Peter Cook ‘I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.’ 31.01.20. Aftermyth of War
I had been here before of course, the day we voted leave on 23.6.16. My aim then was to walk to Berkhamsted along the line of Grim’s Ditch. It would, I thought, provide me with the first chapter of my book. The walk was part of the problem, I now think. A sort of superstition. I believed that boots on the ground could somehow impose their own structure on my wayward musings. Well, they didn’t. Added to this the idea that walking on a significant day somehow gave my words a gravitas they wouldn’t normally have. This too was sadly just superstition: not dissimilar to the feeling I have that if I dust the printer my words will shine more brightly on the page.
Returning to the Chilterns on the day we left the EU felt like a futile gesture, but beautiful if you like curved chalk and red kites and larks. The only jarring sound was the shooting: reminding me, if I needed reminding, who ruled the land I used to think of as home.
‘Get up in a crate Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don’t come back. Goodbye Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.’
Old Europe is still here, underground. This time I walked the West Wycombe ridge, looking across the valley to Bradenham and Walters Ash where Bomber Command was built on the eve of the Second World War. From this remote corner of the Chilterns the first 1,000 bomber raid was coordinated. Its aim was to see if it was possible, as Kurt Vonnegut said of another raid, to turn a whole city of men, women and children (but mostly women and children, as men of fighting age were busy elsewhere) to a single column of flame.
Disinclined to volunteer myself for further futility, I turned a circular walk into a linear one. From Hughenden I peeled off through the park and a fast train home from High Wycombe. After one G&T I could barely focus, let alone think. It was a good walk though.
Jonathan Miller ‘Goodbye sir – or is it “au revoir”?’
Peter Cook ‘No, Perkins.’
I downloaded the route from the excellent SWC website. Saunderton via West Wycombe Circular walk.