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Kamala Markandaya and Mary Webb: Brexit Ghosts 4

Kamala Markandaya and Mary Webb share a Gaulloise and speak obliquely of Brexit before scurrying away…

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Mary-Webb

Kamala Markandaya: For where shall a man turn who has no money? Where can he go? Wide, wide world, but as narrow as the coins in your hand. Like a tethered goat, so far and no farther. Only money can make the rope stretch, only money.

Mary Webb: Labor brings a thing nearer the hearts core.

KM: We live by our labours from one harvest to the next, there is no certain telling whether we shall be able to feed ourselves and our children, and if bad times are prolonged we know we must see the weak surrender their lives and this fact, too, is within our experience. In our lives there is no margin for misfortune.

MW: We are tomorrow’s past. We are all as full of echoes as a rocky wood–echoes of the past, reflex echoes of the future, and echoes of the soil (these last reverberating through our filmiest dreams, like the sound of thunder in a blossoming orchard). To conjure, even for a moment, the wistfulness which is the past is like trying to gather in one’s arms the hyacinth colour of the distance. But if it is once achieved, what sweetness! – like the gentle, fugitive fragrance of spring flowers, dried with bergamot and bay. Tomorrow is a word of hope, I do believe !

KM: To those who live by the land there must always come times of hardship, of fear and of hunger, even as there are years of plenty. This is one of the truths of our existence as those who live by the land know: that sometimes we eat and sometimes we starve.

MW: If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your pat. So when folk tell me of this great man and that great man, I think to myself, Who was stinted of joy for his glory? How many old folk and children did his coach wheels go over? What bridal lacked his song, and what mourner his tars, that he found time to climb so high?

KM: You must cry out if you want help. It is no use whatsoever to suffer in silence. Who will succour the drowning man if he does not clamour for his life?

MW: Saddle your dreams afore you ride ‘em.

KM: Hope, and fear. Twin forces that tugged at us first in one direction and then in another, and which was the stronger no one could say. Of the latter we never spoke, but it was always with us.

MW: I’ve thought since that when folk grumble about this and that and be not happy, it is not the fault of creation, that is like a vast mere full of good, but it is the fault of their bucket’s smallness.

KM: Fear, constant companion of the peasant. Hunger, ever at hand to jog his elbow should he relax. Despair, ready to engulf him should he falter. Fear; fear of the dark future; fear of the sharpness of hunger; fear of the blackness of death. Nature is like a wild animal that you have trained to work for you. So long as you are vigilant and walk warily with thought and care, so long will it give you its aid, but look away for an instant, be heedless or forgetful, and it has you by the throat.

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ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, June 26th, 2016.