A feeling for flatness

I realised that people really, really hate flat landscapes. Or they pretend they hate them. Flat landscapes scare people, or bore them. They feel they have to apologise for them: tourist boards praise the Cambridge fens and the Norfolk broads by saying things like: you may think this landscape is flat, but really there’s lots to see! Fair enough. But what if we accepted the fact that a space might be primarily flat? How do we look at it, and appreciate it, and enjoy it, without trying to deny its flatness?


There are so many beautiful flat spaces in Britain, and in the world. They demand a special way of looking: a way, I realise, that might not necessarily come instinctively. Flat spaces need a gaze which is patient and steady and open, not enforcing expectations about what counts as ‘interesting’ or ‘important’. It’s that special way of looking that interests me. I think it might help us understand other things or people which seem inscrutable or blank or reserved. Above all that’s what I’d like listeners to ask themselves after my broadcasts: how do I use my attention? What do I give it to and why and how?

Noreen Masud

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