Writing

  • Including

  • I’ve produced a lot of words over the last two decades. This is not an archive of all of them, but you might call it the edited highlights.

    It includes reportage from Britain and the wider world, book reviews, interviews, debates, talks and other ephemera, culled from Fleet Street papers, magazines, books, the programmes of plays, websites and more.

    Some time ago I also put together some advice for writers, and thoughts on the writing life.

    Dark Ecology

    January 17, 2013

    The handle, which varies in length according to the height of its user, and in some cases is made by that user to his or her specifications, is like most of the other parts of the tool in that it has a name and thus a character of its own. I call it the snath, as do most of us in this country, though variations include the snathe, the snaithe, the snead and the sned. Onto the snath are attached two hand grips, adjusted for the height of the user. On the bottom of the snath is a small hole, a rubberised protector and a metal D-ring with two hex sockets. Into this little assemblage slides the tang of the blade.

    This thin crescent of steel is the fulcrum of the whole tool. From the genus blade fans out a number of ever-evolving species, each seeking out and colonising new niches. My collection includes a number of grass blades of varying styles &emdash; a Luxor, a Profisense, an Austrian and a new, elegant Concari Felice blade that I’ve not even tried yet &emdash; whose lengths vary between 60 and 85 centimetres. I also have a couple of ditch blades (which despite the name are not used for mowing ditches particularly, but are all-purpose cutting tools which can manage anything from fine grass to tousled brambles) and a bush blade, which is as thick as a billhook and can take down small trees. These are the big mammals you can see and hear. Beneath and around them scuttle any number of harder-to-spot competitors for the summer grass, all finding their place in the ecosystem of the tool.

    Farewell to the Tree of the World

    November 8, 2012

    The coming loss of the ash tree is a mythological blow

    The Old Yoke

    November 1, 2012

    What is the Green Man: an old nature spirit, or a symbol of resistance to the Norman oppression of the English?

    The Death of Birth

    September 14, 2012

    An interview with Doug and Kris Tompkins, the founders of one of the world’s most remarkable conservation efforts

    Here come the neo-greens

    August 1, 2012

    As systems and assumptions collapse, desperate ideas have a better chance of becoming popular.

    Green was the Earth on the Seventh Day

    May 1, 2012

    A book that influenced me: Thor Heyerdahl’s volume of reminiscences

    Burns and Barnes: a tale of two Poets

    January 25, 2012

    The differing fates of two dialect poets may tell us something about the differing priorities of England and Scotland.

    This collapse is a ‘crisis of Bigness’

    September 25, 2011

    The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth. Not, as we are regularly told, a crisis caused by too little growth, but by too much of it

    Upon the Mathematics of the Falling Away

    July 9, 2011

    Suicide is everywhere in this culture, under every stone, and once you come to be a part of that great, unspeaking clan of people who have been touched by it, you see this.

    The Salmon God

    May 24, 2011

    The late Glyn Hughes summed up his work – the historical novels, the travel books, the semi-autobiographies, the volumes of poetry – as ‘a protest on behalf of nature’.

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