Aphrodite. Hi, SW, nice to meet you at long last! It's been difficult finding you at home recently. Any more treks or travels planned for the rest of the year?
SW. Hi, Aphrodite! May I just say first of all, you're even nicer in the flesh than in my mental store of universal Jungian archetypes! Yes, one more walk is on the cards - backpacking part of the South-West coastal path. I'm really keen to try out my new lightweight camping gear.
Aphrodite. I've been wanting to ask you this for ages, but why is your blog called The Solitary Walker? Does this mean you're quite a solitary person yourself, or are you really a gregarious and extrovert barrel of laughs behind a sensitively-contrived facade?
SW. I think I've explained this a couple of times already on my blog, Aphrodite. The title comes from the book Reveries Of The Solitary Walker - Rousseau's confessional series of walking meditations on life, the universe and just about everything else. And yes, I can crave solitude. Being alone - for days, even weeks on end - does not phase me. But I do like company too. I love it, in fact. It's just that, in the wrong sort of company, I get itchy feet very, very quickly. And feel a compulsion to make a break for freedom and independence once again. No, I'm not a hearty extrovert. But neither am I a solipsistic introvert. Should we say I'm somewhere between the two? Like a lot of us?
Aphrodite. Why do you blog anyway, SW?
SW. That's a hard one, Aphrodite. But I have thought about it from time to time. I started blogging back in June 2007 - that's just over 3 years ago. And I loved it from the beginning. I think there are lots of different reasons I like it and stick at it. Here are just a few. It fulfils some kind of artistic need in me: constructing a post with words and images in a concise, unified and hopefully creative way gives me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. I think there's a deeper, psychological need too, a confessional need, and a need to make some kind of sense of the existential random tragedies and brutalities of life. Also there's a communicative need, a need to share experiences with kindred souls who can respond immediately with a 'Yes! I know what you're talking about!' Some things hinted at or more openly revealed in blogs are somehow not the stuff of your average off-line dinner party conversation (oh, how I hate dinner parties!)
Aphrodite. Another question I've got for you, SW, since you're in a communicative frame of mind. What do you really hate right now?
SW. That was an unexpected one from the left-field, Love Goddess! Are you trying to cleverly switch my mood in the hope of some startling revelations? To be honest, though, you really have got me going. Mindless, yobbish behaviour. Rudeness and impoliteness. Fast food. The petrol engine. The cover-ups in Afghanistan. The fact that Blair and Bush have got away scot-free over Iraq. Materialism. Motorways. The destruction of the rainforests (though a muted cheer for the partial resurrection of the Iraqi marshlands). Cable TV ('57 channels and nothin' on' - Bruce Springsteen). Prejudice against the old, the infirm, the unstable, the unwell, the radical, the different and the... anything. Oh, and dinner parties. Of course.
Aphrodite. And, SW, what are the loves, pleasures and delights in your life?
SW. Many, many things. Temperamentally I like to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty, as I'm an optimist by nature, despite the huge odds against this stance if you look at things realistically. Perhaps I'm just an old romantic? A good book, a glass of wine, a great, lovingly-prepared, home-cooked meal, and a sympathetic companion. A solitary trek across the vast plains and rugged mountains of Spain. A short, local walk along the hedge-lined, flower-filled lanes surrounding my Nottinghamshire village. Philosophy, thought, ideas - and, more importantly, creative intuition. And marmite. Naturally.
Aphrodite. Do you ever get depressed?
SW. Yes, I think I probably have periodic mild depression - like many of us. (Melancholy I can deal with - that's fine and natural - just a bittersweet realisation of the transitory nature of life and beauty.) Some years ago I went to the doctor's with what I thought was a more severe kind of depression. She diagnosed mild depression and prescribed anti-depressants. I took them for a few days but they made me feel very ill and I've never taken any such things again. I hate drugs and medicaments. She also said she felt sorry for my wife - obviously a completely unethical and insensitive thing to do. I've tried to avoid seeing GPs since. Luckily I've hardly ever needed to so far.
Aphrodite. Where do you stand politically?
SW. I think it's obvious if I tell you I read The Guardian, Aphrodite!
Aphrodite. How's your sex life, SW?
SW. Sex is one of the greatest things in the universe, and I celebrate that. Aphrodite - you're beginning to hit below the belt here, typical of your titillating New Age rag-mag approach. Is this interview coming to a close soon?
Aphrodite. Just one more question, SW! Have you any aims and ambitions left in life?
SW. That was cheekily phrased, Aphrodite. I'm only 55! I have many aims and ambitions, though I don't like the phrase 'aims and ambitions', which sounds very CV-cliched-capitalist-non-wabi-sabi-speak to me. My main 'aim and ambition' right now is to take a short walk to see the sun set in a golden glow over the river. And that'll do for now.
Aphrodite. Thanks, SW! Be seeing you...
SW. Thanks, Aphrodite. But, if you don't mind, can you ask the mag to send Venus next time?
(The photo shows Robert, the Solitary Walker, photographing the interviewer. Though shouldn't it have been the other way round?)