WRESTLING DRAGONS ON CORFU AND QUESTIONING THE FISH!

photo (2) Hello, I haven’t run away with the cash, nor spent it celebrating the new United harmony of the British peoples, convinced the Welsh and the real Celts were always the warmest and the best, but flown off to live cheap on Corfu and write Dragon In The Post! Fire Bringer is coming too, thanks to you, although I have a lot to say about the packaged awfulness of Amazon and Createspace, while I’m pondering whether to try and Crowd Fund Light of The White Bear too, giving Phoenix Ark the USP (Unique Selling Point – eeeew) of being the only little publisher to be truly grass roots and completely Crowd Funded. Along with the tag line “The author they couldn’t kill!” I know it might strike terror in the hearts and wallets of backers, not to mention my own, but it would also make a grass roots publishing tale entirely real. Would it work though and how painful would it be?

But is the question now, never go back? I say it because after a lovely few days, following 15 solid days of rain out here and now sharp, Greek sun across that sparking blue, things are not as they seemed or were. The charming waiter on the little island of Vidos, opposite Corfu town, has vanished, to be replaced by a sullen old timer slamming down ashtrays, while I found the beautiful groved restaurant overlooking the sea, at Aloniki Bay, where we had a lovely home cooked lunch when I first arrived too years ago. Yet only to be jipped a vast 14 Euros on the tiny, oily, boggle-eyed fish. Ah me, all is change and sometimes too fast. It seems embarrassing and petty to complain when everyone is going through it, and the nice owner made some amends when he said ‘come back and eat free next time – if you don’t have the fish!” yet it troubled the perfection of this magic isle. But the place is beautiful and rich as ever, Prospero’s Isle, work is being done and the answer is, ever forward, with stories and real life too.

The picture is DCD’s, of the fishy grove and a writer’s lunch table, where at least some postcards have been written!

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QUEEN OF THE SCOTS, QUEEN OF THE WELSH?!

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My, it rather pisses me off to hear on the news tonight, mixed in with the music from the Mel Gibson film Braveheart, that Elizabeth II has both English and Scottish ruling ancestors, as though Wales had never played a role in the United Kingdom at all. Although it was equally interesting to hear that Alex Salmond had said he wanted the Queen as Head of State in Scotland and ‘Queen of the Scots’. Perhaps an echo of that tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots who in the 16th Century become the focus of so many plots against Elizabeth I and met her fate via the headsmen, after such agonised doubt from the Queen, her cousin. Perhaps one of the greatest monarchs to sit on the English throne though, Elizabeth I, that ‘Virgin Queen’ whose image with the Reformation came to supplant the Catholic cult of The Virgin Mary, if such a thought is not politically incorrect. But of course Elizabeth I was from a dynasty that came to power after the battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard III sustained those now much discussed head injuries, and from a line that was half Welsh – the Tudors. In that sense Wales conquered England in 1485. The Tudors though, highly schooled in both Latin and Greek, would turn to Ancient Rome for a political ideology that helped a country find its confidence, so extraordinarily realised in the language of Shakespeare, and sent out a new breed of mercantile Capitalist adventurers to conquer the World, or put it up for sale.

Yet it was Elizabeth I’s grandfather’s Henry VII’s ruthless political realpolitik too that saw the almost immediate repression of the Welsh language, to carry right down to the late 19th Century with children being humiliated in Welsh schools in having to wear The Welsh Knot, a board slung on a rope around their necks if they spoke their own tongue. One that has proved far stronger and more of a living language than Gaelic, perhaps marking the stamp of the Welsh love affair with poetry, language and song. So to a friend’s question yesterday as to whether the Welsh resent the fact that the flag of Wales and that Red Dragon is not incorporated into the flag of The United Kingdom. In political and heraldic terms it is because Wales and England were already considered part of the same kingdom long before that act of Union with Scotland in 1801, thus the first son of the English Monarch being invested as The Prince of Wales at Caernarvon. Mind you, in all cultural identities there is a great deal that can be completely bogus, like the invention of the Tartan, the idealisation of Scotland by a Victorian monarchy and indeed that highly entertaining but historically inaccurate film Braveheart. The flag of Wales is of course my own favourite, barring the fact I still believe in a United Kingdom, in the richness and importance of a shared history and Culture that also acknowledges we are also all just human animals on a troubled planet. Which, whatever happens in the result of the Scottish Independence vote tomorrow, might be strengthened by more knowledge of and greater understanding and respect for our mutual cultural histories. Perhaps a Welsh Dragon will start to stir again too, if Wales does not have oil, had a terrain that was far easier to subdue than Scotland and was long sat on by the English Marcher Lords, always finding its identity in a far greater internalisation and sense of that sometimes fatal melancholy the Welsh call Hyraeth. Well, cheer up Wales, perhaps we’ll have to wake up to a Queen of the Welsh too, while we all wake up or don’t to war in the East and Middle East, Ebola, change, death and the rest! How about not just a United Kingdom, but a United Planet?!

