"Perhaps it'd be seriously worth your while starting a website collecting writings from country residents who don't yearn for a sleepy hollow in which to perpetuate 'tradition'" said my erstwhile web cohort, Mark Deal of the late lamented Pansie Cola Park, and now of http://www.deliaderbyshire.org, to me in July 2000. Instantly I sensed that he was onto something - we needed it after the outrageous misrepresentation of the issues in hand by the bulk of the UK press and indeed most of the rest of the media - and I started getting potential contributors together, feverishly looking round Usenet and asking my personal friends. The vision in my mind was utopian, and I can recall the sexual and emotional rush it gave me.
Unfortunately the sheer intensity with which I invested my emotions and my time into it was bound to fall, and so it proved in the spring and summer of 2001. Over and over again people I'd had in mind as possible contributors either failed to respond to the requests I sent them, or I decided that I found their political views too offensive and too far removed from mine for me to really want them as contributors to a site which I was intent on editing in my own image, or they came up with contributions so mediocre and uninspired that I ultimately deleted them in a fit of pique, or I just never got round to asking them, for all kinds of tedious personal reasons.
So here, incorporated into the reborn Elidor, are most of the pieces that did actually get written that would have appeared on RuralBritain.org, and a few background details.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/skylarking.htm - this was the first thing I wrote for the site, dating from February 2001. Some of it is perhaps very slightly overwritten but it captures the magical and redemptive atmosphere of XTC's Skylarking album, and I'm generally pleased with it. My exactingly high standards may have been the problem with commissioning articles from others: I initially scoffed when Phil C. told me I'd have difficulty getting a steady supply of considered, original writing, but now I'd totally concur.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/ultramarine.htm - Ultramarine's United Kingdoms, written in spring '01. Some good metaphors here, I think.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/liberalism.htm - the spring of '01 again. My best political piece. Also available at http://www.livingstonemusic.net/lostlineage.htm.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/pendasfen.htm - Penda's Fen, written by David Rudkin, directed by Alan Clarke, BBC Birmingham, 1973. Of course the one sad thing about actually publishing this piece after sitting on it for so long is the fact that this work is so depressingly hard to find, though with the BFI's new "Classic Television" series of videos and DVDs, that could change. Whatever, I'm still prouder of large sections of this piece than of practically anything else I've written.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/minnow.htm - Philippa Pearce's Minnow on the Say, the product of an entire English culture now utterly vanished, and its attendant literary culture. I'm not sure I'll ever get closer to the heart of a vanished spirit. May 2001.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/ruralhistory.htm - written by Phil C. in October 2000. I've been sitting on this for long enough: an excellent historical summary.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/courtesy.htm - Phil C. in playful mood, also from October 2000.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/wordsworth.htm - ever been on a journey, driven by an urge to distance yourself from the mass of society? Paul Whitehead has, in the summer of 1971, and this is his story, positively voluminous with echoes of that extraordinary time.
http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/resettlement.htm - the second edition from 1979 (the first was in '74) of the Rural Resettlement Handbook, a seminal 1970s work setting out possible new models and structures for society. Thanks, again, to Paul Whitehead, who supplied it.
As mentioned on the frontpage, I have http://www.ruralbritain.org to play with until this summer but I'm now 99.9% sure that the standard holding page you'll see there will never be replaced. Oh well. We all need to learn lessons, and on this occasion I've probably learnt two: I'm not a natural website editor, and there are rarely as many good natural writers as you think there are. But there are some, and two of them are shown at their very best on this subsite. In time, there could still be more.
Robin Carmody, February 2003