lost hat

Not Walking, But Writing

I’ve just spent a couple of hours working on the website, focusing mainly on tenses. Every ‘I plan to…’ or ‘I will be …’ has now become a ‘I have.’ This wasn’t too bad (I’ve become something of a content wizard – I wish!), but it was poignant. As I reported in my last blog, the walk is now well and truly complete. The challenge now is to turn that intangible ‘asset’ into something real. To get writing. In other words, the whole Diagonal Walking project has moved onto a fresh stage. I haven’t hung up my cap, it’s just resting!


Stay tuned for the journey, it’s likely to have as many ups and downs as the walk itself!


So, Head Down and Writing Now Is It?

Sort of, but it’s more complicated than that. As it happens, I already have a first draft of the book. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve taken extensive notes along the way, and have devoted time in between legs of the walk to writing them up. This, along with the planning, research, booking of accommodation and actual walking, has pretty much dominated my summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been worth it, in spades; just that it’s been all-encompassing. Especially when other life stuff gets in the way, but you don’t want to know about that.


After the completion of the walk, I put a real shift in before a short break away and this brought me to the completed first draft. This included the tricky bit of writing a conclusion. One of the purposes of the walk was to take the temperature of the country as it stood on the brink of Brexit, and as such it was incumbent upon me to come up with some conclusions. I’d made notes on this as well, and as it happened, writing the conclusion flowed quite well. However, while the rest of the book almost writes itself, this bit is more subjective. The temptation to go back time and time again and tweak it is irresistible.


Discipline and Deadlines

The solution lies in deadlines. I like to think I’m fairly disciplined in my writing, well in most things actually, otherwise I doubt the project would have got so far, so fast. That said, there’s nothing quite like a deadline to focus the mind. So, I’ve created an artificial one.


Past experience has taught me the benefits of having an external pair of eyes cast over my work. No matter how much you go over a passage or proof a page, your mind plays tricks on you. You see what you think should be there, not what is there. An external perspective is essential. As it happens, there’s no shortage of people with editing and proofing skills. A shakeup in the publishing industry means many of these work as freelancers, and there’s a useful directory of them through their trade body, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders .


Understandably, these need to be booked ahead. So, I’ve been searching for likely candidates and am on the brink of appointing one. I have another break coming up in October (I know, I know, but it’s my birthday), so I’m trying to line them up to work on the book while I’m away, which means it has to be ready before I go.


This will mean some more long shifts, but that’s how things get done. Plus, I’m really driving the momentum on this project, as it really has to be out as soon as possible next year in order to remain relevant to the Brexit angle.


Publishing Options

In my blog The Sense of an Ending published back in July, I was very much of a mindset to go down the self-publishing route. My thinking at that time was that the traditional publishing industry just takes too long to get stuff done (you’ll have gathered I not a patient man). In a subsequent blog, The End of the Beginning I reassessed this thinking and approached some publishers. Four in fact, all smallish players who are likely to be more fleet of foot, two of whom I’d worked with before, two I hadn’t. Two (one of each) have come back saying no, one seems keen and another I’m about to chase. I still haven’t ruled out the self-publishing option as it allows me to retain more control, but it does require a cash injection. Hopefully, I’ll have made a decision by the time of my next blog.


A Fresh Direction

No, not north east to south west (although, never say never), but a fresh direction for the project. As this blog attests, the focus now is on sharing the publishing and promotion story, rather than the actual walk. I will continue to post on the various social media from the walk, but Diagonal Walking now moves into a different phase.


On the social media front. Twitter continues to creep upwards, and I’ve had some success boosting my Facebook followers, mainly by sponsoring a post boost. This cost £10 and got me and extra 20 followers, but over 1,000 engagements, whatever they are. Worth it? You judge. Instagram is still the hit, with followers now in excess of 1,100, which I’m pleased with.


I’ll leave it there for now, more to come shortly.


So stay tuned and keep diagonal!


If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.

A Million Steps Later

I’ve added a new video to YouTube detailing the last day of the walk and a few reflections from the whole experience. It’s called ‘A Million Steps Later’ and can be viewed here:

Packing Your Pack

Packing your pack is something every long distance walker has to consider. As the reality of having to put one foot in front of the other looms, I’ve been turning my thoughts to my own packing. How much stuff will I need to take on my walk? After all, it’s not as if I’m going to have a back-up van travelling in my wake.  What I take, I will need to carry, and I will have to keep it to the essentials.