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SCOTLAND, INDEPENDENCE, GREAT BRITAIN AND THE IMPORTANCE OF NO

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On the eve of this crucial vote what questions are we asking about Scotland, if those in Northern Ireland, England and Wales have a right to ask too? Perhaps a bit of history, and from Edmund Shakespeare’s time, might help. It was in 1607, the year of Shakespeare’s brother’s death, that a Scots King, James I, on the throne of England for only four years, failed in his vision of a ‘Greate Britaigne’, and an attempt to unite Scots and English laws, despite changing the flags. An Act of Union did not take place for nearly 200 years, in 1801, and after both a Civil War and that ‘Glorious Revolution’ that had brought Willian of Orange to the throne. None of those Scots monarchs though were especially laudable, despite the high romance of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the ’45. In the meantime, out of an Elizabethan genius, in a country that never had an Empire, and after the long and gradual loss of France, England sailed out to both explore and conquer the World, with a new mercantile imperialism founded in the City of London that was defined by those East and West India companies. Which built a rather unique Empire too, founded both in the idea of trade and law, with very many flaws, for sure, and yet, especially if we accept the idea of Capitalism at all and that always essentially privatised enterprise, a far better track record than many equivalent powers and Empires. Far more than my homeland of Wales, that truly suffered both from English repression and contempt and never had the Welsh Dragon incorporated into the flag (pause for thought for Dragon In The Post), Scottish genius and enterprise played its role in that too, just as it had an Enlightenment at home. It also involved poverty and cruelty and a Scottish world diaspora, much influenced by the fact or truth of English land ownership in the North.

But what are we really asking now, in a modern world that may need and benefit from kinds of devolution, and those local parliaments that have given cultures greater autonomy and identity, but which is also seeing such calamities of conflict, fear and hatred Worldwide? Do we really need to take that ‘Great’ out of Great Britain and further undermine a United Kingdom, as well as that ‘Mother of Parliaments’ at Westminster, when this highly opportunistic attempt at Independence by the likes of Alex Salmond has been badly thought through, with no plans for an army, nor a currency nor a true discussion of the costs and benefits of the entire enterprise? Not only are companies talking of moving back to that financial hub in London, but if oil prices fall with new technologies, or when those resources decline, the kind of plans Scotland’s ‘Yes Men and Women’ have will see resources drawn down to government both by cuts, that have already happened with the SNP, but raised taxes. It is in fact British money that has underwritten the progressive social policies like free University education. Isn’t it telling too that the likes of UKIP leader Nigel Farage should want an independent Scotland, furthering the kind of dangerous petty atavisms his stamp of politics indulge in? Is it not also extremely arrogant that the SNP should simply have expected to keep the pound, yet not show a similar responsibility to the future of a weakened Union, or all our voices on a highly integrated island? Countries and Kingdoms also need to find an appropriate scale, on this geographic island of ours, to be a power in the World, to find a united direction that supersedes localised interests and to talk with a truly strong or coherent voice. In the end it is not just a question of some ancient sentimentality then but the damage this will do to a rather unusual European centre in the sea, that needs to pull and work together, especially if Great Britain is that island bridge between Europe and America. It is already having echoes in tiny European regions that will not benefit the World or themselves in trying to pull away, but a Yes will lessen all of our identities and voices on a world stage. Whatever this brings up, and promises have already been made from Westminster, do not break the Union Scotland and let a new genius and sense of united confidence stand out instead.

