A bird was chosen, and we examined it on the kitchen table. I’d stroked patterns in its auburn tufts.
“You see these feathers, you know what we can use these for?”
He’d pointed at the bird’s tail feather’s. I’d shaken my head in answer.
“For Quills. That you dip your ink into. We’ll save some for you and your sister. For your writings and her drawings”
We saved the three prettiest feathers, one for each of us, and put them in a jar on the windowsill.
Mercifully, he saved me the gruesomeness of being present while removing the head.
Or maybe I’ve just blocked that part of the memory out.
We removed the innards, discarded what had been damaged by the shot
“Hold your hands out”
I did so. And then I felt him place something wet in my hands.
“Do you want to try and guess what that is?”
“That’s its heart”
I was perplexed. It was dark, and not even the size of my palm.
“Now do you feel like you’ve learned something new?”
“It’s so small”
“Yes, well, it’s a small animal. I’ll take that as a job well done”
We finished the preparation. And eventually the cooking and eating was done too.
Now as an adult, I don’t think I’ll ever prepare pheasant from scratch again alone. The lesson did prove itself useful when I was faced with dissection at GCSE Biology.
But while the quills were appreciated, the prospect of shakily removing entrails again isn’t a welcome one.
But I’d do it again, just for the sake of quietly spending time with someone dear. Toiling over something together.
The countryside provides opportunities like that in a way urban life doesn’t quite yet. Whether that be walking up a hillside together, bracing against the biting gales. Even sharing tins of Quality Street with the Mr and Mrs from one house down by candle light, while the electricity wont turn on for the nth hour on. Or knowing anyone and everyone the moment you step out your front door.
It can be wild and unforgiving, and warm and appreciative too. Admittedly, It’s not for everyone for a myriad of reasons beyond weather and tough location. For some it can only be a place to call home for a period in the lives and not much more.
So if you decide to move here, just know you could be signing up for an awful lot. But know as well, that if you know you’re treating it with decency and bit of respect, you’ve more than earned your place here.