Category Archives: Books

A FAN AND YOUNG PUBLISHER BRINGS OUT SCREAM OF THE WHITE BEAR

Well, people have enquired many times here, and it has taken eight or more years, but a fan here, supporter, young author himself and online US publisher, Jonathan Thurston, will publish SCREAM OF THE WHITE BEAR by David Clement-Davies, in 2018. Actually it is to be entitled CRY OF THE WHITE BEAR, in the spirit of a new adventure, and leaving behind the really terrible battle that was fought over it and other principals of art, law, truth and decency, with the major New York publisher Harry N. Abrams.  Which, because so much is about money over principle in the world today, has sky-rocketed to success with Young Adult books like A Diary Of A Wimpy Kind, that has sold over 180 Million copies.  The real story of its delay is probably as powerful as the book, but although David is sceptical about so much about the Internet world, or indeed how you really publish without the powers that be, or how much people are truly reading and connecting now, it is entirely appropriate that a young man of talent and passion like Jonathan tries to bring it to the world, with a quiet apology from the author for having disappointed his fans and readers for too long.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Fantasy, New York, Publishing, The Arts, The Phoenix Story, Uncategorized, Young Adult

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND A SPECIAL TOAST TO CJ SANSOM!

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Happy New Year everyone and much hope for 2015, but a special toast today to the writer CJ Sansom and his wonderful Shardlake detective stories.  Set under Henry VIII and covering the exploits of the hunchback lawyer, Mathew Shardlake, that sane, compassionate practitioner in the Court of Request at Lincoln’s Inn and ever dealing with the harm of religion, Sansom’s books are utterly convincing and totally compelling too, with all the skill of a good detective yarn, mixed in with a very serious attempt to recreate the living history of the period, with a serious approach to the vicious realities of Tudor politics. Hence his books are most fascinating for his meticulous recreation of Tudor London, both in terms of topography and social structures.

It was something Phoenix Ark had to try to do engaging in the unique work here on William Shakespeare’s youngest brother Edmund, who died in the freezing winter of 1607, at the age of only 27, and in obviously tragic circumstances too, only four months after his infant son had died, on the edges of the city.  It was in the same year that successful Shakespeare, now a ‘gentlemen’ from a grant of arms that had caused a little fracas at The College of Heralds, had married his favorite daughter Suzanna to the herbalist John Hall in his home town of Stratford. It was also the year of the suppression of ale drives in Bath and Wells by the Puritans, the performing of Hamlet by the sailors on the East Indian ship The Red Dragon, off the coast of Sierra Leone, and of the Midland Riots against the enclosures of common land too, that came close to Stratford in the month of Suzanna’s wedding.

There are many potential clues to the effect that year had on Shakespeare, not least in the play Pericles, where the hero, dealing with the riddle of incest that haunts the play, presents a crest represented by a branch that only flowers at the top.  It is very hard not to see that as a clue to the dilemma Shakespeare faced about his own status, especially in relation to that family tragedy,  since his youngest brother’s infant baby was marked down in the records by a church hand as ‘baseborn’. Many of Shakespeare’s ‘romances’ after that are concerned with themes of art’s power to achieve restoration and reconciliation, much involved with the theme of families. Edmund was buried in the dominating Southwark Church, St Saviours, now Southwark Cathedral, at a hefty cost of twenty shillings and with ‘a forenoon toll of the great bell”.

The joy of reading Sansom, although it is only in HeartStone that he begins to touch on the theme of players and the theatres, and the first permanent wooden theatre, ‘The Theatre’ in the Shoreditch, did not go up until 1575 in the reign of Elizabeth I, is his scholarly mapping of both time and place, that echoes the difficulty of seeing into that period through the records. Sansom is meticulous, although never letting it swamp the thrilling narrative, and it’s wonderful to retake a journey with him, even if discoveries here happened 50 years later. Those discoveries, although not including the place Edmund was probably staying in the Winter of 1607, The Vine tavern in Southwark, revealed that tavern was owned by Edward Hunte esquire and had once been part of the land rights, granted under Henry VI, of a local religious fraternity called The Brotherhood of Our Lady of Assumption. Their church was St Margaret’s, right on Long Southwark, effectively today’s Borough High Street, that crossed old London bridge and was the major Southern gateway into the City of London. It’s highly Catholic traditions, and the Church itself, were suppressed at the Reformation, it became a Comptor prison, a tavern that features in Hogarth’s painting of Southwark Fair and then it became the town hall. Today it is a Slug and Lettuce bar and only a little plaque on the wall remembers the Norman church that had such an astonishing history.