PA PRESS

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TO THANK THE DRAGON STREET TEAM AGAIN DCD DEDICATES THE PHOENIX EDITION OF FIRE BRINGER TO YOU!

SONY DSCHi guys, just to give you a big thank you again for all your support with Dragon In The Post and, because I think actions speak louder than words, I’m now getting Fire Bringer into print but with this dedication:

“For the readers who helped a writer fight back!”

You know who you are, although everyone will have their name in the front of a Crowd Funded book. I’m going to retreat soon to write Dragon In The Post and think about what to do about Light Of The White Bear too.

DCD

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THE DRAGON ENDS AT INDIEGOGO, AT 102% FUNDED, BUT CONTINUES AT PHOENIX ARK PRESS

A very big thank you to the Street Team and everyone who supported me and the campaign!  It’s over on Indiegogo but now the adventure begins at Phoenix Ark Press.  So most of the perks available there are now available here and also linked to the project that stays up online on Indiegogo, with all our fun, talent and hard work.  People interested in still supporting, in being part of something, can go there then or be redirected to the page above here at Pre Ordering Dragon In The Post

Meanwhile it would be nice to raise some more for blind people and the 100 mile South Downs Way walk by clicking the button

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

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DRAGON IN THE POST TRIUMPHS – WE DID IT! 100% FUNDED

Fire_Cutter_-_Dragon_in_the_PostHUZZAH! THE DRAGON IS 100% CROWD FUNDED BUT CAN WE KEEP GOING, WITH 18 HOURS LEFT, CREATE A MODEL FOR FUTURE BOOKS IN THE POST AND ALSO HELP THE RNIB, AFTER MY 100 MILE WALK DOWN THAT GLORIOUS SOUTH DOWNS WAY?

Thank you all, you’re brilliant! We’ve done it, or we’ve achieved that first major goal. DRAGON IN THE POST will happen and FIRE BRINGER will turn to print availability in the UK too. Where the editors so close to home could not protect classic books, or key principles surrounding the writer’s craft, you could. Now can we set sights on that wider ambition for a whole little publisher too though, other books and projects, and the exploration of crowd funding too, by a last big push and word spreading, in these 18 critical hours?

Of course the entire project, which those who have backed are a key part of, will also stay up as a record at Indiegogo, and new links will be put up before it ends. So it can also become a platform for pre-ordering and other perks this year. The story and adventure continue!

You can still “Join the story, become part of the adventure” right now of course by going straight to BUY YOUR SIGNED COPY OF DRAGON IN THE POST AT INDIEGOGO.COM

There is one other thing that would be really wonderful though and that is telling friends about my walking the South Downs Way, now 41% funded for the RNIB, and trying to raise some more money for the blind by pressing JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Thank you all so much again. Yippee!

David Clement-Davies

The painting is Yasmin Foster’s FireCutter done especially for Dragon In The Post during the campaign. Art work and films are up on the platform.

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AS THE 24 HOUR COUNTDOWN STARTS TO THE END, DRAGON IN THE POST JUMPS TO 95% FUNDED!

Fire_Cutter_-_Dragon_in_the_Post‘Woo hoo’ was what a reader cried, as she just took us to 95% funded and woo hoo indeed!  THANK YOU.  We now need just a couple of hundred pounds in the next 24 hours to take us across that finishing line to success.  Not just for me but for everyone involved in the project and then perhaps to open a door on something bigger.    How I realise this target, this real achievement through the boxed world of Social Media, is and has been such an important psychological barrier and how the reason is really belief and self belief. In fact not really being able to live in a world without a bit of magic, the kind of magic great stories are made of, the kind of challenge to how the world ‘has to be‘, that does make poets and writers the unacknowledged legislators of the world and always will, until the algorithms or top heavy power destroy us.

