A study in bemusion to finish 2015

A good walk to finish 2015. With rain forecast at 5pm I felt I had to leave at least five hours to get in a decent distance and so I left the house in sunshine at 11:20am. I often just make decisions on direction ‘on the fly’ and I felt I hadn’t been up to Knowle Village for a while so I turned into the Deviation Line woods near the top of Highlands Road. There were a few puddles and squelchy bits but nothing on a Cumbrian scale and I mused over the worst feeling a walker can have, namely wet socks and wet feet. Neither of those applied at this stage.

Approaching from the south side by the railway line, Knowle Village was its usual hive of inactivity and I counted precisely eight people, one dog and one moving car before I reached the village green. Given that total of those people included a couple with two children, walking their dog, that should tell you how quiet it was. Not that that really surprised me, given experience from past walks, though I was amazed at the number of cars and the lack of any obvious parking space – fortunately I was on foot so it was only of note rather than of irritation.

There seemed a greater flow of traffic here and there along Knowle Road toward the A32 where I encountered a decent breeze while walking toward Fareham, passing The Golden Lion and where Edwins was situated (where I once had two Christmas meals on consecutive days while I was shared between two separate work areas, to the confusion and bemusion, nay, bemusement of staff – though I prefer ‘bemusion’ as a word). A stop for coffee, and disaster, they’d run out of caramel, apart from the sugar-free stuff (don’t get me started on this one), so I had something completely different and more calorific – Black Forest Hot Chocolate – and I could feel the calories clocking up with every mouthful.

I’ve spoken before about the role a walk can have in soothing and easing a troubled mind, but I did have things on my mind that were difficult to shift, and that’s four days before I go back to work. Can’t say I’m looking forward that much to Monday, since it will be a decent slog for two or three months. No doubt many of my friendly friends and colleagues will help. I think also that images on the news bulletins in Cumbria and Dumfries of places I passed through on my walk have stuck with me, knowing that good people and friendly hosts are finding it hard to do anything, let alone be fortunate as me to be able to moan about relatively trivial things.

So just five or six miles left and I was pleased with myself, feeling as fit as I’ve done for a little while, on my way to a 16 mile total. It looked like I was on for a 4:30 finish but I could see the sky greying and clouds billowing in the direction of travel. A few spots of rain came at about 3:45 and a light to steady shower at around 4 o’clock. I was less than a mile from home where I encountered hail and driving rain, the wind throwing it into my face, for around 5 minutes (though it felt like about 20). I did have my waterproof jacket but no matter how much protection you have, weather that extreme will always find some way of penetrating footwear, even a few drops of water making feet very uncomfortable. But soon I was home bang on 4:30 to dry off.

So that was walking over for 2015, unless I fancy a quick ten miler tonight but, er, I don’t. I reckon today was the heaviest rain I have suffered all year. I don’t keep a tally of the total number of miles walked but it is probably in the region of 1,300, so nowhere near as many as in 2014, of course. But I did walk the furthest in one walk that I have, breaking my personal best with a 30 mile walk from home through Cosham to Fratton Park and back, even though that was blighted by listening to a dismal defeat away to AFC Wimbledon. The Wight Challenge saw that extended to 50 miles, with the last 10 of those the most painful as I tried to shake off worsening back pain in the wind and showers along the east Wight coast. For enjoyment, I loved the walk in Guernsey with Pammy through flowery woods and along clifftops. The most difficult were those closely following my mother’s passing and her funeral but they did help to get my thoughts in order.

Looking forward, 2016 holds the promise of the ultra-challenge of London to Brighton in May and the planning of Offa’s Dyke Walk, a likely two week challenge in the spring of 2017. I feel that one challenge per year is sufficient to keep me motivated. The ultimately unsuccessful Wight Challenge is acting as tremendous motivation for the L2B, that’s for sure.

Finally, a couple of amusing asides. The blog is such that I don’t expect many, if any, viewers on days when I haven’t posted for at least two days. Out of the blue, I had five viewers on 25 December. I hope that those five had very nice Christmases and weren’t looking at my blog out of boredom! The other aside was to learn that there is someone who has printed out every entry from this blog and keeps them in a folder as a record – I won’t disclose their identity but I am half flattered and half embarrassed, and half amused as well, except that adds up to one and a half so I’ll rethink those proportions. Happy New Year, thank you for reading and I hope to provide you with some interesting material on my thoughts and experiences.