Turning to the internet, there are a number of good sources of advice for packing your pack. A blog on the Ramblers website for example provides a useful photo. It complements this with a long list which it’s possible to get a bit lost in. Equally, other sites provide long lists of things to take, with this one taking the prize by offering 36 (count them) great tips for keeping packing simple.


Whilst not disagreeing with any of the items these sites suggest, I thought it would be helpful to categorise them and put them into the context of my walk. Although experience may prove otherwise, I’m working on a number of assumptions. I’m not going abroad (by definition), so no passport, plug converters, or indeed plugs. I’m also never going to be that far from civilisation, so if I run out of anything I should be able to pick some up on the way. Also, no need for distress flares. Finally, no camping, so that means a lot of stuff can stay in the garage. On this trip, I’m strictly an AirBnB or hotel man.


I’ve grouped my conclusions under five headings, so here goes …


Packing Clothing


Going with layers seems to be the consensus here. After that, it’s a matter of whether you’re prepared to wash things out as you go and how smelly you’re prepared to get. A classic baselayer T-shirt (possibly with long sleeves), followed by a fleece or equivalent and a waterproof coat looks like a winning combo. The coat can be foldable (a pack-a-mac if you’re being optimistic about the weather) or, if you’re feeling nifty, something like a padded jacket whose sleeves come off to, hey presto, form a gilet (if you want to look a complete prat).


As for trousers, on the same two-for-the-price-of-one basis, I’m strictly a zip-off legs man. These need to be light and quick drying, because whatever I may wish, I’m going to get wet at some point. If feeling pessimistic about the weather and little option but to complete a stage, waterproof over-trousers might be an option too.


Socks are the smallest, but probably most import item of clothing on the trip. The trick here is to balance comfort with sweat. Cushioned soles are great, or wearing two pairs at once and swapping them around can work too. There are advocates for merino wool out there too, which are great on the old anti-bacterial front and a good idea if you’re not travelling solo. Besides, you might be outside all day, but at some point you’ll be sharing a room with your socks, which will mean clothes washing will suddenly stop becoming a mere option.


Then there’s footwear. Everyone will have their favourite boots, and pointers here would probably be its own blog. What is necessary, is a change of footwear for the end of the day. Give your feet a break. They’ve earned it.


Finally, I favour a hat. The top of my bald pate has enough scar tissue on it already and I favour a baseball hat (it’s my ears that are the problem), but each to their own. I even have any own customised, logoised hat. Gloves might also be a good idea. Finally, no jeans. They’re a nightmare to get dry. Oh! And don’t forget nightwear (and evening wear) – something to put on after a shower!



Packing Technology


Maps are a good idea. I’m an OS guy, but they can be a bugger in the wind. For this reason I photocopy my route and have handy A4 pages to work from. The main map stays in my pack. It’s useful for getting an overview at the start of the day and to stare at zombie-like at the end. When I get lost (and I will, trust me), I rely on instinct and Google Maps on my phone. Sure, there are fancy GPS trackers for walkers, but personally I don’t see the need.


In fact, iPhones (other clever little mini-computers are available) also have a compass and can be used to take notes and/or voice memos too. I will also be using mine for recording podcasts and YouTube videos. I’ve heard you can even make telephone calls on them. Amazing. On this subject, pack a powerpack for a power punch if needed. And don’t forget the charger.


Back on phones, they also have amazing cameras of course, but this is definitely an area where personal preference rules. An DSLR is perfect, but can be clumbersome and heavy. It depends if you see it as a burden or a necessity. I veer towards the latter camp. A middle ground is a bridge camera, which give better photos than an iPhone, but can sometimes fit into a pocket. It’s worth considering.


Given my sleeping arrangements, I’m assuming I’ll have wifi at least twice a day. Besides, I’ll need it to keep this website updated, and I refuse to take out a new data contract on my phone. For this reason (the website one, not my meanness), I’ll probably take an iPad too, but forgo taking a notebook computer. I also have a nifty gizmo for plugging the memory card into the iPad too, so that means better Instagram pics. Cheaper options are available, but I’ve been stung in the past by the allure of cheap imports from the East, if you catch my drift.



Old School Packing


I’ll have a lot to do once I get to my room, but a book to switch my mind off will be a necessity for me. If nothing else, it stops mindless internet wandering. Of course, I could read via a Kindle app, but that’s cheating isn’t it? I’m a writer, and I still favour the smell and feel of a book.


