Can someone take away my boomerang?

No walking this weekend and none perhaps for a little while. I have referred before to a niggling problem that I have had for over three months. It has come and gone and come back a number of times like an insane boomerang, manifesting itself as a nagging pain between the ribs and hips, sometimes lower toward the groin area. Over the last week it has been there more constantly and led to a lack of sleep some nights, and I have had to take some days off work as a result. Seems ok today but it is never a good idea to hold your breath for too long. I thus need to conserve energy during the weekends and evenings and so the walking boots are just having a break, hopefully not for too long.

I have had the scan results back and it is an issue with a mildly swollen right kidney, but no stones of any significant size were evident. Whole range of things it could be. Been referred to a urologist who is a specialist in kidney problems.

Am I concerned? Well, uncertainty is never a good thing, except of course in disclosure control, for those who know my area of expertise at work. I will take this time to plan the Offa’s Dyke walk, though it might not take place for another 15-18 months (one challenge a year is enough). Before that time, I do have the small matter of London to Brighton in May. In the meantime, life goes on……hopefully back on the road before too long. Walking is useful for fitness but also just keeping my weight down a bit. Obviously still looking at another LEJOG when I am 75!


Winter walking is here – better get used to it

Well it has been a strange week, after the attacks in Paris. Tremendous respect shown and a breakout of entente cordiale, yet there has been some criticism of the move by many Facebook users to superimpose the French flag on their profile pictures, since there have been other attacks in other countries previously, notably Lebanon, Turkey…. But these are not given great media coverage here – from my travels I know that much news all around the world is parochial and here the proximity of the attacks to Britain has clearly hit home harder. I don’t intend to change my profile picture every time there is an attack but I did post a Mali flag this morning. Every attack, after all, is on human beings, whether they be from Britain, France or any other country and there is a certain randomness to where any one person is born. The events of this week have been on my mind a bit and even within the first two or three miles today, a bitter cold day in the south of England.

Yes, it was very cold indeed with a stiff breeze. Within a couple of hours I felt quite tired and I put that partly down to the temperature and partly down to a few later than normal nights. Sleep is very important for health and fitness and I have neglected myself in that department recently. I also only had a cup of tea and a bowl of corn flakes in the morning so I didn’t exactly have a full tank and all four cylinders behind me. Nevertheless, a walk up to Botley and the Pear Tree Inn, turning round and taking a longer route home past the Rose Bowl, West End and Bitterne before a late coffee stop about an hour from home. I have walked in colder conditions before but it has been a while. Haven’t needed any woollen wear since early in the year but suddenly the woolly hat, gloves and scarf were all required, so much so that I was concerned about being stopped and searched as I skulked the streets.

Often I start a walk in slightly troubled mood but am able to shift that within two or three miles – it has been one of the great benefits of taking up long distance walking over the last four years. Today, however, I felt heavy legged and slightly down for most of the walk. Perhaps it was the cold, perhaps it was the realisation that work is hard and I have a heavy workload before the Christmas break and putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly for five and a bit hours is not going to help that. But I convince myself that there is always someone worse off than me. Reading the opening paragraph of this blog post is enough to realise that. I have a good, well-paid job (despite austerity and cutbacks on pay rises and pensions), I have my health and of course I have my Pammy. I feel better even just for writing that last sentence – a very decent distance, all things considered, 16.5 miles, and I will just soon be going for a soup before an evening in front of the television.

Just a quick line about forthcoming events. London to Brighton in May – self-funding – but I was happy to see a cricket buddy and his sister taking up the same challenge raising money for MacMillan. Their mother passed away some months ago after a long battle. I don’t feel that I can ask people again for sponsorship but, if others were going to sponsor me, or thought about sponsoring me before but didn’t for whatever reason, I would be delighted if they thought about Martin and Claire Lander who are walking in memory of their mother Debbie.