It’s been one hell of a fight and it ain’t over yet, not to mention having to conjure story, but at the most profound level this has truly happened because I spoke up and then because young fans and unexpected friends stood up for me. That’s a story worth telling itself.  The wound in New York went so deep no one can know, but this is part of the turning it all around. So can we do more,  in what this is about, quite as much as money, a spirit, a fire and of course a wider constituency too? That’s what it’s about –  writers and readers and only them. Do more by bringing on more backers, by spreading the word of a true little fight back against the system?  If we cross that line today, of course the whole project will stay up there in the ether and people can order a book in the post via Indiegogo.com.  We have another bonus too and that is because of time differences – why not say, since we’re telling stories, like Phileus Fogg having crossed that international date line  in the race back to the Reform Club (?) – the project does not end until early Thursday morning in the UK, August 28th. But it’s important too for me to know why this has happened and so to share three messages that came in last night on the internet:

“So happy to help fund one of my all-time favourite author’s next big adventure! Excited to be a part of this and can’t wait to meet you.”

“Hello Mr. Clement-Davies, I’m sure that you get plenty of fan mail every time that you turn around, but I’ll write you this message anyway. I knew the minute that I saw the copy of Fire Bringer in my high school library that I was looking at something special  (That book this project is helping to protect too). In fact, I walked clear across the room straight to where it was sitting on its display. I’d always been a fan of the Redwall series of books by the (sadly) departed Brian Jacques, so I was expecting about the same quality. What I didn’t expect was how much the books you have written would mean to me, not just then back in 2001, but also today. I just wanted to thank you for providing me with some of the most important, fond memories I have of reading (and also for writing about my favourite animals – wolves).  I can’t express how special your books are to me. Thanks for the great times and many hours of enjoyment your books have given me.”

“I’ll give you my first impression of your books and you tell me what you think … I’m at the time an art student age 18, high school, lover of fiction and deeper meaning: your covers are beautiful, stories deep, unique use of research and pride in literary skills usually abandoned haphazardly by others. I place you in my head among my favourite authors including Shusterman, Giaman, Asimov, CS lewis, and they all have one thing in common: perfection of the use of real knowledge and revelation in visually stunning imaginary worlds!”

Thank you all again, beginning with a Street team, and we are nearly there!  You can join the adventure right now too by going to Indiegogo.com and ORDERING YOUR SIGNED COPY OF DRAGON IN THE POST!

DCD

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THE ACHIEVEMENT OF DRAGON IN THE POST, ELTON JOHN AND THE FAITH OF READERS NOW!

Fire_Cutter_-_Dragon_in_the_Post12_001Do you know how frustrating it is being so close to a goal, small as it is at 4.5k, but 89% funded with under 40 hours to go, yet so many of the people who visit these pages not caring or doing anything. This has been a long fight, sometimes too much about a battle with mainstream publishing, than the life act of writing and storytelling itself. Seeing though, in the noise of the internet which is effecting us all, such little concern for the proper payment of a craft or protection of contracted authors. I’m referring to America but also a promotional campaign during the last crowd funding effort, that asked for support of future books, as it gave out free eBooks. Which saw no support at all, yet something like 8000 eBooks downloaded. What’s the point of saying it’s not good enough? Actually it’s tragic.

That aside, I haven’t complained this time at the pain and impotence of trying to push through, as you watch a clock tick down. Instead I’ve tried to share, encourage, find a way and tell a real life story in blogs. A team of elves have supported and kept pushing, and we really have gone amazingly far, considering how hard it is, to a wonderful £3900 and 73 backers! Is that really going to fail in the last few hours though, or are you going to support something that is quite unique? If it is just a commercial equation there are very good perks up at Indiegogo; the chance of a unique signed copy of Dragon In The Post, a copy of Clare Bell’s Ratha’s Creature, many others and the sense if we could prove this model we could do many other things. In once sense it is upside down, because it’s the story that matters. Yet this has happened because of the breaches of faith in New York and London, such a terrible battle, so filled with hypocrisy, then being swallowed like so many now by the Emperor’s New Clothes of the Internet. So this involves some leap of faith by readers that, with your belief, I can again write a wonderful story, a bit like Elton John saying he could turn anything to music. I need that energy, even if you only like the gem of an eggbox and the dragon idea or believe individual stories and writers should be applauded. Perhaps we all need to see art can be crowd funded to open spirits and make it happen some more.

