Callum Ruddock

In the words of Oliver Briscoe:

Callum Ruddock wants to write, travel writing, and in-fact he does write; about himself, about the kind of young men who wear Breton shirts, rounded spectacles under lightly curled locks, and date second generation, Iranian expatriate, French girls. He is from Oxford, his father was working class but now they are intellectually bourgeois.

After reading one of my early articles, Callum had asked our editor to put us in touch (I had no social media). We met for coffee in a converted Edwardian public bathroom, as only Bristol and perhaps Shoreditch have. After fifteen minutes he wanted a drink, so did I. His family have a house in L’Occitanie, he was throwing a party, with that, having met once, I was invited and agreed to go.

As we finished our pints, in the glint of his greek signet ring I could see his scene. That nomadic set; costume parties on Parisian balconies, friends in Japan. A dozen of hip young people with bastard backgrounds, not so eurotrash, more cosmopolitan, whose money came from serious parents working in serious jobs 'Father is a special delegate to this, mother works in the embassy doing that, we came here with the IMF, I have lived in Turkey, Nicaragua and Ghana, now we’re in Geneva.’ All holding cigarettes, sexually liberated, lithe, androgynous bodies, confused maybe, with bourgeois affections and all a bit socialist. Callum was a bit socialist. I could easily imagine the weekend, him introducing me, babbling nonchalantly from his cherub’s lips, which always seemed to glisten, to all the random young people he had met and gathered. Covid cancelled this little southern hodgepodge, but he was itching in Oxford, desirous to go, trying to write.

He then thought that we, with no prospects of a job, should go South anyway and tour Italy, to ‘smoke cigars and drive fast cars.’ I was inclined to agree; taken by the rolling pictures of us along the coast. Somewhere a village prostrate on the hillside, rising up, exalting a small fortress and a tower which crowns the hill, erect over a white, stoney pinnacle.

Not that I had told anyone I was going, nor had I any money for it, and I am not sure he was sure either, but L’ Occitanie is not far from Italy and with Callum, his rosy cheeks, and cocked, eager stare; the francophile who drops French tail-ends like Tolstoy and who wants to be Hemingway; I could not say no to Italy. ︎

Oliver Briscoe

In the words of Callum Ruddock:

Unlike me, Oliver is a serious writer. Serious in that he writes with a clear conscience, making what he writes true. It is good to be true - he has told me that many times. It is also clear to me that he takes great pleasure in writing. On one of his famed trips to Cornwall, Oliver retreats to play God and form a world view with his pen. In pursuit of some literary Eden, and with a story in mind, he gleefully fires an email my way subject headed, ‘don’t be too alarmed’.

What he writes is not alarming. It is rich and descriptive in a way that my prose is not. He knows well the line between fictionalising non-fiction and making it all up. Where I am jet set, he is rugged and capable. Where I want for terraces; he wants to be “shot at”. It’d make for a good story he tells me, and I’m obliged to agree. So, I imagine him dripping in khaki, cigar in hand – a cliché of a trope, of a romance, of a reality. Because Oliver, with his journal neatly tucked under one arm; whose upbringing has lent him a good handful of civility, and whose rebellious streak has served him well enough, is the bold adventurous writer we imagine when we read his work.

With a signature cheeky smile, he shrugs off my concerns and drinks to our cause. He so clearly sees what needs to be seen; united in our desire to provide a voice to the likes of us. Ways of doing and being - a reportage for the world.

“Sorry I’ve got to dash and pick up a new pair of tweed trousers” he politely declares as he puts down the phone. Like a brisk wind, he’s off in his land rover, clad in Barbour, over the Cornish hills to fetch his latest shopping order. I am yet to see Oliver in anything but formal clothes; always perfectly creased and starched. I like him that way. It suits him. He lives well in it.

Our alliance began with my head in the pages of Epigram. A piece about Paris on strike, finally a writer who could write. Oliver, the one-time wildlife ranger, banana farmer, and surfer, who listens with great intensity, is always generous, and wants to travel - the greatest quality anyone might have.

In the age of the computer we need someone like Oliver, whose assured competence and pace makes poetry of the things we as the reader do not know of, or knew we cared for. Here is to the times we are looking forward to, faithfully retold in the pages of Chargé d’affaires. ︎