How come you’ve got children?

How do you mean?

 

Well, if you’re set on being an English travel writer in the high style, what you clearly don’t do – like Patrick Leigh Fermor, Freya Stark or Colin Thubron – is have children. You’ve got two, I see from your biography.

And a dog.  I suppose travel’s become such a commonplace that we naturally fit it into our lives rather than make it its glorious focus, which might fairly describe, say, Freya Stark’s approach.  You’re right that it makes a difference, one that’s largely to do with compromise; while preparing my latest book, Meander, a lot of negotiation was involved before I felt I had my family’s blessing to travel for a full month at a time when my girls were just 7 and 11. The question is whether the book would have better one if I had travelled without such time constraints.

 

Trowel was a Turkish word I didn’t know, so I improvised. Hardly had I requested a pocket-sized spade, however, before the ironmonger’s eyes were narrowing to wary slits. It had not crossed my mind that laying my hands on a trowel might present a problem in a place like Dinar. How but with trowels had the chillies, peppers and aubergines that ran amok in the scruffy little town’s kitchen gardens been planted? What of the geraniums that bloomed in rusty cooking oil tins at the foot of whitewashed walls? The potted pine saplings that stood in long rows at the state railway’s nursery opposite the station? And the apple and cherry orchards that blossomed across the springtime plains west of the town? Dinar was where Turkey’s fertile western lowlands, liberally watered by the Meander’s springs, ran up against the plateau interior to breed a last-ditch growing fervour among the locals – but one that their ironmonger did not appear to share.