Will is going to be taking part in a Q&A session at the Guardian on Monday 11 August. For more details and to submit a question, go here.
“This is the extraordinary beach at Mapplethorpe on the Holderness coast of east Yorkshire. I walked the length of the coast from Flamborough Head to Spurn Head in the summer of 2007 as part of the research for my misery memoir Walking to Hollywood. The Holderness coast is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, losing six feet of its friable loess cliffs every year to the chomping of the waves. My idea was to walk the entire 35-odd miles within six feet of the cliff edge or bottom, thereby taking a route that could never be replicated. All went oddly from the start: I left my maps at Flamborough Head; my boots turned into flesh-eating monsters; and the weather was a weird compounding of bright sun and ghostly sea fret blowing in off the sea.”
Read the rest of Will Self’s contribution to the Guardian Review’s piece on Writers’ holiday photos in which they share the photographs that capture their favourite summer memories.
Read Will Self’s take on the new visitor centre at Stonehenge from the Guardian Review here.
‘A few years ago, I was walking with a friend in some fields on the southwest coast of Rousay, one of the northern isles of Orkney. There were a fair amount of cattle about, but we weren’t paying much attention to them and nor were they to us. True, one beast did look significantly bigger than the others, and I said to my friend, “Oh, d’you think that might be a bull?” at the exact moment that this rather larger kine lurched into a trot and began heading our way.
‘My friend – whose guiding spiritual principle derives from a koan given to him by a sadhu he found sitting cross-legged at the source of the Ganges when he was a young man – cannot bear witness to a physical challenge without immediately responding to it: if he notes that a cliff might be tricky to scale, he scales it; if he supposes that a current might be treacherous to navigate, he strips and breasts it. Anyway, as the beast – which I could now see was conspicuously horned – came barrelling towards me, I realised that my dharma buddy was already 50m away and on the far side of a triple-stranded barbed wire fence. I reiterated: “D’you think it might be a bull?” And he shouted back: “Of course it’s a bull – look at its bloody great balls!”
‘I relate this anecdote in a spirit of unabashed nostalgia – there’s really something rather marvellous about being pursued across a field by a charging bull, even if at the far side you rip the crotch of your trousers to shreds on a fence. The experience puts you on a footing with all those finely cross-hatched figures doing similarly stereotypic rural things – spooning on haystacks, caught in mantraps – that I recall from the ancient back numbers of Punch magazines I used to read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Now, of course, these are gone – the magazines, and the free dentistry – and for the most part you don’t see bulls in fields at all. I don’t know where they keep bulls when they’re not “servicing” cows, but given our current mores it’s probably in a scrubbed and antiseptic barn unit, where they’re shown beefcake pornography and fed energy supplements so as to excite them to the correct pitch. Meanwhile, I’m still impotently out in the fields – and, trudging across them, I’ll often come across the animal’scontemporary incarnation: an empty Red Bull can.’
Read the rest of Will’s article in the Guardian here.
Read Will Self’s review of Rod Liddle’s Selfish, Whining Monkeys at the Guardian Review here.
Read an edited version of this year’s Richard Hillary memorial lecture, to be given tomorrow at the Gulbenkian theatre, St Cross Building, Oxford, at the Guardian here.
“A few years ago, I decided to walk on the foreshore of the Thames from Battersea Park as far to the east as I could. I had observed over the years that, at especially low tides, quite large areas of hardened mud were exposed; these were either studded with pebbles and flints, or gave way to chunks of concrete slipway, or elided into true shingle. Naturally, being the sort of man I am, I hadn’t made a comprehensive survey of either the littoral or the tide table, so I soon found myself wading thigh-high in the obscuring mocha of the waters, and feeling the thick silt ooze between my sandals and my soles. Impulsiveness has at least this virtue: it impels you.
“I’ve lived in Stockwell, about half a mile south of the Thames, for the past 17 years. At best, it has provided me with amazement: like the time when I was cycling over Vauxhall Bridge, saw a small crowd gathered by the parapet, and dismounted to see a poor whale who, scrambled up by sonar, had made his way upriver to die. And at worst, it allows me some sense of the physical landscape that underlies London‘s portentous human geography: its hulking blocks and loitering street furniture set along elongated and repetitive arterial roads. To feel the city’s location as topographically (rather than financially) determined, it’s necessary to either gain sufficient height to see the lazy S-bends uncoiling along the floor of the valley, or go down to that river itself.”
Will Self’s review of Mark Kermode’s Hatchet Job, from tomorrow’s Guardian Review.