Faith can move mountains, but can my sister’s children climb them?

Total raised now £11,071. A few more donations to come in, but that looks like being very close to the “final” total. Have been to the bank, deposited a considerable bunch of cash (yep, I know) and enquired about one of those enormous presentation cheques for me to pose with. I am keeping the justgiving page open for another year, partly because I can, but only for the sake of a small number of people who may become aware of my walk / charity / page over that period.

We are considering another quiz night and perhaps one event per year to keep raising awareness as well as money.

Still questions, more questions, and even more questions about another challenge. Unlikely to be anything else this year, since I have not only used up most of my leave but also incurred considerable expense. A minimum aim (or was it an objective) of my walk was to raise more money for SANDS than I spent myself doing the walk. Done that, and some more, but that expenditure is not something I can just repeat willy nilly.

If it is a walking challenge, I might do the Coast to Coast, or perhaps the Southern Upland Way, across the South of Scotland, a path of about 212 miles. Would need at least two weeks off work to do it, and a couple of additional recovery days. But at least not for another year. The Land’s End to John O’Groats thing was a once in a lifetime experience and I cannot imagine ever doing anything of that magnitude again.

I’m sure they won’t mind me saying, and if they do, that’s just too bad :-), that my niece and nephew Lorraine and Andrew are planning to climb Kilimanjaro in three years time. 19,000 feet if you didn’t know. Now that is not even four miles, 1,022 less than what I did. However, it is up and not something I am likely to try! Good on them.

Just for them, this is a picture of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. And about a quarter of the size of Kilimanjaro.

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4:45am?

Right that’s it. Two people yesterday commented that I had started to put back on the weight I had lost during my walk. True, it’s not all 21 pounds that I lost, but I would imagine I have regained at least half a dozen of those. I sort of expected to. But when people notice and comment, I can’t say it doesn’t touch a nerve.

Must ensure that I have at least one walk per week, and at least one gym session per week. Probably more. And just count to ten before I scoff chocolate.

4:45 alarm this morning and a flight to Manchester for first of two day conference. Got key to hotel room and struggled to make it work. Was just about to traipse down to reception when I realised I was trying the wrong door. Could have been embarrassing, though it wouldn’t be the first time this year I have gone in the wrong door.

Amusing that 75 out of 100 people on Pointless recognised a picture of Sir Alfred Hitchcock (who has been dead for over 30 years) and only 69 recognised Stephen Spielberg (who is very much alive). Confirms the natural order of things. Even more amused to get what would be a jackpot winning answer of ‘Hitchcock’ in the final round as a response to ‘Films of Scarlett Johansson’. Not that I am obsessed, of course.

Tired. Headache. Evening meal at 7pm. Need an early night.

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Hah, viaduct / bridge watch.

Just one more thing….

Ready for a couple of days away – a 2 day conference in Manchester. Already thinking about holidays, as if I haven’t just had one very long one. Not that it really was a holiday, it was jolly hard work. Hard to believe that it is already a month tomorrow since I finished, and I’m missing it very badly. Not that work is bad at all, but I became accustomed to the walking lifestyle and I just want a bit more of it.

Our main holiday this year as a couple will be a cruise in September into October, just as we ship Matt off to university, it seems. But another place has caught my eye. Me and Mrs Spiceboy, we just love Columbo, and I discovered only today that Budapest is a shrine to the great Peter Falk. Cafe Columbo is a must.

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and we just have to see this statue.

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So Budapest will be great, I would guess next summer. That’s just terrific. Just one more thing….

Boots cruise

For the third time since my long walk finished, I have had Achilles pains after a walk. Niggly rather than really painful, but sufficient, given the wear on the heels, for me to find a new pair of boots. Half price sale at Trespass, Whiteley and so not much more than forty quid needed for a very snugly fitting pair. At least as much protection in the heels as the last two pairs.

Though it might sound as if I am just throwing money after money on boots, I am getting about 800-900 miles out of each pair. Not as much as you might expect, one would want to get a four figure total from a pair. It appears that I am what they call a “high maintenance” walker. Currently wearing them in around the house. Not quite sure when I will next be walking, since there is cricket due for both Saturday and Sunday the next two weekends. Not a chance of an early finish on Friday either, since I am away on work. Maybe a couple of laps around the concourse in Manchester Airport.

