Lent for Lent’s sake, money for nice cake

The period of Lent this year runs between 6 March and 18 April. Almost every year I give up something for that period. Only once have I failed. Normally I have given up chocolate, which I find difficult only for the first few and the last few days. Last year I gave up using lifts, and felt the benefit, though not so much as to permanently take the stairs post-Lent. The one time I failed was when I gave up puns and pedantry, and I lasted precisely two days, well actually not, precisely one day 14 hours and 6 minutes, failing at the start of a 2pm meeting on the Thursday.

So what for 2019? I have thought about coffee but, this is the problem. I love my coffee, and am not especially fussy, though Tesco Value (blue stripy) coffee did severely test my taste buds a while back. I find coffee a good pick-me-up when I am walking, but the Lent period covers the whole time of this 3 Sites Challenge (18 March to 9 April). I may be able to give up coffee for that time, but I wouldn’t commit to complete deprivation just in case I was to really need one on a difficult day. No, I’ve decided. I’ve made a decision. Acting out the rarely seen ‘Red’ part of my Insights profile. I am giving up Lent for Lent this year.

I wasn’t about to give up my coffee today on my first walk for two weeks. I do love people watching, or people listening, during coffee breaks but there wasn’t much on offer today, I’m afraid. A couple were struggling to control the behaviour of their young child (3 or 4 years old) and kept telling them to “calm down / sit down and drink your coffee”. I didn’t have the heart to suggest that they perhaps should have given them some Red Bull or a packet of Magic E-Numbers instead. But that apart, a relatively quiet 25 minutes sipping my latte reading the paper, oh, and just for once, a slice of overpriced but tasty cake.

Pleased with 18 miles given I’m getting over a cold and feel ready to step back up to the 20+ mile mark next weekend. I’m at the point too of needing new boots; the current pair have been fantastic but starting to show sufficient signs of wear to merit a new pair in readiness for the challenge ahead. They have been so good that I am going to take them back to the shop and ask for “another pair of these please”. There must be a business in replacing soles on walking shoes and boots, surely somewhere, because that’s all I really need, a re-soled rather than a re-sold pair. Whichever way, I will have to, er, foot the bill.

No, I’m not giving up puns for Lent…….



On the fourth day….

…..I rested. So frustrating that I haven’t shaken off this cold completely and I may not have helped myself by walking on that third day which was significantly colder. I know that a cold is a virus and you don’t catch colds by being in the cold, but a pre-existing cold might be exacerbated by any number of things. So the fourth day (Thursday) was a quiet non-walking one, apart from fresh coughing, spluttering and sniffing, while the return to work on Friday was a day that dragged somewhat through plenty of sniffing and nose blowing. Felt really tired yesterday and this morning, so no more walking until this thing has gone completely, hopefully by next weekend.

I could have done with a long walk to clear my mind today, what with one or two frustrations already from just a single day back in the office, and some upsetting news outside with the sudden passing of one of Matt’s former football team-mates, aged 24. As a parent, I am not sure how we could ever deal with something like that happening.

January always feels a difficult time anyway, the start of a post-Christmas trudge for about six weeks until the days become noticeably lighter and longer. But I do have the 3 Sites Challenge to which to look forward, and am focussing positive thoughts in that direction. The lifestyle is wonderful if only this time for only three and a bit weeks. It will feel weird going into the office in Newport and London in the midst of this, that’s for sure. The concentration of miles will be greater than the walk five years ago and it will be a real test. Hopefully I won’t have a cold, which will obviously make it a whole lot harder…….

As this moves ever closer to challenging for the title of gloomiest post ever on this blog, let’s move on. The football season is taking a more than good shape for my club and cricket will soon be on the horizon. Most importantly, I have Pammy and Matt.

Sarah says, quite a lot actually

Woolly hat and gloves on pretty much throughout today on the third of four days’ walking. I’m still niggled by the last knockings of a cold, and there were plenty of sniffs and sniffles at various times during the afternoon. It might just be me, the weather has felt colder each day, despite the days getting longer now.

