Wed 22 Apr 20 | Diary

Pilgrim's Diary

Some mistake?

To get to Canterbury from my home it would make more sense to walk south-east, but as you may have noticed yesterday, I’m going (a bit) north and (a lot) west.

I have important things to see this way, and there’s still plenty of time to duck down to Winchester (Rob and Jonathan have said they’ll wait).

I’m not exactly in a hurry: lockdown might not end for weeks.

I want to see Windsor Castle, and follow the Thames up to see Cliveden and the Stanley Spencers at Cookham, before I drop down to Caversham and onwards to Winchester.

So today I have walked further than previously planned.

Goodbye, for now, London!

It felt good to leave Heathrow behind me, and feel as I crossed the M25 that I had truly departed from London.

I hadn’t slept particularly well at Sipson. Dawn comes early, at this time of year. And though I hadn’t realised it when I settled down to sleep, the soft earthy hollow I chose had a strong smell of dog wee. I’m afraid it must have got into my hair.

Walking alongside the Queen Mother Reservoir, I was tempted to jump in. But I remembered that this may be serving London with drinking water, and restrained myself.

The early part of my walk was flat, and easy. If a little ugly:

Happily, the road improved a little by the time I approached Datchet:

My old trainers seemed to be managing fine. Still, I took them off in the churchyard, and my thoughts turned again to Daniel Defoe, whom I mentioned yesterday.

Not only because of his trip to Windsor (as a character in my novel) but also because of his book, A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain, much of it invented, so they say.

Windsor itself, unsurprisingly, was deserted:

But I was quite surprised, as I looked for the Thames, to be plunged into night-time, and then back out again:

I didn’t make it to Taplow.

It’s harder than it looks, this Desktop Pilgrimage.

It seems to take an enormous amount of effort to believe in it, and drag myself along Google Streetview, look for pictures of places by #hashtag on social media.

Helps a lot to have the route in mind.

And to have people encouraging me.

But I feel like I’m letting everybody down because I haven’t reached where I said I would be at this point.

Next Writer’s Workshop

Tues 21 Apr 20 | Diary

Pilgrim's Diary

Even further West London

Last night, I slept at Shepherd’s Bush – a surprisingly refreshing kip on the Green – before waking to the dawn chorus.

From there, I set off towards Sipson, a village near Heathrow famous for the campaigns waged against building a new runway.

Altogether, I walked 12.5 miles. It was easy going, because the ground is mostly flat.

In times past, Hounslow Heath was notorious for highwaymen. In fact, I wrote about that in my novel about Queen Anne, because the characters have to travel this way to get to Windsor from London.

As I walked over that once-perilous terrain, I read a little from the book:

On repetition

Posting these videos of Google Streetview, I worry that it might be terribly repetitious. But really, each one is different.

This question came up in yesterday’s writing workshop: novelty for the sake of it is not always a good thing.

Sometimes it can be very effective to repeat something with small variations, because each one shines fresh light on the others.

To demonstrate that, I made a tiny film for the workshop participants, about a book I love by Matt Madden:

I shall be using Streetview again – and again and again – but I shall not be walking this way through Hounslow, and nor shall I read you that passage, from that book, again.

Postscript. Received an encouraging message from Jess, with some reading recommendations. I’ll share those soon.

Next Writer’s Workshop