How did this all start?

Why would anyone want to put themselves through something like this? I guess for any number of reasons, but I would be surprised if there weren’t many whose were similar to mine. I will go into greater detail at various times later, but a period of depression, mid-life crisis (unfortunately without the women and the fast cars – so no fun for anyone) and the feeling of nothing except work in front of me until retirement coincided with me reading Mark Moxon’s epic story of walking from Lands End to John O’Groats. Suddenly a vision of a real challenge and achievement loomed.

The idea just planted itself around the end of 2011. Google Maps confirmed a minimum of 838 miles, but a more realistic distance is around 1,000 miles. My wife and son Matt, who is now 18, were with me through a darkish two years when I felt out of kilter with much of what else is in the world. I spoke to them and I wasn’t sure they thought I was serious. I wasn’t sure I was serious. Like many men, obsessions appear at regular intervals, so much so that I tried to list as many things as I can about which I have obsessed. Try these, roughly in chronological order: football, Tottenham, table football, Timeslip, watching cricket, playing cricket, scrabble, table cricket, Portsmouth FC (Pompey), E.L.O., the pop charts, bridge, darts, snooker, running, Matt’s football, Atkins diet, diets in general, Alfred Hitchcock, Deal or No Deal, going to the gym, Sarisbury Cricket Club, cricket scoring, Pointless and now long distance walking. Some of these still play a decent part of my life, some don’t, but a common theme is that for a reasonable period each of these took over a large, often disproportionate, part of my life and thoughts. Pam is very understanding about all this and accepts me for who I am – we have been married for over 21 years. The three of us have a standing joke that if we watch any film on television I will at some point comment on the influence of Hitchcock on some perhaps extremely minor detail or film technique. I have often felt I have some obsessive tendencies and one area in which I have been extremely fortunate is numbers. Luckily, and perhaps because of that fixation with numbers, I was always quite keen at school and ended up with a PhD in Statistics so I have had a pretty decent working life, all in all. Perhaps in the last few years I have plateaued or reached the inflexion point of my development and my mind did not feel quite right for some time. I had a real crisis of confidence, particularly in communicating with people I didn’t know well. It is hard to understand for anyone aware that I lectured part-time for seven years and then full-time for another seven. I still present for my employers at training courses and public events and it puzzles me how I have managed to achieve a very high reputation for informative and entertaining presentations in a field which is considered by many to be as dry as a bone. 2010 and 2011 proved to be years of great struggle, some days floating above cloud nine, only for the following days to be as dark as I can imagine. On occasions, I prepared to go to work and physically could not get through the front door. On one occasion, when I was visiting the London office, I reached Waterloo Station but could not get off the train. I then travelled all the way back home on the return train. Gradually, the bad days became less frequent but I realised it was going to take something special to get me back to my mental state of three or four years before.  I am 49 now, not quite the physical specimen I was in my twenties when I ran half-marathons but not in bad shape. I had received a Kindle from Pam for Christmas – she’d actually given it to me a month or two early – and on one of my many searches I found Mark Moxon. Soon I was hooked and it wasn’t long before I had the idea of doing the long walk myself. I’d had plenty of recent dreams where I was out running just like I had been twenty years before so it was obviously on my mind. I felt it was worth pursuing and another obsession was born.

I still have my off days but am as happy and as settled now as I’ve been for some years. Perhaps this was just the challenge I needed. Wow – have I just written all that?

Walking the Test Way

Signed up today to Walk the Test Way on Sunday. The whole course is 25.5 miles, but in order to meet up with a friend I haven’t seen for a while and have a chat (if I can get a word in edgeways) – Enliz D’Souza – I’m doing the 8 miles option, followed by a 14 mile walk home from Romsey. This is part of an ONS group who are doing various distances. Details of the event here:

http://www.walkthetestway.org.uk/

and their JustGiving page here

http://www.justgiving.com/ONSWalkingGroupArthritisResearchUK?utm_source=emailvision&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FR_page_creation

A skate down to the sea and back

People who have talked to me about walking will know that I actually prefer road walking to scenic footpaths. It’s easier to navigate, for one thing, and I don’t find it so harsh on the knees and ankles. However, today I saw the other side to that. It was sufficiently cool to have a hoodie on top of the base shirt and my Pompey hoodie was ok, particularly as I was walking to the east rather than the west. But as I was approaching Fareham, more Pompey than Southampton territory I thought, a car slowed and a woman, with more bottle than real blonde and a more impressive frontage than was her face, leant out of the passenger side window and shouted, “f*** off you skate”. With that, they sped off, before I could inform her that her roots needed a bit of attention. Well, charming. That apart, it was a fairly routine 19 miles, if that distance can indeed be routine. Despite stopping off for a beverage at Caffe Nero (other coffee outlets were available) I felt thirsty halfway down to Lee on Solent and must have been hallucinating by the fact that I saw petrol prices at 120-something rather than 130-something. I realise now that there is a phoney petrol price war between the big supermarkets, but it’s all a bit handbags given the petrol pump protests of 2001 took place with prices reaching about 80p per litre. From the time I remember driving home back from football in Portsmouth at precisely 56 miles per hour all the way along the motorway, apparently the optimum speed for petrol consumption.