Part of that history was the betrayal inside the church of the Kentish rebel Jack Cade, despite the promise of pardon, under Henry VI, by the King’s chancellor and Bishop of Winchester William Waynfleete, whose huge tomb still decks Winchester Cathedral, alongside that ‘great’ Prince of The Church pilloried in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Henry Beaufort.  I am sure it would thrill CJ Sansom to pour over the Tudor records of St Margaret’s in The London Metropolitan Archives, much as they are just effectively accounts, and find proof of payments to ‘pleyers’ as far back as the mid fifteen century, both on St Margaret’s and St Lucy’s days, as well as Hoe and then Hop Mondays, in a vital beer making district.  St Margaret was of course the patron Saint of the little Church, but St Lucy’s day is now a festival honoured by Catholics on, I think, the 13th December.  The problem being that it was then the shortest day of the year, as John Donne’s poem ‘A Nocturnal on St Lucy’ proves.  Namely the Winter Solstice, and an especially Northern European festival, in an area of a great influx of ‘aliens, foreigners and strangers’ according to the antiquarian John Stowe, especially Flemings and Dutch.  The Soltice now falls on the 21/22nd of December,  we celebrated this year with dinner, but it was the new Gregorian Calendar that had been instituted by the Pope (and though more accurate was not taken up in Reformation England for another two hundred years) that made a mismatch in day calculations by as much as ten days. That ten day gap would explain the difference between the modern dating of St Lucy’s day and John Donne’s appreciation of his own times and a celebration that has deeply pagan roots and in Sweden is marked by maidens were wreath’s of flaming candles on their heads. Remember of course that Hamlet’s great spiritual and intellectual dilemma and struggle, in the murderous court of Denmark and Elsinore, is marked with the line ‘the time is out of joint, of cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right.’ Sansom’s books superbly capture how seismic those times were for the modern world, so much made out of Tudor London, and how much they put the human out of joint.

St Lucy’s day was one of the little clues that lit the magic lantern of the past then, in such a fascinating and troubled time, and such an intimate London district too. London was of course tiny in comparison to now and very rural too. Sansom’s masterful sense of fact and history does it even more, bringing an entire world to life and with a deep sense for real history.  The work on Edmund Shakespeare and London here has never been properly set down, though pinched by someone without an accreditation, who got their book into the Huffington Post bestseller lists.   It sits in the posts here and in eight notebooks now in Hampshire.  Even better then that the crackling novel now underway, HeartStone, takes Shardlake to Hampshire and Portsmouth during possible French invasion. There has been no great revelation about what Edmund Shakespeare, a player in London too, although in none of the extant lists or the First Folio, was like. Nor about the woman he sired a doomed child with up in the Morefields and buried in Cripplegate, near Shakespeare’s temporary lodgings on Silver Street.  Yet there have both been many significant echoes of Shakespeare the man and writer, from Pericles to that crucial year in his own family life, as well as important links in the historical topography of Southwark.  Sansom’s mastery only gets the juices flowing to try again then. So a toast to him and a huge recommendation to follow the adventures of the Shardlake books. Happy New Year.

PA PRESS

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THANKS TO YOU FIRE BRINGER IS BACK IN PRINT VERSION

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Thanks to the Crowd Funding team who have made Dragon In The Post possible too, which comes on apace, filled with strange mythical animals and the wild adventures of Garth Madfall, the classic fantasy Fire Bringer is now available for Christmas, in hard copy print once more, as well as in eBook format from Phoenix Ark Press. You can get a copy directly by CLICKING HERE. It is also available via Amazon US and in Germany, Italy and France.

But for the Dragon In The Post team who backed the project and David’s work at £25 or more, before the perk price was lowered during the campaign, there will of course also be a free copy of Fire Bringer winging its way to you soon. Thank you all again.

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WRITERS START TO FIGHT BACK WITH A BIT OF LITERARY FIRE?

