With a year-long jaunt coming to a close, and nearly all points of the Isle covered, what better place for all the differing, meandering byways of ‘Common Ground’ to meet but in Oxford? So after various journeys of unpredictable timing from Paddington, we arrived at the world headquarters of the globe-bestriding media megabrand that is the QI Club, to be greeted by visions of the what the perfect private members club is. Refreshments in hand. various 26-ers and curious QI-ers made their way in to hear five readings from Common Ground, that celebrated the breadth, width and diversity of the writers and landscapes in the book.
John Simmons took us to Buckinghamshire, and the darkness of the cottage from where MiltEditon illuminated paradise; Rob Williams recounted how he risked life and liver in researching Paul Abbot’s early years in Burnley; Tim Rich raised eyebrows, smiles and laughter with his tall tales of hunting Belloc in Sussex pubs; and Sarah McCartney, clutching a battered but well-loved first edition, introduced us to FW Lister.
But it was John Mitchinson’s reading, of his chapter about Alan Garner, that really brought home the theme of the book – that as writers, we are connected to the land around us, and draw inspiration from the environments we are in, and those we seek out. It was a fitting high point on which to then repair for dinner, drinks and more tales, before trains summoned us, to disperse us all, back across the country.