4.5 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
The loss of a parent can change your perspective on life in a big way especially if you are close to that parent. Back in 2017, Simon Moreton’s father suddenly became ill and very soon after that died. During his short illness the thoughts of growing up, how his family came to be and where they came from swirl in the tumult of emotions. It was something that he hoped would keep him connected with his dad and the family. Wanting to know how he became who he is now would mean going back to the place they live and his dad worked. The art that he would normally create felt insufficient, instead, that work he couldn’t create, became this book.
Heading back to the landscape of his childhood and back in time would bring back memories that have been suppressed for years. Some of those memories he mined were happy; holidays spent with the family, the times that he spent messing around with his brother, climbing the walnut tree and making things out of wood with his dad. The smells came back too, grass clippings, damp concrete, homebrew and horse farts. Other memories are more troubling, the teasing he had from other pupils about reading the encyclopaedia, the total lack of skills with any ball games and not even understanding the question about what team to support.
I sometimes think it would be nice to go back and feel like that again, and sometimes I am glad I never can.
His dad had quite an unusual job, he worked at a manned radar station on the Clee Hills and it would be the place that he would look for answers to questions that hadn’t yet fully formed in his head yet. Walking again through these places of his childhood that seemed familiar and yet different searching for the presence of his dad still left in the area, finding the magic once again in the gaps in his memories. He remembers trying to play the guitar one night. His father came and sat with him and passed him a book of poetry. He had written these at a similar age to Simon when he himself had been struggling with his own internal demons. It is a touching moment as each generation faces their own and their shared demons.
Those times are magical; so magical, in fact, that I don’t know if my memories of them are even real.
Walking to the radar station follows the path of the Titterstone Wake, a local festival that took place at the end of August. The station is still there, but now fully automated. He remembers being taken inside by his dad, it was a geodesic cathedral to the secret services. Meeting the men that he had worked with at the funeral gave him an insight into the character of his father that he had never really known or seen.
Okwell Soov is a poultice that was said to cure all ills. It is something that Moreton feels that he needs to cure his pain of grief, but its secrets have been lost to the past. The writing is often introspective but not in a bad way; his journey to the past to try to understand how he has become who he is now is quite some journey. I think that this book is a journey back with Moreton that we merely glimpse parts of because in between the prose is a mix of all sorts of art, photos and maps that come in a rush. His art is simple and yet full of the dynamics of life, they are interspersed with photos from childhood and significant moments in his life. It is primarily an artistic tribute to his dear father and also a look deep into the reflections that we see of ourselves when we look into the landscapes that formed us.