July 12th 2018
It’s all very well putting on your website that in a year or two’s time you plan, all things being well, to walk the whole of the Western Front, all 475 plus miles of it, as part of your ‘peace initiative’ – and to tie in with the end of the ‘100 years since the First World War’ commemorations.
And it’s all very well performing your play about the WW1 conscientious objectors at Sibford school in early 2017, and the Headmaster reminding you in front of the whole school that you have put this ‘pledge’ on your website, and that when (not if) you do the walk, he will arrange to bring a group of students for a week or so who could walk with you for a few days along part of the route.
But when you find yourself (and this is me I’m talking about) in the middle of 2018, walking up England’s highest mountain during a week-long break in the Lakes, and you suddenly realise the said Western Front walk is only a couple of months away and you haven’t in fact done anything in order to prepare for it (other than staying fit by climbing England’s highest mountain in 30 degrees heat); and when you have in fact now organised a number of performances of the play in this country during November, to tie in with that ending of the hundred years period – well, the least you (I, that is) can do is put something on the website saying, sorry, folks, but it doesn’t look like the walk in France is going to happen after all.
A shame, I know. And, yes, I could still do part of it for maybe three weeks or so. But my plan had been to do the whole lot. Possibly in a totally whited-out, ghost-like soldier’s uniform, which would of course become more and more soiled with each passing day. (Hmm, sounds really interesting, now I write that.) I would have read poems along the way at various stopping points, British, German, French – and maybe performed extracts from the play.
But what happened was, I took the play on tour round the UK last autumn and then to the United States this spring, and it was such a special experience doing that, that it seemed to me the ‘peace initiative’ I felt most drawn to enacting out later this year was indeed more performances of the play in November.
You can find the dates and venues that are in place thus far, here.
And who knows, I may still do that walk – on the 110th anniversary perhaps (I’d be 70 or so), or maybe on the 120th anniversary (when I’d be 80 or so). As ever, the words, ‘watch this space’ spring to mind…(or rather, ‘watch my step’?)