Mark McGowan, 37, was pulling 18 boxes of chocolates, wearing a sign saying “Could you love me?” and holding a rose between his teeth.
As he arrived at Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, on Friday after a two-week crawl from London, McGowan said: “Last Christmas I had two fish fingers, I was on my own. This Christmas I didn’t want to be on my own, I wanted to do something about it.”
McGowan, who is from south London, has received some threats along the way, but he says it’s worth it. “There were some glazers at one point, really heavy guys, and when I told them, they were a bit funny in the beginning. But then I could see the empathy in one of their eyes – they knew what I was talking about,” he told Aljazeera.net.
It is not just an emotional battle he has been fighting. After crawling through cities and countryside, his clothes are falling apart, and his chocolate boxes have been torn to shreds. He has faced snow, and an almost daily onslaught of rain.
Ironically, he has found his quest to be a lonely enterprise. “There have been lots of times when I wondered why I was doing it … . New Year’s Day was the worst day … it was quite tearful,” he admits.
Is it art?
Although some of his peers have question whether his action is performance art or merely an act of protest, McGowan is unfazed.
He sees himself as democratising art: “How many people drove down [the road] that wouldn’t normally go into a gallery, they were shocked, some cars pull over and say ‘What on earth are you doing?’,” he says proudly, “I’m confronting them with art on the streets.”
McGowan once pushed a peanut
It is not the first time McGowan has taken his art to the people. He has previously pushed a monkey nut along Downing Street with his nose to highlight student debt.
And he was threatened with legal action after he tried to leave a tap running for a year to raise awareness of water wastage.
He admits that his protest might not achieve anything, but that doesn’t dishearten him. He says it is a personal struggle, a way of dealing with his loneliness: “It’s more like a resistance rather than making a difference – it makes a difference to me.”
So after scrambling across the country on his hands and knees, has McGowan found love? “An old lady said I was what made the world special, and that was the nicest thing any girl has ever said to me. But she was quite elderly,” he told Aljazeera.net.