I really need to get a new shot of Emma and me reading, as this was probably our first Lockdown Read and we both have different hair now. Anyway, even though we can go out and about now, I’m so happy that we’ve continued our Reading Time (usually on a Thursday evening, sometimes at the weekend) and we’ve enjoyed some really interesting books. We were pretty excited about this one, as we like a fact-finding walk (see our Birmingham Jewellery Quarter walk here) and thought this walk around the London Overground line might be fun to walk when we can get together again. Still might be fun … reading the book wasn’t the most fun we’ve ever had.

Iain Sinclair – London Overground: A Day’s Walk around the Ginger Line

(09 September 2020)

I think we’d probably both agree that we might not have got through this on our own – either of us. As it was, we could only manage a chapter per session, and that involved a lot of Looking Up. We’ve both read his “London Orbital” (I apparently did so before I started blogging!) and I have to admit I found his John Clare book a bit heavy going, but this was just very challenging.

Two problems: the amount and density of information, both blinding lists of artists and writers and obsessions with Clare, with JG Ballard was a bit bewildering. We were VERY glad when we got to a bit about Angela Carter, who we understand. Sometimes we looked it all up, sometimes we didn’t. But the references felt A Bit Much and, to be honest, we both felt a bit dim a lot of the time (and neither of us IS dim; we’re both well-educated and well-read, but the cultural references were off ours). Oh, there was a LOT about Freud and what I’ll politely call his final illness here, described in excruciating detail. And then he goes on little detours in order to sneer about various things in well-off areas.

Secondly, he had his mate Andrew Kotting with him. Now, Sinclair likes the liminal and the icky – he starts the book with a pile of dead birds and ends with a road accident (not his) and jolly photo of a big scar. OK, psychogeography is pretty dark at times, and that’s fine. But Kotting has a habit of peeing up walls and talking about his manky feet. And he just takes over a lot of the time. Obviously we were glad Sinclair had a friend with him, but what a friend.

There are funny moments, lighter moments – a wry smile at psychogeographers rushing in when access gets denied, a view of Boris Johnson opening some event then cycling away (how far?) echoing the fact Sinclair was on the first train when Johnson opened the line.

So, we’re glad we read it (I think!) because we’d have been intrigued by it anyway. It was fun to moan about Kotting and share info we looked up. It’s always lovely to have a read together. But it wasn’t the best book we’ve read together.

We’ve moved on to our next book now: Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path”. Hooray, we could understand the sentences! However, although I knew it was about an older couple, the husband gets a scary diagnosis, they become homeless and go for a walk around the South-West Coast Path (no spoilers: that’s the thing everyone knows about it), and I had had to wait until I could see there was a sequel, a) I hadn’t realised Raynor is 50, around Em’s and my age, and b) I suppose we should have realised we’d have the hard bit before the nice walk. So we were in floods of tears at the end of chapter 2 and had to read on! But it does look good …