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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Fork In The Road


The picture has nothing to do with anything that follows but since Sunday I have been musing on what a remarkable country we live in. This is Knoydart, up in the Scottish Highlands, where we hiked and camped two… no, three years ago.

I am bracing myself for a sharp jolt to my system. Leaving the work I’ve been doing these past few weeks - which has been about me, and my own past - and focussing instead on the story of Mike Pannett’s time in the Metropolitan Police (1988-98) is quite a wrench. But... needs must. This is the work that pays the bills. And it starts today. The other stuff is, for the moment, a luxury - although in a broader sense, of course, I consider it an absolute necessity. Such experiences as I don’t translate into words - on the page - tend to bother me. It’s a combination of that primeval urge to tell stories, an urge to record, and the need to unravel the past and make sense of it. It’s a kind of psychological housekeeping. It’s as necessary to my mental/spiritual health as food is to my body.

However, let’s not get things out of proportion. Had I thought, thirty years ago, that I’d be sitting here planning a trip to London to research my next book by dint of a stroll along the Thames embankment, I would’ve imagined that I was doing rather well. It was what I wanted.

This afternoon, then, I’ll be taking the train south and staying at my daughter’s place beside the Arsenal stadium for the last time (they’re moving south of the river to Peckham next week). Tomorrow morning I plan to walk along the river from the Cannon Street railway bridge, upstream to Battersea. The reason? Simply that one of the main stories in the new book will be about the Marchioness disaster. That was in August 1989. 51 people were drowned. Mike was on duty that night, was one of the first on the scene, and had to pull a number of bodies from the water. If I’m going to write that up I need to get a sense of the place.

At Battersea I’ll cross the bridge and head south, past the police station and up to Clapham Common, more or less repeating the walk I did earlier this year. I want to see the outside of what used to be the section house in Nightingale Lane, where young single coppers were accommodated. Mike says it was not unlike a student hall of residence.  It’ll be a central location in the book.

On to more mundane matters - well, York City. I forgot to mention their excellent win over Dagenham on Saturday. It was a good game, played in pleasant sunshine, and the final score (3-2) didn’t reflect York’s absolute superiority. They were cruising, 3-1, when they let in a daft goal in the final moments of the match.  Scroll down to last night, and a tricky away fixture at Accrington, where a late Jason Walker winner secured three more points and took us up to ninth position in the league - i.e., to the fringes of the play-off places. Not a bad start for a newly-promoted side. Question is, how long to do we hang on to our manager, Gary Mills?

Okay, time to dust down the London A to Z, check the batteries in the camera, and prepare for that journey.