Friday, 19 April 2013

Writing the London Marathon

26 Miles London Marathon 2013 route

I’ve never run a marathon, but I’ve written one and my piece about the finish line of the London Marathon went live at 26 Miles today.

As the crow flies, Greenwich to The Mall is only a few miles. Back in the 17th century Pepys used to walk it often to do deals in the royal shipyards (and stash a little more cash in his personal coffers). On Sunday, though, thousands of runners will take an all-round-the-houses-pubs-docks-and-offices 26 miles and 385 yards to get from A to B.

Rather them than me. I had way more fun writing the marathon than I would have running it.

As part of the 26 Miles project I’m the last of 27 writers who’ve each examined a mile of the route and, with a collaborator, created something about what they found – a poem, a story, a film, a documentary.

I worked with photographer Mark Cocksedge. We wanted our piece to reflect the constant flow of people, like blood through veins, through and around St James’s Park. Why were they there, in a place with no homes, offices, shops or warehouses? When we didn’t get permission to take photos in the park (though thousands of tourists were snapping away around us), nor to interview people, we knew what we had to do.

Mark created a really great slide show - it's at the end of my piece - so we hope you'll take a look and celebrate the  people we met and the strange place they were passing through.

If you'd like a bit of background history, here's a neat potted version by a London cabbie, and a longer one from British History Online. Poor old lepers, thrown out to make room for Henry VIII’s deer.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

New shoes, new story


That's me, walking in my new shoes. Exciting, isn't it?

I have to admit that I am excited, because these shoes stand for the start of a new project.

Like pretty much every writer I know, I walk when I write. It's where I think, try out new words and rhythms, and let ideas float about. Walking is essential to writing for me. I don't know if it's the regular pace, the doing of something only slightly distracting, the being away from my desk, but it works every time.

I'm about to start a really big piece of writing, one which I've been thinking about for years. There's going to be a lot of walking involved, so my news shoes are my biggest investment in this story.

I'm not going to say more about it, so instead, here's a link to a beautiful poem, Walking Around, by Pablo Neruda.