I've had a productive reading week. I finished Nicholas Crane's GREAT BRITISH JOURNEYS on Monday, and enjoyed the book enormously. The third chapter was about a woman called Celia Fiennes, who reacted to the fact that she was unable to go on a Grand Tour of Europe by making a tour of her own country. She, like the rest of the explorers in this book, was seeing this island with new eyes, and noting that there was enough to amuse, entertain, impress and exhilarate in the countryside immediately around us.
The travellers Nicholas Crane has chosen for this book are a eclectic lot - from the author journalist H V Morton who sped around the wilds of Scotland in an early and uncomfortable motor car, to the reverend Gilpin who determinedly searched for the 'picturesque' in the somewhat calmer waters of the Wye. Their motivations and hardships are described in fascinating detail.
However, perhaps the most important feature of this book is that it made me determined to explore my island too. Thomas Pennant set off from Wales via Chester to explore parts of Scotland that had never been mapped before in 1772 . I wondered how long would it take me to follow in his footsteps and a quick search of google maps revealed great tracts of land without roads and tracks just a few hours away. I wouldn't have to fly or even take a boat. I could catch a train to Inverness and after that I could walk northwest and, according to Nicholas Crane's book, see the most dramatic and beautiful landscape in the world. I am persuading Hodmandod Senior to do this, and I think we might.
Since Nicholas Crane is coming to the Chester Literature Festival I asked his agent if he would be willing to be interviewed and to my great delight he agreed. That will follow later.
I have also read three of the stories in THE WHITE ROAD by Tania Hershman, in each one something unexpected has happened, and look forward to reading more of these later. The stories are all very short (well at least they have been so far), and so ideal for dipping into at odd moments.
And finally, and what I think I shall continue reading today, is AFTER DARK by Haruki Murakami, which has some stunning writing describing a city. At first the narrator circles, seeing everything with an alien eye, and then he closes in to a girl sitting at a table. Already, for some reason, I am catching my breath...