A little while back I came across the story of some modern day pilgrims who had decided to retrace the steps of Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, by walking from London to Canterbury. I was intrigued, and thought I’d investigate further. The result was this little video…
Does this inspire you to read Chaucer’s Tales for yourself?
If so – which version of this 14th century collection of stories should we be tackling…?
According to Henry Eliot, it’s worth having a go at the original Middle English version if you can cope with a bit of a challenge. But if you feel the need for a modern day translation, then this one comes highly recommended.
Henry’s main advice is to not read the tales in order. He reckons you should go for the “juiciest” tales first to get your love of Chaucer flowing, and then tackle the less raucous ones. Dive in and read The Miller’s Tale, The Merchant’s Tale, The Pardoner’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, The Reeve’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale to give you a great taste of what Chaucer was about and then take it from there.
And what if you want to do your own pilgrimage to Canterbury? Here are some more details of Henry’s route from his 2012 pilgrimage that can help you figure out where to go. You will pass some stunning medieval towns and villages as you make your way along the North Kent coast and Canterbury, with its famous cathedral, is a treat. If the four-day walk is a bit much, then you could even do it on a bicycle.
I hope you enjoy the video – it was great fun making it, despite the rain! If you liked it, it would be great if you could give it a thumbs up or a comment on YouTube – it all helps to spread the word.
I have been living in London for around eight years now, and somehow, without realising it, I have fallen out of wonder with it. How can that be? London is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, full of history, great architecture and an absolute wealth of stories. But after years of commuting to the office, cramming onto trains and buses with millions of others, and collapsing gratefully at home at the end of the working week, I have forgotten how wonderful it is to get out and explore.
And yet here I am, urging you to explore all these wonderful locations around the world as you read the novels inspired by them, and yet I can’t get myself away from the computer and into the alleys and towpaths of this magnificent city on my doorstep.
So, I am determined to do something about it. I need to get reading some novels set in London and lace up my walking shoes.
Having not read a novel set in London for some time I decided to start my London project by taking advantage of a handy podcast provided by the Guardian newspaper. The Guardian is marking 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens with a whole lot of interesting content, including three podcasts you can download with Dickens related walking tours. The first one takes us into parts of London frequented by Oliver Twist.
So, armed with iPod (downloaded with said podcast and interactive map) and a printout of a rather funky hand-drawn style map, also provided on the Guardian website, I set off. I was hugely excited…I hadn’t done anything like this in London for such a long time.
It was only when I got to the starting point of the tour (near Angel Islington where Oliver would have arrived after walking several days from his workhouse in the country to London) that I realised I hardly had any battery left on my iPod. What a rookie mistake! The whole thing would fall apart without that marvel of Apple technology. All I could do was set off and hope for the best..
It’s just so cool (not geeky at all, I assure you) to walk the streets, passing fast food places, supermarkets and cash machines, while you have someone whispering stories in your ear of life in 19th century London. Everyone else might be struggling with their shopping, while you are learning that in this very spot Oliver met the Artful Dodger, or was brought before the cruel magistrate Mr Fang. I was taken down alleyways, past two hundred year old pubs and outside buildings, some of which I had walked past many times before, with no idea of their significance. I mean I was in complete ignorance that a post office I have lined up at many times was actually the site where young boys were made to walk on a huge treadmill as part of correctional therapy. (Ironically, the area is called ‘Mount Pleasant!)
The experience wasn’t perfect. Sometimes the directions weren’t entirely clear and I had to back track a few times, which was more stressful than it should have been because I could see the battery life on the iPod slipping away, but all in all, it was a terrific way to spend a couple of hours on a grey, threatening-to-rain kind of afternoon.
I finished up wishing I had time to have a drink in one of the wonderful old pubs on the journey, but feeling worldly and wise with a little bit of that love of London rekindled. Here’s to many more afternoons of wandering…
By the way – I finished with three percent of battery life to spare. Phew!
PS. The Guardian has released its second podcast which takes you to Dickens locations in Rochester, Kent and in part three, it’s back to London for sites relating to David Copperfield. That’s my next mission.
What about you and where you live? Have you ever explored your town or city through a locally set novel? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.