måndag 24 augusti 2015

The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane

It has been a couple of months since I last wrote anything in this blog. I have been spending too much time on Facebook. A friend gave me a copy of "The Old Ways" by Robert Macfarlane for my birthday, which I have now read.

The book describes a series of journeys on foot or in sailing boats, each lasting several days, with nights spent in fishermen's or shepherds' shelters or under hedgerows. Mostly, the journeys are in Britain though there is a dangerous excursion around Ramallah..The book gradually shifts focus, to Edward Thomas (composer of the short poem Adelstrop in June 1914). Macfarlane has a fine sense of landscape and the book was an enjoyable read, though I could not connect with his outdoor sleeping habits.

I found some aspects of the book irritating. He has a propensity to use words of extreme rarity, to the point that, presumably at the insistence of the publisher, he had to provide a glossary of well over a hundred; most of them could either have been explained in the text or replaced by more familiar words. He also seems to be part of some kind of in-circle of individuals who indulge in this kind of thing.

Chesterton and Belloc also walked immense distances, but the world was different then; with so much of Britain suburbanised, some of the walks seem oddly detached from the contemporary world. That might be part of their interest, but personally I just find it emphasises the changes which have taken place even in the past thirty years. It left me feeling sad.

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