You’re planning a pilgrimage route. What’s on your itinerary?
I would love to start at Durham Cathedral and to finish up on Lindisfarne. It’s the reverse pilgrimage of St Cuthbert, who started off on the Holy Island and is buried in Durham Cathedral. Durham is one of my favourite cathedrals: I like its very powerful Norman architecture and its setting is magnificent. Holy Island is somewhere I’ve been a few times. It’s physically very beautiful and when you think that it was the site of the first Viking raid – it’s extraordinary. It feels very spiritual to me.
Would you make any special stops?
We’d stop at Jarrow: the ruins of Jarrow Abbey served as the hangout for one of my heroes, the Venerable Bede. He is the father of English history: in medieval terms, he was a bestseller, with his fabulous Ecclesiastical History of England. There’s an exhibition about his life and works, so to stop there would be fun, interesting and uplifting. I’d also like to walk along the coast of Northumberland and stop at the coastal town of Blyth, which is home to the famous Blyth Spartans football club.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What’s you choice?
My favourite restaurant on earth is Cammillo, in Florence. It is a classic neighbourhood Italian restaurant with very simple Tuscan cooking; it has a wonderful wine list with great Chiantis as well. There are times when I’ve eaten there twice in one day. I’d eat fagioli: they are similar to cannellini beans and with really fantastic fresh olive oil, it’s one of the most delicious things in the world.
Which books would you take?
I would take the complete essays of Montaigne – in English, not French! Montaigne is one of those people who had an opinion on everything, so it’d be a good book to dip in and out of. A book that I read every year is The Diary of a Nobody and within the first five pages I am laughing, so I’d take that too – it’s the funniest book ever written.
Which Bible verse or passage would you ponder as you walked?
The 23rd psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd: I’m a big fan of David’s. To me, David is one of the most intriguing characters in the Bible. He was so complex: he was flawed, but he was a lover, a poet, a warrior – he was Mr All-Round. There were so many facets to his personality, with frailties and emotions. He’s an epic figure but he’s also relatable.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
I like this Jewish prayer for travellers: “May it be your will God, our God and the God of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace, direct our steps in peace, guide us in peace, support us in peace and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy and peace.”
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
In homage to my New England roots, I would take a frying pan and cook a kipper in butter, with a squeeze of lemon. There’s a village in Northumberland called Craster and the Craster Kipper is arguably the world’s greatest.
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
Something by ABBA. It would have to be one of the jollier songs, such as Dancing Queen. I’ve been an ABBA fan ever since they appeared on the Eurovision Song Contest. When I was in Stockholm for New Year, one of the first things I did was to go to the ABBA museum there.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag. What is it?
I’m a committed fly fisher so I would like to take a fishing rod, just in case I came across a beautiful little brook with some brown trout in it: they would be a change from the kippers!
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
Netflix. I am currently watching lots of Scandi noir. My favourite of all time is an Icelandic thriller called Trapped. I don’t watch it every day – I switch it on at night and fall asleep within about three minutes. It takes me months to get through a series.
What would you miss the least?
Loyd Grossman OBE is an author, TV presenter and cultural campaigner
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