‘The Law locks up man or woman. That steals the goose from off the common. But lets the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”

Not quite the sentiment one might expect to hear coming from the lips of former Tory MP Matthew Parris, it has to be said.

Actually, Parris, host of Great Lives (Radio 4, Tuesday), was reading from a mug he was drinking from while sitting on a houseboat belonging to illustrator, writer and campaigner for land access Nick Hayes. They were discussing the great life in question – that of writer and environmentalist Roger Deakin, “a craggy Green Man type figure”, Hayes suggested.

Deakin, best known for his book Waterlog, one of the foundation texts of contemporary nature writing, came from suburbia. He was an adman in 1960s London who then dropped out, embraced self-sufficiency, made his own furniture and finally published a book at the age of 57, near the end of his life.

Deakin was something of a radical. He set up a charity, Common Ground, in the 1970s which championed everyday nature and he believed in the pre-enclosure idea of the common land.

“Roger to me is the absolute opposite to a mown lawn. He is a celebration of wild diversity,” Hayes suggested.

“His friends all say he would have been part of Extinction Rebellion,” Patrick Barkham, Deakin’s biographer added. “He was an English gentleman anarchist firm in his belief that the powerful had to be kicked against. He was so much part of that sixties generation who kicked against so much.”

In short, not a natural bedmate for someone like Parris you would have thought. But though the Great Lives host raised an eyebrow to much of this, that was about the extent of his disapproval. Maybe he just wanted to stick to broadcast neutrality. Or maybe he didn’t feel the need.

Because though Deakin was a fascinating man, he was clearly a difficult one too.

“There’s definitely a Saint Roger image today. He’s this green patron saint and seen as perfect,” Barkham admitted. But that was far from the whole story, he added.

“His personal life, his relationships with women, were constantly difficult. He was very much alone or incapable of sharing his space with anyone, apart from other species.”

At the same time, Deakin often funded himself via freelance advertising work. It was Deakin who was responsible for the memorable ad line, “Come Home to a Real Fire”; in other words advertising coal. Not so environmentally friendly after all.

But then as Nick Hayes pointed out: “He was a human being as well.” Aren’t we all?

On Radio 2 last weekend James King talked to film director Sam Mendes about the soundtracks to his movies. Mendes outed himself as a post-punk and a Two-Tone fan.

He also explained how Radiohead wrote two potential James Bond theme tunes for the Mendes-directed Spectre and neither ended up being used.

There was also insight into the economics of film soundtracks. When he tried to get a Led Zeppelin track for his directorial debut American Beauty, the band’s people said: “Sure, fine, that will be a million dollars.”

Led Zepp, you will not be surprised to know, are not on the soundtrack.