Journeys of a Lifetime
A joint publication
by Town House Books ( in Ireland) and Simon and Schuster
Lessons of life and death: an account of the many
places visited by the author and what took her to them -
the inner and the outer journey.
This book came about after I was invited by travel writers
Sara Wheeler and Dea Birkett, to contribute to Amazonian,
a collection of new travel writing by women. Trawling through
my travel diaries - I have 21 school exercise books going
back to 1980 - I realised that I had enough material for
a whole book.
The title refers to the other journeys I was making in my
life: twenty-two years of marriage to Ian which was a journey
in itself, the arrival of our three children, an illicit
love affair, Ian's journey towards death, the arrival of
my first grandchild.
While turning over in my mind the idea for Journeys, I started
to analyse the way in which one destination leads to another
often without the traveller necessarily being aware of the
To start at the beginning ( almost): in 1983 I enrolled
in an Arabic language class because I had been to Sudan,
had heard Arabic spoken there, was planning to go to the
West Bank and wanted to learn more. My teacher was a Syrian
whose love for his own language fell on my shoulders like
stardust. I was learning not only a language but a lot about
I was not to know that nearly twenty years later, I would
wash up in Damascus and find that I had lost none of my old
love of Arabic. As the Arabs themselves would say, it was
written. And there's more. An American friend in Dublin,
aware of my obsession with the Arab world, found in a Dublin
Oxfam shop, an Islamic prayer-mat complete with Mecca-orientated
compass. When I recounted this to my former Arabic teacher,
now Professor of Comparative Literature, he smiled: " You
were meant to have it," he said.
Of course, rationally, he's all wrong but you have to wonder.
As JG Ballard has written somewhere: " There are no
coincidences, only deep assignations in our lives."