A Place to Hang Your Hat, by Bruce Chatwin

NPG P638,Bruce Chatwin,by Sally Soames

Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, Bruce Chatwin wrote in his book The Songlines in 1988, and … life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.

I’m inclined to agree with him, because who, as Pascal would say, is content “to sit in a quiet room alone”? And yet, if I were hunting for a pied-à-terre in London, I’d set about it the way Chatwin did – and hire the same decorator.

A Place to Hang Your Hat, by Bruce Chatwin {14:56}

Marrakech, by George Orwell


George Orwell was always ahead of the curve when predicting the future course of the twentieth century – not only in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, but also in this brief but chilling look at French colonialism in Morocco, and the hell on earth it both created and helped to perpetuate. He published this essay in 1939 after spending several months in Marrakech to recover from the throat wounds he received in the Spanish Civil War.

But there is one thought which every white man (and in this connection  it doesn’t matter twopence if he calls himself a Socialist) thinks when he sees a black army marching past. “How much longer can we go on kidding these people? How long before they tum their guns in the other direction?”

Marrakech, by George Orwell {15:32}

Sex Education, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher


Our memories not only play tricks on us, they also evolve as we move on through life. According to some researchers, a memory changes each time we recall it, relate it, and refile it. But as tonight’s story tells us, memories may also develop in response to our life experiences, and to our own intimate knowledge – gained only through maturity – of what human existence is really about.

And speaking of maturity, Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879-1958) saw certain things very clearly: One of the many things nobody ever tells you about middle age, she once wrote, is that it’s such a nice change from being young.

Sex Education, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher {30:03}

Salvation, by Langston Hughes


Ask, and it shall be given you, the Good Book says. Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. But if we listen to Langston Hughes’s experience, sometimes, when it comes to matters of faith and the heart, good intentions are not enough.

Salvation, by Langston Hughes {7:57}

The Phoenix, by Sylvia Townsend Warner


Sylvia Townsend Warner’s satirical tale of crass commercialism and casual animal cruelty first appeared in her collection The Cat’s Cradle Book in 1940.

Warner was an independent-minded woman, a feminist and lesbian, before either of these was fashionable. In her 1926 novel Lolly Willowes, about a similarly independent-minded woman of middle age who moves to an English country town to take up the practice of witchcraft:

That’s why we become witches: to show our scorn of pretending life’s a safe business, to satisfy our passion for adventure. It’s not malice, or wickedness – well, perhaps it is wickedness, for most women love that – but certainly not malice, not wanting to plague cattle and make horrid children spout up pins and – what is it? – “blight the genial bed.” (…) One doesn’t become a witch to run around being harmful, or to run around being helpful either, a district visitor on a broomstick. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to by others.

The Phoenix, by Sylvia Townsend Warner {11:05}

Death and What Comes Next, by Terry Pratchett


Tonight’s story is presented in honour of fantasy author Terry Pratchett (1948-2015), who passed away earlier this week.

Unlike so many conventional practictioners of the genre, Pratchett had an eminently practical attitude toward fantasy. After all, his fantasy books were often far more realistic than so much of the pernicious rubbish our would-be modern masters are constantly endeavouring to fob off on us as “reality”. As Pratchett himself wrote:

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

Death and What Comes Next, by Terry Pratchett {7:19}