So with hours to go now, flap some dragon wings please, find some fire in the belly, the passion that make authors risk the life of writing and talk a leap of faith by BACKING DRAGON IN THE POST TOO

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THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY’S HAPPY END, CROWD CAPITALISM AND A DRAGON HAS UNDER 65 HOURS TO GO!

horse (5)This photo of the chalk horse is for Steph, DCD walked as hard as Les Miserables for Kelly, he went with gentle irony for Justin, he spread his wings for Yasmin, he watched kites for Sol, he told stories for Jonathan, he quoted Stevenson for Di, he kept talking and trying for Sheila and he applauded the Ice Bucket challenge for Laura, all of whom have kept standing up for him, when others didn’t. You’ve really made the Street Team and those needed thanks to others too is yet to come.

You can make a difference now too to Dragon In The Post, in these racy last hours, by BACKING DRAGON IN THE POST AND PHOENIX ARK PRESS

You can help the blind by taking the £50 Perk or just sponsor a completed 100 mile walk for the RNIB by pressing JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

DAY SIX

Hooray! It’s a really glorious feeling crossing those great white hunchbacks that edge the bleached blue sea at Eastbourne, those rightly named Seven Sisters, that end at the steadily eroding Burling Gap, to stop at last on Beachy Head and look back on another brilliantly clear blue day. It seemed as if I could really see back across all those hundred miles traversed and straight to Winchester, in the West, once a capital town of ancient Wessex and the Treasury of England. Now I should study the maps, fill out the blogs (with so much missed), put up three little films I made to Facebook and The Indiegogo Gallery too and leave some kind of useful or perhaps inspiring record for anyone wanting to walk the South Downs Way themselves. I think I’ll try to ‘publish it’ and keep on trying to raise money for the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Meanwhile, on the way I came up with a new term for what crowd funding might be about, in the future and an age of such impossible capital differentials. Not America’s hated socialism, not just a shop front window on the internet for the same as ever, but some new idea for a way forward where money is an inevitable part of the scenery but where some new spirit and awareness needs to develop alongside- Crowd Capitalism. What do you think?

But I did it, pack on back, hazel staff in hand, trying to have a go with Dragon In The Post too and I’m chuffed. I blogged it all as I went, even if few were reading, which you can read now by scrolling down or clicking on the page above – “The Winchester Chronicles”. Of course the lack of a ticker-tape parade at the end, or any thronging, cheering supporters, dressed in Dragon costumes, (I call it the James and The Giant Peach Syndrome) can lead to a little deflation. Or perhaps it’s a lack of contributions from folk I encountered on the walk, for a book or charity, who I told my story to. Or that’s mostly coming back into the dizzy, preoccupied world, that really started after winding out from Dean’s Place hotel, after a super-powered, fuller-than-English breakfast, meaning I ate everything. Along the little river Cuckmere, passed that mysterious chalk horse no one knows the name of, through aptly named Litlington and down to the estuary where the Seven Sisters National Park begins and the green fields suddenly exploded with bank holiday trippers, chasing dogs, children, kayakers and of course the cars and buses rattling noisesomely between Eastbourne and Brighton – nyawwwwwgn!

You start to dissolve back into the unremittingly ordinary, dare I say humdrum, the doplar shift of time and life and death. Which every traveller knows the sigh of on their return, like that Stevenson inscription on the Toby Stone on Stanes ‘Street’ – “home is the sailor home from the sea and the hunter home from the hill”. Yet especially from real walkers, there’s a knowing smile or greeting if you are carrying a pack and walking stick and look a little foot sore and many “well done’s” from folk I told, with a real glint of admiration in their eyes. No time for laughing, trendy Japanese tourists then finding the sight of windswept me very griggly – which means a bit of raughing at a weary sigh. “I’m not weary,” I cried indignantly “I just came 100 bloody miles!” No time for the irritating scruff of the traveller at Eastbourne Station either, as I asked about the absurdly long Sunday service, (over three hours, with two changes, although partly because I refused to go back more expensively to London to get to Winchester) and who quipped “Walk it the mate, will only take a week.” “I’m not your mate, mate, and I just did, in six days.” But that put me back in the world too, as did the genteel Eastbourne ticket lady objecting to my cussing. “Oh please, I wasn’t bloody swearing at you and don’t be so bloody provincial.” Still, it was good to stop half an hour in Brighton, since I’ve never been and to touch the still fizzy, saucy picture postcard, Quadrophenia feel of the merry place.