I didn’t see many runners or joggers today, but did see a couple of ladies ‘power-walking’, that is, walking at normal walking pace while pumping arms in a comically aggressive manner. More notable was the number of learner drivers out there, many quite possibly having their first or perhaps second lesson, definitely one who was crawling sufficiently slowly for me almost able to keep pace while walking on the nearby pavement (and not that close to the kerb). Yes, I know, I was a learner once.

12.5 miles today, the highlight or lowlight of which was a chance eavesdropping on what was obviously a blind date during my coffee stop. I sat myself with my coffee by a table near another chap on his laptop. Around five minutes later, a woman came up and said, “Hi, you must be James. I’m Sarah”, at which point he closed his laptop. After brief introductions, they (by which I mean Sarah) discussed various subjects for about ten or fifteen minutes. I have virtually no idea what James does for a living, where he works, his family, what he did over Christmas, hobbies or anything but I do have Mastermind-specialist-subject-level knowledge on all those relating to Sarah. She certainly had that I’ve started so I’ll finish air about her, anyway. Can’t say that I hold out great hopes for any budding relationship, and if only she had divulged her mother’s maiden name, I would now be considerably financially compensated for my troubles.

No troubles walking-wise except for the low temperature, with a slowly growing confidence in my fitness over the last three days. Yes, I know that 14, 14 and 12.5 miles is no match for the forthcoming 18, 26 and 23 miles of the first three days (followed by 15, 17 and 26 on days 4, 5 and 6) of the 3 Sites Challenge in March. But I’ve done those sorts of distances many times before and there is yet plenty of time to build up.

363 miles in just over three weeks, when the time comes. If you do wish to sponsor me, in aid of C.A.L.M. (www.thecalmzone.net) please feel free to donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/keith-spicer-3-sites. Any donations will be very gratefully received.

Same old, same old

A decent recovery from yesterday and the same distance walked today – 14 miles. Quite happy with that, and it felt considerably colder despite the Met Office recording just a one degree drop. Not too much of interest to report from the roads but a couple of times I was very much reminded that I am not a spring chicken. The first was overhearing a couple chatting over their coffee while reading their newspapers. One mentioned that “Little Jimmy Osmond” had suffered a stroke, while the other responded that “but he is 55, he’s getting on a bit”. Two minutes after getting back out walking, I just about avoided colliding with a somewhat lubricated body-swerver in the precinct, and heard him slur something that included the words “old baldy”.

You might wonder why I keep on walking, even on New Year’s Day, and – even more so – keep writing about it. I mean, at times it isn’t the most interesting thing to do, after all. I struggle too to find something about which to write, but the end of one year made me look at the statistics behind this blog. 2018 saw 45 blog posts with 1,469 views (which don’t include those email followers who receive the text rather than visiting the website). Not counting those that go straight to the Home page, the most viewed was actually something I wrote in 2015, and I have previously puzzled over how “Ninnies and Numbskulls” keeps attracting views. After some considerable research, it appears it is nothing to do with the board game of that name that was briefly popular during my schooldays. Apparently, the word ninny may have an altogether different connotation, presumably more widely used in the USA since over half the views of that post originate from there.

During 2018, my blog reached 23 countries with the top five unchanged from 2017: UK, USA, New Zealand, Ireland and Australia. There were three new countries, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Ethiopia, that took the total number of countries in which this blog has been viewed to 72. Still waiting for the golden fleeces of Greenland, Antarctica and Syria to turn up though more likely blanks to be filled are Iceland, Argentina, Peru, most of the former Soviet republics to the south of Russia, and a lot of Africa. If any of you visit any foreign country, the more obscure the better, please visit my blog once. I’m thinking of getting one of those scratch-off maps, perhaps not, that would be just too obsessively sad.