A Spiceboy came travelling

My last chance of a decent walk until probably new Year’s Eve. The weather forecast was spot on, with rain overnight and until around 11:30, so it was just after noon when I set out, with waterproofs just for once. Not that I needed them on account of any rain, but a chill wind meant that they were useful for keeping in what warmth there was. Other than that, good walking conditions and a nice enough walk on familiar roads.

Having been troubled earlier in the week with my kidney, I still felt a little discomfort even this morning and I knew this wasn’t going to be an especially long walk, even with the sunsets now getting later by the day. I have found that as long as I have sufficient fluid to drink then I am ok, but I did have a few aches today. After drifting around Bursledon, Thornhill, Bitterne and Weston, I really felt quite tired as I passed Sholing FC, which is around an hour’s walk from home. It is slightly sad that I have grown to know a number of places that are an hour’s walk from home: Sholing FC, Eversley Guest House on Kanes Hill, Costa Coffee (next to KFC and The Range) and a signpost just west of Highlands Road by the Titchfield gyratory. I did appear to get a second wind and reached home in 12.5 miles.

A bit of travelling over the next few days to see some friends that we don’t see that often, and I’m quite looking forward to that. Apart from the chance to see friends and family, I can’t say that I am known as the greatest fan of Christmas – but I don’t hate it per se, it’s just that I hate what it has become. I did see one young lady shuffling quickly along with around ten rolls of wrapping paper and I guess she must also see what an effort Christmas has become. I hate the apparent competition between families and households to have the most expensive things for their children, the brightest (and gaudiest) house decorations and to be what they think is the happiest household anywhere ever (while planning panicky finance on how to pay for it over the next twelve months).

One good thing – and not the only one – is that there is some wonderful television over Christmas and I’m writing this while having one ear on It’s a Wonderful Life (Channel 4 + 1). This is a must-not-miss film for me even though we also have it on DVD. I suspect others are like me and really enjoy watching films on tv even though they are available to them to watch at any time. I always look out for Hitchcock films on tv and I know that, over the Christmas fortnight, there is The Lady Vanishes (1938) yesterday, Dial M for Murder (1954) tonight, Marnie (1964), Vertigo (1958), The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943). There is something about seeing them on television, even having seen them all a few times before, knowing that there must be loads of others watching and experiencing that film for the first time, and that you are watching it with them. Strange, isn’t it?

A fitness drive is needed over the next four months or so. Expect to see progress on this – watch this space.





It is time to be more healthy. I have a smoothie maker and have now replaced my breakfast cereal with a smoothie. What has surprised me is the cost of the superfoods but I thought it a price worth paying if it did help me. Certainly I have felt a bit stronger and fuller of life and energy during the mornings in the last fortnight. Have experimented with a range of ingredients, but the staple superfoods of goji berries, chia seeds and cacao powder with flax seeds have been supplemented with various combinations of some of the following: blueberries, grapes, plums, bananas, pears, cucumber, spinach, oats, dates, with water and juice. It is a very good way of using up those bananas and pears that would otherwise be compost-bound as they show their age after a few days in the fruit bowl. It may be a coincidence or psychosomatic, but even if it were the latter that would be no bad thing, that a cold that I contracted was shaken off within four days rather than three weeks.

Of course, along with this, I have to keep up my walking. We will be away for a few days around Christmas seeing friends whom we haven’t seen for a while, so it won’t be on the scale of 11 walks in 14 days over Christmas – New Year break in 2013-14 when I was preparing for 10 weeks worth of walking in February to April. And with the inevitable having been put off and put off until almost too late, one day of this weekend would have to be for walking and one for C******** shopping. It was a tough choice, but I fancied walking today and the other thing tomorrow. Once again, the mildest December since Santa had mere bum-fluff paid dividends with another dry, windless day with September-like temperatures. I managed to get lost for a few minutes as I investigated a recently completed path close to a local school and some quite pleasant woods, ending up in the Coldeast estate with identikit houses and no obvious way out but ultimately my random walk threw up the correct dice and a road that I recognised.

