21 miles and 12 zebras later

So today is the start of two weeks off and the first week at least is going to see a decent amount of walking. Looks at the moment like five days out of eight, the other three days having what are often euphemistically termed ‘domestic duties’ – though in my case they are – just the things that never seem to be sorted out in the weekends between weeks of work. I have really been looking forward to this, by which I mean the walking rather than the domestics. I have been as unfit as I have been for five years and that is just the thing to make me a trifle grumpy and more susceptible to getting irritated by anything and everything that doesn’t go my way. I never quite get to the ‘toys out of the pram’ point but it did get close in the last week, I can tell you – and since I can tell you, I will tell you.

Everybody occasionally puts their foot in it when saying or writing something, interpreted in a way that they didn’t really mean. This week I made an art form of it and upset at least four people that I would consider friends – and I got upset because I upset them. If you’re reading this, you know who you are, and I won’t say more than that. Hopefully, you can see in the previous three sentences how I feel, and I hope that we can see beyond this (and remain friends!).

Added to that, events conspired in three areas of my work where the outcome was me being irritated beyond the normal random noise of irritation. It is amazing how many demands are placed on you the week or two before you go on leave, including even requests to attend a meeting during the leave period. But I know that a decent amount of walking works for me, just in a similar way that I imagine others find going to the gym, doing weights, punching a punch bag or anything else strenuous, works for them. I started off today giving myself the task of thinking of everything irritating within the first hour.

It didn’t take me long as the theme for the day soon took hold. The standard of driving, cycling, motorcycling and road behaviour, more generally, was appalling. It was as if Sunday had been designated an amnesty for idiots on the road. I really had to keep my wits about me as indicators had gone out of fashion and only a sixth sense made me turn my head to see a cyclist turning left directly into my path. Sixth Sense – “I see dead people” – well it wasn’t beyond question today. Thankfully for me, most of the rest of the day consisted merely of others without danger of my involvement, except in a witness capacity. The exception was me moving out of the way on an uphill stretch as a cyclist careered downhill on the path (despite the existence of a cycle lane), no hands on the handlebars, intent on his mobile phone, oblivious of the pedestrian, it appeared.

As with more recent walks, it took a while to build up momentum, though my spirits were pretty decent with the news of Katie (my colleague from both Isle of Wight Challenge and London2Brighton) storming the 100 km Thames Path Challenge in an astonishing 24 hours 10 minutes 22 seconds. I bet she regrets those 10 minutes 23 seconds at one rest stop pondering whether to go to her house which was just 5 minutes off the route. Well done for resisting what must have been irresistible! It is a flat course but fairly tough on the feet, it sounds, especially as I gather Katie had only done about as much walking as I had since the London2Brighton event at the end of May. But……you never lose it…..by that I mean the determination and will to succeed that she and her sister Emily have. I wish I had half of that.

So, I was preoccupied with moaning to myself about stuff today, but I really strode over Itchen Bridge and completed 7 miles in exactly 2 hours before a coffee stop. Unfortunately, the only newspaper available was Sunday Express and so I stuck to the sports section, once my eyes had had time to come to terms with small print. My eyesight is not quite what it was. I can still read signposts from (not quite literally) miles away, but reading print media can be a struggle and it can take 2 or 3 minutes for my eyes to adjust before I can make out the words. Yes, one of the domestic duties is to have a check up for my eyes – I rarely take my glasses with me on a walk, incidentally. Later in the day, as I bought a couple of bottles of drink, I was asked “would you like a free Sun on Sunday with that?” I was delighted to refuse, to the apparent surprise of the girl serving me.

By this time, I had walked through Southampton City Centre, encountering 12 zebra and one bare zebra plinth, probably due to a person ignoring the notice not to climb on the zebra. These are part of a trail of a much larger number of zebras (198, I believe I was told?) http://zanyzebras.org.uk/ with various garish colours. One was reminiscent of Norwich City’s third kit (right) and another reminded me of the Wycombe goalkeeper yesterday (left). Acknowledgement to Lee Freeman from the All Things Pompey Facebook page for the latter!

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Just realised how long this blog post is already, and so I should conclude soon. I really got into it today, and it is remarkable how much one can push oneself if one has the enthusiasm or motivation. I walked the length of Shirley High Street, and turning right onto the Winchester Road and later up The Avenue to Bassett Green, and this is a long stretch that is all either uphill or feels uphill. None of it is especially steep, but it was a good test. Through Swaythling, and the route home had some more decent climbs. But I felt pretty decent myself by the end, with only the soles of my feet complaining as I sit writing this post, 21 miles to the good.

Some people think I am mad. 21 miles, all on my own. Don’t I get bored? In a word, no. I nearly always find myself capable of either deep thought or trivial thought while walking. I think that is why it is so great for me. Certainly I can rid myself of negativity over a number of hours and feel good about what I can achieve. That said, some of the best times on my very long walk came when I walked with others, for however short a time. If anyone does feel brave enough to come for a walk with me, for say 15 miles (it can be shorter or longer) on a weekend, more likely Sunday, then that would just be different for me and welcome company. The only provisos are that there is no talk about work, and that there could be periods of silence between periods of talking. Not quite a private ad but it does sound as if I’m desperate for “company”. Dear Deirdre, why doesn’t anyone want to be with me? Well dear, the right person is out there. Ignore all your “friends” who say they’ve done this, done that, they probably haven’t (and they’re as desperate as you) – just wait for the right one to come along.

Ain’t that the truth.

Looking forward to tomorrow – let’s see how much my feet like that…..



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