Writing a book might seem a glamorous idea at first, but there are more than a few downsides along the way. As well as relying on the creative juices to be flowing whenever I have spare time to start writing, there’s also the expense of getting to the Lake District regularly and the worry that nobody will buy the finished product. Of course, none of these outweigh the delight of being able to produce a guide to one of the world’s most beautiful places and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I didn’t bank on the loneliness of the long distance walker.
I’ve three Lake District books on the go at the moment, none due to see the light of day before April 2014. But it means I’m spending at least one weekend a month in the Lakes, which is on one hand a dream come true but on the other quite a lonely affair. My journeys up include a midweek day usually, ruling out many of my working mates coming with me and meaning that I can’t take the family either. Besides, the walks often have an industrial feel to them when they’re for a book – recording in the Dictaphone, being obsessive about photographs and trying to get at least two or three done in these long summer days. There’s no time for niceties. So I end up flying solo a lot of the time.
This means nobody to share the amazing views, nobody to talk to on the way round and, at night, my main social interaction is a phone call home and a short-term relationship with a Pot Noodle in the Travelodge. Rock ‘n’ Roll, eh? On Friday, I did treat myself to fish and chips in Keswick. Yes, that was me; the weirdo in the square eating on his own in the rain. And then a couple of walks around Kendal on Saturday. Yes, that was me, too; the freak talking into a Dictaphone in the town centre, looking like I might be a spy but not really having the physique to be credible.
The weekend just gone wasn’t too bad. I had Alison Goldfrapp and Tracy Thorn to keep me company. On my iPod.
Writing a walking book is a cracking thing to do; I’m living my own dream, I’m aware of that. But it would be nice not to be the oddball walking around beauty spots at high speeds with his earphones in, rather than listening to the birdsong and enjoying a more leisurely pace.
However, not everyone took pity on my relative isolation. On my way back from Ennerdale, I drove through Cockermouth and had to slow down because a ten year old boy on a scooter shot out into the road. He gave me the middle finger and disappeared down the road. Nice. I wish the earphones could drown out things like that.