When I was in staying in a cabin up North, at Sagfjordbotn in September of this year, with two professors and about fourteen students, we had a conversation about what rural places mean for different people.

Some people had grown up in very remote, sparsely populated places and then moved to a city, or a different part of the world, to study.

Others had always lived in a city, but had visited very remote places a lot growing up.

Others had grown up in semi-rural places, within quick reach of a town or city but also close to farms, forests or the sea.

Some of our discussion centred on the communication gaps that can open up between people who live in a city and a more rural place - an example cited by some in the group being the experience of living in a city in order to be part of an art scene, and finding that, on returning home to family outside the city, there seems to be little in common between you and your family in terms of everyday concerns and conversations, and they just don’t relate to your anecdotes and news.

It’s a two-way street, though - I can conjure up many conversations I have sat and listened to between my father and brother, who live in a small market town surrounded by villages and farms, during which I’ve reflected that it’s been years since I’ve thought about any of this. Discussions about local things, mainly, the state of the countryside, the effects that local law changes are having, the building of new houses and roads, which big companies are rumoured to be buying up land and what they are going to build on it, how the weather isn’t doing what it’s supposed to at this time of year and what that means for work, where there are floods and where there are droughts, who in the area has died recently, or had a child. The kind of thing you’d hear on an average episode of The Archers. This gossip isn’t inconsequential - as Mike Pearson describes in Bubbling Tom, gossip is what glues a small community together, what allows us to maintain our careful and implicit social understanding.

Anyway, the point of it that I remembered was some talk about what people see when they look at the landscape. I remarked that, when I go home and look over some beautiful green fields and woods, I see the beauty of nature. My father, standing beside me looking at the same thing, sees work.