Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Gentle Author

I started reading Spitalfields Life in September 2009 shortly after it began. I cannot remember how I found it but I recognised immediately the innovative use of blogging. The Gentle Author writes a daily portrait of the people, buildings and spaces of Spitalfields and it has gradually developed into an important social and historical record which has successfully made the transition to a beautiful book published by Saltyard Books. It is clear that The Gentle Author feels a vocation to document the world that he loves and he does so with complete integrity, his duty of care to the people that he interviews patently obvious to the reader.

Oddly, the posts that I remember from the early days are the more personal ones about visits to Columbia Road market on a Sunday to buy a small plant for the windowsill. I also had a covetous eye for The Gentle Author's collection of antique china. When china and bulbs made a joint appearance in a post about an inherited hyacinth bowl I was overcome and immediately bought one of my own which reminds me of The Gentle Author every time I use it.

It was a real thrill to meet The Gentle Author at the Port Eliot festival where he was speaking in the tent of his friend from Spitalfields, Andrews of Arcadia. We listened to him read lyrical and moving extracts from the book including the post about his friend, Sandra Esqulant, Landlady of the Golden Heart. After the reading I had the chance to chat to The Gentle Author and thank him for the pleasure that Spitalfields Life has given me over the years. I wanted to say I understood his sense of vocation, his obligation to record and how grateful I was that he had taken the underrated form of blogging to such high levels, inspiring other bloggers to believe in the work that they do quietly every day, but I was dumbstruck.


  1. Perhaps he reads here?

    If not, why not send him a link?

  2. Melissa - TasmaniaJuly 25, 2012

    I have read Spitalfields Life for a while now. Goodness, I never knew the gender of The Gentle Author! I've always found his writing inspiring and loved his portrayal of the special moments of everyday life. I'll probably never travel to England, but those similar moments, people and stories are all around us. Lucky you to have met him!

  3. The marvelous world of blogging.

  4. "Dumbstruck" is not necessarily a bad thing! I once very suddenly came face to face with an actor I had seen in Antony and Cleopatra only the night before. I was thrown for a such a loop by nearly bumping into "Antony" (now wearing an earring, a tank top, and sandals, and sliding a cellphone into the pocket of his shorts) that I blurted out the equivalent of a starry-eyed, "Gee, Mister Actor, Sir, I think you're SWELL!"

    This happened 3 years ago and it still makes me blush (and laugh) to remember it.

  5. I've been reading that blog for years too, but have never left a comment. I has suspected that the Author was male but had no way of finding out, so thank you for the confirmation.

    I think you should send a link to your blog, not least because it, too, is very readable.

  6. I have lurked outside that blog looking in for quite some time now.... Lucky you to have met him.

  7. I met him too at Port Eliot and he was delightfully and refreshingly modest and humble. Interestingly, he said he had kept anonymous becuase he did not like how egotistical blogs were and did not want his persona to colour the stories of the people he met.

  8. Hello Philippa
    Thanks for visiting and for your comment. When I had a chat with the Gentle Author he said much the same thing to me - although he kindly missed out the bit about other blogs being egoistical. I think that if you have read Spitalfields Life for a long time the personality of the author permeates it even when writing about his friends, neighbours and the people of the place that he loves.

  9. Yes it's nice now I read the book I can hear the tone of his voice coming through... gentle indeed!


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