For readers in search of something bookish to give to a father this coming 19 June, we can highly recommend our beautifully bound Slightly Foxed Edition of The High Path. In this prizewinning memoir Ted Walker recreates with unusual vividness his secure, happy childhood in the England of the Thirties and Forties, and the influences that made a working-class boy into a poet.
Most telling, perhaps, was his relationship with his father, a carpenter who had come to the Sussex coast from Birmingham in search of work before Ted’s birth. The affection between the two shines out from the tender portrait of him, cruising the last mile home from work on his Ariel motorbike, playing backyard cricket with typical concentration, or struggling to master French with Ted, urged on by their lovably eccentric teacher Mr Jupp.
A sense of history came from magical visits to his father’s family in the Worcestershire countryside, and sensuous pleasure from the grocer’s shop managed by ‘Grandad Harry’ – an Aladdin’s Cave where ‘a wondrous blend of smells: nutmeg and cinnamon, dog biscuits and bran, wax polish, ripe cheese and Brasso all harmonised to give a sense of good things kept in spotless order’. It is a picture of a proud and thrifty working-class world now utterly lost.
With grammar school and a place at university a gap began to open between Ted and his parents. These new experiences brought intellectual confusion, romantic longing and sexual frustration, but the warmth of his happy childhood was still his bedrock. The High Path is a beautiful book, written with all the honesty and sensitivity of the poet Ted Walker became.
All Father’s Day presents will be wrapped in brown paper, tied up with foxed ribbon, and sent with a hand-written card bearing a handsome wood engraving and a message of your choice. Please read on for an extract from The High Path and a selection of other present ideas.