But people’s approval at coming a 100 milles reminded me of that wunderlust back in Tich, something very deep in the blood, from friends who suddenly wished they were coming too, or were out there having their own adventure, an instinct as old and primitive as being free, or wanting to conquer the world. Before you do such a thing, a kind of imagined map in the head develops of possibilities, dangers, ‘anything could happens‘, needed kit or warning notes, but the best is gaining the experience and knowledge of it all and sharing it too. Which is why I was annoyed with myself for moments of un-self-reliance, when I stopped thinking and looking and asked others instead. It seemed to lead to two big mistakes. First the day before yesterday when I went storming off too far south towards the sea, after a cracking and perhaps over confident morning. It had brought me back up to Black Cap, then to the sharp turn south ,above Ashcombe Bottom, to the campsite and weird blue-tied security guards sitting reading The Sun in their unmarked car, outside Housedean Farm. Were they spotting for drugs, protecting the Telscombe’s judge’s family out for a night’s wild camping or trying to cheer up the lonely looking fellow humping his solitary tent back to Brighton. The truth is you can sense a lot of loneliness in people too in their travels and wrestles with the wild. I saw my first seagulls tipping down that hill, and several often sullen looking young camping groups, as well as a pure white cow, not quite as noble as Shadowfax or the deer in Fire Bringer. That farm lies on the thundering A27, where I took a photo of the South Downs Way sign for Facebook, backed by the nasty motorway, then crossed the bridge. So up and out again onto the escarpment, blustery now with a more threatening breath of the sea, and massing clouds, un-wondering whether or not there was any ominous meaning in cows half standing up, half lying down. It’s sitting back in doors in the remorselsy damp of Winchester’s chilly, pre-autumn drizzle that I realise how incredibly lucky I was last week with the weather, and how miserable those downs could very quickly become, caught in a storm, or blown into over emotional shapes on the way, like the trees on the down-tops sculpted into wave forms by the wind. That’s how they grow and how we grow sometimes too, since all exists in its element.

So out passed Loose Bottom, down Jugg’s Road, by Slump Bottom, with posh Lewes to the East, reminding me of the nice bloke in the George and Dragon that lovely sunny lunchtime in Houghton and thoughts of Black Tie picnics at Glyndebourne too, to Swanborough Hill by Home and Long Bottom. That made me think of a children’s series years back about War Time refugee kids in long grey shorts meeting a Mrs Gotobed, in a place called Granny’s Bottom – so coming up with the laughing cry “Go to bed, in Granny’s bottom!” Tee hee. That made me ponder my flatmate Norm’s puns back home though and hurry on to Beachy head. I am almost sure now it was at Swanborough Hill I must have missed the sign and tipped off too far south, after some guy on his Mobile Ap said Southease was 2.8 miles away, but all down hill from here. The truth is I was really trying to tell him about Dragon In the Post, but I took the wrong Down, down the wrong hill! That extended bit of the Way was repaired by Roger and Hazel though, elder walkers as tough as ferrets, who marched me back passed the young stud horses, through the charming village of Telscombe, where that important security guarded judge lives, according to Roger, though centred for big cases in Lewes, and where there is also a neglected Youth Hostel. They kindly pointed out the road again at the motor cross circuit on the hill. Looking at the map now it is 2 miles, so my total detour must have been six. Yet any irritation I’d got it wrong so close to the end, or that long metalled roads just hurt more, was eased by eating wild apples o, and the fact that the sun seemed to blaze again and the weather clear as soon as I got back on The South Downs Way. It felt like magic. It snaked me towards the River Ouse in the valley and so to really charming Southease, with its little railway line beyond, worthy of the Watercress Line back in Arlesford. It wasn’t the newness of the hostel there that appealed, although it was built last year, but the pleasant farm barn style and its busy energy; the original way it’s done too, for adults and children. Like the giant Connect Four set in the garden or the interesting information about nearby Ramdeen, haunt of Virginia Wolf and that Bloomsbury Set we are clearly failing (though not entirely) to re-start back home in Tichborne. So, after the sweet girl in the cafe extended her hours to make me a delicious toasted ham and cheese banquette, with a bottle of larger, irritating her grumpy, plump table wiping colleague and my continued struggles with my draining mobile phone, trying to contact a friend, at 5pm came the momentous decision whether to stay here, or march on over the top for the six and a half miles to Alfriston.