Before that, I will no doubt (in March or April) have a Week of Pain when I really build up fitness with six or seven consecutive days walking. In the medium-term pipeline, I intend to increase my catalogue of country domination to four, following walking the length of England, Scotland and, er, Gibraltar with the 177 mile Offa’s Dyke Path that is the length of Wales. Many moons ago I did have some discussions with my niece and nephew about walking up (and down) Kilimanjaro – not sure if I am still doing that, but some of that would feel even colder than today when, rather incongruously, I feel as if I have some slight sunburn on my cheeks.

So that is all for another day or days. Happy for the moment to be home in the warm.

Ninnies and Numbskulls

Can anyone remember a board game from the 1970s that had ninnies and numbskulls? It came to mind as I was trying to think of a theme or tagline to my blog post in my head as I walked. I was fumbling mentally for a word to describe someone and it just brought back memories from school when I was about 10 years old. The game was a bit like chess but with only three or four types of piece and with possible moves printed on the board. I have long said that an afternoon per week of board games would be massively positive for children, in building skills of strategy and problem solving that are all too rare among young adults – however, they are just the sort of skills that are so vital in many workplaces. Anyway, my teacher of the time, Mr Clyma, allowed us every now and again to play these sorts of games. I heard a couple of years afterwards that he had passed away – that may or may not have been true, children can have vast imaginations. Anyway, on reaching home after today’s work I did a bit of investigating and this may jog some memories.


I can’t remember it being called Smess or even ‘Take the Brain’ but I do vaguely recognise the board.

So why did this all come about? On walking back from Eastleigh, I was close to some traffic lights when a driver called out to me. When I took out my earphone, he proceeded to call me a host of names under the sun before driving off. Well, a few years ago, I might have been really upset and thought I’d done something wrong or in some way that it was my fault, but I am content to consider that that was probably the highlight of his day and had nothing more worthwhile to do. Even now at the moment you are reading this, he might be talking to his mates, telling him how brilliant it was. And that was his great achievement, wow, have an OBE.

A remarkably similar sort of walk to last weekend, with a grey late morning, a grey afternoon and just some drizzle in the air for much of that time. The first half of the walk was at a decent pace with the second half more steady for a good total of 19.5 miles. During some of this time, I realised that it is that time of year when I try to put together a list of possible birthday and Christmas presents for Pammy and Matt (to buy for me – yay) and I should point out that Pammy asks me to do this! Well, there is an absolute bargain 11 CD box set of ELO’s first 11 studio albums at £19.99. Hang on, I think I will buy that now…. Ok, that’s done. I ought to be thinking about kit for walking – I do need some maps and guides for walking Offa’s Dyke, but my boots are still great, perhaps I need a couple of base layers, the others are starting to wear and not wash so well, and I do need a couple of long sleeved Sunday League footie-type shirts for a few quid each. Oh right, it’s only mid-November, plenty of time to think a bit more. Perhaps a board game or two, except that my immediate family are not enthusiastic board gamers. Thinking cap on…………

Ode to Grandchildren

I am under no illusions that my blog is read by that many people. At its peak, I was getting 300-400 views a day with a high of 555 on the day of reaching the very north of Scotland. And that doesn’t include followers who received the text by email. A typical post now gets about 15-20 reads with presumably a few more by email. I guess that is to be expected with me just rambling on about what essentially are meaningless walks on Saturdays and Sundays, rather than the achievement of a specific challenge. I had around a hundred views on the Isle of Wight Challenge earlier this year which did show a certain amount of interest on specific days of note.

