Getting a life?

Boxing Day, for some at least, is traditionally a day either for going to football or walking off some of the excesses of the previous day. Well, Pompey were away and I am not one for those great excesses on Christmas Day, but I still felt a bit lethargic after more food, chocolates and biscuits than normal. The weather was pretty decent and I hadn’t had a walk of much distance for three weeks (if you count 13 miles a fortnight ago as ‘not much distance’).

Many ask me about my walking and it has become an obsession now, actually for some while now. It is hard for me to go too long without the boots coming out, but it does just take up a lot of time. Sometimes I muse that I could be doing other things, since 19.5 miles, as yesterday’s walk was, dominates the day. However, it is always nice to walk through Lee on Solent and that is becoming one of the default routes. But some who raise the subject of my walking are saying that I should “get a life”.

I imagine that anyone who walks, runs or cycles long distances hears that from friends. It is difficult to explain why we do it, since it doesn’t always make us feel great at the time, but you do feel a sense of achievement and it provides a boost to mental well-being. I have got into countless chats on this and some people just don’t get it. They often mention drinking, partying and “having fun” as alternatives. I have no real problem with that, and each to his or her own, but this is what works for me, in fact I hate to think what state I would be in if I hadn’t taken up walking. It isn’t my only source of enjoyment and life needs to be mixed up a bit. But the time it takes to walk that sort of distance, though sufficient to clear my head, does provide a barrier to those other sources at times.

Only a few days left until 2017 and I fully expect to see the usual hordes of runners and walkers out in the New Year, gradually dwindling in number to the normal volume by about the end of January. It is not an easy time to start the sort of regime of outdoor exercise and I wonder if such resolutions are more successful in countries commencing years in warmer seasons. That said, February to May is some of the best walking weather in Britain and nearly always when I am at my fittest.

I rarely make New Year resolutions. I know I won’t keep them, whatever they are. It’s not that there is nothing that I shouldn’t ever change but I would like to be less pedantic. I have read that sentence back again and again and I still can’t work out whether I have that right. Ok, another walk later in the week or at the weekend; legs are a bit stiff this morning so best not to push it, and it looks like a few days of colder weather coming…….

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Thank you, not f*** you!

A nice short walk this lunchtime that was just the ticket after a very long day yesterday, travelling from home to Helsinki. Long delays at Heathrow meant that we flew around four hours later than advertised, and reached Helsinki in the night, in the four hour window when the city bus doesn’t run. So a taxi from the airport to the hotel, with a potentially scary but funny incident took place.

It was around 3:15am here – we are two hours ahead of the UK – and snow was falling lightly and had settled pretty much everywhere. It was clear that the taxi driver did not have English on his résumé but that is usually not a problem. He steered through some difficult roads to reach the hotel, one where I stayed on my previous visit. I was really really tired and as he pulled up, I said, “Thank you!” He frowned and I realised that his English was very limited, thinking that I had said, “F*** you!” Even after speaking more clearly, he didn’t get it. He was not best pleased and I eventually had to fall back on French, which fortunately he did have some cognition, and everything was sorted.

I had difficulty sleeping despite being absolutely knackered, and had every intention of going for a short walk anyway today. Snow was still ever present: 

and even the main river passing through the city was part-frozen. 
The paths and roads were snowy and icy so I took it very easy, with many locals passing me as I sauntered along. It was hard to relax, knowing that a fall could be catastrophic. It is bad enough breaking bones at the best of times but the complications are multiplied by a factor rather greater than 1 if that were to happen abroad.

But it was pleasant and not so cold as you might think, probably around freezing. Only about 4 miles but it was good to get out. I need to get some sleep now.

Life gets in the way

Damn you life! Sometimes life just gets in the way of walking. Bad enough that Christmas shopping imposed itself on me yesterday, though the weather wouldn’t have been great but it’s that time of year. That time of year when I eventually can’t put off my car’s MOT and service, and today was the only day free in the calendar of my garage of choice. And that that garage is only open on Sundays for the traditional shopping hours of 10-4. So it was a case of dropping the car there just after 10, squeezing in a walk until around 3, and then pick up the car.

So the distance would be down on previous weeks, and it will also be very hard to walk a great distance next weekend. More of that later. The weekend after that is Christmas, and so I reckon Boxing Day will be the next time I even threaten double figures. I did manage to have a couple of speed walk sessions to urge the total to 13 miles today, so all is not lost. Half the time I was concentrating on the way I was walking, having seen some wear on my boots in the morning. The strange thing was that they were worn in different places, the right one on the sole of the heel, the left one more to the side and not so much on the centre of the heel. I can’t work it out but it must look to others that I am walking unevenly or with a limp.

