Canada Days

A work trip to Canada has meant a few days quiet for the blogging machine. Also not so much opportunity for walking, what with other commitments.

At Heathrow, it was annoying yet almost routine to hear complaints by passengers with unreasonably high expectations of everyone and everything. I imagined them doing my walk and taking five times as long simply because they had to complain to the council that there was a crack in the pavement or that their hotel only supplied enough shampoo for one shower per day. I know you’ve paid a lot of money but sometimes you have to just accept that people are doing their best, even if it might not be perfect.

I have not grown out of that child-like trait of watching the same film over and over again. I imagine it’s a form of comfort, though you might not think some of the films are designed to ‘comfort’. On the plane with a decent selection of classic movies from which to choose, I bravely declined the three Hitchcock films, Psycho, North by Northwest and The Birds. I’ve never been a great fan of The Birds but the special effects were just superb for their day. I could watch the other two over and over again, and indeed I have. But I decided to take on a new film, or at least one I hadn’t seen before. Out of the classics, it was to be either Cool Hand Luke or The Manchurian Candidate. Unfortunately I selected the former. Paul Newman, who was Hitchcocked in Torn Curtain with Julie Andrews, was the star. I have a soft spot for Torn Curtain, in that (I think) it was the first Hitchcock film I ever saw, on TV late night in the early 1980s though both Newman and Andrews are unconvincing as lovers and the film is not widely considered to be one of Hitchcock’s best. Cool Hand Luke was a real disappointment – a slow and rather predictable plot and only a few scenes of real note. Film critics may care to differ (it is rated #139 movie of all time on imdb.com) but I felt it was one of the most overrated ones I’ve seen.

In a similar way, I like to find good walks and walk the same ones over and over again. I often explore some minor deviations if it is a road walk but I like familiarity – and I can’t say it breeds contempt. Next year’s walk is hard enough just for the distance and fitness, but for me it is extra challenging with having to meet people and the unfamiliarity of where I am walking. Some love meeting new people and are naturals. Not me. I always try to see the best in people but this is often after a little while. I am naturally suspicious of anyone I haven’t previously met. There’s nothing sinister behind that – I wasn’t abused as a child or bullied any more than anyone else – a bit of teasing about having big ears and then long hair (ironically to cover my big ears) and then my own sometimes social awkwardness but nothing that has hurt long term. I have become self deprecating almost as a defence mechanism; if people see me take the mick out of myself then it likely draws the sting from any malicious intent. I also emerged from an unpleasant teenage and young adult phase when I was always right, even when I was quite aware I was wrong. That was insecure squared, at least now I am only the square root of insecure.

It was a long haul flight and I had achy calves. It was very difficult to walk around too much but I could stretch into the aisles. That was about it. After a night’s rest (I didn’t sleep well at all on any of the four nights) I took a 7 mile walk after the strange sensation of watching Live Premier League football at 9:30 am; even stranger that Sunderland won. The first and last parts of the walk are on the roads around the hotel. I can’t get used to looking the other way as to in England on crossing roads, though at least I’ve learnt since my last trip over the Atlantic when I got in the driver’s side of the taxi! It is pretty chilly, about 5 degrees but comfortable enough to hardly build up a sweat. You can see that even when blessed with nice scenery and new territory, all we British have to talk about the weather.

A very good conference and my bit went well, but this blog will rarely be about work-things. Ottawa is a city that feels as European as it does American but now it’s time to go home. The taxi driver taking me to the airport apologised that he’d lost his voice – in the ensuing 10 minutes I began to understand how. An opinion on anything, and a willingness to start a conversation / argument. I am nearly always happy to take a taxi in silence save for the most minimal of formalities, not that I get much chance to get many words in edgeways, despite his croakiness.

A bit of a wait at the airport. Quite why one has to be there 3 hours prior to a long haul flight is not clear, except to ensure all the retail outlets receive sufficient custom. A chance to have a brief snooze, ensuring I am sufficiently entangled with my luggage so it couldn’t be pilfered without me stirring. Finally, on to the plane. There’s a pompous prat, fortunately not sat next to me but unfortunately close enough for me to have to listen to. Sample quote: “I got headhunted by Ernst and Young a few years ago. But I turned them down because I wasn’t going to work for an organisation that didn’t have proper recruitment procedures”. Yeah, really? Like if that was the case you wouldn’t be in economy class with the rest of us…….

So back to Blighty. Planning on walking on Saturday and Sunday and maybe even a short stroll on Friday. Will see how the jet lag is. In a strange way I have missed doing the washing up. And of course I have Pammy and Matt. I do appreciate the chance to travel that work sometimes provides, but I do miss those two.

