Monday, 27 July 2009

A Long Walk in Arcadia

A reading day. I took the train out to Windsor for a change of scenery and had a productive morning sitting in a coffee shop with a pile of books. As ever I'm struggling to focus on one thing and today I jumped from Walpole's letters, to the short stories on Sarajevo that I'm planning to adapt, to Quantum a fantastic book on the relationship between Einstein and Neils Bohr. I still have a naive belief that everything links at some level and that you can be as eclectic as you like - eventually some meaning will come forward.

The sun came out at lunchtime, so I went for an explore, firstly, the splendid three mile hike of The Long Walk through Windsor Great Park - up to the Copper horse of George III. From here you can see Canary wharf, Wembley, the planes coming in and out of Heathrow as well as the full majesty of the Castle poised high above the curling Thames. It's amazing how much land the crown estate has. Space is the absolute defining factor of privilege - space to think in, to move in, to project into. The more that's democratised for public use the better. I walked on the grass all the way back to town.

Across the river the mini Oxbridge of Eton where eighteen Prime Ministers, the latest royals, spies, Shelley, Matthew Pinsent, Maynard Keynes, Ian Fleming, George Orwell, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, The Duke of Wellington, four martyrs and a saint were all educated. Nice cloisters if you can get it!

Horace Walpole was sent here in 1727 and quickly formed a quadruple alliance with the future poet Thomas Grey, Thomas Ashton and Richard West - they provided pastoral protection for themselves from the rowing, horseplay and general bullying of public school by taking alter egos from Romantic poetry: Orozmandes, the Persian Sun God for Grey, Almanzor, from Dryden's Conquest of Granada for Ashton, Zephyrus, the West Wind for West and Celadon, the Shepherd from Honore D'Urfe's L'Astree for Horace himself. So they read, napped, dreamed and whilst their contemporaires went off to forge new empires, prepared to let the world pass them by, on the banks of the sun dappled river.

It's all Wonderland stuff and less than a tenner for a day return from Twickenham.

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