I left you hanging a bit at the end of my last blog, written all of three weeks ago. A lot’s happened since then, not least the fact that I’ve taken my last steps of the walk. There’s more on the last two days of the walk on the podcast or why not watch my video ‘A Million Steps Later’, available on YouTube here?
So, The Walk Is Over?
Yes. I’ve managed to complete my own personal coast to coast walk through the very centre of England. It’s taken me 39 days walking, covering around 410 miles and 930,000 steps. Not quite the million, but impressive all the same, even if I say so myself. Confession time. I posted on social media that I’d done over a million steps, but I did some double counting. Ouch! It’ll be right in the book. Still, when you add in all the wandering around I think it’s okay to talk of a million step challenge, its a good hook. To answer the question I’m asked most frequently, I did not do it for charity. I did it for myself – to prove that it was possible to follow a randomly drawn line following just footpaths and rights of way, and to give myself a challenge.
The last two days saw me through the flatlands of Romney Marsh, along part of the Royal Military Canal and down to the coast. The scenery may have been predictable, but there were still challenges. Not least of these was negotiating the ‘sewers’, as they call the drainage ditches in these parts. I also bumped into a lot of people. It seems the locals have a penchant for wandering around marshes. Could explain a lot. The weather was okay, sunny even on the last day, which was great. I stayed with my wife Annette in a bed and breakfast for a couple of days, with Annette ferrying me to and from my start and end points. This is the second time we’ve had to do this, largely due to a paucity of conveniently located B&Bs, or even Airbnbs. Still, it wasn’t exactly a hardship.
Wasn’t There Something To Do With Brexit?
Again, yes. Part of the purpose of the walk was to see if I could reconnect with the English, to see if I could find out why they were so disenchanted and were blaming it all on the poor old EU. Did I come up with an answer I hear you ask? Well, partially, yes. I’m still processing my thoughts, but I think it’s fair to say that I have come to some kind of, well, reconciliation with things as they are. That’s not to say I’m happy about where we are as a country, In fact I’d go so far to say the opposite – but I never said the purpose of the walk was to make me happy. Not on that level anyway.
On another level though, it has delivered joy. Joy in finding new things, in meeting interesting people, in finding out more about my country. It’s been a truly worthwhile exercise. My advice is, if you have a project and have the means to carry it out, stop finding reasons to not do it.
Anyway, back to Brexit. As I say, I’m currently ordering my thoughts, and you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to find out what they are. That said, I may just drop a few hints here in later blogs. I’m not quite sure how these blogs will develop, but develop they will, trust me.
How’s The Writing Going?
Brilliantly thanks. I have recently written the last sentence of the first draft, excluding that all important concluding chapter with, well, my conclusions. So far, with notes for the concluding chapter, I’m on 86,000 words, so I reckon I’m on target for the 90,000 target. It depends how brutal or effusive I get in the re-drafts.
One thing I have discovered however, is that unlike writing a novel, there’s less room for amendments. What I’ve written so far has been driven by what happened on the walk, not a made up plot. As such, there’s little room for embellishment (well, not too much anyway) – it is what it is. I hope and expect that the next phase of the writing won’t involve too much re-drafting, editing and proofing, focussing more on trying to keep ‘the voice’ consistent.
As I mentioned in the last blog, I spotted a similar book to mine issued by a publisher I’ve worked with before, and I subsequently approached them. There seems to be interest, but as with anything in the publishing world, the wheels turn slowly. We’ll see. In the meantime, I approached another publisher I’ve worked with before, but they turned me down fairly quickly. It was a long shot, they mainly publish walking routes, but I thought it might be a good venture for them. Ah well, they probably know their business better than I do. In the meantime, I also have approaches out to two other medium sized publishers, so we’ll see what comes of all these. The self-publish option remains as a very credible back up (it’s quicker and could yield greater income, but requires an up-front investment).
How’s The ‘Whole Walk With Me’ Thing?
‘Walk With Me’ was seen as a way of building a following behind Diagonal Walking, and I think my conclusion is that it’s had some successes, but not quite taken off in the way I’d dreamed. Instagram has been one area of success. In my last blog I highlighted that I was tantalisingly close to reaching 1,000 followers. Well, I’m now into 1,100 plus, and I’m pleased with that. Twitter remains sluggish, whilst Facebook has experienced a recent uptick. The videos get a handful of views (I see these more as a resource for later use, to ‘hook in’ those late to the party), and the podcasts remain steady. I get comments from strangers that they’ve enjoyed the podcasts, so from that extent they’ve succeeded.
‘Walk With Me’ also included getting people to walk alongside me actually on the walk. In the end, just over a dozen did, some of whom where friends and family, others not (obvs). I feel I could have done more to build this side of things, but I got caught up in all the planning and actual walking, driven by the need to get the walk completed and the book written. This drive was provided impetus to get the book out next year while it was still fresh. On balance, I am happy with this compromise. More followers would have been nice, but keeping the book relevant was essential.
I see the completion of the walk as the end of one phase of the project and the beginning of the next. The challenge now is to get the wordage into a readable shape and get them published. Then, there will be the challenge of getting the word out there and promoting the book. There’s still a fair way to go yet.
So stay tuned and keep diagonal!
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