I don’t know how else to move the fates on now and push Dragon In The Post forward, except to stretch some muscles before I set off next Monday from Winchester to Eastbourne. I know a three mile round trip walk into Arlesford is hardly pushing it (climbing St Catherine’s Hill tomorrow though), but with a hazel wand in hand and looking like a twit, it’s all freeing too: Watching the cooling change in the weather, after torrential rain these past few days, wondering about light-weight food, imaging how I should break up the walk and generally mixing dread with excitement. So to young deer grazing by the watercress beds, astonishing mountains of cloud worthy of Rannoch’s journey through hope and despair in Fire Bringer (soon to be republished, thanks to what we’ve achieved already at 72% funded) and that carcass of a dead bird on the tarmac I passed before, beginning to return to our primordial soup. A very flattened feeling, if feeling is the right word, when there isn’t any left. An eagle was riding the thermals too though, heron elegantly guarding their spots on the Itchen and with the wheat fields nearly cut for the harvest, all well in the world.
Is it cynical to mix my own project with trying to raise a bit of sponsorship money for the RNIB – The Royal National Institute for The Blind? I don’t think so, and something is better than nothing, if I’m doing the bloody thing anyway. S kindly did a chalk sign in my local pub and if it has no effect on Dragon In The Post, I can do it for another reason too. Also for the fun of writing it up though, having a go, mixed with a vague despair, so rubbed in by the desultory attitude of The Hampshire Chronicle recently – damn their humdrum eyes. Does it mean that either no one will be reading, or wishing disaster on the whole mad enterprise with a typical small county sneer? In fact, since I can see something of a readership in the searches and hits on this site, I know a few people are reading. But why, why!?
To see perhaps if they are exposed for the Hot Fuzz secrets of a wayward Hampshire Life? To find inspiration in my Hardyesque mastery of a country eye? To share a little in some sense of mutual life adventure? Who knows and honestly who cares, except that sometimes I wish people would listen a little harder. Then comes the delight of ‘projects’, for charity or anything else, dissolving into fun encounters and chance meetings, which any walk should be about too – R the wildflower pirate and his girlfriend, who said, as I rounded the bend into their yard on the way home, that she had been wondering about the odd bod down the pub trying to crowd fund a book, just three minutes before. A bit like the blog on Facebook today about a mum whose daughter had dreamt of someone called Robin Williams, only to wake to discover the awful news! Then my immediate neighbour turned up to feed her recently broken horse Marmite sandwiches (keeps off the ticks apparently) and resist my disreputable efforts to get her co-stabler to let me ride her mount. How hard it seems to have an adventure these days! Delightful as she is, she insists that I’m a man with more leisure than sense, more money too (though she is wrong about both, sadly) and that a walk is pointless and I should come up with carefully targeted marketing strategies, before it all ends on August 27th. Yes, perhaps,but it isn’t quite the point of a long fight with publishers and the Internet, and something that is about trying for some connection, as much as anything else. Nor of my very conscious strategy to have some fun and experience, to share that too, rather than endlessly complaining about some people’s meanness, or why we have stopped listening to each other.
I should tell her that my devilish plan, for what it’s worth, is this: To walk for myself and sheer enjoyment, to not fret too much about how hard it is to ‘sell’ an idea and to have a blast. Meanwhile, of course, behind every hedgerow, in the windiest coppices, perched on their chairs of high opinion down the local pubs and sizzling the bacon of their own hopes and dreams, not to mention some natural Schadenfreude, the dream is thousands of Hampshire folk will turn to watch a week’s walk to Beachy Head and a Countdown to project success or failure and intervene at just the right moment too. I’ve lost all hope my compatriots will walk a bit, or rise from their beds to meet me in Eastbourne with ticker tape and prolonged applause, but I know this, on this Hampshire walk I won’t be entirely lonely either.
David Clement-Davies sets out to walk the South Downs Way next Monday, August 18th. A small charity element has been written into the £50 pledge at Indiegogo.com but you can sponsor him purely for the charity too, by writing to this blog or to David’s pages on Facebook. We are at 72% funded on Dragon In The Post with 15 days to go and you can support a book and publishing project now by CLICKING HERE