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A search for meaning through the historic counties of England

You can blame it on the M25, but you could blame a lot on the M25.

It was on the long journey home from a job where he had to write about things he’d rather not admit to, that Jack Barrow had the idea to travel the historic counties of England. Thinking that it would take six weeks, he imagined he could soon get around the country and back to writing ridiculous fiction, but how wrong he was about that.

A month later, on a May Morning in Oxford, he set off, with no idea where he would sleep from one day to the next. His only plan was to have no plan other than a rough anti-clockwise direction of travel. Hotels and restaurants were out of the question. Keeping the costs down meant camping and fending for himself. He’d done camping, but only for a long weekend; this would be six weeks and he had no idea where he would end up.

Within days he was ready to abandon the project, but he’d told too many people what he was doing and some of them were important people. Pushing on he found himself describing the experience of travel, the challenges of life on the road. But describing the challenges led him to think why his experiences affected him this way. This was turning from a book about a journey around England, the standard travelogue about cathedrals and bridges, to a book about a journey through his thoughts. It turned into a book about reality itself. The cathedrals and bridges became the setting for that reality. At this stage finding somewhere to sleep was the least of his problems.

So now, quite a bit more than six weeks later, having passed through every county in England, he needs your help to get the story of reality out there. By pledging to this project you will be able to come on that journey with him. By spreading the word about this journey you might find other people along for the trip with you.

Jack Barrow is an author and technical writer living in Hertfordshire. He’s written fiction and non fiction that until now has been published by small presses. Unbound is his first step into the world of grown up publishing.

He has always been torn between the world of science and technology (his favourite TV programme as a child was Horizon) and the possibilities of non-scientific world views. He’s not really sure what he believes, but is constantly trying to balance opposing views. Can you interpret a prediction of the collapse of communism inspired by an irrational narrative in the same perspective as Copernicus’ heliocentric system? If you made up a theory that the Berlin Wall was about to fall, based on such ideas, and then it did, how would that change your world view? Even if one of those world views (rational or irrational) is incorrect, or incomplete, is there still value in each even if only in adding flavour to an otherwise flavour-limited experience of life?

In the past he’s written fiction about three magicians trying to stop gangsters building casinos in Blackpool when someone wanted to turn the resort into a seedy, tacky and depraved town. He also writes occasional blog posts about life with his six-inch-tall R2D2 model made out of scrap car parts. R2D2 insists on seeing all the new Star Wars films and likes to be photographed out and about with Jack in the run up to the films. Jack’s Turkish hairdresser was very unsure about being in one photo in the run up to The Force Awakens. C-3P0, Jack’s lodger, refuses to become involved.

Leaving the museum it was after five PM and I still had to drive the length of Cornwall. After eating a locally sourced Cornish pasty, Kathy suggested it was still an hour and a half to Land’s End. Cornwall doesn’t have any motorways, even if I’d been prepared to use them, however the A30 is as close to a motorway as you will get in the county; I had used the A1, under duress, in Bedfordshire and Northumberland so I thought it was permissible to do so again. I simply couldn't leave Cornwall without going to the end of the land.

At seven pm I arrived at Land’s End car park. I had no trouble finding it; there was nowhere else to go. When I'd come here as a child the whole peninsula had been cut off as a private estate. Regular people simply didn't get to see it, now we can.

From the car park you pass through an entrance declaring itself as the Land’s End Hotel, which I thought was fair enough considering the location. On another day, and feeling a bit more flush, I might even be prepared to stay there. However, beyond, someone seems to have built a theme park. There was a little village (as they called it), shops selling Land's End related bits and pieces, all shut up but you could walk through the village, which seemed considerate of them considering how many places are gated these days. Beyond there were some buildings with what I can only assume were attractions or exhibitions, some dedicated to the air sea rescue service, the lifeboats and other Land’s End type activities. The place was a little desolate, probably helped by the fact that I was the only person there. The whole collection of shops and attractions had a sort of end of the pier feel. If this was the end of the pier, does that make Cornwall the pier, and in that case what is the rest of the country?

Walking between the buildings, past the darkened shops and attractions, closed up bars and snack joints, I found myself on the cliff tops. At this point I wished I'd brought my compass which was safely back in the Truck. The point of Land’s End is that it is the westernmost point, which is a bit odd when you consider that John O’Groats is the northern most point in Britain. I could see where the westernmost point was but having the compass point it out to me, to make that measurement myself, seemed as though it might have been more meaningful.


The One Percent

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Okay so the first day is done and we’re on target at 1%. I say the first day, the page has been live since the beginning of September but we’ve been sorting out the pledge rewards and typos etc. (yes even publishers have typos), so I didn’t start to contact people until Monday 17th and now it’s the end of day two but what the hell.

I was intending to do updates at significant points, so 25%, 50…

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