A baking dozen

A routine 12 mile walk today. Routine, yes, if it hadn’t been a baking 27 degrees in the sun. The shady side of the street was where it was at today, and today that was where I was at, whenever that were possible.

I have taken Tuesday and Wednesday off work to recharge my batteries, which I can do by going on a couple of decent walks. But, heat apart, there was nothing remarkable about today’s amble – taking 106 minutes rather than the standard 100 to reach my normal coffee stop in Fareham – except that I had a cold drink rather than a skinny vanilla or caramel latte. Fluids really were important and it was pretty warm even in the shade. In the past I have walked 20 miles without any sustenance or fluids, where it was much much cooler and really out in the sticks in the north of Scotland. No chance of that today, in fact it would have been dangerous.

I did manage to be in a state of very deep thought and reflection. As often seems so, the main head music was a strange combo: Franz Ferdinand, Billy Ocean and Neil Diamond. Each of them just have a couple of tracks that I absolutely love. In particular, FF have one of the great stadium anthems…..well, do ya do ya do ya wanna go…….

Anyway, walking again tomorrow, probably a similar story to today. A mini challenge later this month, nothing to do with small cars, I hasten to add, but walking to and from Ventnor. The ground is actually not in Ventnor but just south of Newport. 8 miles this side of the Solent, 6 miles on the Island, each way. Friday 24 there, Saturday 25 cricket and Sunday 26  return. Could do without it being as hot as it has been today. But need to get just a bit fitter.

So Keith, are you still going walking?

It has been a month since my last walk of any substance – the longest hiatus since I started toddling seriously at the beginning of 2012. Cricketing commitments, in the main, have blocked any chance of walking in June and the only likely day was thwarted by the likelihood (rather than the actuality) of heavy rain. Light cloud and light rain were forecast for today but it was really muggy as I set out in the late morning for a clear the airways walk. Before I got to the end of our road, I could feel light rain falling. In fact, the first hour, coincidentally the time it takes me to reach a coffee outlet, it was what I would call “cricket rain” – probably not heavy enough for the players to definitely come off but, once you come off, you would never get back on, since it never quite stopped. A very leisurely coffee stop it was, with me checking out the other cricket scores from yesterday and catching up on Facebook, before I continued on my merry way towards Bitterne. The rain had freshened the air considerably and, with this being the first walk in so long, I was never going to do much of a distance but I did want to take on a few step roads. Athelstan Road is a decently long road, all uphill, with the last 130 paces (yes, I have counted them) particularly steep. Down to Woolston and then along to Sholing, where the Portsmouth Road has become more difficult due to overhanging bushes making the pavements only worth about one-third of their proper width. My feet were fine but the afternoon was now very close and I was a bit more tired than I had expected. A 5 minute sit down on a bench and a drink was good enough to get me through to home, or at least the cricket club, where I sat for an hour and watched a very good T20 game. 12 miles.

Lots of things on my mind today. I had always felt that I needed a walk to clear my mind a bit, not least after a frustratingly narrow derby defeat yesterday and pondering the second half of the season. I have always taken solace in music during difficult times and Michelle Branch is my current musical squeeze, and she was my head music today, along with a bit of Aerosmith and ELO, with whom you can rarely go wrong. I am just very happy that my very long walk wasn’t in June / July, since I am not sure I could have taken 20 miles after 20 miles each day in these conditions. February to April was an excellent decision – not all my decisions on that walk were the right ones but the crucial ones were the better judged. Let’s see what Tuesday brings, when temperatures in the mid to late twenties are forecast down here.

