Thu 30 Apr 2020: Eleanor Farjeon’s house, N.W.3., July 2015 (2 min read)
Today I revisit a walk from 2015. It involves a lost garden not unconnected to Edward Thomas and feels sort of zeitgeisty: we all seem to enjoy peeping into celebrities’ homes at the moment. The fact that I could revisit the walk without stretching government exercise guidelines is irrelevant. I don’t want to know what it’s like today. It’s hard to find a house in Hampstead that doesn’t have a blue plaque.… More
Thu 9 Apr 2020: Two unbirthday walks for Edward Thomas (7 min read)
So the first time we had got it together to go on the birthday walk organized by the Edward Thomas Fellowship and … it was cancelled: not because of coronavirus but because of the wettest February on record. The ground was waterlogged and there was storm damage in the hangers – the densely wooded hills above the village of Steep, Hampshire, which were home to the poet and his family in the decade before World War I, and the locus of inspiration for much his late-flowering poetry.… More
‘In human affairs, things tend inevitably to go wrong. Things are slightly worse at any given moment than at any preceding moment.’ Friday 20 Mar 2020 (4min read)
It seems a bit daft firing up my walking diary at the very point when the possibilities for walking have become so restricted. But it probably isn’t a coincidence. The urge to write often comes from the pain of exile. We’re all exiles now.
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.… More
The rifle range on Berkhamsted Common: A journey with maps.
For a couple of years now I have helped my father, Brian Shepherd, lead a walk for the Graham Greene Festival. The walk tracks the Berkhamsted author over the common of his childhood and teases out references from Greene’s autobiographical writing and his fiction especially his later novel, The Human Factor (1978), which is partly set in Berkhamsted.… More
Yesterday (3 /5/17), thinking it was Tuesday, I ran away to Enfield Lock and walked with the forest rarely out of eye shot, to Epping town. I had that pleasurable buzz of playing hooky all morning – until I realized it was in fact Wednesday and I should have been walking anyway. But it was a good wheeze whilst it lasted. Free from the constraint of thinking I had to generate words for my shepherd & dog, I found little vignettes of nature’s delights dropping on my head like plum-coloured bird lime.… More
Oddly enough I had switched off the Today program on Wednesday morning (22 March). I only ever listen to five minutes whilst I’m making porridge so it has to be pretty bad for me to hit the off button early. I objected to the casual Moslem-bating tone of someone taking the piss out of the idea of virgins in heaven. I wondered what Christians do up there all day long. I couldn’t quite imagine them listening to the Today program.… More
1 March. The weather in Trumpland, according to the New York Times, had turned to “sunshine & civility” during his address to the two houses of Congress. Here it didn’t get above 6 degrees in the afternoon. Cloudy and irritable: at least, I was. In fact, following rivers through the north eastern burbs, dressed head to toe in black and grey, I felt I bore the same relation to the earth as a passing cloud.… More
22 Feb. Finchley–Woodside Park. With a storm promised for Thursday (Doris Day) I felt I was sneaking a walk in early. Which is odd because I almost always walk on Wednesdays anyway.
Note to self: I’m at a critical point in this country diary. I don’t want to write it. I’ve nothing to say. On the other hand, one of the key things about it, like dried prunes, is regularity. If you want to look back and track the changes you want to know what happened in February, week 8, even if what happened was you were particularly uninspired and irritable.… More