Blackwells in Oxford are offering some interesting talks on various subjects – and which are all free!
I went to one last week about travel writing or, to be precise, how to be a travel writer . The speaker was promoting his book which was a howto on that very subject: how to write about travel and, possibly, make some money while you’re at it. All good practical stuff on how to write a travel blog, how to write a newspaper travel feature, how to write a travel book. It was inevitable that, having written a book about women travellers and explorers ( The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt) I should be disappointed though not surprised to find female travel writers, including Ireland’s own, Dervla Murphy, were rarely mentioned in the discourse and this in Oxford, Gertrude Bell’s own university town. Sara Wheeler appeared briefly in a photo shown at the beginning of the talk but that was it. What we did hear were the entertaining anecdotes and quotes about Redmond O Hanlon, Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Rory MacClean and many more – all of them excellent travel writers.
But where oh where were the dictinctive female voices of travel writers like Ella Maillart, Alexandra David Neel, Christina Dodwell, Ann Davison, Mary Kingsley, Hester Stanhope and the sublime Jane Digby.
When my book Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt was published in 1986, it filled a gap for there was hardly anything then published neither about women travellers and explorers nor by them. Now, 33 years on, the ratio of male to female travel writers is pretty much the same as it was then.
Perhaps this is a sign of changing times with fewer women setting off on a quest in their mid years. If this is so then that is as it is. Meanwhile, we can feast on a treasure trove of travel writing from those who have gone before and who are still travelling, giving us travel writing which will energise and inspire. Pick up that book and get going.
The Travel Writer’s Way by Jonathan Lorie is published by Bradt.
First fix is in the coffee shop. Regular cappo. Newspaper headlines not too bad. England won the cricket. No cartoons of politicians’ various arses. So far so good. Then work calls so time for the first challenge: getting back across the busy road again. No lights at the pedestrian crossing so we are dependent on good offices of car drivers. Some glide along carefree as a lark at dawn, ignoring waiting pedestrians. Despite the fact that lights at next crossing are red, six cars press on. Then one, seeing the red lights ahead, stops and waves me across to the mid-road island. Great. Better still, the bus as the second and final section also waves me across. I feel myself carried forward on a surge of drivers’ goodwill and think if I were to rise up on my toes and flap the sleeves of my jacket I might even fly the rest of the way home.
Then again, that might just be the effects of the caffeine.
So I was walking along the road this morning straight into the rain, trying to get a bit of speed up and thus mislead the walking app on my phone into thinking I always walk at that speed, when in the distance, some two traffic lights away a blue light showed up coming towards me. Police or ambulance? Ambulance. I looked back up the road to see if there was any sign of an accident but the road was empty. Nothing.
Then, as the ambulance drew level, I tripped and fell. Down. The ambulance stopped and the driver leaned out the window but before he could say anything, I waved him on.” Don’t stop for me,” I called out, “I’ll be ok.”
He nodded and carried on. Painfully, I got to my feet and started to hobble along, slowly at first but as the road was empty and no one to witness my plight, I picked up pace.
Reader, none of this happened. There was no ambulance. I didn’t fall. I just imagined the whole thing in order to lessen the boredom of the morning walk. Sometimes I witness a car crash and am the first on the phone to call 999 and give the person directions so precise that I am complimented for my powers of observation.
Tomorrow, it’ll be something else but I’ll be ready. Heroines always are.
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