There was something else occupying my mind. I cannot write a blog post without mentioning my mother, who passed away on her 87th birthday, 13 June, and her memorial service is tomorrow, followed by a private cremation. I have managed to hold it together in the last two weeks, and it helped to help my father sort out most of the paperwork in a couple of days. In fact, I have been puzzled, if that is the right word, that I haven’t felt really sad. Perhaps it is knowing that she had been in poor health for some time and that her passing was in some ways a release. I have been overwhelmed by lovely messages, kind words and thoughts by so many friends. I know when I have been in the position of offering sympathy that I have sometimes not said anything since I simply haven’t known what to say. So I don’t get upset if people don’t say anything, because I know how difficult it can be even to try to comfort, or know how to do it. I was moved almost to tears though by a work colleague and someone whom I consider a good friend, but I will keep their identity to myself, when he said to me that my Mum would have been so proud of you when I did my walk from Lands End to John O’Groats. I think I know that was the case but it moved me to think that someone else thought to say that. I had always promised Mum that I would call her first both when I reached Scotland and when I reached John O’Groats. Sadly, on both occasions, she was not feeling well but I did get to speak to my Dad and I know she was lifted by the news both times. My parents still have a massive colour map of Britain showing my progress and many visitors comment on it. Indeed, it brought home to me how much it meant to Mum when she was in hospital and on Pam and I entering the ward, she called out to the nurse and other patients, “this is my son who walked from Lands End to John O’Groats”. I was a bit embarrassed and bashful at the time but now I can only see the really happy side of what she was saying. I wasn’t sure how much she knew about my Isle of Wight Challenge but I think, to her and many others, that was a much lesser challenge and required much less sacrifice than the previous challenge. Me, I always felt confident of the long walk once I got past Bath, the most difficult first two weeks, and the psychological turn toward the north. Though I was actually covering less ground for the following five weeks or so, many many people have commented how I suddenly accelerated – it just felt I was walking further because I was walking away from home, rather than in a direction that didn’t feel as if it was entirely towards the ultimate finish of John O’Groats. The Wight Challenge wasn’t ever one that I felt certain of finishing – though at halfway round I was comfortable, even though it was cold, dark and wet. I shouldn’t dwell on the decision to stop – I did what I thought was right at the time – no matter what I think now.

So tomorrow is a day to get through.

Friday plans foiled

Ah the weather. Or, more precisely, the weather forecasts. Having not been for a decent walk for two weeks, and having commitments, cricket or otherwise, for the next two Saturdays and Sundays, I really need to keep my hand in. Or perhaps that should be my feet.

Earlier in the week, I hatched the idea of a Friday afternoon – evening walk, knocking off work at lunchtime and getting in the best part of 20 miles before it got dark. Plans of mice and men. The early weather forecasts on Monday and Tuesday were floating the probability of rain on Friday but I have known only too well how those change. Thursday night and still rain forecast for Friday afternoon. Thunder and lightning no less. Come Friday morning and the afternoon forecast was for rain, but not exceptionally heavy. It felt quite close in the morning and I had pretty much packed all the walking gear away for another week!

Still hadn’t rained by late morning and at 2pm ( probably the latest I would have to leave) the BBC Weather Forecast said it was currently 18 degrees, but would be 24 degrees within an hour and very heavy rain. Sitting in the office, glancing occasionally out of the window to see overcast skies, I wondered if I could have done it. No sign of rain, not even when I went home at 5:15. It was only around 7pm that there was any light rain and more like 7:45 when it became heavier. So if the weather forecast was anything like it should be in the days when we can apparently land on a comet, I could have got five or six hours, or almost 20 miles walking.

I know it is not impossible to walk in the rain (see, among others, a blog post from early March 2014 and my walk from Wookey to Bath if you want evidence of that) but it can be unpleasant if you don’t absolutely need to be doing it. So there goes another day without walking, and not much chance of anything significant before next midweek at the very earliest. I can see Scary Weather woman cackling at me as I write this. Nina Ridge, if you’re not keeping up…….

Despite this, the 6 pounds weight I lost are staying off. Only chocolate in the last 5 weeks has been a maximum of two small squares of that 85% cocoa dark chocolate per day, much less cheese and some reduction in bread (which I was consuming before in probably unhealthy amounts), and taking the stairs, even when my knees have been aching, an average of about 20 flights per day. A walk or two here and there could only help.

The zest for walking is still there and helped, quite randomly, by three long conversations with three different people about the Lands End to John O’Groats walk in the past week, all initiated by the other person, I hasten to add. Even 16 months after I set out, there are clearly people who are still interested! The longer time goes on, the more I realise how many other people were following me, even people whom I have never met. Goodness, I didn’t know how much that walk would change my life and how others perceive me. Maybe there is nothing else interesting about me, but a growing subject that starts a conversation is whether I have any new long walks in my plans. Yes, but not quite yet……