I’m glad I did, if it was quite a hike, because the girl’s remark that “I wouldn’t get the satisfaction” if I cheated a little with a cab was absolutely right. Besides, I wouldn’t have met a young man in a Macmillan Cancer t-shirt who had just run 48 Miles in a day from Woking, training for real charity raising, nor a sweet girl with her black mongrel about to walk up Beddingham Hill. Either youth, hope or memory stepped in there, because she was quite wrong that it was only twenty minutes over Firle Beacon to Alfriston – the long evening journey down Bostal Hill took a good forty minutes. But so to private recitations of Gray’s Elegy In A Country Churchyard about drowsing tinklings lulling the too-distant, bloody folds, among the fish eyed sheep, a warm, golden evening, that stealthy fox and the growing shadows of over Alfriston, long before the sun set on the hill, nestled as it is into the darkling folds of the valley. It is an odd place, surrounded with wealthy modern homes, several with Solar Panelled rooves, pompously named driveways and sleek, rich cars, but with a very old centre. So it was a delight to pass The George Inn and see a sign saying its beer licence had been granted back in 1597. That year Shakespeare bought New Place in Stratford, six months after his 11 year old son Hamnet’s death, his brother Edmund was just seventeen, and in the beery, bear-baiting, brothelly reaches of semi-outlaw Southwark, the Rose theatre was still working hard by Winchester Palace in London. While the Swan theatre in Paris Gardens was closed for the summer for staging that lewd and seditious Ben Jonson Play “The Isle of Dogges“. Shakespeare’s troupe had triumphed North of the river in Shoreditch though, their new patron Lord Carey had been enrolled in The Order of the Garter, to become Lord Chamberlain too and for which Will probably wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor, set with Falstaff at the Garter Inn. Two years later The Globe would go up in 1599, after the troupe dismantled the wood from The Theatre and took it south of the river. If the bod at Deans Place is right about the super rich Record Producer’s raves in his mansion nearby though, or the steamy inter marital goings on in the finest hotels, then England is as thankfully as lewd as ever, to be gently reprimanded by Shakespeare’s pricking Fairies. In Shakespeare lust is not the crime, betrayal is.

So to that astonishing purple-blue misty morning yesterday, on walking day six – allowing time out to return to Southampton, and the last push. Not exactly a push, because from Alfriston it all seems to hurry towards you instead and sweep you back into the tide – that was the river, this is the sea. The second irritation at asking the way though was the irritating nasal bloke who stopped with his mates and went on and on and on about what you might see or miss, as the South Downs Way seemed to split into many little tracks here, like its own estuary, then who came out with clunking guide-book phrases like “very historic Alfriston“, or the vital importance of the Long Man of Wilmington too. Which you can only do if you take the eastern track around the Seven Sisters Reserve. The choice of seeing that is balanced against that un-named chalk horse though and the beauty of meandering along the Cuckmere instead at the valley bottom. I confess to a mile’s cheat too by hopping a lift with a Swedish redhead, but even in times of yore they wanted an adventure and I like testing the hitch hiker spirit. So to the sea and up, up, onto those roller-coastal Downs again. As you look along of course, at the Dove- white edges and back along the snaking Down tops to Winchester too, with true pride, you again remember that’s what the Downs you have just crossed are – billions of years of steadily accreting crushed sea shells, chalk, eroded and sculpted by wave and then wind, and given a thin and so very recent layer of earth and grass, farm and housing, forms and passing meanings. Who can remember it all? All being eroded too, as everything is really moving and changing, like the houses at Burling Gap, below the little light House where they shot The Lives and Loves of a She Devil, that are year by year falling into the sea. No wonder the South Downs Way is so clearly marked with wooden signs, to give even more poignancy to those mournful wooden crosses and flowers memorialising sadder endings at Beachy Head, saying CLIFF EDGE. But there, it’s done and it was great.