Front CoverPart of the little victory of crowd funding the novel Dragon In The Post this year was also bringing a classic like Fire Bringer back into print availability. Here then is the new cover and back page. I have very serious reservations about Amazon’s Createspace though. Firstly the very carefully designed mechanisms to charge you more for each new ‘package’ and the lack of coordination from design teams too, having to communicate all the time through message centres, meaning errors easily creep in. Far more importantly, unlike any old fashioned publisher, Amazon take no financial risks whatsoever. Meaning that they charge you to publish your book, also taking large percentages if it succeeds, but involving no risk whatsoever if it disappears. They also set the minimum price, which I think should be challenged by monopoly commissions, not least because of Amazon so gloating, when I first contacted them, about putting bookshops like Borders into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. With the dawn of eBooks and the Internet the face of ‘publishing’ changed dramatically and of course if you can build and control the platforms, the mediums of publishing, you also control the methods, the prices and to an extent what is said and produced. To be fair to Amazon they did respond to my complaints and improved their ‘service’ but on the whole it seems to me the emperor’s new clothes of modern ‘democratic publishing’, which means as long as we are giving the execs our money, the cats get fatter and how much do they really care what’s out there? We will see what their distribution is now like but whatever happens it’s a proud moment to have a book that was taken out of print in the UK by Macmillan after 12 successful years available once again, to people now and to future generations too. In that sense all books can always be ‘in print’. Thanks again to friends and readers then who made it all happen, because that’s the dedication in the front of the book too! The paperback of Fire Bringer will be on sale in a few weeks, all ready for Christmas.

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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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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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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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POPPIES, PYLONS, PEACE HAVENS AND THE GENTLE SHADOW OF BLYTHE SPIRITS!

DRAGON IN THE POST IS NOW CROWD FUNDED TO OVER 80 PERCENT, BUT ENDS NEXT WEDNSDAY, AUGUST 27th. YOU CAN SEE THE PROJECT, HEAR A BBC INTERVIEW AND CONTRIBUTE NOW BY CLICKING HERE

YOU CAN SPONSOR DAVID QUITE INDEPENDENTLY IN WALKING THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY FOR THE RNIB, THE ROYAL NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR BLIND PEOPLE BY GOING TO JUSTGIVING.COM/David-Clement-Davies

imageIt’s an oddly proud and almost schoolboy feeling when a bloke with a slight hunchback on Pycombe golf course, with greens as smooth and trim as a Brazillian Wax, asks you how many miles you’ve come and you get a “Good man!” For walking the whole of the South Downs, I mean, and effectively in six days. The three golfing blokes even smiled, when I hailed them with “I was going to joke that you’re ruining a good walk, mates, until I realised your clubs are bigger than mine!” As I jokingly tried to stand up to five cyclists pouring down a narrow bit of the track, barring their racy road with my stick, though we all got it. Then many people on the way are admiring or interested to know you’re doing the entire thing on foot. If people, not being so time rich themselves, perhaps, or in a fit enough state, or wanting that kind of effort, often just do intermittent stretches and break the South Downs up into manageable chunks. I’m referring, of course, and with the increasingly confident tap of my tall hazzle staff on flint and white chalk, along these truly ravishing escarpments, through wooded groves or across occasionally murderous main metalled roads, to what I now see as ‘My Way’, as ol’ blue eyes had it – the magnificent South Downs Way. Which, in perfect weather almost throughout, since setting out on Monday, has surprised and delighted yet again.

Of course any presumptuous invitation to the good people of Hampshire, and West and a tiny bit of East Sussex here, nay to the very Nation, to throw off their chains of mounting illiteracy, or individual indifference, to read my blasted blog and even walk with me, for a personal protest against the machine, for crowd funding artists, for charity, for old style travel writing or whatever, has naturally fallen on deaf ears (though not entirely, because the Swiss professor from the Sustainability Centre has kindly backed). Then everyone has their own thang. Indeed though I’ve singularly failed to part the Red Sea of growing Internet miscommunication, or lead the Israelites to the promised land of real books, sent once again, in the post, I’m very near the end of two finishing lines now, with Eastbourne beckoning by Sunday and the Dragon In The Post campaign drawing to an end this Wednesday too, August 27th. Can we do it, still.

