I'm writing to say that I've just read 'Walking The M62' and I enjoyed it very much. Of course, I'd read most of it before on the blog, but I gained so much more from the writing this time around. I think the introduction adds a huge amount. It sets the terms of the walk extremely clearly. I think you fight the corner of the 'everyday' persuasively, linking the everyday to incarnation (and the sacramental to the ordinary) is suggestive and provocative (in a good way). I sometimes find myself at odds with Rebecca Solnit, but her distinction, that you quote, between functional and 'disrupted' walking is beautifully put. You add the essential qualification - that the latter can inform the former.
You describe in formal terms your seeking for the 'good' in the mundane sites, and your frustration at missing an opportunity. I think that just that tension, that struggle, is very clear throughout the daily entries. There is a real sense of you resisting the easy 'take' on a place, and then the struggle to find those points of purchase in the smooth space, to find the texture of specificity in the globalised. Once I realised that that's what's going on the daily entries become increasingly engaging. You are in a struggle with pernicious memes!
There are passages where your writing really strikes home - on the Goodly Spirit at Goole (and what a wonderful photo!), on recognising Maurice the hairdresser's is still in operation, the final stanzas of the thanks for the high places, walking the Sign of the Cross in Leeds, the forest of pylons, and the meditation on ghosts. You generate connections and you overlay images. There is a sense of narratives in rivulets or frayed strings, tangled and yet spectral. There are real people here: making their plays, giving their take on the world, passing a phrase along, making a connection. These are people working on their world, and this world is no passive material - it writhes and it generates and it sinks down, it swamps and fades and buds. There is no 'cross-section' here - time is always a player, there is no freeze-frame. Instead, there is translucence sometimes, always motion, and sometimes a sense of the overwhelmingly ephemeral. A world animated.
Where I find I have some trouble is around the question of place and placement and the idea that "Nothing we do is unplaced." That you quote from Casey. I believe there is great virtue in 'placing' where there is specificity, where we are dealing with that which is specific to a place, and, indeed these very such things are often those which are ignored or hidden beneath a pejorative use of "everyday" and "ordinary". But my worry with 'placement' is that it too quickly assumes the authority not of specificity but of generality (of nationhood, of the clan) making the (specificity of the) place general ("best", "ours"). I wonder if it is in those moments when we are (for most of us very temporarily) unplaced that we have the opportunity for change. The first example I can think of is being on a march or procession in a city I am not familiar with - in that situation I am mostly unplaced, the internal dialogue, music, drama of the march or procession are dominant, together with fellow marchers I am in motion and not very clear about what that motion is through. At those moments one can change one's allegiances, one's geography. (l loved the earlier stuff on the transitory East coast, and the way that on the second day "head red with sun and exertion, eyes red with pain" you had also become transitory. If I can be allowed to quote myself extemporising on a theme by Doreen Massey: "Doreen Massey, Professor of Geography, Social Sciences at the Open University, has called Skiddaw peak in the north of England a "migrant mountain," "just passing through," "moving at the rate that our fingernails TOW." All places are "migrant." And our selves, similarly; not simple, single points of consciousness slipping across neutral planes, but selves that are motion and in motion within and without, extended 'organisms' shaped and shaping relations with each other, reacting to and adapting the geometry of inanimate geographies, cultural transmissions and ideology's reproductive system, moving about basins of attraction, patterned and patterning; a self as likely as any place to be 'just passing through. "') I thought you had a similar transitory moment when you were caught up in the events that led to the blessing of the hairdressers and were given "the sort of invitation which is impossible to refuse". And again when you entered the Goldsworthy exhibition dripping and muddy.
There are so many wonderful images that remain with me - the invisible Rhubarb Triangle, concealment and militarism in the suburbs of Birdwood, motorway as Cold War runway, that pipe you nearly crawled through, the Whirlpool Galaxy in Manchester. Your "the deviant, the stupid and the unknowing" reminded me of Shakespeare's "lunatic, lover and poet" - I think both trios have ways of knowing things that mostly escape everyone else (though they may not 'escape' the experience lightly). When you quoted Joe Moran on how mundane things can "tell us stories about much larger and global changes" I thought of the Caribbean Marxist and Lancashire League Cricketer CLR James who remarked (in the introduction to The Black Jacobins, I think) that the artillery fire of the 2nd World War could be heard first in the tea shops of England.
A couple of times you mentioned a premonition of the motorways redundant and grassed over 1 had similar presentiments on my walk at Easter - on those roads you often mention that have been made redundant and which the grass has begun to re-take - I felt like I was seeing a model of something. (And I very much appreciated your comments on the often unfriendly conditions of countryside walking once off the very popular walksdogs. cattle, blocked paths - had my Boxing Day walk with my children rather curtailed by barbed wire! There is a thoughtlessness here - a general exclusion - and it has reflected politically. For when the farmers have needed the sympathy of the country, it has not always been forthcoming - partly because of this isolationist temper on the part of many, though not all farmers.)
O, and being a pedant - wasn't the " look down on him" sketch from That Was The Week That Was rather than the Two Ronnies?
Well, what a treat and having Christmastime and the space to read the book - I will certainly be recommending it on - it deserves a wide readership.