Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Class Conscious: Being Left-Leaning and Quite Stylish, Real Hikers Do Not Sport Any Brand Names

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Class Conscious: Being Left-Leaning and Quite Stylish, Real Hikers Do Not Sport Any Brand Names

Article excerpt

When Bob Geldof announced that the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park would be on 2 July, I thought the date sounded familiar. I looked in my diary and saw that it was the day on which I am due to give a reading and a talk about my writing at the Little Theatre, Hebden Bridge, as part of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. On accepting the invitation to speak I had fretted that the Little Theatre might not be little enough, and now my first thought was to wonder about the overlap between those people interested in fiction set on the Edwardian railways and those who might want to watch Coldplay and U2, either in London or on television at home.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The question came down to this: was Geldof reducing my audience in Hebden Bridge for no better reason than to save millions of people from starvation in Africa?

A few days after discovering this clash of dates (last Saturday, in fact) I took my elder son, Nat, on the Three Peaks walk in the Yorkshire Dales. This was a long-promised treat for the boy, if you can describe walking 25 miles over three of the highest hills in England as a treat. Nat is ten, and has wanted to do the walk since I first mentioned it to him a couple of years ago. I have always billed the Three Peaks as a chance for him to escape the seething streets of the capital in favour of some real wilderness, so I was quite thrilled to see--as we approached the starting point of the walk at Horton-in-Ribblesdale--that a cloud was covering the summit of the first peak, Pen-y-ghent.

"We'll definitely need the map and compass, Nat," I said. "It's going to be pretty foggy up there." As I spoke, a troop of hikers came out of the mist on Horton main street. "Let them go past," I said to Nat. "We'll start when they've gone."

But they just kept coming, hundreds upon hundreds of them, all heading for Pen-y-ghent to walk the Three Peaks, and it quickly became clear that they were doing it for charity, so that was really great. …

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