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"End to End via the Margins"
-the diary of a walk.

What can you expect from this diary?

It won't be polished: I am going to be spending most of every day walking, and walking tires me out. I don't expect to have much energy left over for writing at all, let alone writing decently.

It won't be balanced: I am fifty, and although fifty is said to be a good age for pilgrimages, it is also the age at which prejudices begin to harden.

It won't be populated by lots of people: I'm not naturally gregarious and there will be a great deal of solitary walking.

But I shall see things I've never seen before, and if I can learn anything at all, I hope to discover new things about myself, my country and my God. I invite you to share those discoveries, or even to email me and help me learn more.

Why am I doing this?

This walk may seem an irrelevance at a time when we are likely to be at war. You may think there are more important things to do, like taking part in the debate, supporting those who suffer, or trying to heal relationships between Christians and Muslims in neighbourhoods like mine in Sheffield.

I want to suggest to you that this journey through my own country is important, because it is as a nation state that we go to war, and if I can know more about my country, it will help me understand what is going on here.

I'm really quite sensitive about my country. Last week I was shocked and ashamed to find myself having an angry and undignified email exchange with some poor soul in the snowbound American boondocks who didn't know that we spell things differently here.

You see, I don't even know what my country is. Is it England or is it the UK? If it is the UK, I'm missing out significant parts. It's a cliche and not completely without truth that the nation state is on the way out. Is my last long walk also the swansong of my country?

We are like the Israel of the Old Testament. This small nation was sandwiched between great empires like Assyria or Persia or Babylon. And they had to find out where God was leading them. Sometimes the prophets would say, "do without your powerful neighbours, integrity lies in relying on your God alone." At other times, the prophets would say, "look, Cyrus king of Persia is going to rescue you, isn't that great?"

And now we are caught between Europe and the United States. Where does integrity lie for us? Where is God leading us? FWIW I feel more European than American. I hate poverty more than I love riches: if short of resources, I use less, rather than get more: the New Testament value of mutual commitment matters more to me than the New Testament value of freedom. Not that I'm entirely anti-American: the nation that gave the world Woody Allen, Bessie Smith, cookies and the personal computer has a lot to be proud of.

There's more to the walk than this. This is a networked experience. I am entranced by the technology that makes it possible to communicate with people as I go, to write this diary and upload it from a mountain top if I want to and my fingers aren't too numb. The church where I live has put a map on the wall, with red ribbons ready to plot out the route. I find all this exciting, that in some new way, the fellowship of the church is becoming real to me.

But it's also a personal experience. Will the personality defect that prevented me from taking an ill-fitting pair of boots back to the shop come back defeat me? What other surprises lurk in the cobwebbed interior of my skull?

When I first planned the route, I thought that an average of fifteen miles a day was modest and would leave me with time and energy to explore, chat and discover. But that was based on what I used to do in my youth. Now after some practice walking I'm not so sure. There is a real possibility I may not get to the end.

How does the technology work?

Thank you to Andy Stevenson for planting the idea in my head that you could maintain an online diary of a journey like this. His end to end diary is worth a look. Like him, I shall use a Psion organiser (Revo in my case) and a Nokia phone, with two shareware ftp clients (in case one stops working), RMRFTP and one command line type client from Wizworld Services. I use the freeware PsiCam (Czech version) to get the photos from a digital camera into the Psion. I am deeply indebted to the unknown person in a newsgroup somewhere who discovered that the repeated failure of the Psion's infra-red connection was caused by setting too long a time before automatic power down. This is a bizarre bug that I would never have found for myself.

Things that may cause this diary to halt unexpectedly

  • I get tired (recovery 1 day upwards)
  • The hardware gets wet, dropped or otherwise broken (no recovery)
  • I have to reboot the Psion and lose all the programs (recovery anything up to 3 1/2 weeks)
  • I get robbed (no recovery)

Enjoy!

In an odd sort of way, I hope to enjoy this walk. I hope you enjoy reading about it, too.