Tesco Express (other outlets were available) and a sugar free drink (buy 1 get 1 free) – I couldn’t go wrong. Can’t say my socks protected my feet too well today, and my soles are a little tender. Listening to footie does take my mind off that sort of irritation and new signing Luis Suarez picked up a couple of goals for my Fantasy Football team. At least it’s not Robbie Savage on 6-0-6. Liverpool won so it’s full of “We’re going to win the league” rather than “No disrespect to [insert other club], but we should be beating [same said club]”. Ok, I’ve drifted off the walking nature of this blog. It’s so unlike me to digress from the point……

So unenthusiastic I don’t even know what to call this post

Not my best walk today – a bit short of enthusiasm but it is important on those days to at least get out. Drove to Weston Shore and I have always enjoyed walking in around and through Victoria Country Park. Weather forecast looks better for the weekend than it did earlier in the week so should get a few miles in tomorrow afternoon and evening and then on Sunday. Seeing one of my future landlords tomorrow – Sister Joy (no she’s not) and Dave are popping in mid-morning. It’ll be good to see them. Next February, they’ll be putting me up for one night and then a rest day at their place in North Somerset.

Mind felt a bit preoccupied with work stuff. Nothing major but lots of bits and bobs all the time. My work calendar looks as full as a stripper’s diary on National Get Your Kit Off Day, but it’s every day, and I get to keep my kit on. Becoming less and less time to do all I need to do.

On another lighter note, someone anonymous has donated £1 by text. No idea who it is, they’ve remained anonymous. It may not sound very much but every pound and every penny is appreciated.

Socks and phones and rock n roll

Today I have to say goodbye to two of my friends for the past 18 months. My 1,000 Mile socks have been great to me, to a point that I barely even get a hint of a blister. They’re not the only socks I wear for walking but they’ve been the best……until quite recently. What I didn’t realise was that the 1,000 miles meant 500 miles per sock, or thereabouts. They are still wearable but are starting to come loose inside and there are beginnings of a hole near one of the toes. I won’t be cremating them and sprinkling the ashes over my favourite walking routes but they’ve done me good. Even if they only gave me half the distance I thought they would.

Bank account unlocked. Working at home yesterday morning, and in anticipation of a call from my bank between 9am and 5pm, I received a phone call at 9:01. All dealt with very efficiently. After introductions (she had a lovely voice) I tried to strike up a conversation but unfortunately her discourse went something like this:

I need to ensure that you are who you say you are. Please type your birthday in the form Day followed by Month. For example,……….

If you are satisfied that this transaction was genuine and attempted by you, please press 1.

Thank you. If you would like any other services offered by ****** Bank, please press 1, otherwise hang up.

OK, all done. But sometimes I would like to talk to a real person and I can explain that this is likely to happen again. But she did have a lovely voice.

Forget the rock n roll.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/1000-Mile-Mens-Fusion-Sock/dp/B002RBE290/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380180974&sr=8-1&keywords=1000+mile+socks

Every little helps

Booking up accommodation – one Travelodge (Ashbourne, Derbyshire) only had rooms available for that particular night at £66 (+breakfast, WiFi extra) – they are usually £20-25 if willing to pay on a non-refundable basis. But have found a B&B nearby very reasonably priced (£35 includes both breakfast and WiFi).

The bonus is that my route has shortened by about a mile. Two thousand fewer steps now, two thousand fewer opportunities for either of my knees to give up on me.

The bad news is that the bank have blocked my card on account of there being “suspicious purposes”. Well I suppose booking accommodation at six different places spread across the country within a two day period does look suspicious. I will need to chat to someone at the bank – perhaps they’ll sponsor me. That’s the joke for today.

Committed

First accommodation booked, a couple of Travelodges in Cornwall. Cheap as chips, as David Dickinson would say. Except you don’t get chips or any sort of breakfast unless you pay extra for it. Likewise WiFi comes at a price. But even with that, it’s a pretty good deal and you know what you’re getting.

Enquiries made with a few guest houses as to availability. Excuse the pompous English, but very optimistic and brave am I to have also booked accommodation in a B&B in Watten, just 17 miles walk from John O’Groats. Given the sparse choice of shelter in that neck of the woods, I thought I ought to get something there to make sure I am not out in the wild, even towards the end of April.

The next month or so will see me book pretty much all my stays in various places. If any one has free accommodation at any point on my route (see – post on Details Details) (and of course I will contribute to food and drink), I would be really grateful. Thank you to the people who have already agreed to put me up – name-checking now –

sister Carolyn (Claw Cross, Devon); note she is not a nun, she is my female sibling;

sister Carolyn, the non-nun, has friends who will put me up near Redruth;

sister Joy, another non-nun, is putting me up in Carhampton, near Minehead, Somerset;

nephew Russell and wife Vicky (his wife, not another one of mine!), in Balsall Common, just south east of Birmingham;

sister Sheila, no she’s not…., in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.

 

Really looking forward to all this now, as long as I can still do my job properly for another 4 and a bit months. If I do, I will enjoy my morning shower; if I don’t, I will have my morning shower making sure I don’t catch the eye of another prisoner with soap in slippery hands.