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And Henson

I've been trying to ward off a cold. I knew it was inevitable when people in the office began sneezing one after the other. I bought First Defence, but I still got it. And I've been supping echinacea, for what good it does. I ended up leaving work a little early today, feeling somewhat dazed and a bit faint. Unable to face the bus from Ealing Common I ended up walking the three or so miles home, telling myself that it was doing me good. I had a quick peek in at Gunnersbury Park, an expanse of unspoilt autumnal greenery with dashes of brown to mark the strewn conkers. A solitary jogger doggedly dragged his curving frame around a never ending lap. I must venture in for a cycle.

I'm in a fallow reading period after my little glut of The Lighthouse, The Twin and Nightwoods. I've not yet returned to Canada; unable to face yet more of the same. It needs a hefty cull of the old verbiage. Opened beside me is the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story. I also opened the member's magazine posted from the London Library, an institution I'm not making enough use of lately. It includes a feature by Nick Drake on being one of a
group of creative and scientific types who sailed out to the Arctic to see the results of climate change. This iced territory has had a hold of the imagination of writers for many centuries. Some of my favourite novels are based here. There, rather. I was surprised to learn of Matthew Henson, a valid contender for the first explorer to reach the North Pole. How does one define explorer given that the Eskimos staked claims long before - or that's it - anyone else hasn't felt the need to stake claims. Henson, a black American who died in his eighties in 1955, had been part of Peary's expedition. The feature mentions Henson's walk-on part in Doctorow's brilliant Ragtime. And yet it hadn't registered with me. Maybe I should do a bit of re-reading.


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