On Travel

Rory_and_bootsI recently came to the end of five weeks walking in Cumbria and the Borders. It was a thirty nine mile day, and twelve of those fourteen hours were spent in almost empty space. In a car I can be transported at a mile a minute from centre to centre – from one room with people, a timetable and a purpose, to another twenty miles away: from the George in Penrith to Appleby Grammar, from the munitions depot at Longtown to the Local Links centre in Wigton. But walking makes each yard of ground equal, draws you into the space between centres – which is now often unpeopled.

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Cumbria walks: valley deep, mountain high

First published in The Telegraph on 12th February 2014 From my starting point at Patterdale to the summit of Helvellyn the fog was with me, as it had been for two days. I could just make out three Herdwick sheep on the ridgeline track ahead – one chocolate brown, one dark grey and one silver. […]

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Alone on the Marches

I recently came to the end of five weeks walking in Cumbria and the Borders. It was a thirty nine mile day, and twelve of those fourteen hours were spent in almost empty space. In a car I can be transported at a mile a minute from centre to centre – from one room with […]

hadrian's wall

hadrian’s wall

I wanted to spend some time with my father. He has always enjoyed walking, and talking about the army, Scotland, and Empire. So we decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall, and I expected long discussions about the parallels between the British and Roman colonialism. But I had lost my voice and he is 89: I could […]

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bbc radio 4 – book of the week

Rory’s short travel story, ‘The Wrestler’ – part of the recently-published Oxfam travel anthology ‘Ox Travels’ – is to feature in this week’s ‘Book of the Week’ slot on BBC Radio 4. Rory’s story will be read this Friday, June 3rd at 9.45am on BBC Radio 4. ‘Ox Travels’ is a paperback published to support the charity’s work, bringing […]

Vietnam

with my father in vietnam

A week ago, Cumbria; next week, Cumbria again, walking along the Eden River from Mallerstang. But today I am in a provincial Vietnamese town with my 88-year old father. We have just been for a walk at 5.30 in the morning. The mist drifts slowly around the foot-hills and above the narrow fishing boats. Teenagers […]

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Turn to Tolstoy

First published in The New York Times, March 13, 2007. Politicians have taken to publicizing “reading lists.” President Bush, we were told, last summer was to read a comic historical novel on the first Afghan war and Camus’s “The Stranger.” The Tory members of the British Parliament were issued weighty books on Middle Eastern politics. […]

Dervishes

‘Dervish are an abomination,’ said Navaid. ‘What do you mean by a Dervish?’ I asked. ‘Dervish? Don’t you know? It’s a very old concept. Fakir? Pir-Baba? Sufi? Silsilah Malang—that beggar doing magic tricks…?’ Navaid was staring at a man who was sitting cross-legged in the street with a ten foot black python wrapped round his […]

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Iranian Girls

First published in Prospect Magazine, 1 November, 2001. They are not free because their minds are not free,” said the headmistress, introducing me to my first class. “You are not here only to teach them English, you are here to open their minds.” Ten women were seated around a table in the over-heated room. All […]

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My time in Indonesia

First published in the London Review of Books, July 2000. Caleb held a bundle of arrows in his left hand and a bow and single arrow in his right. His mother was holding her torn ears between her thumbs and forefingers. Her chin was on her bare chest. Her legs were coated with grey mud. […]