Didn’t see too many New Year’s Day joggers or runners out there but perhaps I was a bit late in the day for that. In previous years, I normally see more on 2 January if I am out and a generally reasonable number for about the first three weeks of January. Good luck to anyone who has resolved to exercise more though February is the acid test when it’s still wintry and the novelty may wear off for many. At least it has been made easier with Park Run a brilliant initiative over recent years. I wish it had been around when I was running about 30 years ago. No longer the loneliness of the long-distance runner, there is plenty of support for anyone wanting to take up running at any level.

Well, I for one will be out on 2 January for another stroll or more. Need to find something else to write about tomorrow then.

Only positives

Only positives from today. I’ve had a nasty cold for three or four days, one that has seemingly been threatening since the middle of December, so the planned four day walking spree has been delayed. Originally the intention was to walk 26-29 December, not necessarily great distances but to test recovery for successive walking days, but now will be 31 December – 3 January, notwithstanding any tiredness. My cold has cleared to an extent that I could think about a reasonable trek today, so – without really straining myself – I knocked out 14 miles in very nice walking weather, dry, fairly still and extremely mild for the time of year. It turned a little chilly in mid-afternoon and my hands felt that chill but, as the saying goes, glove changes everything.

It has to be said that I was on about my third or fourth wind by the time I reached home but, to be honest, it was great. For much of the time I reflected on the year almost gone and the forthcoming year. As I have mentioned previously, I feel quite a bit more resilient to things going wrong than in times past, and that is a very big positive certainly over the last month where a few events have tested me. Just as on each day now, I think of one positive from the day, I tried to form my end-year list of positives as I walked the streets and paths this afternoon. This sort of thing does help to bring a better perspective on life, even if some positives might appear relatively trivial on any particular day.

I won’t trawl through all of them but there are plenty to do with close family, friends, work, cricket, football and even health (despite my current cold). Of course, this is a walking blog – or at least a blog related to walking – so the relevant ones here are that (i) I did another thousand mile year, the 7th in a row; (ii) I completed the 100km Ultra Challenge: the South Coast Challenge, Eastbourne to Arundel, and still felt pretty fresh at the end after 26 hours, and I seem to be getting better each time I do one of these; and (iii) I have made firm arrangements for the 3 Sites Challenge, of which I have already written in previous posts, and there will be plenty more where that came from.

I will get the 3 Sites challenge out of the way first, with plenty to do on the fundraising and publicising sides, but that walk is due to finish on 9 April (starts 18 March). I am considering whether to do another Ultra Challenge https://www.ultrachallenge.com/ 100km event but (with the cricket fixtures now out) my intended target – the Peak District Challenge (13/14 July) – clashes with one of the games for which I really want to be there. So I’m left with Jurassic Coast Challenge (8/9 June and reputedly the toughest), Cotswold Way Challenge (29/30 June) or the Chiltern Challenge (27/28 July), unless I want to square the circle on an unfinished history with the Wight Challenge (which is 4/5 May, perhaps too soon – and another key clash with cricket anyway), or just do the 50km North Downs Challenge at the end of September. I don’t really see the point of redoing any of the three Ultras that I have already completed, but I would like someday to complete the full set! There are some absolute nutters who do all nine challenges in one year, despite the South Coast and Thames Path Challenges being on successive weekends.

Obviously, I will be aiming for another thousand mile year, which should be largely satisfied by the 363 (or so) miles of the 3 Sites Challenge. Hopefully I can tick off a few in the next three days. Off now for a shower, some sustenance, rest and a fresh start tomorrow morning. I’m not one for partying into the early hours on New Years Eve, though I might well still be up when Big Ben bongs. However you see in the New Year, a Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for a successful 2019.


Son, you’re having a laugh!

A Christmas Eve walk today just to blow off the cobwebs in chilly but reasonably comfortable weather. 16 miles were just enough, not too many, not too few, with any backache and potential cold now well and truly shaken off like rainwater off a dog’s fur right on your best carpet.

A coffee stop in Sholing, which is exactly one hour’s walk from home, took just over 57 minutes, so I wasn’t hanging about. There, the most predictable of predicaments with no newspapers, and the chap remembered my order despite not having seen him for quite some weeks. It’s a gift that’s wasted on baristaship. And if that’s a real word, I’ll buy you all coffee myself.