Despite the gloom of not breaking through with the Katie Martin show on Thursday then, here at least I’ve had a splendid try, along with an astonishing and still to be enjoyed walk. While it ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings, and I hope I’ve done some small service in writing up the lot too, as it happens. I have also ensured very personally that the good word of stories, dragons or Phoenix Ark Press is now echoing (well, perhaps whispering) from here back to Old Winchester hill, like news in the old days of French Invasion, or the price of corn in London. Not without a certain sense of fun and shared adventure too, I hope, but it means I have been telling virtually everyone I meet, of me, of dragons or the RNIB.

Then, like the pylons suddenly beginning to march worryingly overhead across the working farms, over the sheep and cows, gorse and wild poppies, from centres of so called Civilisation like Peace-haven or Brighton on the sea, and in what is one of the most thickly inhabited areas of England, today I’ve also met more people than ever before; always both good and bad, but mostly very good. It’s precisely getting closer and closer to bigger centres now and because folk use the South Downs National park in so many individual ways, to make it their beloved way too; from route marching it, mountain biking it, jogging and rambling it, to daily dog walking, wild picnics, orchid hunting or the hang gliders that soar out off the dramatic Devil’s Dyke, on this section of my walk between Upper Beeding and Blackcap (to be explained). The Devil’s Dyke of course has a devilish legend about it, but was in fact carved out of the downs as water melted out of the glacier Ice Age ten thousand years ago. It helps everyone approaching the way who start to wonder where they’d like to be, when time is blowing all our bones like chalk dust through the heather.

With talk at dinner in my B&B of the raves up there too, or the grizzly motorbikes that churn up soft ground and are thankfully banned, I bet it’s enjoyed for a lot else besides. Although I had got today’s planning wrong then, with little Pycombe being far closer than I thought from the House of The Rising Sun, making a hike to Alfriston of near 23 miles tomorrow muh more than I wanted, my own pure, exhilarated enjoyment was aided by the fact that at Hobb’s Cottage my hostess and I came up with a nifty contingency plan – Namely to leave an over-heavy rucksack with her just after lunch and walk on for seven miles, in the end to an appealing pub called The Half Moon in Plumpton, where she picked me up, to be returned there again tomorrow I hope – to the Way, not the pub!

It led to the loveliest uninhibited afternoon walk too, with sweeping views out across the richly wooded Weild to the East and the North downs in the distance, a growing sense of expansion, that almost makes me want to take the Monarch’s Way too, and a pace of a very decent four miles an hour. Parallel I went, past Pycombe Church, still needing £14,000 for their crowd funded restoration, to that Golf Course, up passed two wind mills that crown the hills, Jack and Jill. Jill, though not reached directly on the Way, in her sparkling Randal-and-Hopkerk White is open to the public on Saturdays. Then out across watery Ditchling Beacon and then to a sudden drop down near enchanted Harry’s Hill, at Black Cap, haunt of woodpeckers, badger and some former writer who rises to pure lyrical poetry in hhis description on the useful notice board. There to meet both a bearded Hungarian bicyclist and a couple learning the nearing middle aged freedom of travelling the world light, planning the Downs next year, but India too, lucky things. Whose son had crowded funded as well and not only reached his large goal of over £40,000 but in just six days! Then he was blessed by some patron who put in £20,000.

It was another warm hearted and interesting encounter, with a promise to have a look or spread the word, from here to the Himalayas. So perhaps I will see about it this Bank Holiday Weekend. Which had all really begun first thing with the old gent walking his Labradoodles, just above Upper Beeding and the river Arun, as I was thinking of Sue’s troubles at The Rising Sun, in trying to escape the clutches of her Brewery and morph into a Free House, one solution perhaps being a kind of local Crowd funding too, in making it a communal pub. Beyond the State Acquisition Notice flapping on a farm fencing, the man on Beeding hill touched another age by calling me ‘Sir’, and not with any shame. Then he told me about the new Power Plant at coastal Peacehaven, but also of that vast Victorian Cathedral-thing in the distance, that first crowned the skyline as I got to that pig farm of yesterday, perhaps to challenge or suppress so many pagan spots that line the Way with a Victorian certainty. Not in fact a Cathedral though, but Lancing College, where a mate of his had once worked and so knew that the piles for the foundations reach as deep into the soft chalk as those rather pompous flying buttresses climb to heaven! Apparently one of the reason it still stands though, after that War that is still such a deep part of the Way’s story too, and Britain and the World’s, is that the Germans used to use it as a handy grid point on their bombing runs to Portsmouth and Southampton.

