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
15 Feb. Crocuses were pushing through in Alexandra Park when we walked through on Monday in the sunshine, snowdrops, too. It was still cold though. Today the wind had shifted round to the south south west. Now it is official. The pageant of winter has been authorized for removal and destruction. Few will mourn its passing.
But I was in a funny mood. In spite of a rainbow and a troop of parakeets the day was more inclined to gloom than glam.… More
8 Feb. Eleven minutes to Hendon. Five minutes walk to Brent Cross past a barber-surgeon giving free hair cuts to street trees. The sign at the pedestrian gate at the end of Brent Park Road worried me: “ACCESS FOR SHOPPING AND BUSINESS PURPOSES ONLY NO PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY.” All in hectoring capital letters and no full stops anywhere. What if they stopped me?
It reminded me of another walk and another sign: “Constables and other Peace Officers to apprehend all Common Beggars Ballad Singers and other Vagrants for that they may be dealt with according to the Law.”… More
01 Feb. On 1st February 1760 in East Hoathly, Sussex, Thomas Turner, a shopkeeper, “supped on some roast chicken, a cold ham, a hot boiled green tongue, a boiled leg of mutton, fried chaps, tarts, cold fine baked puddings etc. … ”
I had to look at The Country Diaries, 2009, ed. Alan Taylor, to get inspiration to write up yesterday’s walk home along the Grand Union Canal from Willesden Junction.
I have been thinking how little expertise I bring to the country diary.… More
25 Jan. Ensignbus, omnibus suppliers to the world since 1972, provided this week’s iconic road trip. Shorter than last week’s – I got off about half-way – but man did we make up for it in time. Ninety million years between shop and trolley on the ice of a former chalk quarry in Grays.
I wasn’t as frisky mind you. Too angry to look at the news. Instead my eye glanced down to a story about a new GM apple.… More
20 Jan. The day the 45th and possibly final nail was hammered into the coffin of American democracy seemed like a good day to kick start a road trip along some of my homeland’s most iconic routes. This one, operated by EOS, and the first of many, I hoped, turned out to be a circular from Waltham Cross, the south-easternmost town in Hertfordshire.
The route, echoing the thirteenth century funeral procession that gave the town its name, crosses the River Lea and the Greenwich meridian into Essex where it speeds through Epping Forest, slowing to a crawl at the Wake Arms roundabout, before looping through Loughton and Debden, and returning to do the whole thing again.… More
18 Jan. Checked out of the Hotel Abyss, NW5, and headed north, to Finchley, to ruralize.
I was delighted by a kingfisher racing round a bend in the Dollis in a blink of blue and orange. I heard a woodpecker, too, but didn’t see it. It might after all have been an Enfield supporter, gagged and tied to the top of a hollow tree, who had managed to release an arm and was signalling for help the only way he could.… More
“Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.”
11 Jan. I should have checked the weight of the book – The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin – before I set off. It was like carrying a small child on my shoulders through the Hertfordshire/Greater London borderlands. And I was already tired. I had the usual winter blues but harder, more gnarly, or so it seemed having forgotten the hard gnarly blues of last year or the year before that or …
This is an easy time of year to be a writer.… More