Ian Marchant is an English writer, broadcaster and performer. He is best known for his non-fiction—mainly travel and memoir—but he has also written two novels and several other books, as well as short stories and newspaper articles. Following the completion of Parallel Lines and The Longest Crawl he has been invited to contribute to several programmes and newspaper features on the topics of railway travel and pub culture, and is often quoted in reviews of other books on these topics. He has made several programmes for BBC Radio and UK regional television. Marchant is also a Reader in Culture and Technology at the Imaginary Free University of Radnorshire. He’s also a member of Advantages of Age. His new multi-textured book One Fine Day is now out on September Books – it starts with a rummage back into his family history and turns into a philosophical look at the world.
What is your age?
Where do you live?
I live in a 500-year-old house in the Radnorshire town of Presteigne.
What do you do?
Despite everything, I still manage to write books (my latest, One Fine Day, has just been published by September), and columns (for the Church Times). I still make radio shows (usually ‘Open Country’ for Radio 4). Also, I go up the cafe (Elda’s Colombian Coffee House, High Street, Presteigne) and go to the football (I support Brighton, but usually go to lower-tier games; I like watching Solihull Moors, for example, because I find the club really friendly, and enjoy their pies).
Tell us what it’s like to be your age?
One thing about being 65 is that I feel angry and frustrated that I can’t yet draw the pension that I seem to be entitled to, for some reason unknown to me, and that I haven’t really worked that much for. But it was something to look forward to. As a youthful punk boy in the Seventies, I was very attracted to Patti Smith, and, in particular, her track, ‘Free Money.’ I’m still waiting.
And yet The State seems very keen to keep me alive, because they spend vast amounts of money on meds, scans, tests, nursing care, etc. to keep me here. Why? What have they got lined up? What’s going on? I find the fact that the taxpayer spends thousands of pounds a month keeping me alive motivating. I want to try and offer value for money.
What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?
A burden of grief. Grandchildren. Incurable prostate cancer. 4000 books. A hearing aid. A car. A desk to call my own. Faith, hope and charity.
What about sex?
I’ve just made it onto the list – LGBTQIA +. Hormone treatment, heavy heavy duty hormone treatment at that, means that I am entirely 100% asexual. I can no longer remember what all the fuss was about, or what people do. I know I don’t fancy it one bit. The 74 year old bloke next door is a second home owner, and he likes to talk to me when he’s here about his PSA, which the doctors think is dangerously high. But he says he doesn’t want hormone treatment, which, from my perspective, is odd. ‘You’d rather be able to enjoy the occasional Viagra fuelled bunk-up on your way to the tomb than get treated?’, I think. I took the opposite choice, three years ago, and I’m glad I did. It was great. Now other things are great. Move on, kids.
As beautiful and complex as ever, thank you for asking.
How free do you feel?
I have responsibilities which give me as much, if not more, pleasure than my freedoms. Untrammelled freedom is the aim of the accelerationist right, of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. In their view, we should all be free to launch satellites and go and live on Mars. I disagree. In my book ‘One Fine Day’, I write about a high tax society, 300 years ago, where the condition of the poor, and the trust of your neighbours mattered much more than your freedom to do as you like. What are, we, fucking toddlers? We need to see that everyone, all our sisters and brothers who share this planet, have sewerage, refuse disposal, clean water, sterile bandages, soap. After 13 years of Tory misrule, we barely even have that in the UK. It doesn’t take ‘freedom’, nor yet technological innovation: it takes the kindness of which we hear so much and see so little. Until everyone is free, no one is free. Until everyone can be fed, everyone is hungry.
What are you proud of?
My wife. My friends and family. Brighton and Hove Albion. And, if I’m honest, that I filled a bookshelf with books that I wrote.
What keeps you inspired?
The future. My seven times great-great-grandchildren.
When are you happiest?
Larking about with my grandchildren. Reading, mostly non-fiction. Writing, though I’m slowing up. Listening to popular music at an unfeasible volume, especially Nineties Scottish Indie bands, rare groove, psyche, yacht rock, Kylie, and Dua Lipa. I’m a 6 Music kinda guy, #sorrynotsorry
And where does your creativity go?
Don’t know. Onto that bookshelf of books that I wrote, I guess.
What’s your philosophy of living?
We have to remember the past, pay attention to the present, and imagine the future.
I’m an Anglican Christian. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. That’s your Nicene Creed, which is what pretty much all Christians believe. When, three years ago, I was diagnosed with metastasising cancer that had got into my bones, they told me had I had five years to live, max. My new oncologist thinks I can make it to seventy. That would be great. After that, the Christian hope.
Are you still dreaming?
I’ve recently had to give up the spliff. That was hard, harder than having my sexuality turned off. If you’ve smoked weed as long as I have, i.e., my whole adult life, when you give it up, you start getting vivid dreams. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were staying in Stratford, and I had a frightening dream about being chased across a railway footbridge by an irate ex. I fell out of bed, and whacked my face on the bedside table. I had a black eye for a fortnight. Fuck dreams, I say.
What was a recent outrageous action of yours?
Telling you the spliff thing.