Judging by their accounts it’s not a meeting that goes well, both of them circling each other competitively (why do writers indulge in this nonsense?) and instead of enjoying each other’s company, honing passages in their heads, right there on the fly. At one stage (reports Raban) Theroux even makes a little note in his pad.
Why do I mention this? Because today, on the lower reaches of Brown Clee, Anne and I ran into a grand old chap, whilst we were walking up and he was walking down. He was carrying a supermarket bag. Anne, of course, stopped and asked him what was in it. Mushrooms. Many mushrooms. And over the next fifteen minutes we discussed all the varieties and their habitat, and this and very much that. I say we, but of course I mean he and Anne.
I wasn’t absent though. Instead, I was thinking to myself – “that’s Paul Evans, isn’t it? Is it? Dr Paul Evans, of the Guardian Country Diary, the man described in One Dog and His Man as the greatest living writer in England today. Or Shropshire, at least. The man, whom I even sent a copy of said book to, and who sent me back a lovely little card of thanks with a note to say, he agreed, Ida Gandy is indeed a much under-rated writer, and make sure you read Andrew Fusek Peters’ book on wild swimming in Shropshire.
I was just about to ask him if he was him, when he said he’d just rescued a fawn from a hedge, but didn’t know what type of deer it was, “not being very good on animals.” Oh, I thought to myself, that certainly can’t be right. There must be another bloke who looks a bit like I imagine Paul Evans to look like, wandering around the countryside, collecting ceps and chanterelles.
So, unlike that fateful day in Brighton, repeating down the years, set down for future generations, preserved for posterity, this wasn’t a chance encounter between surely the two pre-eminent Shropshire writers of the moment (disregarding Fusek-Peters and James Hannah and Jonathan Coe, and anyone else who can string a sentence together and has stumbled into the county). Which is a shame, for I’ve always thought a wander through the hills of Shropshire with Paul pointing out everything I miss, (and need to read his diary to explain), would be a rather wonderful way to spend a Sunday.
Still, just in case it was, and just in case his next diary entry is about the day he met a chatty couple up on Brown Clee whilst he was foraging for mushrooms, and spent most of the time wondering if this could be THE Gary Twynam, of One Dog and His Man fame, not forgetting Anne and Bobby, I thought I’d best file this report first, and hope I come out as the Jonathan Raban of the piece.