As we drove towards the edge of town, the Uber driver told me that the Coronavirus was man-made. I wasn’t sure what to say to her: it’s not just that she was wrong, but that there’s nothing to do with that information. It sounds like it means something, but doesn’t. It’s a secret that changes nothing about the world, while letting you pretend you’re not one of the rubes.
I took the ride to Foredown Tower to avoid the trudge from my flat to the countryside. It was obvious by this point that something was coming down the line and could no longer be avoided. I wanted to get out and walk while I still could.
The first part of the walk was dreary. The South Downs may be green, but it is an artificial environment, created by years of farming. I’d rather be striding through a landscape that is wilder or more natural.
Still, it was good to get out. Even as I’m falling out of love with the Downs, I still feel a connection to the chalk and the flint. It was early in the morning and I was the only person about.
I crossed a small section of the South Downs Way. There are a couple of places where the route is baffling, and Devil’s Dyke is one of these. Rather than walk along the edge of the hill, with its views of the weald, the path runs further back. I followed the hill instead, thinking of other trips out here: wild camping with Vicky Mathews, or a trip with the Indelicates as we planned the October Ritual. I could see the North Downs, gloomy in the distance. It’s a good view.
I followed the bottom of the Dyke then crossed the main road to Saddlescombe Farm. I remember when this road seemed massive, the route from Henfield for shopping trips in Brighton.
The Dyke was said to have been built by the devil in an attempt to flood Sussex. But that makes no sense: why we he destroy the source of so much evil?
On the route back to Brighton, I had to cross a field of cows. I don’t trust herds of cattles – one of two times when I’ve feared for my life was due to cows. As I walked past them I sang a special song to let them know I was there and that they shouldn’t be surprised. There was only one line in the song, which was “Don’t be surprised Mr. Cow”.
On Monday, I asked for permission to work from home until the crisis was over. Tuesday was the first day of my retreat.my mailing list