Wednesday 24 April 2013
Jim Perrin, Travels With The Flea
The abundance of verse on the introductory pages of Travels With The Flea provoked me to angry muttering 'Is it possible to be born in Wales (or, as is the case here, to adopt Wales as the country of residence) and NOT become a bard? I almost gave up on the book there and then, the reason being, I don't do poetry. I just don't, that's the end of it.
In the end, I persevered, and I'm quite happy about this, although were it up to me, the book would lose maybe half of its volume. Starting with Travels With The Flea, which, beside being the title of the collection is also the longest essay included: a VERY poetic report from the author's walking tours of his adopted country.
Nah. Rid the book of all that is Welsh and you'll get first-class collection of travel writing essays. I loved Perrin's reports from India, US, Cuba, Bolivia, Spain, even - something I hitherto thought impossible - from the Arctic regions of Canada. I share many of his opinions and out of four other travel writers he writes about, two are present on my shelf right at this very moment (Dervla Murphy, for one - what an unexpected bonus! I nearly screamed in delight on discovering this particular piece). Perrin has an eye for tasty detail and the mental pictures he creates are sharp, powerful, fascinating.
Then he starts writing about Wales and it all gets poetical...
I have nothing at all against Wales. I bet it's a great little country, with beautiful landscapes and resilient people and any other graces you wish to claim for it. I'm just not madly in love with Wales. This might change if I ever get to visit the place, but so far it has completely failed to raise my passion or curiosity. I simply found myself unable to share Perrin's enthusiasm, especially when he waxes lyrical on the beauty of nature and quotes his beloved bardic verses.
I dutifully, and entirely without pleasure, read the 100+ pages of the massive Welsh-themed essay, just in case Perrin was out to surprise me but no, it was just as unmoving as I expected. Had the copy actually belonged to me, I would have torn out the offending pages despite my general reverence for printed word, the operation resulting in almost flawless collection of travel essays. As it is, well...
Of course, if you happen to love Wales or poetry or both, you're very likely to love Travels With The Flea unconditionally.