Mum would approve

Sunday will again bring back nice memories of my mother and, as last year, I have a surrogate mother in Pammy. We will quite possibly zoot down to Hayling Island, a place that my mother and father regularly holidayed together and to a particular no-frills café where they usually visited at least once during the week or fortnight down there. My mother passed away in June 2015 and it might well become a sort of annual pilgrimage to the café in Hayling for fish and chips. It would be an overstatement to say the rather clichéd sounding “I think of you every day” – time is a great healer, however close we were, and there is a balance between moving on and remembering the very good times, of which there were plenty. There are some days when there is so much going on that my mind doesn’t turn to my mum but what I will say is that her influence is present every day, and I feel I was brought up to have good values (but name me one person who doesn’t think they have good values!). I remember one conversation with her was around how both exercise and the feeling of helping others were so positive for mental well-being. I won’t say it for the former but she certainly instilled the latter in me; I know how she really bought into my long walk and took great pride in regaling people with the tales that her son did this and he raised that. It was also Mum who encouraged me to keep on walking after achieving surely the biggest walking feat that I could ever imagine. I am just really really grateful to have had a great and loving mother, like so many others, while being aware that some people are not as fortunate as most of us to have such loving parents.

The need to continue to earn a living and a bit of a busy time on a number of fronts at work precluded a Friday walk, despite Friday screaming out at me, “20 mile walk”. It had to be Saturday and the last day before British Summer Time kicks in. Excellent progress with the new boots and I am already pretty close to what should be the norm for a weekend walk with only a stone’s throw under 20 miles. By that, I mean one thrown by a very weak five year old rather than an Olympic hammer thrower – so it was barely under 20 miles. If I had known that and if I was that bothered, I would have strolled back to the end of my road and back to make up the slack.

Often when I am walking, I spot what might look like interesting off-road diversions without actually investigating them at the time but, today, I decided to pursue a couple of them. I actually started in Fareham  and took the very pleasant Fareham Creek walk, round the Cams Hill estate and golf course, and seeing Fareham and Crofton Cricket Club ground across the water reminded me of an amusing incident when I was scoring there on a scorching day: the batsman pulling away from his stance as the bowler was running in, because there was a yacht moving behind the bowler’s arm.

It was a circular first 45 minutes before shooting up Fareham High Street toward the A32, past Wickham and onto the Botley Road. I managed to skip off road for a while, skirting the outskirts of the golf club before rejoining the road later. A very brief coffee stop in Hedge End followed before another circular hour or so before a more direct route home. Felt full of energy and enthusiasm (at times), especially while listening to a crucial Pompey win on the radio. 20 miles, as I said. Very good indeed. Am I yet fit enough to be able to trot out another 20 tomorrow? Mmm, probably not, but 15, yes if I had to.

Talking of the need for back to back (….to back to back….) 20 mile days, I have confided in a few very select people about my planned walking challenge later in the year, and everyone so far has thought it a really fantastic idea to do for a worthy charity. But it is a devilishly difficult one to plan, with plenty of arrangements such as the route itself, accommodation, the length of time it will take, likelihood of being allowed leave from work, and considering own personal cost, both financial and on the family. Even after considerable time and effort scoping out what I can, I am still not in a position to say conclusively that it is possible. There are other sensitivities and dependencies beyond these physical and financial constraints so I continue both to tease these out and to tease whatever regular readers of this blog who are out there.

As soon as I can confirm anything I will. But I think Mum would approve.





I can’t work things out sometimes. Suddenly, almost everything appears to be going right at work after a long testing period, and hope springs eternal in a number of work areas, but at the same time I can feel so helpless. It is a truth that I am often very optimistic when I should be pessimistic, and very pessimistic when I should be optimistic, so given that I am not very positive at the moment, in reality I should have some optimism. But of course now that I’ve said that, does that mean the opposite? Ouch – my head…..

{an hour’s lie down between the paragraph above and the one below}

The news reaching me this morning of the passing of a much-loved stalwart from our cricket club put things in a bit more perspective and I was grateful that I had booked leave for a Friday walk. I was in deep thought for much of today and if any of my friends did spot me out and about, they might well have seen me with a slight frown, my in deep thought face.

Some rather annoying head music – it’s all about that bass, I hate you – took me some of the way before my mind wandered to my walking plans for 2017. I have mused about possibilities more than once – the Monopoly trail, the South Coast Challenge, Offa’s Dyke etc – without ever nailing my colours to the wall. And just to disappoint anyone who cares, I still haven’t. But I did commit myself in my own thoughts to do something that would be a real challenge, not just something similar to what I did last year. I want a multi-day, possibly multi-week challenge that others might buy into and raise a decent amount of money for a worthy cause. I have a specific thing in mind but I need to think it through, and carry out a feasibility study. I believe in Agile terminology that is called the discovery phase.