No newspapers meant filling the time with something. I like to do people watching, though one has to be sensitive not to be staring, or not seen to be staring. I would prefer to have some reading material, but this is not a bad substitute, often drifting off into my own thoughts. Some friends do think that I must find walking n miles extremely boring but I love sometimes just thinking and letting my thoughts wander, often into the ridiculous. It is the sort of thing to help build a good imagination, certainly better than rushing around just doing stuff and then doing more stuff.

Anyway, people watching and my view was centred on the disabled parking spots. Here they are the closest to the front doors of the coffee shop and the snack shop next door. It is all too easy to think, “Pah, they don’t look disabled” without having the full story but I can say that every one who parked in the disabled spots during the 20 minutes or so clearly had some sort of disability. I wouldn’t have cast any aspersion on anyone anyway, but I know it is a touchy subject for many. A few years ago, when I really was struggling on a fairly regular basis, someone suggested to me that I could get myself a (blue) disabled badge because I suffered from depression, anxiety and the like. Apparently my brow became as furrowed as a ploughed field – I couldn’t think that I would need a blue badge; why would I want to park closer to somewhere when walking long distances obviously does me good? Unless mobility was an issue, it does seem odd. Yes, there are some disabilities that are not visible but if they don’t affect being able to walk 50 feet instead of 10 feet, ok, I’ll put the soapbox away………and put the tin hat on………

This was the first walk since I turned 55 and I’m pleased to say that I am about 10 pounds lighter than when I was 50, despite letting myself go a little in the last month. I’ll be amazed if I am a further 10 pounds off when I am 60, since that will surely qualify me as hench, buff or whatever moniker one wishes to assign. I expect to lose around that amount in the 3 Sites Challenge, mostly during the first leg from Titchfield to Newport. I have already been booked in for a massage and physical check up on the Sunday after 125 miles in 6 days, at The Treatment Room https://www.treatmentroomgroup.co.uk/index where Matt works, according to Google Maps around 22 minutes walk from my accommodation. 9am on a Sunday? Son, you’re having a laugh!

Geraldine for sale

A frustrating weekend with a few niggles in my back and an occasional touch of sciatica which has brought back memories of many years ago when I had to give up running, and any meaningful sport, for a long period. I don’t think this is that serious but it is tricky getting in and out of cars and showers at the moment. Time to take care of myself until this clears, as well as the lingering suggestion of a cold that has not quite developed to anything too troubling.

This week has been a series of big ups and downs but, if I can find a positive, I have felt more resilient in myself. I have had quite a bit of interest in my 3 Sites Challenge and a few reminiscences about the Lands End to John O’Groats walk, which is almost five years ago now, though large parts of it are still incredibly fresh in my mind. One thing that did spur me on was the belief in many that I was “nuts” and I had bitten off more than I could chew. I convinced myself that what I planned to do was the safest thing ever. The nutty ones are those who say they’d love to do an adventure but never get around to it.

So there will be no walking long distances for me this weekend. But no panic. There’s no need to over-train for a long walk. In a way it is its own training. Regardless of how knackered you are on Day One or Day Two, it doesn’t take too long before you find your rhythm. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself this time with a really testing first week of 125 miles in 6 days. A couple of 26 mile days within that. But it does help to have a bit of fitness, definitely, though even more to have miles in your feet, to build up some hard skin to help counter the chance of blisters.

A steady start to fundraising for the charity C.A.L.M. and passing £150 with still over three months to the start on 18th March. Thanks again to all who have donated already. Just a reminder that you can give via


or text MALE84 1000000 to 70070 to donate a million pounds. Obviously any other donation will be very gratefully received by adding or removing zeros or using different digits for the amount after MALE84. The charity website is http://www.thecalmzone.net which bizarrely autocorrects on my tablet to http://www.Geraldine.net. I will have to have a look at that one at some time (perhaps). Ok, curiosity got the better of me and the domain is for sale. No takers here.