Spent a lot of this morning reading back through my blog. In fact, almost all of it, including the comments. Found a number of memories previously unstirred since the day being dug up. Good ones, mainly.

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Loch Lomond. A wonderful sight. No portent of what was to unfold on that same day.

Well, Prime Minister, banning sheep is going a bit far, don’t you think?

Not for me a pleasant walk in sunny weather yesterday, no, after sorting out the money side of Saturday night and the various sponsorship forms, it was a Bank Holiday walk in the rain.

I had to laugh to myself as it started spitting, no more than that, at the apparent panic in other pedestrians getting their umbrellas up as quickly as if they were slugs and it was salt descending from the sky. It did eventually get heavy enough for the waterproof hood to be necessary.

A change in coffee outlet today, though one I have used a few times before, so much so that my loyalty card points reached that point today where I can get my next purchase for free.

I spent much of the walk considering the results and fall-out from the European Elections. A turnout of barely one-third does give hope to the main parties other than UKIP, but also a warning of the apathy among much of the electorate. I have heard calls to make voting compulsory, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Let them persuade us to vote (I did, by the way) rather than force us.

If there were to be compulsory voting, I would very much consider forming a “I don’t want to vote but they made me do it” Party. I would expect to win the General Election with an outright majority. All I need now are some policies ‘for the people’.
How about:

All non-smokers will be allowed to leave their desks for 5 minutes every hour to stand outside;

There will be a minimum belt height on all trousers, in public places, no lower than 1 centimetre below the first indication of buttock separation;

Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving should have to witness (at close quarters) a driver attempting a manoeuvre of negotiating a left-hand corner while on the phone with a small child sized crash test dummy being propelled at slow walking pace across the road;

The weather forecast will be presented with confidence intervals. Any set of forecasts that fall outside these four times out of five consecutive days should force the broadcaster to lose their Approved Weather Forecaster badge;

Private roads patrolled by security guards should be built so that any schoolchild who has “forgotten their PE kit” or missed PE without a valid medical certificate can be dumped 10 miles away at Friday lunchtime, so they can walk back to school, thus ensuring they get sufficient exercise, whilst being safe from the disproportionately hysterical risk of being abducted;

Bridge, Scrabble, Backgammon and board games should be compulsory for two hours a week at junior and secondary schools, in order to teach children problem solving skills, instead of being trained to remember sentences from books.

OK, that’s just a start. A manifesto wasn’t built in a day. But all those sound like vote winners to me. Economic policy can come later.

Back to the walk and a comfortable total of 13 miles. Award for Lost Persons of the Day goes to the couple of old guys who pulled over near Warsash, trying to find the way to Hayling Island.

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Who you lookin’ at?

More than I ever expected

……and more to come. Still some sponsorship to be collected, but the total is £11,051, as far as I can calculate. Almost a thousand pounds on sponsorship forms at ONS and another thousand raised tonight at the 40/50s night.

A hog roast supplied by Hadlows of Titchfield was absolutely lovely. I could give you their details but I thought I’d just show you their van and the roast (before it was roasted!)

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Disappointing that I didn’t win very much in the raffle but that is just my competitive side. Quite a few prizes for people at work and plenty for people from the cricket club, including an umbrella for 1st team captain Dave Banks, somehow appropriate on a day when all six Sarisbury league matches were washed out.

Scarlet Swing provided live music and it was a great night. Not normally my type of thing but I really enjoyed it.

10 moments I’ll never forget from the long walk

Good or bad, there were plenty of memorable moments. Reading back through bits of my blog brought lots of them back. So, in no particular order, these are ten (and not necessarily the ‘top’ ten) that will still be very fresh in my mind in ten years’ time.

