Pilgrimpace's Blog

pricking the balloon

It’s very important to be able to laugh at ourselves.

The inimitable John Crace gave me the chance to do this with his Digested Read of Robert MacFarlane’s new book Landmarks in The Guardian.  You can read it here.  It’s extremely funny.

I like Macfarlane.  He’s a fine writer, he helps me look at nature and my environment more deeply.  He inspires me.  But it’s good to critique, and if this can be done humorously, more the better.  What critical questions do we need to ask about any authors, especially the ones we admire?  What bits of criticism don’t we agree with? (for example, I don’t think ‘Macfarlish’ is quite fair – his introducing us to the authors who inspire us is for me a real service).  What hits home that we’d rather didn’t?

It is also good to read fine writers like Katherine Norbury, Helen Macdonald, Esther Woolfson and Kathleen Norris against the male canon of the New Nature Writing.

That said, I’m looking forward to reading Landmarks at some point soon.  I hope it’s as good as The Old Ways.

22 reasons for the bedroom tax
October 15, 2013, 7:25 am
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Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, has written this poem about the sad state of Britain which appeared in The Guardian at the weekend:

22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax

Because the Badgers are moving the goalposts.
The Ferrets are bending the rules.
The Weasels are taking the hindmost.
The Otters are downing tools.

The Hedgehogs are changing the game-plan
The Grass-snakes are spitting tacks.

The Squirrels are playing the blame-game.
The Skunks are twisting the facts.

The Pole-cats are upping the ante.
The Foxes are jumping the gun.
The Voles are crashing the party.
The Stoats are dismantling the Sun.

The Rabbits are taking the biscuit.
The Hares are losing the plot.
The Eagles are kicking the bucket.
The Rats are joining the dots.

The Herons are throwing a curveball.
The Shrews are fanning the flames.
The Field mice are sinking the 8-ball.
The Swans are passing the blame.

And the Pheasants are draining the oil from the tank-
but only the Bustards have broken the bank.

Thomas Becket

There is an excellent short introduction to St Thomas Becket by Eamon Duffy in The Guardian today here.  Why I’m making my very slow progress along the Pilgrims Way rather than any other long distance footpath.

trocme, christ and revolution
September 13, 2011, 6:54 pm
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For the first evening of Holy Cross Day, an article by my friend Savi Hensman:

Trocme, Christ and revolution 

in The Guardian.

vasily grossman

BBC Radio 4 are about to embark on a series of programmes about Vasily Grossman, the astonishing twentieth century Russian author who, for me, is on a par with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Look out for the dramatisation of Life and  Fate– and even better read it.  There’s a very good introductory article by Francis Spufford in The Guardian here:

With any luck, a public much larger than the one that encountered the novel in Robert Chandler’s excellent English translation will soon recognise Life and Fate as all the things critics say it is: one of the great narratives of battle, a moral monument, a witness-report in fiction from the heart of 20th-century darkness, an astonishing act of truth-telling.

I’m looking forward to this and settling down now with my copy of Everything Flows.

an unexpectedly sacramental walk

There is a very good piece by Gisela Raines in The Guardian reflecting on her pilgrimage to Santiago along the Via de la Plata here.

She introduces me to RS Thomas’ poem ‘The Moor’ which I had not read before:

It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.

There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart’s passions — that was praise
Enough; and the mind’s cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.

The insight into how the journey nourishes and feeds us in ways we may not expect is one to live with and ponder.


round up

Mabey in the Wild is on Radio 4 on Sunday afternoons for the next few weeks.  Listen to his history of wild daffodils here.

Something Understood yesterday was on the healing power of gardens.  Listen here.

There’s a very interesting new book called Pathways by David Stewart and Nicholas Rudd Jones, looking at historical routes in Britain.  The Guardian is publishing  a walk a day from it here.

This book is on my Christmas list.