That apart, it was a remarkably unremarkable walk of over 16 miles except for a slight twinge in my left knee as I landed after leaping high in the air with a swinging punch as Conor Chaplin scored the winner for Pompey at Northampton. With still around 3 miles left, I was a bit concerned but, as they say, I walked it off and finished none the worse. It is clear that the inside of the left heel is a slight weak spot for blisters but that just goes with the trade, I think. Happy with the distance and my general condition but I am not sure that I have 20+ miles in me at the moment. That will come, and it has to eventually because I need 60+ miles in my legs for London to Brighton in late May.


Go Forth and ……….

It feels a lot longer than three weeks since I last set out on a ‘proper’ walk. Though I wouldn’t for one minute say that the health issue is behind me, it is not, at least at the moment, causing me the problems it was around the end of November. No doubt there are painful times to come, but life goes on and I’m not going to just sit around the house waiting for it to hurt.

In the meantime, a news item that the Forth Road Bridge was to be closed for a few weeks, even to cyclists and pedestrians, took my mind back almost two years. The route initially planned for that walk took in Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge rather than the west of Scotland through Glasgow. That would have enabled me to retrace some of the journey that Richard Hannay took in Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (interestingly the book written by John Buchan, from which the film is adapted, is “The Thirty-Nine Steps”). What I didn’t know until recently is that the public house in which Hannay rested overnight was in the town of Moffat – where I actually did stay (The Stag). Quite coincidentally, Pammy and I went to the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton recently and saw a stage adaptation of Pammy’s favourite Hitchcock film Rebecca (which won the Oscar for best film in 1940 – Hitchcock himself never won Best Director Oscar, despite being nominated five times).

Forth Bridge

I diverged from the original route due to the difficulty in finding good accommodation over a number of days over the east side of Scotland but if I hadn’t, and the Forth Bridge closure taken place while I was on my way there, it would have caused havoc for me and my plans. At least four nights accommodation would have had to be rearranged, quite possibly without refunds.

Anyway, let’s move on from that to today’s walk. Perfect weather and conditions – dry, comfortable temperature and little in the way of wind. I felt I was walking slightly more slowly than usual, but it was only a couple of minutes longer than the standard 100 in reaching Fareham. A stop in a coffee shop where there were the most awkward looking baristas dressed up as elves and a welcome cuppa and cereal bar. Mind you, one of the female baristas had an elf costume that was slightly too small for her very shapely figure which no doubt would have encouraged some young male customers (and possibly some females too) to build up their loyalty points with more coffees than is normally thought healthy. At least I wasn’t offered a “special Christmas special coffee bean special” as I have been in previous years and instead had my very boring usual skinny latte with caramel (not sugar-free, incidentally).

On the way home, I took the scenic route in some places to build up the mileage to 14, a good return after a spell out. One of the downsides to walking in December is the shortness of the days and, in particular, the sight of over-decorated houses. I am not against some relatively tasteful strings of lights, but Warsash Road and Locks Road had three absolute monstrosities – and these are probably the same people who complain about their electricity bills requiring a second mortgage. I couldn’t bear to take pictures of them for this blog, and partly also since, in each case, there would have been a car (complete with number plate) in the picture. Disclosure control, direct identifiers, risk of harm and distress blah blah blah. If only they knew the distress these things can cause to others. Some years ago, I was driving home down Warsash Road and a car just stopped in front of me, then the indicators came on and, while cars continued in the opposite direction, I was stuck behind this idiot while his partner and children got out of the passenger side to marvel at some light bulbs. I’m not one for road rage, but on that occasion I came this close to telling him to go Forth and ……………….

Legs felt a bit tired and, on the inside of the heel, there is a decent blister. Not painful at all. But it is an indication that I haven’t done that much walking lately since, for me, blisters are about as rare as a Daily Express front page without mention of the weather, migrants, refugees, Muslims, Jeremy Corbyn or Princess Diana. I don’t think this one will bother me unduly – incidentally, you should never pop those blisters, since as they heal they offer great protection against future problems.

So, when shall we meet again? Hopefully not in thunder, lightning nor in rain. Not either when the hurly-burly’s done, but when I’ve done a few more miles and the battle is closer to being lost or won.