For the month of August 2016 I shall be travelling the highways and byways of the UK on the journey that will, I hope result in the book The Chess Traveller - One Month's Random Games.
Here's the plan. At each destination on my travels, I need to find an opponent to play me at chess. When I have played this opponent, he or she will then choose my next destination of around 30 miles distance. I shall make my way there, find a new opponent who after our game will choose my next destination and the process will be repeated. I shall play 16 games (the number of chess pieces), travel about 500 miles, my daily journey dictated by others. I anticipate my odyssey will take approximately one month, which allows two days per game for chess, travel, observation etc. I shall stay at cheap B&Bs though occasionally an opponent may put me up. I'm an occasional, average chess player, so will lose some games and, I hope, win the odd one. The book will comprise the notated games plus the peripatetic impressions, thoughts and observations on the country, a sideways look at the contemporary UK (or some parts of it) from a journey dictated by chess and by others.
The perceptive among you will be asking, "Ah, but how do you decide where the journey starts?" Again, this was random; the Dart of Destiny was thrown blind (and in front of 20 witnesses) by my partner,the writer Kitty Fitzgerald. It landed bang on the small Scottish town of Lossiemouth, one of the few places in the UK more than 300 miles north of Tyneside. Thus to Lossiemouth I shall travel to begin my journey. From there on, I shall be travelling on my trusty Raleigh bike. I have no idea where I shall be from day to day.
The eventual book will be published by Red Squirrel Press in 2017. I have no funding, though two generous donors have spontaneously and independently contributed £1,300 towards my month's travel, accommodation and subsistence, for which I am hugely grateful. Total cost for the month and preparation I estimate is approximately £2000.
Peter Mortimer - poet, playwright, journalist, publisher - has lived in the North East for more than forty years, and many of his books and plays have been published and performed here. He is used to writing about difficult places: against Foreign Office advice he wandered round Yemen; he set up a children's theatre group in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and, over one summer, walked the length of Britain with one dog and no money, dependent on the kindness of strangers to provide accommodation and food.
Peter Mortimer is founder and editor of IRON Press, the independent press which has championed new quality writing since 1973. In May 2013 IRON celebrated its 40th birthday with the IRON Age Festival, based in its home village of Cullercoats. In April 2014, the IRON Age won the award for Best Event Tyneside at the esteemed Journal Culture Awards 2013. In 2015 they gave in to popular demand and staged a second festival, Eclectic IRON. A third festival, IRON in the Soul, has been announced for 2017.
Peter Mortimer's books include: The Last of the Hunters: Life with the Fishermen in North Shields; I Married the Angel of the North (poetry); Off the Wall: the Journey of a Play; and Cool for Qat, which grew out of his commission to write a play about the 1930 Yemeni seamen's riot in South Shields; and Camp Shatila - a Writer's Chronicle, which grew from the two months towards the end of 2008, when he lived in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut.
He has recently started blogging on the Inpress website: read more about it here.
Peter Mortimer was special guest at the launch of the Active Travel Network, held during Cycle City Active City in Newcastle in June 2015. During the event he gave a talk at the Great North Museum Hancock Museum which the organisers describe as a veritable "ode to the bicycle". You can now read 'Hail the Bike' online.
Website designed and maintained for Peter Mortimer by Cornwell Internet
Last update: 21st July 2016