Sunday, 27 April 2008

Times' travel essayist article - Michael de Larrabeiti

A few years ago I stumbled (not in the online sense) upon the travel writer H V Morton. It was his A Traveller in Italy book that first caught my eye and kicked off my old travel books collection. The first book I found was in a secondhand book shop/gallery in Peterborough (sadly, since closed down). Other finds hail from Cromer and Sherringham, on the Norfolk coast; Uppingham, Rutland; Stamford, Lincolnshire, and also London. My boss gave me one as an early Christmas present too.

It's not often that I ponder a Morton purchase, but a copy hidden on a bookstall in a Turin street did cause me much deliberation. Damn the thing for being an exact dupe of one I owned back home. Was it an exciting find or a surplus dust gatherer? Wasted euros when what I actually needed was a lunchtime panini, or something that would last much longer in memory? I debated and debated, sensibly leaving the copy on the shelf. Had it been an Italian translation or a first edition, there would have been no argument. But as it was, I stood strong and sensible.

Dipping from one to another and then to another copy, I can't actually claim to have finished any of my many Morton's. No matter! Whenever I dive into his journalism - and however randomly - I emerge from it with a smile for the nostalgia-inducing character of travel writing that is this out of date (Morton wrote from 1925-79. It reminds me why I've carried my heavy box of 'Morton's' from house to house to house again.

Until I've collected all of the Morton's I can find - and then read them - I doubt I'll have much time to delve elsewhere. Jan Morris gets an occasional look in: when I've a train journey and her paperback anthology, being light and less likely to be damaged than my precious hardback Morton's, makes it into my handbag. She's waiting though. I'll get there one day.

Trouble is, this article from the Times celebrating Michael de Larrabeiti also caught my eye. Once I've travelled with Morton through 1979, I'll be reading my way through Larrabeiti; the oldest articles first to the present day.