When I was little my parents made repeated attempts to get me to learn French, play the piano and put clothes in a cupboard rather than stewing them across the floor. Naturally I now do none of these things, not because they would be intolerable cruelties, but just because even the yawningly unrebellious need to hold on to something. (I remember a discussion at uni when we all realised what boringly pliant children we’d been, and that this probably wasn’t a coincidence.) Anyway, the point is that while these attempts at indoctrination clearly failed – parlez-vous anglais? – when it came to going on long walks I think I got a bit of Stockholm syndrome instead. I’m quite sure I didn’t used to approve of being dragged across Hampstead Heath, but this long ago transformed into a middle aged urge to stroll, which explains Grace and I actually spent her last Saturday in London going on a ramble. An actual ramble. In the actual countryside.
In the end I plumped for Box Hill, found an awesomely detailed walk (which fulfilled my main criterion of having a pub in the middle of it) and set off to get lost, get back on track again, say nervous hellos to people passing in the other direction, locate the approximate clearing for Hagrid’s hut, upload photos of maize because neither of us knew what it was and still get the train back in time for Doctor Who. Determinedly uncool fun with unnecessary technological flourishes… I think I’ve just written my life’s mission statement
Look at this – I’ve rambled on (aha) for so long that I’ve run out of time to mention the two book launches – “sorry, I know we’ve just had a nice conversation and everything but you’re Alastair bloody Campbell so I definitely need to be embarrassing and get a photo with you now” – or the myriad
of fun drinks, dinners and Daily Mail bashings recently. I just thought I’d prove that I do occasionally leave the city.