7 hours ago
Saturday, 24 May 2014
I've just bought this Peter Ackroyd book on the Thames, and - like Sol - I am looking forward to cosying up and reading it.
I am very bad at reading books these days (I have yet to finish yours, Sarah, which is why I have not said anything about it recently) because there is always something else to do, and I immediately fall asleep if I read in bed. I need to take books on a boring holiday, but H.I. and me have all but given up on those now, ever since we stopped sun-bathing.
The good thing about Ackroyd's books though, is how you don't need to start at the beginning and keep going until you reach the end. His 'biography' on London is like that - you can dip in and out, which is probably what I will do in the Thames.
What I love about Ackroyd is the way he utilises his vast personal experience and research without ending up with a dry product. You would think it impossible to make a book about a river 'dry', but some people manage to. P.A. has read all these books - you can tell from the bibliographies - and just uses the knowledge to supplement his own personal feelings about the subject, so the places and things he writes about are alive with history.
I have always been attracted to anything in book form about old London - maybe because I am the only member of my immediate family not to have been born there. The Thames has always run through my life as well, and still does.
Think of the Thames and you think of London, but it seems to spring from nearby Cirencester before it passes through old haunts of mine, then on to Henley and through the city before widening out into the sea at the East.
Also, in the period of time I would have most like to have been born - the mid 17th century - it was the prime way of getting from place to place in the capital - there were probably almost as many Watermen plying the river as there are cab-drivers today.
Consequently, late-night revellers would drop things overboard as they stepped into their taxis after a heavily refreshing night out, and these objects drifted down and settled into the tidal mud.
No young man in Shakespeare's day would go out on a night on the town without carrying a sword or long dagger loosely attached to his waist - like a fashion accessory - and 15-inch daggers have been pulled out of Thames mud for centuries. They are still being found.
I want one, and I still regret not buying one I saw in a shop some years ago, for a very reasonable price.
You have to forgive my escapist romanticism - it comes in many forms, and the forms come in many prices, from free to a year's income. This book originally cost £25.
Today, I intend to get one of those LED lights that you can attach to the top of a book to read it in bed.
I think I know what is going to happen though. I will get about three paragraphs in, then wake up with the cover of it imprinted on my face, wondering what that eery pool of light is at the top of the pillow.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 04:32