Calling all non-fiction writers: here’s an idea for a book

Casting my eye over the lists of ‘best books for Christmas’ which, as usual, appear in the weekend newspapers at roughly this time of year, I’m impressed once again by the range of non-fiction titles lining up for our attention.  From Anne Applebaum’s magnum opus on Eastern Europe under the communist yoke to an account of the night the Houses of Parliament burned down, along with contemporary contemplative writing such as Robert Macfarlane’s ‘The Old Ways’ (rambling, I’m sure, only in the sense of ‘walking’).

I haven’t read these recent tomes, but they certainly whet the appetite and get me planning my future reading list.

They also prove that even subjects little-known or thought about are ripe for exploration.  As it happens, a couple of pages in a book I’m reading at the moment made me think ‘what a great topic for a book in its own right!’

Early in Laurie Lee’s ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’, when he is walking through southern England in 1934 on his circuitous route to London, he falls in with Alf who, like many other tramps, lives in a dosshouse during the winter but, come the spring, takes to the road.  Until the end of the autumn he lives off the land, a few spare pennies, and eggs from friendly farmhouses.

Path along South Downs

The South Downs, West Sussex

A book about this vanished way of life could unearth a rich seam of social history.  The problem might be the lack of written records of these gentlemen of the road.  Then again,  if research was easy, we would all be doing it.

I’m not ready to write a book myself yet, but if anyone would like to steal this travelling vagrant idea from me, please go ahead.  I look forward to putting it on a future Christmas wishlist.