This second post-new boots walk just stepped up a few extra steps, and it is often the case that deep thought or worry leads to me walking on the seafront, and often the Hill Head – Lee on Solent stretch. I wasn’t really looking for my normal distance just yet and cut through back towards Stubbington and to home via Titchfield and Locks Heath. The total was a bit more than I had planned for, a bit more than 16.5 miles, resulting in only a slight tenderness near the big toe of my right foot. Pretty good for just the second walk in these. The regular decent distances over the winter do mean that I’m not struggling for fitness, and probably no need this year for that normal ‘Week of Pain’, just needing to wear in the new footwear. Soon be up to 20+ miles again.



North Korea taking an interest now

As some of you know, WordPress provide statistics on blogs, posts, views and summary details of viewers. Over the five and a bit years of this blog, I have had views from almost a hundred countries, no doubt some of them inadvertent from random searches and random matches to post titles. The last post didn’t have that many views but I did have my first ever view from North Korea, which did make me think. Internet availability in North Korea is very much government controlled, and many only have access via what is akin to a North Korea intranet. Wider availability is for government officials and foreigners on application – I suspect the view of my blog was by chance rather than by design. Let’s not go more into that, but I’m still awaiting my first views from Greenland, Antarctica, Central African Republic and many other countries. If you do happen to go abroad to somewhere unusual, please access my blog just once – you don’t even have to read any post, but the country will show up in the stats.

There are two factors that restrict the distance I can walk on any weekend. One is new boots and the other is having a cold. I’ve had the double whammy this week, though I feel mostly over a bug that I had from Tuesday. It may be surprising how much difference new footwear can make, since ultimately they are new and in much better condition than old boots. But my feet had accustomed themselves to the old ones and it showed today how different the feeling can be in even what appear to be very similar boots. Within only a few miles, slightly different pressure on every part of the foot can manifest itself in aches and pains in every part of the leg, as well as sore feet or blisters. So it was sensible to restrict myself this afternoon to just 12 miles, albeit with a number of uphill and downhill stages.

12 miles for me means a very achy pair of legs and the soles of my feet are extremely sore, but the boots felt all right. Just takes a bit of time to get used to them. I never feel quite happy with boots until I can manage 20 miles without any great pains. What made it a little easier was listening to Pompey demolish their opponents today and, without tempting fate, promotion now looking probable rather than merely possible. Of course, that can change all too quickly…..



Risk assessment apparently not my thing

My sleep is consistently inconsistent at the moment. It appears that I can only get a good night’s sleep when I am so tired from the previous night’s insomnia. On that basis, tonight should be another fitful couple of hours here and there, ready for a solid 11-7 on Sunday night into Monday morning. Given that I have had one of the best weeks at work for a long time – including an excellent reaction to a course I delivered with a colleague in Leeds – it is puzzling to wonder how or why I fail to achieve peace at night. What I would give for a consistent 6 or 7 hours sleep every night for a while.

A day and a half away from the office up north for that course meant a large stack of emails on my return. It also meant a much busier Friday than usual with that and some meetings arranged by others given the absence on Tuesday and Wednesday. That is not to criticise them – if they need me for half an hour or an hour then what are they to do? But the inability to finish everything I needed to (and I have remembered two other tasks since that I forgot to do) before early evening meant that my goal of a regular Friday walk went out of the window and splatted on the pavement this week.

So Saturday it was. Still not clear why this sleep pattern has come about. I’ve never been an easy sleeper but this feels odd to me. At a time when most work related things are going well, I seem to have work on my mind a lot, worrying about and imagining things that are very unlikely to happen. For someone who has dealt with assessment of risk for much of my working life, I’m apparently not assessing my own risks very astutely, it appears. It feels as if sometimes I am losing control of my own mind, though I can comfort myself with the thought that if I know that I am thinking I am going mad, I probably am not. One day I really will beat myself up.

And…..rewind. So Saturday it was. Likely to be the only walking day this weekend so good to make the most of it. Except that getting going on a Saturday morning, or any morning come to think of it, is not my thing. Faffing about like a faffing thing at the World Faffing Convention in Faffsville, Arizona and a start just before 11:45. Except that 100 yards down the road I decided that I didn’t need my cap, so turned around, went home and threw it in the house before setting out again. Two minutes later the sun was out and I bravely resisted the temptation to go back for re-hatting. The afternoon settled down to be grey and chilly except for 20 minutes light rain and, after an early and fairly short coffee break, racked up the miles. No incidents of great note apart from in a side road as I felt the presence behind me of three lads with combined age less than mine, and I crossed the road while easing into a speed walk for half a mile to reach the main road, changing my planned route. Again, my assessment of risk might have been a bit awry. They are probably really nice lads and going to get at least one or two GCSEs.

I can’t say that I felt really tired today but it was a pretty steady average pace for me overall. I wasn’t too troubled or breathless by the haul up Sarisbury hill that often appears at the end of my walks. That rack of mine I was talking about? 21 miles. I’m obviously becoming fitter – in body if not in mind.