…..is often pretty special, the one that may command the highest price in the second-hand bookshop. Take, for instance Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, which may easily command 10 times the price of his later works, and more. So that’s not bad company for Mark Charlton to be in. His Counting Steps – a journey through landscape and fatherhood will surely be joined by others in the years ahead; and the immediate problem may be in identifying the next subject for scrutiny, a task that may not be simple.
For Mark has clearly poured his heart and soul into this one, and much of that is exposed, laid bare for our intrusion. I would recommend that you take up that offer. Counting Steps is both delightful, and thought-provoking. You may well find yourself examining your own past and those special moments we all have with our children. But you may also look inwards and backwards, at what went on before and shaped your outlook on life.
It is the sort of book you put down carfully after you have reached the final page. You may find yourself handing it on – you need to read this – I know I did, and I don’t generally hand books out.
Mark has put together a collection of essays on some pivotal moments in his journey through life, exploring the road he has travelled and looking forward to the miles ahead. He looks deeply at the people and the places that have left an impression, and reflects closely on those.
You may find yourself nodding as you recognise aspects. For instance there is the moment when eldest son Daniel confounded his father’s usual grump of teenage incompetence; or the time when the sporting dreams are eclipsed by Michael at a tender age and without his father’s years of experience . And there is a father’s love for his youngest, and last, child. But he’ll tell you too of the difficulties along the road, from childhood to conception and beyond.
It’s not all introspective views for amongst these essays are forays into the world of the butterfly collector, the rock climber with his little bag of chalk, and the cyclist, king of the mountains – until Mike leaves him gasping. There’s a passion for the people and places around him, and none of it would be possible without Jane to give him gentle guidance.
You will laugh and you may cry and you may have been there. You may recognise some of the places visited or have family memories of similar events. But I think you’ll be left with an impression of being proud to have a father or a child in the same mould, even if Daniel’s girlfriend is told not to talk to him – he’s a bit weird -; and just might reflect on your own relationships a little bit deeper.
Mark Charlton is a writer of some craft, and I look forward to more.