A few years ago whilst recording a podcast on a certain aspect of London’s railway history I found myself in conversation with author N Quentin Woolf about the impact the battle of the Somme had on those who fought in it. At the time Woolf was working on a novel, The Death of a Poet, about the experiences of an individual during WW1 ().
Almost absent-mindedly I offered to act as a guide if he ever found himself looking to visit the Somme itself – a battlefield I have been to many times over the years and one which never loses its power over me. We also threw around the idea of doing an episode of the Londonist Out Loud podcast about it, thinking that it might be of interest to others as well.
I promptly forgot about the conversation (as unfortunately I tend to do with these things) right up until I received a phone call from N back in March. He was at a writers’ retreat in France, he said, and wondered – long shot though it might be – whether I fancied meeting him in Picardy on the way back?
A quick Eurostar ride later we found ourselves meeting up on the Somme to talk about the battle itself, its impact on some of the people who fought in it, and how it affected London on both an individual level and for groups such as the Clapton Orient footballers who signed up en masse.
Sadly the somewhat ad-hoc nature of the meet up, and recording (sometimes literally) on the road, means the quality isn’t quite as perfect at times as I suspect both N and myself would have liked, but nonetheless recording it was a thoroughly satisfying experience and you can listen to it by following the link below.