You might wonder why I carry on blogging at all. I appreciate the interest that people have in me, my walking, my health etc, and it is now always a conversation starter if people might be struggling to find something to talk to me about – and my interests are quite simple: statistics, football, cricket and some quiz shows. But the walking appears to fascinate people, and I’m not quite sure why. However, even if I had no views of my blog, and no-one ever mentioned walking to me ever again, I would still write. I find it therapeutic and, and here’s where it gets a bit weird, it is a record for my future grandchildren to look at when I may be either gone or still here but too old to gallivant about the streets for hours at a time. Well, grandchild(ren), if you are reading this in the year 2030 or so, it’s hello from Granddad, and this is what I used to do on most weekends. Walking up and down streets, yes, that’s right. Perhaps I’m still doing it – after all, writing this in 2015, my probably unrealistic ambition is to become the oldest person ever to walk from Lands End to John O’Groats. That will have to be my thing for early 2039, it seems.

Today’s walk was a typical one for the autumn as I try to keep a decent level of fitness for next year’s challenge. On Remembrance Sunday, it was purely coincidental that my watch read 11 minutes past 11 as I left the house but it was a timely reminder of the sacrifices of others and the freedom that we have to go about our various leisure activities on weekends. Pammy had cautioned me to take waterproofs as it was very gloomy, but the weather forecast was for it to be grey but dry down on the south coast, and so I felt there wasn’t the need. Of course, about three miles down the road, rain was certainly in the air but not making any sploshes in the residual puddles from overnight rain and nor was there any movement from significant numbers of car wipers. This was about as bad as it got and, after an early coffee stop, the afternoon was just a long walk into Southampton, over to Shirley (that’s an area of the city and not any fancy woman of mine) and across to the top of The Avenue before a mainly downhill walk to Swaything, and home via Bitterne and Thornhill. Dark for the last hour and a bit but it was all familiar territory.

As I try to do, I did have much quicker sections like that from Southampton up to the top of Shirley when I really did turn on the afterburners but there were many sections elsewhere where the combination of wet pavement and leaves falling from the trees made for conditions just a little more slippery than I would have liked. 22 miles was indeed a very decent effort today, despite those leaves on the line. Feeling a bit stiff and achy now, but that’s no bad thing. It confirms that I must have pushed myself a bit. Grandchildren, get off whatever passes for your tablets, smartphones or electronic gadget things, and get some exercise. Take your Dad out for some footie, if you must, and mind his ankles…….

6-6-6 beasted

Apparently today was the warmest in UK since records began, with 22.3 Celsius recorded in Ceredigion. No sign of the high of 18 Celsius forecast for our area and, for the most part, I didn’t need to wear my cap to protect my pate from the sun. But it was mild and dry and misty at times, so very good walking weather. After last week’s stone experience, I was wary of venturing too far from home but after a couple of hours I was feeling absolutely great, so I took on a 6-6-6 walk. 6 miles steady walking, 6 miles of walking faster than is comfortable and then 6 miles steady walk home. That appears to be the way to achieve fitness quicker, rather than a longer distance at just a steady pace. I did feel it in the last couple of miles but that felt really positive today.

The 6-6-6 can be a bit of a beast and to keep up that pace in the middle section I do need decent head music to help me. Recently I have been listening to a lot of the old ELO music and it is easy to find some excellent tracks to pace to, for instance, Don’t Bring Me Down, Livin’ Thing, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and some post-late 70s peak stuff in So Serious and Calling America. I have a strange relationship with ELO since I first really got into music generally in about 1979/1980. I have spells of a month or two when I listen to nothing else and then go on to something else before repeating about a year later. I made sure I took a bottle of water to sip occasionally in order to help ward off any pains and I felt really good pretty much throughout, even though it was dark by the time I got home. It is somehow fitting that I kept the day after Halloween for a 6-6-6 but it feels a good formula. Doesn’t quite make me an Iron Man, or even an Iron Maiden, but I was almost running to the hills during that middle section and though I didn’t feel I had to be quick or be dead, I had no fear of the dark but I wasn’t going to be walking from here to eternity (thanks to Wikipedia page on Iron Maiden discography for reminding me of the last of those cited!).

So, 18 miles it was. Now for a bit of refuelling. Yesterday’s chilli con carne and a bit of ice cream. Not together.