“Be inspired” cried the motto from the very uninspiring breeze block Youth Hostel just up the way, and rather unconvincingly because we so often seem to do things with so little style in Britain. I was thinking of the brilliantly imaginative and part State sponsored Parador system in Spain. But there, perching on the verge before Perching Hill, as a cow led her calf up Fulking escarpment,came the very inspiring sight of five redoubtable ladies who call themselves The Blythe Spirits Book Club! Well, one seemed to have a reading club of more criminal interest, but we chatted about how scandal and gossip are the very life blood of any decent book club. Since one came from the bizarrely named Warning Lid though, where a gruesome murder happened a few years ago, we shared a little touch of Brighton Rock and the darker, sadder side of life, or the South East. Like the poor woman found hanged in the loos at Hampshire’s recent Boom Town Fair. As they spoke of real shootings and even a headless torso. Then, Elvira-like, these fine damsels, who got a bit irritated with my calling them Ladies and also turned out to be dedicated Orchid hunters, seemed to haunt my day’s walk, very pleasantly. In fact they were making for Pycombe too and so we met up around lunch again in a cafe called The Hiker’s Rest, where I advised them to look out for a film called Adaptation, all about writers and orchids and things.

Some sage advice, if you are on this part if the way, especially around lunchtime – miss out the dreary Devil’s Dyke pub beyond the broken down WWII pill box and forge on to Saddlescombe. What a little surprise that is, with its restaurant cafe, Elderflower and Raspberry sponge cake to commit murder for, home farm produce and jams. Also a settlement that stretches back to The Doomsday Book and one where there was a small Templar Monastery, and the near unthinkable record of a request for acceptance of a Lady Knight called Joan. It, like the Downs, stayed the same for thousands of years, until technology revolutionised everything and swept the old order aside. Now it’s kept up by The National Trust, not least because they bought it to protect a major aquifer into Brighton. It has a useful Information centre, a donkey wheel, even it’s own prison for transgressors, but is a place of special magic. I was talking of my encounters though, so, dear walkers, and not at all just for the money, as I had joked, but the constituency too and the sheer crac of it, I address this blessed blog to you! You,Blythe Spirits, you the fine hearted team just setting out through the litch gate to the Stud at Pycombe, you parents of successful crowd funders too – I and Dragons and Phoenix Ark hath need of thee, in this very hour! So come support, and help a little dragon story fly, because I have only five days left! Thank you, and if you take the higher pledge I’ll stride forth again and talk books to you all.

Communicating though is what has kicked off recently at Hobbs Cottage, with the most atrocious review left on the dreaded Trip Advisor, after one a couple of years back about a run in with the cat, among many that are very good. Vituperative doesn’t do it, although it’s length and passion certainly undermines itself. All I can say is I found the place, which stretches back to 1605, very nice, thoughtfully done, with a great breakfast and if Wendy’s husband Terry is a shoe in for Lez Dawson, a tad Forthright at times for us wayfarers, although with interesting tales of being country billeted as a boy during the war, humour is perhaps needed in these dark times and a reminder that that Way is 8000 years old, to give us all a sense of perspective. I couldn’t run a B&B or quite live the small village gossip life. But perspective is what comes again driving up the hill, among so many magpiesthat probably gave Pycombe it’s name, magpie valley, to look out through sweeping purple clouds at giant sunsets and free yourself into the journey of the Way. The problem with Trip Advisor is that people can say anything and it stays there, haunting you, although I’m sure others read through the noise and do what they do. The Half Moon pub is suffering from the very same Trip advisor phenomenon, which since I didn’t experience enough, I can’t say much more about than I like their style and menu, although a certain snootiness does waft about these genteel parts. So to waking early in the night to see gnarled trees and moonlit shapes and shadows worthy of a witch’s bothy and blogging this piece too, then to setting out again for the final race to the Seven Sisters and home. Even if it’s only in reading the word, I hope you come and join me for the next two days.

David Clement-Davies stayed courtesy of Wendy and Terry Desborough at Hobbs Cottage, very conveniently located on the edge of Pycombe, with a nice conservatory and very big garden. They have two twin bed rooms, though with pull down bed facilities too, at a very reasonable £30-£40 per head, breakfast and tea and coffee included. Contact 01273846150

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