A few days ago I wrote a long blog full of woe. I’d realised that the donkey I had lined up, Mali, wasn’t the right one. She’s young – only just four – which is pre-teen in donkey years, arguably not yet finished growing, and certainly not accustomed to the children, cars, dogs, bikes and general excitement we’re going to encounter all day, every day. As one of the many knowledgeable donkey people that I have spoken to since this realisation said, “One of you needs to know what you’re doing.” He could have left me to fill in the rest – I’m self-aware enough – but he didn’t. He chose to spell it out: “And it’s not you.”
100% donkey-free adventure…
It’s rather uncomfortably late in the planning of a big donkey adventure to find myself without a donkey. I’ve had a little knot of worry in my solar plexus ever since the sudden realisation hit, worry only slightly offset by the relief at not taking a wild, young creature. Nearly six months ago, when all this was a vague dream, I was already too worried to call the Donkey Sanctuary in case they told me the idea was stupid and irresponsible. Finally I did, and they were totally relaxed. Relief! Then I googled donkey dealers, spoke to one who offered me Mali, and considered the donkey part of the project sorted. I got on with the important stuff like making a website and assembling maps.
So it’s only just now that I have really begun talking to donkey people, and I’m finding all of that uncertainty and discouragement that I was expecting at the beginning. Maybe it was meant to be this way – perhaps I wouldn’t have done it if I’d encountered this early on. But now I have a website with ‘donkey’ in the title, well, I have to forge ahead. Or maybe their uncertainty is just a mirror of my own, on two fronts. Some people can maybe hear my uncertainty, and are speaking it back to me. And in other cases I’m editing out all the kind words and focusing on the bad ones.
Solicit information carefully
It’s my own fault – I signed up to a forum. Forums, I now realise, are for people to show off their knowledge, and it’s a fool who wanders in, as I did, waving my inexperience like a cheerful flag of surrender. And to be fair, most people have been really nice (although even the nice ones say, “I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into”, pretty much without exception). But, as I say, I fixated on the naysayers. Them and the poohpoohers.
What’s interesting about this torrent of knowledge is that it’s not consistent. Although everyone holds their opinions like a firmly-held bayonet with which to stab holes in my surrender-banner, there’s a lot of contradiction. In the last few days I’ve had conflicting advice on the following topics: to shoe or not, what weight a donkey can carry, sleeping outdoors, tethers and hobbles, feed, miles per day, pace, hay and tarps.
So, I wrote a blog of woe. It was cathartic, and it was pretty good – much better than this one, which is just a tribute. The whole torrent metaphor was artistically extended, not too much, but just right. There were amusing italics. I wrote it on this iPad, to start learning how to use the thing, in preparation for the walk. It took a long time (the auto-correct is a bit over-eager, and where the hell is the apostrophe?). There was no ‘save’ button – who needs a save button when everything flies to the iCloud and is synced in dozens of places at once?
The pissing app signed me out the next time it sniffed wifi, and the work of literary woe was lost.
So this is a blog of woe about the loss of a better blog of woe about the loss of a donkey and the search for a new one. An older new one.