Thurs 23 Apr 20 | Diary

Pilgrim's Diary

Windsor to Taplow

Finished yesterday saying I felt I was letting everybody down. I know I’m not, really.

But some have been so generous with their own pilgrim’s diaries (you know who you are).

I realise that I’ve been failing to post anything because I’ve been hiding what else I was up to during these days.

So I’m going to take a tip from another great writer-walker, Hilaire Belloc:

Belloc’s most famous pilgrimage book is Path to Rome, but he also walked the South Downs from Winchester to Canterbury, so he’s definitely somebody I should hold in mind.

As it happens, I’ve also been “paying my way” on this pilgrimage by words and drawings.

You may have noticed already the little ads promoting my writer’s workshops at the bottom of these posts. (Most Mondays for the next however long.) The fees go to me (and thank goodness for that, at this time).

I’ve also being drawing people – as part of a fundraiser on behalf of the homeless in Soho, a community in great hazard during the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve drawn about 20 people so far. Here’s a taster:

At the weekend, this coming Saturday, I’m going to draw somebody quite extraordinarily famous as part of that project. An Oscar-winning actress.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Meanwhile, I’m walking on:


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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.


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