A Man and his Life

I added Patrick Richardson’s first book, Reports from Beyond to The Bookshelf a few years ago.  His second book jumped out at me when it appeared, and what a terrific read it turned out to be, which was no surprise.  I see that I haven’t written about that first book so a few introductory words may help.

Patrick’s name may be familiar from his regular writings in the press, typically the weekend supplements and tales of his travels.  Reports from Beyond covered those epic trips, and a lifetime of seeking out the darkest corners of the globe.  It is a brilliant summary of writings of travel.

The latest work, In Search of Landfall – the odyssey of an indefatigable adventurer, is the story of Richardson’s journey through life, from man to boy, from unsettled and directionless, to purposeful.  It is an enthralling account of a life lived to the full, of emotions stretched and pulled as the tragedies and traumas, the joys too, that befall us all are met.  And of how he deals with it all.

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From his seemingly unconventional parents and farm life in Sussex we join Patrick at primary school in Edinburgh’s Corstorphine, which takes me to familiar places near and far.  North Berwick features, first love in fact, and as happens with Richardson those encounters pop up again later in life.  People we meet reappearing years later, connecting again, catching up, is a recurring theme.  School days, Norman McCaig, and memories, and household names from his times at university.

The first book he read was Little Black Sambo.  I have no idea what became of my own copy, but it is so unacceptable these days that it commands a whopping premium in the second hand bookshops.

And off he went, meandering through life, to Edinburgh, London and beyond.  He took jobs as a tobacco picker in Canada, amongst other things, setting money aside whilst living in squats.  The hippy trail to India was beginning, so he drove a busload, for Comex, until tragedy struck.

Amsterdam was his base for years, another squat, friends drifting through, popping up later, through some of the seedier aspects of life.  But all the time he knew not what he sought.  Thoughts of writing, the company of beautiful women, all came to nothing.  The ending of relationships became a burden.  But through it all bonds endured, as he bummed around.

Eventually back to Edinburgh he came, parents ageing, still unsettled.  There are deaths of close ones, terrible times, and, in time, synchronicity, and direction.  His relationship with both his parents is a huge part of how his life evolved.  It was only after his father died, in his 90s, that Patrick heard how he was full of stories, the most interesting man his sister ever met.  But for Patrick he was a man who only wanted to argue, and who talked only of the weather.  I guess we all have failings, but don’t recognise them at the time.  His Wikipedia entry is worth a read.

But better than that, read the book of his life, and the one of his travels.  I enjoyed both immensely.  Both books are published by Ultima Thule Press, superbly presented, with the feel in the hand that makes the read the enjoyment it should be.  It’s an engaging journey, through Richardson’s life, so far.  And I hope there will be more to come.

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