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Just on the first rung of the bonkers ladder

Some people have said that I’m mad taking on this challenge. Not half as mad, though, as any of these: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/oct/23/ten-unusual-travel-challenges-around-world . Many thanks to the lovely Kay Sumpner for sending that link to me. Made me laugh a lot. I wouldn’t mind reading their blogs, though whether they would make any sense at all is definitely in question.

Off to Ottawa tomorrow so in all likelihood this blog will be taking a break until next Thursday night. A decent walk is planned for Sunday before the conference starts on Monday. My presentation is first thing on Wednesday. Weather forecast better now than that forecast for next week last week. http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/6094817

 

Answers to quiz questions from yesterday:

Some people call me Maurice; Try not to sing out of key; It’s a black fly in your chardonnay; Alaska; Perth; Greenland; Liechtenstein; Armadillo; Cate Blanchett; 8mph.

Well done to anyone who got some of those. I tell you what, I’ll negotiate that ONE (and only one) of those questions will be in the real quiz as a bonus. So reading this blog might not be entirely a waste of time.

 

On what to blog?

A blog a day keeps bedtime away. I’ll be doing this most days until into May and there will be some times I will get writer’s block, rather than writer’s blog. To help me today, the quizmaster for 16 November has given me a few questions that are deemed not quite of the quality required – sometimes because he’s used them before. So try these (answers tomorrow):

What are the next lyrics of the following songs:

  • Some people call me the space cowboy, some call me the gangster of love….. [Steve Miller Band; next 5 words?]
  • Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, And I’ll…….. [Beatles; next 7 words?]
  • An old man turned ninety-eight,  He won the lottery and died the next day…… [Alanis Morrisette; next 7 words?]

What is the only U.S. state name that can be typed using just one row of letters on a standard QWERTY keyboard?

Which city in the world is the furthest from any other city?

Which country is split into four municipalities and a national park, the municipalities being Sermersooq, Kujalleq, Qeqqata and Qaasuitsup?

The San Marino national football team has only ever won one game, beating whom in a friendly match on 28 April 2004?

Fuleco, the official mascot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is what type of animal?

Which actress in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001) was quoted as saying that she only took her role because “I’ve always wanted pointy ears”?

The first motorist to be fined for speeding in the UK was Walter Arnold in 1896. At what speed (in mph) was he travelling?

 

If you are interested in taking part and forming a team for the Charity Quiz night, see https://spiceboy80.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/charity-quiz-night-16-november/.

Rooms and mood swings

Time to really get going on booking accommodation. Already one place that I had earmarked for a night in April – and not Easter weekend either – is completely booked up apart from a family room at £120 rather than the double room (with single supplement) I had planned at £37.50. OK, there is one other place in the area at a reasonable price. I also am seeing the limited choice of places to stay in some pretty remote places in Scotland, and that a village where you’d planned to stay has a best accommodation option about five miles off the beaten track. Ok, it’s not an entirely stupid option to sleep semi-rough for one night as long as there is some sort of shelter, and there are bothies aplenty in Scotland that are there purely for walkers. For the uninitiated (and I was so until the last year) bothies are shelters in isolated parts of the UK. It might be fun (and certainly cheap) to do a couple of these rather than line the deep kilt pocket of the owners of B&Bs with what sometimes seem over-inflated prices, over-inflated purely due to the remoteness and lack of choice. http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/. Other people who have walked from LE to JOG often appear to meet people in pubs who then offer them a bed for the night, but I don’t think I want to take that chance!

My thoughts about this walk appear to mirror my moods about life three years ago. There are some days when I am really really looking forward to it, genuinely excited about 11 weeks on the road, discovering new places, getting lost (no doubt) and just being so in control of my own destination. Other days I dread the effort and energy that I will need to expend, what will happen if I get a cold or get injured, what if I can’t complete it. I have found it helpful on previous walks when I have felt tired or a bit down to think of the two reasons why I will be doing this. One is the whole personal challenge. Plenty of people have done this before, but it will be an achievement to tell the grandchildren (given Matt gets round in the future to procreating, hopefully rather than playing PlayStation for ever and a day). The other reason of course is the charity and I have come out in goose pimples and really felt a surge of adrenaline when I think that the pain I’m feeling is next to nothing compared to the women who have lost children. I have to do it for them.

Dreams (won’t come true)

However stressed I got or get about work, I cannot remember ever dreaming about work. I did have some strange dreams a couple of years ago, but for many, many years I have had a couple of recurring themes. One concerns me skipping off school or lessons, and they are almost always French classes, which is strange since that was always one of my best and favourite school subjects, slightly unusual for a boy, I know. The other is one in which I am travelling home and I always have to change trains or buses at the same places, neither places that I recognise from real life.

But just recently I have had a couple of dreams related to walking. In the first, around three weeks ago, I arrived at a B&B and found that there were no vacancies. Despite me producing a receipt for an on-line booking, I am turned away and walk a bit further until I find another one down a cul-de-sac. The place is empty apart from the owner, who strikes me as a bit creepy. In the second dream, I go into a pub for lunch and witness a fight between some locals. It has the same layout as the pub where there was a fight in “Young and Innocent”, and yes, the former dream is reminiscent of “Psycho”.

