‘Why?’ always seems to be the most difficult question to answer; we wish to reason ‘Why this?’ or ‘Why that?’, ‘Why so?’ and ‘Why not?’ because we feel a need to substantiate in our minds what we already know in our hearts. I’m not certain that I can define why I undertook this project, but there are three ideas which were important to me.
In April 2014, I performed a dramatised reading of Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’. It was stilted, but nevertheless it was the most creative task which I had undertaken in many years. Though we are all creative in daily life, my output was much stronger in my younger years – and it was not until ‘Ulysses’ that I felt the margin of my creative world fading ‘forever and forever when I move’. Thus, I decided to foster an opportunity for creativity by establishing this project – which primarily involved walking but which also gave rise to observations and emotions which were honed and shaped into 14 lines of poetry each day. The one thing which daunted me about the whole project was the worry that I would not keep up with the composition of sonnets, and that’s why I set up this website: to keep some pressure on me, to make sure that I maintained my daily posting, for fear of letting down however few readers there were.
I had neither the ability nor the discipline to succeed as a travel writer, and despite having been fortunate to have travelled to many places near and far, there are still many places which remain unrealised as destination goals. But that’s it, isn’t it? The idea of destination. There were four stops which I needed to make on this walk, but I tried to take the idea of destination out of my travel plans – I had no definitive route, there were no things which were ‘must see’ or ‘must do’ and I didn’t need to be anywhere at any particular time. The intention was simply to see Britain and to connect with its people. It was a chance to see a normal Britain, to meet with those who live lives both ordinary and extraordinary, and to notice all those details of our quotidian existence which are otherwise unobserved.
The idea of walking, moving one foot ahead of the other, is attractive to me. Forward momentum, unfixed purposes, movement towards whatever lies in wait: all these suggest possibility. Also attractive is the pace of walking – something which I found on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela – the ideal vehicle for quiet thought. Remarkably liberating is the stillness offered by delicate contemplation. Yeats caught the idea absolutely when he noted that ‘Like a long-legged fly upon the stream / His mind moves upon silence’. These moments are instances in our lives where we can be removed from preoccupation and all expectation, and think simply about our identity, our connection to others, and our purpose within the cosmos. This all sounds very esoteric: the walk itself proved to be pleasant physical exercise, and offered some time for reflection. The route didn’t take me purposefully to any religious sites, but meditations on faith were certainly found in those things that exist in the everyday and everywhere.