What was I doing today lurking suspiciously in the churchyard of St Giles-in-the-Fields in London? The explanation was the man with a yellow-tipped microphone from BBC Radio 4 who was doing a programme on Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress. Having written Marvell's biography in 1999 I was being interviewed at the church where the poet was buried in 1678. We started outside, setting the scene, and remarking that "in-the-fields" was not quite the right term for this church behind Tottenham Court Road and a stone's throw from Tin Pan Alley with a grinding set of road works outside replacing the Victorian water pipe system. It was a relief to get inside the church and have our chat about the poem in front of the poet's memorial. But before we did so I noticed that the recording equipment was laid out on a gravestone. What did that remind me of? Yes, Marvell's poem itself where he urges his mistress to seize the moment for pleasure because after death it will be too late: "The grave's a fine and private place/But none I think do there embrace."
The programme, in the Adventures in Poetry slot, will be broadcast on Sunday 21st October.