Sunday, September 29, 2019

Taking stock

Menhir de Champ Dolent, Dol-de-Bretagne
After my annual long visit to Combourg, where I have been based to complete a chapter called the Devil's trajectory around Dol-de-Bretagne, it's time to take stock of the year's work and my progress along a very decided path for 2019. I arrived home to find author's copies of my little saints' guide  waiting - one objective achieved and a pleasing result of a great deal of effort. Much of the research was done for another saints' project last year, but trying to sift a mass of material for meaningful synopsis is not easy, and to convey complex issues in compact form is a veritable skill. Introduction to the Breton Saints forms a third volume in the series that began with guides to Huelgoat and the Monts d'ArrĂ©e, a format that has been much appreciated by very many people. There may well be a fourth topic in 2020, given the success so far.
As to the main purpose of my year, the completion of Wayfaring in Little Britain, the journey is far from finished, although I have made significant progress lately. This is the third year of trying: thwarted by serous illness for the last two, I am finding the physical demands of travel, walking and research extremely hard to cope with, but am determined to finish the manuscript by the end of the year, even though the last bit of route coverage is not scheduled until December 26th! With the encouragement of the few readers who have glimpsed the content of this elusive book, this theme of hard-won achievement has crept into the text - quite a change for me to write personally, but it perhaps it is time to be honest about the demands of walking and searching against a backdrop of pain and difficulty. Most people writing about history in the context of landscape are serious walkers covering 30-odd kilometres a day without too much trouble. That has never been the case for me, but I hope there is equal merit in a book constructed around hardship, where a day's walking for a healthier person may turn into two or even three for me on occasion and where considerably more logistical planning is needed.
St Samson's mitre, Mont Dol
I hope it can be done. The themes of journeys and different types of walking from neolithic ritual through Roman roads to saints' stories and medieval pilgrimage are fundamental to the discovery of Brittany's landscape and history. It will be a final summary of all my painstaking work in this field over many years, as next year is to be devoted to something rather different...
Start of the Devil's trajectory on Mont Dol

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