The arch Deakin

Another entry in the wonderful Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, on pp.228–9:

Obscurity is what a writer needs to get on with work well away from the public gaze. Under the glare of lights is the last place you want to be, so, moth-like, you burrow away into some basement or corner of the country, where you can talk to yourself, pace about and think. [. . .] Above all else, though, the writer needs not to think too much about what he’s [sic] doing. [. . .] I blame the Romantics for all this self-consciousness about landscape and inspiration. Wandering lonely as a cloud may be the last thing you need sometimes. Going round the corner for breakfast in a steamy café may be much more like it.

Although he lived alone, on the edge of a common in Suffolk, Deakin seems to have been a gregarious soul, as happy in the city as he was in the sticks, and content to find beauty in the smallest of things. Kathleen Jamie’s description, in this review, of his friend Robert Macfarlane as a ‘lone enraptured male’, seeking out wild(er)ness like a Victorian colonialist, fitted Deakin rather less easily despite the latter often (including by Jamie) being cited as Macfarlane’s ‘mentor’. Macfarlane made several appearances in Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, as did Ronald Blythe and Richard Mabey, but Deakin spent more prose on articulating how he would miss his postman, who was moving on, than any of them.

I’m glad to have found a radio programme by Deakin, canoeing down the Waveney, here.

Incidentally, I wonder if the days of steamy cafés, with Formica tables and squeezy plastic tomatoes full of ketchup, are all but gone forever. When I was about 20, my list of books I would never get round to writing included a guide to where you could get the best all-day veggie breakfasts in London – it would’ve been an intense labour of love.

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