Preaching to the converted

Almost four years ago, I went into a shop in Fareham and one of the youngsters from our cricket club served me. He asked what I was doing in the area and I explained that I had walked from home (almost 6 miles) and was in training for Lands End to John O’Groats. He was quite puzzled and couldn’t understand why I was doing it. There was nobody in the queue so I did have a conversation about the charity, well-being and the personal challenge and he still couldn’t get it. I had no chance of convincing him that it was worthwhile for a number of reasons. He even said it was just bonkers; to be fair he could have said worse!

Now if you are reading this (and you obviously are) then you probably don’t need the explanation – you have bought into all sorts of stuff about my walking. For the most part, I am preaching to the converted and you won’t react to the news that I walked 25 miles today with “Why?”. I do have friends who don’t get it, but that’s fine, it’s how I spend a good deal of my free time and they spend their free time how they want – that’s not for me to judge, though some of the things they do are not for me either. It’s freedom of choice.

I thought about this during the week when I was on social media and during today’s coffee break when I had a wider than usual choice of reading material. Regarding the forthcoming Election it is clear that different newspapers have different agendas and many ignore all the weaknesses of their party of choice and all the strengths of others in their coverage and editorials. Yet the people they are trying to convince are already convinced – that’s why they have purchased that particular newspaper. It is preaching to the already very much converted. I have also seen articles from supporters of a number of sides on social media. The comments convince me that virtually nobody changes their vote on the basis of reading these articles. Views seem entrenched among many or perhaps most and, similar to the press, there is casual ignorance of any possible positive points from the other sides (though all would quite possibly say that there is nothing positive and worthwhile to be said about the other sides). But it is pretty much preaching to the converted or, at least, the unconvertible.

I have never enjoyed getting into discussions about politics since I rarely find things black and white and any conversation will pick up on the grey areas and aspects of difference. I am very thankful therefore that I am a civil servant subject to purdah – that is the time period that prevents central and local government from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives (such as modernisation initiatives or administrative and legislative changes) which could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election. Where a court determines that actual advantage has been given to a candidate, this may amount to a breach of Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986. (I copied and pasted that from Wikipedia, incidentally) That hasn’t necessarily prevented some of my colleagues from spouting their views, but that’s up to them – I’m not about to name them or report anyone – but I doubt whether they are changing anyone’s opinion, only reinforcing them. I have just been happy that I don’t feel awkward about not airing any views; it’s that I’m not allowed to.

It was a hard walk today. I like routine and often take similar routes, but I went in the opposite direction to one favourite one, by walking down to Gosport from Fareham, right down to the ferry terminal. To make it slightly more different still, I was on the other side of the road for much of the way so it felt more unfamiliar than it should have been. I got a bit disorientated going west from there and went through some roads and paths where I hadn’t previously been, and the promenade satisfied my unwritten rule that any sea walk will always be into the wind, whichever direction one is travelling. Ok, that is now written, I know. I took the longer road home through Lee-on-Solent, where it began to rain, having earlier been really breezy, then close, then quite cool.

I was in a bit of pain with still six or seven miles left. It was such that I even considered catching a bus or getting a taxi, but that would have played on my mind in the way that it did after I gave up on the Wight Challenge (after 80 km of 106). My back, thighs, calves, feet and toes were taking turns to ache – the only one that concerned me greatly was my back, but that appeared to ease with the other aches taking my mind off it. Some eight hours after leaving home, I was back. 25 miles. Still over three months to the Thames Path Trail and no need to push myself so hard just yet. Maybe I am bonkers.

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