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Book Review: A London Country Diary by Tim Bradford

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Bradford, T. (2014) A London Country Diary Icon Books ISBN 9781848317055

Tim Bradford is an illustrator, artist and writer. He is the author of The Groundwater Diaries (4th Estate, 2004) and Small Town England (Ebury, 2010) described as a ‘warm, kaleidoscopic romp of a reminiscence’ by Stuart Maconie. He frequently publishes illustrations in When Saturday Comes and The Guardian, or is otherwise to be found tramping the streets of London looking for musical instruments, old bookshops or lost rivers.

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A London Country Diary is a record of those meanderings and his encounters with old man’s pubs, exotic green parrots, charity shops finds, angry dogs and their owners, sexed-up foxes and plants-he-doesn’t-know-the-name-of.

This is no epic novel. Each diary entry is at most two pages long and many entries are little more than a paragraph in length. Taken individually they’re whimsical, humorous and full of Tim’s wry observations of life in a small corner of North London bounded by Finsbury Park, Stoke Newington, Highbury and Holloway and that’s about it.

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However, as you read the book something interesting starts to happen. It’s as if the single strands of individual diary entries have begun to weave together into something altogether more complex, and in the weave, grander ideas surface: whether it’s the capacity of nature to ‘hang on’ or ‘shine through’ in adverse environments, or the joys of savouring life as a microcosm without necessarily having to think beyond the simple pleasure of sitting beneath a nameless tree or enjoying the sight of an unknown flower; or whether it’s musings on community, or parenthood, or aging; Tim Bradford handles each with a deft and light touch that make this book a refreshing pleasure to read

Tim Bradford has created a beguiling book showing without doubt that seemingly mundane details really are the stuff of life.

“A London Country Diary documents his wanderings – he attempts to rescue a deer in Clissold Park, talks to a magical old man in Holloway, breaks up a fight in Stoke Newington and has issues with foxes in Highbury. And that’s just the beginning.

All of life is in these pages. Well, some. OK, just a little bit. But with its idiosyncratic wit and charming illustrations, this book is a timely reminder that you can find beauty, humour and life, wherever you call home.”

If, after reading the book, you yearn to create a record of your own meander through the side streets and unknown alleyways of your local patch, the book ends with a few pages of interactive exercises and field notes which, Tim claims, can be seen as part of a training programme designed to make you an urban country diarist of your own area. You can download and print the material by clicking here Exercises. The PDF can also be found on the website linked to the book HERE and further information about Tim Bradford can be found on his website HERE.

Other ‘Slow Boat’ Book Reviews are listed HERE.

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