I’m a big fan of dry bags which come in various sizes and colours. For a borderline obsessive-compulsive like me, they make packing easier (no air taking up space) and provide reassurance that my technology is protected. Most of all, they provide the opportunity to compartmentalise. Knowing T-shirts and socks are in the red bag and toiletries are in the blue bag saves a lot of scrabbling around in the rucksack. You can also use them for dirty washing (or washing you can’t face), although a supply of plastic bags is an alternative. Handy for all sorts of stuff, and they take no weight.


I like the tip on this website to take a small Thermos. Most rooms have a kettle and sachets of coffee and teabags and even milk. You’ve paid for them, use them. Thanks too to this website for this simple but effective idea: a packing list. Use this as a checklist at the start of the day and also at the end, to make sure you didn’t get it wrong at the start. There’s nothing worse than panicking you didn’t pack something (my borderline obsessive-compulsive again).


If you are going to wash clothes out, don’t forget the travel wash. Take some anyway (decant it first into something handy), nothing wrong with good intentions. Going back to hotels and their giveaways though … ever wondered what that bodywash stuff is for?



Health and Safety – and sanity


The most basic item here, and number one on the packing list, is a water bottle. As the plastic police get more powerful, it’s becoming harder for places like coffee shops to refuse to fill a bottle. There are also handy taps dotted along towpaths. You can use a bladder, but who wants to drink out of a bladder. If you do, then good for you.


Accompanying water is snacks. Walking takes energy, and if you’re lacking it, each step will feel twice as heavy. Pack some energy bars and whatever else takes your fancy. Me, I’m a sucker for these.


Years of staying in hotel rooms for work have taught me that ear plugs and an eye mask take no weight or space but can be a lifesaver. I’ll probably sleep like a sloth on my walk, but why take any chances? A travel clock might be an idea if you want to charge your phone overnight.


Then there’s the obvious, but worth mentioning. A first aid kit, including medications (for the runs, for headaches, for hayfever and so on), but critically plasters, especially blister plasters. Antiseptic gels or wipes may also help prevent the need for at least one of those medications. A few packs of travel tissues secreted around your bag are also a good idea – you never know when you might get caught short.


Enough of the toilet, and on to toiletries. Keep it simple. Check out the travel section of your local Boots or Superdrug. A good deodorant is a necessity, maybe one of those ones offering 48 hour protection, although why anyone should need 48 hours of protection is beyond me. A small camping towel is probably also worth taking. Again, they’re light, and useful if you didn’t fancy the one in that dodgy café you went into to use the loo (back to bodily functions, sorry!).


Other old school items probably worth having might include a penknife (good for slicing apples as well as getting things out of horse’s hooves) and a torch or headlamp (if you don’t mind looking like an apprentice miner). A padlock probably makes sense, but go for a combination one. A repair kit with some sewing stuff and safety pins is also recommended.


One final thought. Something about your person that says who you are and an emergency contact number is a good idea if you’re on your own. There’s nothing worse than lying slumped against a tree in the middle of nowhere, when someone finds you and doesn’t know what to do next.



And finally …


Well, we haven’t discussed the rucksack itself. Like the boots though, that’s probably worth a blog on its own. For now this recent article may help. As might this one too from Go Outdoors: Finally, this guide from Which? gives some basic ground rules.


This website offers the obvious thought of checking what you don’t use when you get back from a trip and to ask yourself what might have been useful. Obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it.


And finally … this website suggests taking the following five things, and seems to be a good note to end this blog on:

  • Patience
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Open heart
  • Humour


Keep it diagonal!


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walking, boots, exercise,

Walking With Me

Walking with me in person is an important part of Diagonal Walking, and I actively welcome requests to walk part of the route with me. This may be for a short stretch, or longer, or maybe just to meet up and share a flask of coffee (I don’t do tea).


Where and When


The map on the How I Am Doing page will show you where I have already been, and an idea of the direction I’m heading in and how far I’ve got. If you follow the updates, blogs and podcasts, you will have a good idea of when I expect to be walking. Broadly speaking though, the route follows a line that starts just above Liverpool, goes through Stoke, Milton Keynes, Luton, the east of London and Maidstone, before ending up at Dungeness. The walk started in April 2018, with the first leg ending in Alsager in Staffs, where I expect to pick up the route in early May. The aim is to end around the end of September.


Next Steps


See what I did there? The best way to organise things is to contact me either via the Connect tab on the menu, or direct by email.


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