Under the Hornbeams: A true story of life in the open by Emma Tarlo


Bookseller Review by Kath:

‘This is a miraculous book! For two men to live in all weathers outside in Regent’s Park and celebrate their everyday experiences, is remarkable. It could be fiction, but it is not – this is a powerful memoir of how one curious, kind anthropologist befriends these two men over a year. Their conversations together, shared over food and hot drinks which Tarlo brings to them, are quite simply illuminating. The book is a testament to how humans connect and how, we are at our best when we give time and attention to others, and to nature. Please read this – it is life affirming, and above all it sheds light upon two people whose lives are not about material success or having some remarkable talent; instead it catches your breath in its celebration of their endeavour to be allowed to live outside in a London park, without being moved on or into a hostel. Tarlo recognises their integrity and high intelligence and asks if she might share their lives in a book. Her writing is a gift to us all.’

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Nick and Pascal live and sleep outside in central London. They are an unusual duo: Nick is an avid reader of history and philosophy able to converse on any topic; Pascal is quiet, spending much of his time lying still, communicating silently with birds and animals. They have lived alongside each other in London’s streets for nearly two decades, yet do not identify as homeless. For the past five years they have taken shelter under the hornbeam trees in Regent’s Park. Emma Tarlo first meets Nick and Pascal when out walking. Gradually through the sharing of food, conversation and life stories they develop a friendship. Emma is impressed by their unique way of experiencing both the hardship and pleasures of life outside, and their conversations under the open sky prompt Emma to question many things in her own life, transforming her understanding of what freedom might look like.

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