Update Wed 11/3: Professor Martin was interviewed by Mark Lawson tonight on Front Row: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/frontrow/
I was photographing a supermarket trolley in the Grand Union canal on Saturday afternoon at Wolverton, when three gentleman ambled past in full modern walking outfits.
I found an excuse to stop and tell them about the trolley and the significance of the new British Waterways trolley hotline.
And I learned that they were on a walk to London, emulating the one Dr. Johnson and his pupil David Garrick made to London in 1737.
It turned out that the two leading characters are Prof. Peter Martin, whose biography of Dr Johnson was published to acclaim last year, and Dr David Cambridge, Chairman of The Johnson Society of London. (The third was an amanuensis, Peter Martin's son).
(Here's the New York Times review of Peter Martin's book, the best one in my view).
Their daily walk is being catalogued on the Samuel Johnson Tercentenary 2009 website:
In 1737 Samuel Johnson and David Garrick, both young and unknown, walked the long road from their hometown of Lichfield to London, where they both hoped to make their fortune. In celebration of Johnson’s 300th birthday this year, their walk is being recreated by a modern-day Johnson and Garrick in eighteenth-century costume.
As you can see, there's some considerable 'latitude' in the modern recreation of this classic journey. Partly because they don't wear 18thC costume while they walk, partly because they walk the CANALS, none of which existed in 1737, and partly because Peter and David aren't quite as 'young and unknown' as the originals.
After all, Johnson and Garrick in 1737 were both only in their twenties; and at the time, frankly, rather less eminent than Mr. Martin and Mr. Cambridge are now.
I'm honoured to say that I featured in the daily register of this week's journey:
Saturday 7 March
A chance encounter with a journalist taking photos of a shopping-trolley stuck in a canal led to a visit to his houseboat, getting a close look at real canal life, just before the end of the day's walk.
(Granny Buttons? A 'journalist'? 'Real canal life'? I'm honoured!)
Incidentally, our trolley-side meeting echoed a quotation of the original Dr. Johnson himself:
"No, Sir, we had talk enough, but no conversation; there was nothing discussed."
No man but a blockhead ever walked, except for charity. Dr. Cambridge is walking to London on behalf of the National Literacy Trust, and you can sponsor him on his Just Giving page here.
(Has the MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant, sponsored him yet? Please advise.)
And now, hey dude, I'm quite Johnsoned out. Enough old Sam.
But I'm not quite TROLLIED out. On Monday I phoned the 'British Waterways canal trolley hotline' on 01923 201120. As I mentioned before, this number is simply the BW customer line; I don't think it's enough that they call it a 'hotline', when it's just the main BW customer phone number.
Anyway, I reported the trolley pictured above, to one of Satan's demons in BW Touchtone Hell. After 0:35 seconds it was transferred to a djinn, who then transferred me to another one at 1:15, who said her system was 'booting up'.
I finally completed my report about 3:15 mins. I shouldn't complain; it's rather faster than anything that happened in Dr. Johnson's time.