Just imag­ine this beau­ti­ful land­scape

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

FOR this fea­ture you must use your imag­i­na­tion. I have given you a head start with this pic­ture of a Bruegel-like land­scape taken from my bed­room win­dow in Pad­field this morn­ing, but you have to peo­ple it with the peas­ant char­ac­ters and an­i­mals which the 16th Cen­tury Flem­ish painter would have in­cluded.

Per­haps a hunter travers­ing the hill on his way home with a sack, cows and horses maybe, both would nor­mally have been there for you, but sen­si­bly they had gone in­doors to es­cape the cold, and what about a cou­ple of sweet­hearts cud­dling to­gether be­neath a hedge?

Def­i­nitely groups of chil­dren sledg­ing and play­ing other games and with­out doubt there would also be crows; nor­mally this view of mine would have up to 100 jack­daws milling around, so don’t leave them out of your imag­i­nary land­scape.

Pi­eter Bruegel the Elder spent much of his early life near Bruges, but it was dur­ing a visit to Italy in 1552 that he be­came cap­ti­vated by Alpine land­scapes. On his re­turn to An­twerp he worked for the en­graver Jerome Coecke, de­sign­ing satir­i­cal and al­le­gor­i­cal prints. Th­ese, and some of his paint­ings, such as The Fall of the Rebel An­gels – Brussels, were in­flu­enced by the fan­tasy of Hierony­mus Bosch, but be­tween 1558 and 1569 his real pas­sion was ex­pressed in a se­ries of works de­pict­ing peas­ant life and land­scape. They in­clude The Peas­ant Dance and The Wed­ding Feast – Vi­enna, the Mas­sacre of the In­no­cents – Vi­enna, The Cen­sus of Beth­le­hem – Brussels, and the se­ries of the months, of which five re­main, in­clud­ing Fe­bru­ary – now known as Hunters in the Snow.

Like Bosch be­fore him, Bruegel de­lighted in the lit­tle vi­gnette, the painterly equiv­a­lent of a funny aside, an owl peep­ing from a barn, a farmer scratch­ing his bot­tom, or even a crafty thief lifting a purse from the waist-belt of a dis­tracted mer­chant, which is why he would have ab­so­lutely loved the scene which un­folded be­fore me as I took this pic­ture.

I heard a rustling in the fore­ground hedge, fol­lowed by the star­tled call of a black­bird as it shot out in a hurry, but was then star­tled my­self by a cat which stepped out in front of me, not by the moggy you un­der­stand, but by the foot-long rat in its mouth.

The cat must be from Cheshire be­cause it had the big­gest grin on its face as it set off home with its prize. Bruegel would have un­doubt­edly in­cor­po­rated the scene into a paint­ing, and more than likely the flus­tered Lady of the House show­ing her pet­ti­coat when the house cat re­turned with a large ro­dent for break­fast.

As for my bed­room view, in­deed the view from the front of the Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, it is a lovely pas­toral vista that changes by the minute, big skies of 100 shades, clouds and sun­sets smudg­ing red and pink, while a fil­i­gree of shred­ded mist of­ten hangs like a neck­lace over the trees.

As I men­tioned ear­lier, cat­tle and horses can be seen near Mol­lie Moss’s farm­house on the hori­zon most days, catch­ing the first or the last of the sun, and in the mid­dle dis­tance are a se­ries of patch­work al­lot­ments and the old mill lodge with its res­i­dent coots, moorhens, tufted ducks and snipe.

In the fore­ground, a ch­est­nut tree and tele­graph pole, both play­ing host to a num­ber of dif­fer­ent birds in­clud­ing jack­daw, long-tailed tit, star­ling, tawny owl, lit­tle owl, wood pi­geon, col­lared dove, black­bird and mis­tle thrush.

Per­haps best of all, is the fox who, with a big dose of ‘I don’t give a mon­keys’, tra­verses the hill right to left at a 45 de­gree an­gle, through the bushes and along the side of the farm be­fore blow­ing over the stone wall like a rib­bon.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● The pic­turesque land­scape of snow-cov­ered fields look­ing from the Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery

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