The Two Moors Way as I’ve always wanted to walk from Exmoor to Dartmoor, and would stop at the Poltimore Arms, high on Exmoor, a location of Du Maurier wildness and romance where anything can happen (and often does).
Who would be your travelling companions?
I would take Ziggy, my adorable blonde cockapoo and the apple of my eye. Ziggy is currently in pup having married briefly a terrier called Baxter – who is owned by James Mates, ITV’s Europe correspondent – so I could be accompanied by a 101 Dalmations-type litter). I would also take three other couples we walk with every year. It’s a tradition that we started for my 50th birthday and have carried on ever since, as none of us is brave enough to call a halt to it – even though my husband is so old now he can only manage a flat path with two sticks and an assortment of other stimulants.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What is it?
I’ll have Harry’s Bar in Venice transplanted to the moor because I had a wonderful dinner there in in 2020, just before I caught Covid-19 and it’s my last memory of the world as it used to be – people crammed together, talking loudly in a fuggy historic restaurant. I was there to film a documentary called 1000 Years a Slave [out in October]. I’d start with a bellini and then would eat serrano ham and mozzarella and breads and pasta with truffle – I’ll be very hungry so I’ll need a carb blast.
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
I would not sleep in a church hall or camp under the stars. I would make sure my luggage was borne ahead of me by Oompa Loompas to some cosy well-fettled hotel complete with blazing log fires, hot grog, full English breakfasts etc.
Which books would you take with you?
I suppose I would take my Kindle although I am addicted to the Times on my iPad and the Scrabble app.
What Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?
My memory is shot. I put it down to childbirth which wipes the brain clean like a mobile restored to factory settings. I choose Psalm 23, as this was one of the readings we chose for my beloved mother’s funeral last month.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
You stop in achurch. What’s your go-to prayer?
The prayer of St Teresa of Avila, that my grandmother (who was a fervent convert) wrote out and I keep beside my bed:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
My only life skill is to make an apple crumble in five minutes flat. The secret is lots of brown sugar and butter at every stage, and lemon peel in the Bramleys. Ivo [husband] doesn’t like my cooking but my children are much more loyal and they do like it: it’s the exact same recipe my mother made for me so it’s a tradition.
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
Me and Bobby McGee, the Janis Joplin version. My husband and I call each other Bobby and we always have done. I call all my boyfriends Bobby. It’s like at the Beefsteak Club, where they call all the waiters Charles.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag. What is it?
Weleda Skin Food – goes on everything.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
What would you miss the least?
Screens. They are bad for my eyesight and Apple sends me these annoying notifications telling me I’ve spent 12 hours a day on my screen.
Rachel Johnson is a journalist. She hosts the podcast Rachel Johnson’s Difficult Women on LBC Radio from 7 to 10pm on weekdays.
This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe today.
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