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carlisle to grasmere

‘Everywhere I stop bookshops are thriving’: novelist Jon McGregor tours his latest book by bike

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In the hotel in Corbridge, Northumberland, the night before I set out earlier this month, there are men talking loudly about whisky and fishing.

There is talk of just enjoying the day. It’s your day, at the end of the day. Outside, the chill hardens to a frost and the river rattles over the shingle beneath the town’s eponymous bridge.

In the morning in the Forum bookshop I sit up in the pulpit of the old Methodist chapel, looking out across a congregation of books and picturing this space filled with people dancing to the “silent book disco” I’ve just been told about. But there’s no one dancing here now, so I finish signing books and talking to the bookseller, and set off on my bike for the high ground between England and Scotland, the road climbing quickly to a ridge of knuckled stone and the weather closing in around me.

Pic: ‘The hedgerows are getting ready to come out’ … Jon McGregor’s view as he cycled between Carlisle and Grasmere. Photograph: Jon McGregor

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