by Carolyn Thomas.
January is a tricky month. As well as being dark and dank, it’s a period of reflection and resolution at a time when many of us are feeling less than positive and energetic post-Christmas.
This paradox could well be down to the fact that the month is named after Janus, the Roman God of transitions and gateways, or more prosaically, doors! So take your pick whether that’s a positively open door or a negatively closed one.
Many of us do choose positively to make holiday plans in January, with sun, sea, and sand seemingly just what is needed to chase away the winter blues. But with rising bills and economic hardship being the current reality for many, travel is not always an option. In which case, diving into a book, rather than a pool, could also provide some rest and relaxation.
Fortunately there is no shortage of fantastic travel writers ready to transport readers to another place from the comfort of their homes.
Here are a few of my favourites.
Almost anything by Bill Bryson
Almost anything isn’t a book title – it means ANY book written by this American Anglophile who has lived in the Liss area of East Hampshire. Some light relief never goes amiss on a chilly January evening, but funny books are hard to find – in my humble opinion. Bill Bryson can make me laugh out loud. From The Lost Continent ( a zip around the USA), through Notes from a Small Island (observations on the UK) to A Walk in the Woods (an ill-prepared hike along the Appalachian Trail) these hugely popular books can be dipped into for a satisfying ‘short break’ or read cover to cover for a fuller ‘holiday’ experience.
The Little Book of Hampshire by Erica Wheeler
This compendium of facts and stories about our beautiful county has been put together to help anyone, traveller or native, to get more out of the area. The author Erica is a Winchester tour guide who has lived locally for 18 years and is full of information about Hampshire’s amazing countryside, ancient roads, and maritime cities. It’s part history book, part guidebook, and part story book, with something for everyone.
Walks on the Isle of Wight by Paul Curtis
Previously an Isle of Wight resident, now living in the Meon Valley, Paul Curtis was inspired to write this walking and cycling guide by the sheer variety of landscapes available on the island. He has walked nearly every footpath himself and details 32 routes in his guide, including the 70-mile Coastal Path – a complete circuit of the island’s spectacular coast. Ranging from four to 18 miles long, and graded easy to moderate, the walks explore clifftops, beaches, forest trails and downland, and visit picturesque villages and the towns of Yarmouth, Cowes, and Ventnor.
Venice by Jan Morris
This portrait of one of the world’s most fantastic cities explores its people, its architecture, and the lagoon on which it stands. The author Jan Morris, who died in 2020, was a great writer – rightly lauded for her literary abilities, but also famous for transitioning to live as a woman in the early 1960s, so becoming one of the highest profile people to do so.
Annalie Talent – talk
And finally, but still with thoughts of travel in mind, there’s an interesting lecture coming up on 13 February, organised by The Arts Society, Southampton, when local expert Annalie Talent will discuss ‘Writers and Relics: A Brief History of Literary Tourism’. Her ‘tour’ starts in Stratford, continues north to Scotland, and takes in the museums in West Yorkshire and the Lake District dedicated to the Brontes and Wordsworth respectively, before ending close to home with a discussion of the Jane Austen Museum and House in Chawton, near Alton.
Having worked on education programmes in literary houses across the UK, Annalie will share her knowledge and experience of their collections to give her perspective on these writers and their works.
The lecture takes place at the Thornden Hall Arts Centre in Chandlers Ford SO53 2DW. For more information and tickets, which cost £8, go online to thorndenhall.co.uk, contact the box office on 023 8024 6555 or contact The Arts Society directly on 07899 778320.
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