I enjoyed today, which is half the battle, though walking against the clock is never that comfortable, knowing that you have to be in a certain place by a certain time. Normally, I might aim to be home by a certain time, but it doesn’t matter that much if I take an hour longer. Sop once I had had a briefer than usual coffee stop, I was forever looking at my watch and assessing the location – distance – time equation that actually has quite a dull solution. Be at x by time y, therefore be at x-m at time y-n,…….

So. Next weekend. I am off to Helsinki on Saturday for a two day workshop on Monday and Tuesday, back at normal desk on Wednesday, which is the last day in the office for me until 9 January. Yay! So theoretically I could go for a walk on Sunday. But this is Helsinki, not the worst place for a walk, it has to be said. However, this is December. The average daily maximum temperature is 0.5 Celsius, about 33 Fahrenheit in old money. There is an average 34 minutes sunlight and less than 6 hours daylight. I am staying at the same hotel at which I stayed in September last year, so at least I know the general surrounding area and where I have to walk on the Monday and Tuesday (around 30 minutes walk). But that is going to be cold and to be well below freezing once it gets much either side of about midday. No, perhaps a short-ish stroll is in order, but staying in and watching the live football on the hotel tv sounds much more alluring – a few games are in the offering on Sunday, too.

Will try and get some decent pictures though, but don’t expect to see excited children jumping and dancing about in the snow. They will all have seen it all before – this is just normal, not like a day of ice and light snow in England that brings the country to a shuddering halt and becomes the major news story of the day, taking 20 minutes of a 25 minute bulletin before “and in other news, 200 people have died in an earthquake somewhere not in England…..”. Ok, let’s see what happens.

Celebrity status

Due for a walk today but after a fantastic and slightly bawdy evening of bridge that ended at 2am, and one that was awash with double entendres throughout, I didn’t think I had it in me. With our bridge mentor and trainer being Dick, you can imagine many of the lines we all came out with.

However, every day is another day and by midday today I was already well away down the yellow brick road westward and, for once, I was full of enthusiasm from the start. Perhaps the previous night provided a greater power of good feeling than the threat of tiredness. True that later I did need a bit of sustenance earlier than usual, but I can only see good from today’s walk. It wasn’t unfamiliar territory apart from certain side roads and a wander through a council estate, but a climb over Itchen Bridge, through the rather-too-Christmassy-already Southampton city centre and a walk in the general direction of north by north west was decent enough. As I reached near the top of The Avenue I turned eastward and vaguely toward home in Sarisbury. No pain at all except sore soles and a total of 20 miles, far more than I had planned for (around 15) – but I tend to freestyle and make up the route as I go, depending on how strong I feel.

I’ve also had the beginnings of a cold for five or six days now but it seems like one of those that never quite develops into anything worse than “the beginnings”. I have a couple of work trips prior to Christmas, Cambridge this week coming and Helsinki in two weeks time. Not often that those two cities are mentioned in the same sentence, unless Cambridge United can suddenly embark on an amazing run of form for four years and reach the Champions League, drawn against HJK Helsinki. So two consecutive sentences. Looking forward to those trips but the latter might block the chance of a decent length walk in the weekend before Christmas, especially given the average daily high temperature in the Finnish capital in December is 0.5 Celsius.

Back to bridge and I was introduced to the one person I hadn’t met previously as “Keith, the one who did that walk” and “Celebrity Keith”. A bit flattering but nice – I can be difficult to chat with even when I do know people well but it has often been an informal conversation starter in the last two and a half years. Writing this, I am reminded of an incident on a walk three or four months back when I was stopped by someone who asked me how I was and what my next challenge was. I answered politely, but I had no idea who they were. I wondered if I had somehow achieved celebrity status – or even if it had been a wind-up by one of my friends daring someone to approach me. I racked my brains: work, neighbourhood, ex-students, cricket, Matt’s football? I’m still none the wiser. When I was in education, I took pride in knowing the names of all my students within a couple of seminars and it, er, weirded some of them out a bit, and I still match names to faces quite well. Perhaps this is the aging process and the start of a long slow deterioration of mental faculty.

Reading back, um, yeah, 20 miles is it? Yeah, that’s what I did today.