In early January, when I had just started Waterlog by the wonderful Roger Deakin, I had to stop reading in the evening because a teaching assignment took over my life.
Now that I am in the position to start writing and reading again, I have found myself struggling to get on with my own work, and opening the pages of Waterlog once again every evening has come as a relief, especially on days when I cannot find any motivation or enthusiasm for anything (and yes, in my case, the consecutive lockdowns haven't really fuelled a frenzy of creativity, but have rather stifled it).
As I have said before on here, I usually don't read non-fiction, but have found myself being fascinated by Robert Mcfarlane's work and, thanks to him, I am now a big fan of Roger Deakin. I read Waterlog with a pile of little stickers next to me and mark the pages where I find quotable passages, or when I encounter an intriguing place or fascinating character I want to know more about. It is the truly thrilling journey of a man who basically wild-swims his way around the British Isles - and I don't even like swimming... (Read a brilliant review of the book HERE)
Reading Roger Deakin's books is akin to a journey of discovery of nature, literature, lost skills and ways of life. It is also very often humorous - wry observations and deliciously funny little vignettes...
Most of all (and in these days of lockdowns, political and social conservatism and anguish about our liberties and our future), his work pays tribute to the freedom of thinking, moving, creating, getting lost in one's own world and in the natural world on our doorstep (or, such as in Wildwood, another one of his books, in countries far, far away...)
I often wonder what he would have made of our social media-dominated world, with its "curated" spaces and asceptic lifestyles...
It might be that the real rebels are not the urban, trendy crowds, all sucked up in their city consumerism and desperate wish to fit in with their chosen tribe, but the ones who dare to step outside.
The extract below was written in 1999... Imagine now!
Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things. A swimming journey would give me access to that part of our world which, like darkness, mist, woods, high mountains, still retain most mystery. It would allow me a different perspective on the rest of landlocked humanity.
I urge you to read Roger Deakin's books: Waterlog, Wildwood and Notes from Walnut Tree Farm are all superb reads, especially during this lockdown.
You'll feel better for it.
I can't wait to go back to it later tonight...
A biography of Roger Deakin will be published in 2022, penned by writer Patrick Barkham.
I look forward to reading this as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!
I think therefore I write.
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