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David Walliams
Author + actor
Recorded in London W1

George Shaw
Study for The Painter on the Road III
Humbrol enamel on board

And now this spell was snapt: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

We did ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ at school. It nearly did for me. The teacher who read it was all amateur dramatics and we weren’t much better with our reluctant deadpan killing of every word and image. Each half hour was an ordeal worthy of the Mariner himself. At some point I read it to myself. It seemed that buried beneath the old words and rhymes lay a horror story it out of one of the Pan Books of Horror Stories or at the adult end of the day’s TV.

The painting shows what looks like a country road. In fact it is about a ten-minute walk from my childhood home on the estate where we lived. My dad would bring us on walks along this road, which led to a small village called Berkswell. There was small village pub and a church and graveyard which looked as romantic as any of those I saw in Pre-Raphaelite paintings or read about in novels and poetry. I think it came to symbolise for my dad an escape from the mundane into a place where thinking could be allowed to happen. At least the possibility of thought.

George Shaw