Brian J. Rance

Author of "Finding My Place" and "Walking my Patch". Two guide books for long distance walks in the south east of England.


Illustrations from Finding My Place by Michael Avery

‘I remember gaining access to the nearby Denge Beach with my father, who was keen on sea fishing at the time. The deeper waters of the Channel come close to the land at the Dungeness foreland, and there was excellent fishing for cod and mackerel. On one occasion my father caught a fish with two heads; only later did I wonder why the fish seemed to congregate at the warm water outlet of the nuclear power station.’ [ Finding My Place p07 ]
‘I walked into a flock of sheep busy grazing, but they seemed very reluctant to move out of the way. I flapped my arms around in a crazy fashion and uttered that time-honoured admonishment, ‘goitchya’; upon which they trundled down the bank, only to close back behind and resume their nibbling when I had passed’. [ Finding My Place p11 ]
‘This was a view I had seen many times from a window of a caravan built by my father, and called ‘Brian’, cooped up and longing to be out there – free. I have long harboured a fond belief that I may have been conceived in that caravan, since why else would it be called ‘Brian’? Who then could say I didn’t belong down here?’ [ Finding My Place p20 ]
‘Very soon I needed to use the public toilets on the front. Unfortunately, the gents were locked and barred and, since nobody was around, I decided to use the ladies instead. Later, locked safely in a cubicle I was joined by another. Braving opprobrium and rehearsing an unlikely explanation for my presence, I was relieved to discover the second person was also male – a homeless person. I exchanged a little conversation with the man (who was having a wash and brush up) about our mutual predicament. The fact that he had had exactly the same thought as me was a levelling experience.' [ Finding My Place p37 ]
‘I then noticed a bloke down on the beach; he had taken all his clothes off and was threatening to plunge into the sea. I thought it rather inappropriate behaviour for this time of year.’ [ Finding My Place p47 ]
‘I had a terrible night’s sleep, punctuated, as it was with the noise made by the occupants in the adjoining bedroom, permeating through paper thin walls. In the morning, I saw the two chaps leaving early on a motorbike clad in leathers; the big fat one up front and the little skinny one behind.’ [ Finding My Place p50 ]
‘Coming into Farningham, I reached the Lion Hotel by the old ford and helped a woman to catch a large Labrador dog, who preferred to sit with me outside the pub rather than go walkies down the river. Perhaps he was hoping for a pint.’ [ Finding My Place p72 ]
‘In the second match, after an interval full of drinking bottles of strong beer, predictably, we performed equally badly.’ [ Finding My Place p76 ]
‘I exchanged pleasantries with a passing golfer who, unfortunately, made a complete hash of his next shot. I felt a bit guilty for having disturbed his concentration, and for all I know my intervention may have ruined his perfect round.’ [ Finding My Place p80 ]
‘I sat, lost in a reverie, in the soft centre of Kent (where I was born to be), sitting in the Vale of Kent above the River Medway: my spiritual home.’ [ Finding My Place p85 ]
‘I walked on minor roads to Rolvenden Layne , sinking down to the Rother levels, and enquired directions of an elderly man with a military air, out for his Sunday papers.’ [ Finding My Place p94 ]
‘The weather over the last few days had, in fact, been fabulous, but I must have looked a picture slogging along, with socks rolled down on walking boots, as you do. I was wearing light blue shorts, which my daughters insisted were too short and only suitable for swimming in, had a rucksack on my bare back and a rain hat to keep off the sun.’ [ Finding My Place p99 ]
‘Inside the pub, leaning on the bar, I chatted to some locals about England’s performance against the Aussies in the first test at lords; England had got off to a brilliant start by getting them out cheaply, but by the time I had left the pub England were undergoing their usual collapse.’ [ Finding My Place p125 ]
‘In the wood, I changed into shorts and I selected a friendly looking log by which to take my rousers down. I prepared meticulously so that the operation could be completed in the shortest possible time, as befits the activity. Just as I was getting organised, however, a man with an inquisitive Labrador passed by and gave me a knowing look.’ [ Finding My Place p135 ]
‘In the very bottom of the valley, at the junction of the road up to Knockmill, I lay down on a seat like a tramp and rested a while, preparing myself for the stiff climb to come: the inevitable consequence of the journey down into the valley.’ [ Finding My Place p146 ]
‘For a while, I slipped down into the edge of Funton Creek to observe the birds and sat in a vast carpet of blue-flowered statice-like plants.’ [ Finding My Place p157 ]
‘I decided to wait and see if the pub opened at 12.30. I sat outside and endured one last sweep of rain, before plucking up the courage to knock at the door. An old crone poked her head out of an upstairs window and told me to go away, saying the pub didn’t open at lunch time. What a way to run a pub, I thought.’ [ Finding My Place p162 ]
‘Hereabouts, the river meandered through lush green pastures and, while crossing a wooden bridge over the river, I was hugged by a friendly herd of Freisian cows. Seen up close, I am always amazed at the size of these animals.’ [ Finding My Place p166 ]
‘I then managed to get pinned up against the fence by horse riders avoiding a passing car, and I became conscious of how large and powerful these animals are, and how easy it would be for a careless hoof to break my leg.’ [ Finding My Place p193 ]
‘I arrived at the station just in time to get the last steam train to Wittersham Halt. The carriage was full of day-trippers returning to Tenterden. During the journey, I was repeatedly distracted from my main purpose (observing the gentle valley of the river Rother sliding past) by a family sharing seats in the train. They seemed intent on including me in their happy day out, and I rewarded their generous inclusiveness by squashing a wasp against the window that was causing distress to the younger members of the party.’ [ Finding My Place p198 ]
‘Along the way, I spoke to a farmer who shadowed me suspiciously across fields in his Land Rover. He then drove on ahead and opened a gate for me as if he were ushering me off his land, and I thanked him for his consideration.’ [ Finding My Place p214 ]
‘Just as I returned to the road with mud on my boots, the heavens opened again. I hurriedly and clumsily dragged on my waterproof trousers, getting the mud from my boots up the insides of the trousers.’ [ Finding My Place p228 ]
‘By Court Lodge Farm, I had an unfortunate accident; while climbing over a metal five-barred gate, the bottom rung gave way, and I dropped six inches and caught my ribs on the top bar. I was badly winded for a while and suffered from the consequences of bruised ribs for a couple of months afterwards.’ [ Finding My Place p232 ]