Cotswolds Way: Inspiration Follows Perspiration

It’s early 1993, pretty much 30 years ago to the day when a letter arrived. I’ve lost my copy but the other day, tucked in a guidebook for the above walk, I found Dad’s copy.

The writer was Ernie, an old friend of Dad’s who organised a series of annual long distant walks for a few of us. By 1993 there had been, I think, six. This one, following the Cotswolds Way wended a path along the high ridges of south-south west England between Birmingham and Bristol. The walk began in Chipping Camden and ended in Bath and took us seven days.

This year there were six of us: two drivers who were also old friends of Dad and Ernie and who, no longer, felt capable to the walking, and myself and a friend of mine, Pete Williams. Dad was the age I am now so I’d like to think I could still bounce along as he did, self deprecating silly and a kind of glue between the generations.

These men, some like Stan on of the drivers had gone through the war – he’d been at El Alamein seeing off Rommel from a tank (‘You still drive like you in a Bloody tank, Stan’) – and generally they were thoughtful, opinionated and lacking pomposity. And retired. We youngsters had small families, work worries and an equal number of opinions, which often conflicted with our seniors.

The walk was a delight – as Ernie’s letter attests, the countryside is littered with history, both ancient and more modern. Sometimes we played tourist, sometimes the rain sealed us into our coats and we hurried past, even if, at the next stop we might sigh at some sight missed when it was revealed by the guidebook.

The walk also holds a dear place for another reason. In 2006, I went to a summer school and took a course in creative writing; the idea was to write a short, ten minute radio play in a week. As part of the structure each of us had to come up with four ideas, titles or one line synopsis, one of which our fellow students would pick and we would then write the play from that. The one chosen for me was a title ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel’. I wrote a ghost story.

One of the others, not chosen, was another title ‘The Right to Roam’ (such a lawyer!) to be about three friends undertaking a walk – the Cotswolds Way. I envisioned a comedy, along the lines of my recollections.

The week following the course (which I loved) I went on holiday with my family; each of the children invited two friend and we hired an enormous house in Torbay on the Devon coast. In the evenings, as the Textiliste sewed and the kids played games, I took that buddy book idea and began to write a short story. That became an enormous novel very quickly.

No longer was it humorous, either. It was my first lesson in the power of characters to determine their own journeys. I was excited and rather overwhelmed. Many people were amazed. Some read it. Many professed to like it.

It was shite.

But it was a start and, somewhere inside the overwriting, flat characters and stereotyping there was a story wanting to be told. I put it away and wrote three other books. I then undertook a creative writing MA, during which I wrote the first book I published – Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, coincidentally as other based on personal experience, at least as a starting off point.

That was 2014.

in 2019 I had another look at The Right To Roam. I’d rewritten it several times, and retitled it. I’d had two different book covers made for it.

Finally I found the story; I settled on a cover and a name – Walking Into Trouble.

This is where you’ll find it.

Amazon

This is the blurb.

When Chris Reyborough accepts the offer of a week’s walking with his two oldest friends, Martin Connolly and Peter Hopkins, the aim is to help him come to terms with the tragic death of his wife, Diane. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswold Way as it snakes a path across the hills and vales of rural West England, we follow the three friends as the initial goodwill begins to dissipate and the ties that bind them begin to fray. For Chris has an ulterior motive in undertaking this walk; he suspects Martin knows more about the reasons behind Diane’s ‘accidental’ death than he is letting on. In trying to persuade Martin to reveal what he knows, other deep buried and painful facts from Martin’s past come to the surface, further damaging important relationships. Peter watches the erosion of his friends’ relationship with despair; for there is something very wrong and he too needs their help. Can their friendship survive to reach Bath in one piece? More to the point, can they?

I’m as proud to have dug this out of the undergrowth as any of my books. And every time I see it on the shelf, I think of the journey that took me from that letter thirty years ago, to publication.

And I think of Dad. Silly sod.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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44 Responses to Cotswolds Way: Inspiration Follows Perspiration

  1. A lovely story about the gestation of a clearly delightful book

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A story about a story about a journey that resulted in a story about a journey. It all travelled well, gave pleasure to those involved, and to bystanders. What’s not to like?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed the backstory to your book, Geoff. I have had Dead Flies for a while and need to get busy. I think you may outwrite my life span if I’m not careful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. arlingwoman says:

    Congratulations on the new book! I have turned over in my mind reshaping an early, really terrible effort at a novel into something new and now I see from 30,000 feet how it’s done. What a nice set of memories. I remember you writing about one of these walks in a long ago blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. L.K. Latham says:

    Lovely story, and congrats on getting out to the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trifflepudling says:

    I’m glad you found that letter! Very nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Darlene says:

    Congratulations!! I love the cover and enjoyed how the idea came about.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    I’ll check it out. I like the cover – the only time I’ve been to the Cotswolds that’s exactly what it looked like – when it wasn’t raining too hard to see out the window!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh that does sound intriguing. Great stories are often about walks.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. willowdot21 says:

    I have it, read it too great story 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Congrats on completing and publishing this book! A strong title too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Having read it, Geoff, I can confirm it was worth the wait. (Note to self: must check whether I did a review or not.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Suzanne says:

    A wonderful tribute to a generation that are to be admired. It reminded me of my adventurous Dad, who loved a long chat and an even longer walk. Well, done on publishing another book, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bridgette says:

    I love everything about this post! I’m off to get your book and I’m very pleased to know the backstory of its development and inspiration. It sounds very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jennie says:

    Congratulations, Geoff! I loved the evolution of your writing, and how this book happened to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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