David Clement-Davies set out on Monday last and reached the absurdly busy Beachy Head Pub on Sunday August 24th, 2014, around 4pm.

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A LITTLE LOST ON THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY!

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A short blog, although it’s been amazing again, because mind are body are too tired to say anything very interesting. Several times on this walk I’ve been close to good tears, at the freedom or loveliness around, but this time it’s both tears of frustration and exhaustion. Because of all the times to get lost on the South Downs Way this wasn’t it and though there’s so much poetry to paint, sliding off the Downs too soon towards the sea ended in a detour that added six miles and probably made the total walk twenty two miles.

It’s not that though, holed up here in the nice and rather interesting Deans Place Hotel in Alfriston, as a wedding party thumps into the night, it’s the beauty, drama and tiredness but also asking why this project has been SO hard. Then I’ve long been saying how Social Media has created a world of folk talking mostly to themselves with the pretence of being ‘published’ out there, because it brings all the stress of media but little of the real power or connection. At least we have done some brilliant things. There is so much to say, following the route from Black Cap, off Harry’s Hill, at first at around 3 miles an hour, and at last to the brilliant new YHA at Southease, detour involved, beyond the River Ouse. This is Virginia Wolf and Bloomsbury Set country and if you’re foolish enough to believe in easy demographics the folk at the Youth Hostel were rather smart, just as many older people use them for affordable holidays!

Then came trying to meet up with a friend and walking over the recovered way for three hours, to arrive here by sunset. Of course going west to East it was right at my back. You start to believe, like some medieval pilgrim, with blogs and meeting people, that it is all somehow connected, having some affect, but then you go online again! SO PLEASE COME AND BACK DRAGON IN THE POST BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

Hey Ho, the walking has been lonely, lovely, stirring, strange and beautiful, like all the lives you come across, and coming off the hill the Western sun stretched huge shadows over the stubble corn fields and the world glowed. A fox crossed the road and looked back, near grown calves nuzzled their mom’s bellies, nervous of these weird passing humans, trying to avoid the spattered cow pats, men sat on hill tops above the River Ouse, radio controlling their gliders and the world went on regardless. The wash of browns, greens and blues turns these rolling downs into static waves, and in the distance the light on the sea winks at you like a challenge.

Getting lost, by tipping too far South on this badly signed part of the Way, too close to the sea, was very hard on the thighs, yet I bumped into Roger and Hazel, who put me straight, saw a galloping horsewoman thundering up a slopping field, two women collecting plums in a church courtyard, motor cross bikers burning up the air at a chalky training circuit and a sudden stomp of Ramblers, or whatever the collective noun! We should all be so lucky to get so lost, more often. Then, whatever your apparent woes, there is Mother Nature. So here, beyond the croquet lawn and interesting bits of art to the river Ouse behind the hotel, 5.30 this morning saw a perfect frosty mist rising blue over the damp and secret greens and everything was lovely again. Apparently Alfriston is arty, bitchy, eccentric and very monied, but as we know that doesn’t easily get donated to books or dragons. Much to say, much to look back on today, but maybe climbing the Seven Sisters to finally reach Eastbourne will recharge some batteries and that achievement will never go. The blogs too are their own record of a journey, I’ll expand in time, while if no sudden tipping point has happened, it’s through no want of trying or ideas and I have done everything I said I’d do. Maybe the magic power of that ring of stones left by the Way marker above Alfriston will make something happen by this Wednesday or maybe only the journey matters.

DCD

David stayed courtesy of the Deans Place Hotel, Alfriston, which has 36 en suite bedrooms in very nice grounds, with local art, minature golf and a croquet lawn. Contact telephone 01323 870248. mail@deansplacehotel.co.uk

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