 

  • The climb up to the tea shop and then down to Alston. 1,903 feet and a really satisfying day. In the afternoon, I saw my first snow of the whole walk, on the distant hills, while descending to about 1,400 feet to Alston, the highest market town in England. Snow was falling, but not settling when I reached my accommodation.
  • All the COOFs. The first was when I phoned in from Barnstaple, stood in the middle of a large roundabout with a gallery. I almost got run down by a bloke on a skateboard. The call was a surprise for my work colleagues, except Colin and Ali, and was meant to be a one-off. However, it was received so well that it became a regular once a week thing, from various places up and down the country, including a couple of trolley parks (Glossop and Colne), the banks of Loch Lomond with the waves lapping around four feet from my feet, and finally on my final day just four miles from the finish with a packed COOF room. On a Tuesday morning, I was looking at my watch every few minutes to wait for that time just after 11. It became a time for release of all the banter that had built up inside of me – it’s not that easy to laugh and joke with other people whom you’ve only just met.
  • The walk on the Great Glen Way to Fort Augustus. A very flat terrain and much of the day had youngsters doing what appeared to be a cycling proficiency test. At Fort Augustus I bought chicken and chips and sat on the ground watching boats passing through the locks, on a lovely sunny afternoon. It really felt as if summer was here, on 18 April.
  • Walking to Bath. Dreadful weather and the first real struggle to keep spirits up. I’d had some late finishes before but this was just unpleasant. I could only check my way as I reached each bus shelter where I could keep my tablet dry. When I did eventually reach the youth hostel, after the final trial of a half mile climb up a steep hill, I was kept waiting as the slowest receptionist ever dealt with trivial tasks set by the couple in front of me. I had to then walk through the rain to get to my room, where there were next no drying facilities. My bag had leaked. No soap, shower gel or shampoo provided (fortunately I had commandeered some on previous days). Breakfast was just as much a trial the next morning.
  • Walking into a private house in Painswick, thinking it was a café. The sign “Tea House” hung above the front door. Easy mistake to make, and surprising how shocked the woman resident looked. She almost pricked her finger on her sewing machine.
  • Loch Lomond. A fantastic view for much of the morning, but the day got gradually worse, culminating in a nightmare evening as the path appeared to disappear and it was more a rock climb than a walk for 6 of the most testing miles. Poor meals in two stops had left me in a poor mental state even before a fall off a ladder over a stile was only broken by my own rucksack. Nobody even saw me fall, it was so quiet, and getting pretty dark by the time I reached my destination, where I stayed in the most Spartan of all my stops. Dispiriting? Perhaps. But I found the strength to always think that tomorrow was another day.
  • This might surprise you, but just seeing that road sign telling me there were only 109 miles to John O’Groats. The first indication of proximity to the finish. Thinking about my thoughts at the time still gives me goosebumps.
  • A day on the beach, or most of it at least, walking to Portgower. It has become more memorable due to the reaction to my blog. Half the population loved it, the other half thought I’d lost it. Still makes me laugh just reading it and thinking about how it all came about.
  • Sharing a honeymoon with a just married couple. No, not what you’re thinking, nothing salacious, but Colin and Linda Lloyd driving up half the length of England just to join me for a couple of hours. Funny that this was a day when I had changed my route and their attempt to surprise me by pulling up alongside me was thwarted. But after I had received a phone call from the lost couple, it all ended happily and they found me. Lunch at a café was not perhaps what was intended, but very much appreciated and made the moment even more special by the rough and readiness of it all. Never to be forgotten.
  • A chat with a guy about two or three miles before I reached Scotland. After his initial “Yerwockinfar?”, that I just about understood, roughly translated as, “Hello dear chap, are you on a long journey this fine day?”, I have to admit I didn’t understand a word of what he said. As I responded politely, “Oh, that’s good”, I just hoped that he hadn’t just told me that his wife had left him for his brother, or that he had just been diagnosed with some terrible ailment. But he smiled and waved as I made my way up towards Gretna, me giggling to myself.

Of course, there are loads of others. Ben Nevis was stunning. I loved Colne, a real Northern town, the reservoirs on Pennine Way, the day in the fog, the time I couldn’t do my laces up (the only time I thought I would have to give up) and any numbers of great views, such as this:

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