But always it was beautiful and joyfully quiet, perhaps six days of 30 Celsius kept other walkers away so that most of the time it was me alone in the fields except for cows and sheep and in the forest me and deer, foxes(heard but unseen), birds and unknown small animals foraging in the undergrowth.
Equally beautiful were the little villages,colours changing from the honey brown hues of the north to the lighter more austere colours heading south as I walked from Chipping Campden to Bath.
Not forgetting the Millenium Folly and my destination of Bath Abbey and the plaque celebrating the Cotswold Way.
And of course one sign post for the path.
So, seven wonderful days of solitude and contemplation, plus miles under the boots in July summer days. Oh and let’s not forget much thinking about the final draft revisions of my novel. Walking and thinking go together like – well, you can add your own pairing!
After two years of writing, drafting and re-drafting, I sent my ‘university’ novel to a commissioning editor for feedback. The highlight of her response? Being told my manuscript has ‘great promise’ and is written in a style reminiscent of one of my favourite writers, John le Carré. Not intentional, never occurred to me but I’ll take the comparison, thank you.
Yes, she had criticisms and suggestions, all of them valid and I need one final draft before sending to a publisher. But there is a way forward, just as there is a path between the cliff face and the boulder in the photo above, taken on my recent hike in the Grampians.
Much encouraged, I shall push on, as I did through the mist of another day in the Grampians – until reaching the beauty of dawn on the final work in maybe 3-6 months. We’ll see.
Writing is like hiking. A journey where we discover much and find ourselves in places and experiences we never foresaw.
After completing the West Highland Way and ‘doing’ Ben Nevis on my rest day in Fort William, I walked the Great Glen Way to Inverness. A lovely walk of 6 days, easier than the West Highland Way and far fewer walkers on the trail (to my surprise). A pretty walk along the lochs, including Loch Ness of course and with its fair share of ‘Scottish mist’.
Though lacking the grandeur of the first walk, it had a couple of high route days and the isolation I love when hiking.
Loch Ness in the moonlight
Following the Caledonian Canal and watching the boats manoeuvre through the series of locks.
The high routes to Invermoriston and Drannadochit.
Coming upon the Abriachan Eco-campsite and cafe in the middle of the wonderful Abriachan Forest. A haven.
The people, always.
The shock of the tour bus crowds in Fort Augustus after 11 days of walking in relative isolation/peace.
What next? Japan has been calling for a few years and the Scottish National Trail appeals now I’ve had a taste. First, there is writing to be finished.
Yes, back at the British Library contemplating life with Isaac Newton after three years of the good, the bad and the downright awful. Illness and operations, death of close friends, love, family, friendships lost and gained, writing successful and failed and soles worn through by bushwalking. It has been three years of turmoil in which the good outweighs the bad and best of all, I’m here to tell the tale. Three years older and possibly, just possibly, at long last a little wiser. Probably not.
Last time Isaac and I contemplated life together, I was on my way to do the Coast to Coast walk across England [with two broken bones in my foot though I didn’t know that at the time]. This time it is Scotland, the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way taking me from Glasgow to Inverness. And maybe somewhere beyond that, we shall see.
For now, the path beckons. This one is from the Larapinta Trail in central Australia a few weeks ago – trust me, there is a track in this beautiful solitude. There is always a path if we but look.
The trail never ends, last week was 8 days walking around Uluru, through Kata Tjuta and along sections of the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia. Sleeping in tents or in a swag under starlit skies impossible to comprehend or describe. Campfires at night with wonderful food, drink and company.
and beauty wherever one looks – rock or water, harsh or gentle in nature.
Sunsets and sunrises
and the iconic, sacred rock
in ever changing colours, especially the red we all know and love.
and looking down from the summit of Mount Sonder, a 3 hour night time ascent with head lamps.
A wonderful time of reflection in desert silence, no phones, no distractions.
and an ever-growing appreciation of the 40,000 year old civilization which inhabited and managed this land.
Where next? Scotland in July, for ‘something completely different’, but where next
in Australia? That path is unknown.
Six weeks ago I sent my novel ms to 3 publishers. I had low expectations of success given the small number of novels published annually in Australia and the tidal wave of unsolicited manuscript submissions washing up weekly on editors’ desks. Nor did I expect any feedback since publishers’ websites sternly enjoin ‘no feedback will be given’ and ‘silence equals rejection’. Let’s add the fact that I had no idea if my writing was good, bad or ho hum who cares?
Imagine my surprise to receive feedback from one editor . Alas, not feedback saying this is the most brilliant piece we have ever seen and we’re publishing it unchanged in a print run of 1,000,000, film rights already being auctioned. Quite the opposite. As a work of fiction it requires more work and they are not interested. So far, so depressing. I keep reading.
They love the ‘compelling sense of place’ and the ‘very strong travel narrative’ – you may recall my story is set on the Camino in Spain and France – and suggest I focus on that in the short term, perhaps placing articles in travel magazines, perhaps as a stand alone travel book. Well, knock me down with the proverbial feather. I love quality travel narrative ranging from the classics of the 19th and early 20th century to contemporary travellers/commentators/writers and am no snob who believes fiction is inherently superior to travel narratives.
Anyway, it is early days and only 3 publishers, however, it does give me food for thought [sorry for the unimaginative cliché] as this blog began life as a story of hiking and writing and maybe that will be my path again after a detour into the land of fiction. Not that I am giving up on fiction, perhaps this story needs a breather though. It is my first effort, I have learned a lot and cliché alert number two, you have to know when to hold and when to fold.
I have experienced three dramatic turns in my life in the last year and this could be number four.