At the beginning of this month I took the opportunity of a four-day week-end to walk from London to the South coast of England by following the Vanguard Way. I have recorded a lot of audio material from it – mostly as an audio diary – but in the last few weeks, life hasn’t been as smooth as usual and I have found myself with very little time of my own to listen and edit my audio diary.
I wanted to share something of my trip before the end of the month so I thought about doing a write-up. I was about to start on it last week when I finished reading Virginibus Puerisque, and Other Papers by Robert Louis Stevenson. In this small book is an essay titled Walking Tours. The words on those pages took me back to the Vanguard Way and echoed my own experiences to such an extent that I felt it would be useless to try to come up with better words.
So for now, I leave you with some quote from Walking Tours by Robert Louis Stevenson and some photos of mine before my camera died (which happened early in day 3 of 4 of the walk).
A walking tour should be gone upon alone, because freedom is of the essence (…) And then you must be open to all impressions and let your thoughts take colour from what you see.
He who is indeed of the brotherhood does not voyage in quest of the picturesque, but in certain jolly humours – of the hope and spirit with which the march begins at morning, and the peace and spiritual repletion of the evening’s rest. He cannot tell whether he puts his knapsack on, or takes it off, with more delight.
And no sooner have you passed the straps over your shoulder than the lees of sleep are cleared from you, you pull yourself together with a shake, and fall at once into your stride. And surely, of all possible moods, this, in which a man takes the road, is the best.
(…) when once you have fallen into an equable stride, it requires no conscious thought from you to keep it up, and yet it prevents you from thinking earnestly of anything else. Like knitting, like the work of a copying clerk, it gradually neutralises and sets to sleep the serious activity of the mind.
In the course of a day’s walk, you see, there is much variance in the mood. From the exhilaration of the start, to the happy phlegm of the arrival, the change is certainly great. As the day goes on, the traveler moves from the one extreme towards the other. He becomes more and more incorporated with the material landscape, and the open-air drunkenness grows upon him with great strides, until he posts along the road, and sees everything about him, as in a cheerful dream.
You sink into yourself, and the birds come round and look at you ; and your smoke dissipates upon the afternoon under the blue dome of heaven ; and the sun lies warm upon your feet, and the cool air visits your neck and turns aside your open shirt. If you are not happy, you must have an evil conscience.
If you read a book – and you will never do so save by fits and starts – you find the language strangely racy and harmonious ; words take a new meaning ; single sentences possess the ear for half-an-hour together ; and the writer endears himself to you, at every page, by the nicest coincidence of sentiment. It seems as if it were a book you had written yourself in a dream.
You muscles are so slack, you feel so clean and so strong and so idle, that whether you move or sit still, whatever you do is done with pride and a kingly sort of pleasure.
We are in such a haste to be doing, to be writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget that one thing, of which there are but the parts – namely, to live.
The audio diary will be ready by mid-May as I should get a lot of editing time in trains while journeying to France to visit my family – and hopefully get wild camping with my niece and nephew.
EDIT 5/6/15: The audio diary and a bonus soundscape are complete and posted.