Writers are the sum of what they have seen, heard and, above all, read, and none of them can write in complete isolation.
The list below are a few of the writers and campaigners who inform, amuse and inspire me from day to day.
Robert Macfarlane. England’s finest current writer on nature, countryside, the land and cultural environmentalism. I first became aware of his work via his ‘Mountains of the Mind: The History of a Fascination’, (2003) and have followed him ever since. He puts up regular Instagram posts with great natural images, and tweets a series on new or rarely used words.
Horatio Clare. Another lyrical writer on nature and travel. If you want to read about the reality of a drug-ruined childhood, check out his book Truant. He specialises in short travel books on specific themes- curlews, migrating swallows, container ships, for example. His account of a trip on a Finnish Ice Breaker (Icebreaker- A Voyage Far North) is a beautifully written piece on where global warming is taking us.
Giles Coren. Son of Alan Coren, who made me chuckle when I was in my teens and twenties, Giles Coren does two things I would love to do myself. He writes the best restaurant critic’s column that I know (in The Times), and he writes a column in the same paper that manages to be both gentle and savage simultaneously. I want his job if he goes off to set up a hotel of his own!
AA Gill. Another one who could turn his hand to anything, and wrote like an angel was holding his pen. The secret of his writing was not to worry what others might think about it. The anthology of his journalism has two notable columns- one on migrants and one on directing a porno film in California. His polemic book Angry Island(2005) has a magnificent piece savaging Prince Charles’ Poundbury project (which I still read for fun); his last book Pour Me(2015) describes his ascent out of alcoholism.
Michael Pollen. An American author and food activist, whose book Food Ruleschanged the way I look at what we eat. Pollen bangs a drum for keeping things simple, and not letting the corporations dictate what you should put down your family’s throats. He also manages to be both engaging and funny.
Greta Thunberg. 16 year old Swedish climate activist who is currently making the elite’s life very uncomfortable with her mix of strike action and international inspiration. Sometimes, you just have to stop dawdling in the middle of the road, and she was the one who pushed Caroline and I firmly into her camp. Her speech to the COPB 24 Climate Change summit in December 2018 is worth watching.
John Betjeman Because you can’t be serious all the time, and poetry really doesn’t have to be dire. I love that his will included instructions for his coffin to be carried by fellow golfers the entire 457 yard length of the 10that St Enedoc, in the pouring rain.