Where the Wild Winds Are

Some words about my next book...

In October 2015 I set off on an unlikely quest: to follow four of Europe's winds across the continent.

The Helm, Britain's only named wind, led me to Cross Fell on the bleak uplands of the Northern Pennines, in the footsteps of Cumbria's fearsome border reivers and the demons believed for centuries to inhabit the air. The freezing Bora led me three hundred miles from Trieste through Slovenia and down the Croatian coast, from the stony emptiness of the Karst plateau to a blizzard high on a Balkan mountain. My hunt for the 'snow-eating' Foehn became a meandering journey of exhilaration and despair through the Alpine valleys of Switzerland, where I experienced first-hand the symptoms of Föhnkrankheit, the notorious Foehn-sickness believed to cause everything from headaches to high murder rates. My final walk traced an ancient pilgrims' path in the south of France on the trail of the Mistral: the 'wind of madness' which animated and tormented Vincent Van Gogh.

These walks – from a lonely bothy on the fells to a cabinet of bottled airs in the backstreets of Trieste, from a blizzard on a Balkan mountain to the stony desolation of Western Europe’s only steppe – were journeys not only into wild wind, but into wild landscapes and the people who inhabit them: meteorologists, eccentric wind enthusiasts, mountain men and shepherds. They were also, inevitably, journeys into myself. Finally and unexpectedly, they were journeys into what I can only describe as animism, in the original sense of the word: an understanding of the world as a living, breathing body. Soon I found himself borne along by the very forces I was pursuing, through rain, blizzards, howling gales, and back through time itself. For, where the wild winds are, there are also myths and legends, history and hearsay, science and superstition – and occasionally remote mountain cabins packed with pickles, cured meats and homemade alcohol.

Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's Winds from the Pennines to Provence will be published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing on 7 September 2017 in hardback, paperback and ebook. You can pre-order it here.

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