I know I have had a fixation with Hitchcock for a few years now, but this has struck me a bit out of the blue. I’m now wondering whether tonight I will dream of being accused of being a spy, go on the run and then be dive bombed by a crop duster. Or perhaps be attacked by a load of birds as I go up the stairs, or maybe talk to an old woman on a train, only to find her completely vanish.

Is there anyone out there who can interpret dreams? I hope there’s not something very Freudian about all this.

Free wifey on offer

My mind turned to charity today as the biggest of my four big sisters came round (with partner Dave and elder son Antony in tow) and we had tea and scones with jam and clotted cream. Used a tea set that we actually received as a wedding present 21 years ago – only used for special occasions – and since it was Joy’s *!@th (actually her *!@rd) birthday today it was just perfect. They came bearing a great selection of things for raffle prizes, some donated by my parents, whom they had visited earlier.

Interest in the charity quiz on 16th November is picking up. Need to get the quizmaster’s ass into gear to finish off the final touches to that quiz but Pammy and our neighbour Lorna are doing a great job making the arrangements for that night; sounds like they have plans for two more events – bingo in the New Year and some event or other after I return from my jaunt.

Selecting a charity was fairly straightforward after I’d talked to my niece Lorraine who had lost a baby in pregnancy. She suggested SANDS http://www.uk-sands.org/ and, with two full years before I was due to start, I let a few people know. My Just Giving page http://www.justgiving.com/Keith-Spicer1 has been open since February, one year prior to the start, and I have had some great support. There were other charities that I thought about supporting, notably Multiple Sclerosis Society and British Heart Foundation, due to connections with close work colleagues, but they are very well known charities and do attract a lot of support anyway. If you would like to donate, ok, ok, I’ve given you the details already, there’s plenty of time blah blah blah. 

A humorous moment during a telephone conversation with a potential B&B when the owner, with a heavy Scottish accent, assured me that I would have free “wifey” during my stay. Took me a moment to realise what he was trying to say. Or maybe…..

Walk of two halves

It was never going to be one of my marathon long walks today. Having not walked for almost two weeks thanks largely to a stinking cold that is still just about there in my head, new boots to wear in and very grey weather, I was quite pleased to see off over 13 miles without suffering too much discomfort. New boots being worn in the house is only a very partial preparation for walking in them on the road, with every different piece of footwear exhibiting different amounts of pressure on very slightly different parts of the foot. One blister on the inside of one toe is, overall, a pretty decent result for the foot in my virgin shoe.

By my standards, a pre-11am start is pretty early for me but as the nights start to draw in, it is now essential to take the first step slightly earlier. No-one wants to be walking in the dark, after all. It is a day for other new things: specialist walking trousers were so comfortable and didn’t end up absolutely soaked in sweat around the waistband like pretty much any other trousers I’ve worn for long distance traipses; and a very good-looking blue t-shirt as the base layer, one that I’d bought months ago but had somehow been tucked away in one of Pam’s drawers rather than mine. However, it is a grim and grey outlook when I exit the front door, with the majority of cars having headlights on – remember it is still British Summer Time, unbelievably. For the next hour and a half, during which I walk the (almost) six miles to Fareham, my hood is going up and down, as the rain ranges from being “in the air” to “steady”. The cue for the hood going up is around that point that wipers move from being intermittent to constant. I amuse myself by regularly taking samples of 20 cars to decide the direction of hood travel. Statisticians just cannot turn off that part of their brain.

The Costa break becomes one third refreshing, one third amusing, one third irritating. Amusing as I listened to three blokes in their late 20s all trying to out-macho each other as if they were in some game of bull**** top trumps, particularly in the top speed they have each traversed the country’s motorways. As far as I understand, the World Land Speed Record is 763 mph, and we were fast approaching that before the three moved on to some other subject. It was all amusing, as I say, until one of them uttered that most irritating of phrases, “When I was younger,….”. Yeah, like, as opposed to when? At that point, I told them exactly what I thought of them and challenged them to a duel outside. Ok, I didn’t. But I had finished caffeinising and rehydrating my parched throat and made off for the second leg of the walk. By this time, the greyness had cleared as if the sky had overdosed on Grecian 2000 and though the sun was not yet resplendent the weather was certainly looking more promising. A much more pleasant outlook and so I took a slightly longer route back, even along a couple of roads that I hadn’t been along ever before but were sort of heading in the right direction. With Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” in my head for some reason, it was a lovely walk home with only a slight discomfort from that blister any sort of blot on the landscape.

Feet up now, Strictly, takeaway (?), Match of the Day,…………….