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.

The return of the breakfast box?

I do sometimes surprise myself. Having not gone walking for two weeks, on a pretty warm day, I trotted out 23 miles and even did a little dance at the end in the front room. Ok, it was the Robot dance to celebrate what is quite likely to Peter Crouch’s final Premier League goal, but a dance it was. The main thing is that I hardly feel like I’ve walked that far – except that a couple of my toes are a little sore with a bit of pressure as my feet expanded with the heat and distance. Nothing much.

You might say – yeah, but you’ve done that distance many times before. Indeed but that’s normally when I am really fit, rather than just in the moderate shape I’m in at the moment. It included two or three miles speed walk and a good spell on the stones on the beach, so it was far better than I had expected. I was taking on plenty of fluid and trying to find those shops with the cheap water based drinks with some success. Not getting dehydrated is absolutely the most important thing on a warm day.

It will be the Thames Path Trail for me on the weekend of 9-10 September, 100 kilometres from Putney Bridge to somewhere 100 kilometres (62 and a bit miles) down the path. Henley, I gather. That’s certainly not the distance as the crow flies but a pretty winding way and taking in some of the sights of South West London and the surrounding areas. Hopefully too it will not be the height of temperature that we might see in June or July, and the night will be longer, though I would imagine that there would be more lighting than on other night walks – the Wight Challenge two years ago was chronically dark at various points and treacherous to even find your way. London2Brighton last year was much much better.

I will be walking on behalf of the Rocky Appeal charity – and details will appear of this will appear in time. Just accommodation to sort out. A few Travelodges within a couple of miles of the start and it could be the return of the good old breakfast box for a bit of nostalgia. Or perhaps not.

Just one last thing. I keep seeing that I have more than the odd view of one specific post from 18 months ago and I have no idea why, neither why virtually all of the views appear to be coming from United States. What is it about that post – when others have no views after about a fortnight after posted? As Toyah once said, “It’s a Mystery”.

Overdosing on happiness

Well what a day yesterday was. At its end I was as happy as I have been for a long long time. The first game of the cricket season had ended in a dramatic 1 run win for Sarisbury Athletic, at the same time as the football season was ending for Portsmouth with a 6-1 and other results conspiring to give them the League Two title.

I haven’t been at my best for around a couple of weeks, firstly with a nasty bug that gave me tremendous aches in my legs and back, and a general malaise that has seen me just get through a number of days at work, though puzzlingly become quite productive in some work areas that needed addressing. The elation of Saturday turned into a poor night’s sleep, thinking and then dreaming about both sports and I woke on Sunday with a tired mind and body. I was in a quandary as to whether to go down to Southsea to be part of the Pompey celebrations and trophy presentation – after all, though I don’t go to matches that often these days, I was one of the thousands of fans who stumped up a thousand quid to save the club and am therefore currently a part-owner. Today was the culmination of a real people’s success story of fan ownership – and we must think about the next level and potential significant investment now from outside.

Despite this overdosing on happiness, I know how elation and exhilaration are so transient and that it doesn’t take much to bring me down a whole level. Social media has done my head in recently what with uninformed rubbish everywhere on just about anything you can imagine, and I have cut down time on Facebook to the bare minimum of updating cricket scores. It was with a really heavy heart that I instead took to the road for the sake of my mood. It was a chilly morning so I looked to wear a hoodie that represented any of the sporting successes – could be the blue Pompey hoodie, the (very faded) green Sarisbury hoodie or even a hoodie for my Fantasy Football team that continues to lead the way with only a few matches remaining in the Premier League. Except that I haven’t yet acquired one of those for Fantasy Football, and it would be more than sad if I did. Given I was going west-ish, the Sarisbury one was probably best, and my mood was further lightened by the news that Newcastle United clinched the Championship – which obviously would please my son Matt.

The weather fluctuated from chilly to warm before the temperature rose in the mid-afternoon to make for a sweaty 18.5 miles. It was a day when rehydration was most important and I made sure to take my time and have plenty to drink, as well as a bought cut price (in date) cheese and ham sandwich and a small chocolate flapjack. Yummy. Summer is not the easiest time for me to keep up the distances with every Saturday having cricket and the weather likely to be significantly warmer, and with still nothing in the way of confirmed challenges, motivation is key. Let’s just keep going for the moment and keep taking the tablets.


Paling in comparison

Quite worried after last Sunday’s longer than usual walk with a niggling pain around the inside of my right knee, or just slightly lower. Fortunately, Matt was home from university for Easter and had a look and a prod, doing quite a thorough assessment, asking me what all seemed sensible questions, and thought it was the point where the hamstring ends. The fact that I had done a fair amount of downhill sections (and the half hour on the shingle on the beach can’t have helped) appears to have caused the discomfort. What a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive and sensible son we have – I can’t understand which of those attributess he gets from which of his parents…….

The original plan was not to go for a walk this weekend. Yesterday we had a number of members from Pam’s side of the family visit for a family do but a planned visit today to a friend was cancelled due to them being too unwell for visitors. That certainly wasn’t great news and it was with a heavy heart that I decided to go walking this afternoon.

Today was the day of both the London Marathon and the Southampton Marathon, the latter also encompassing half marathon and 10K races (I believe). I very rarely watch the London Marathon on television, not because I don’t marvel at people’s achievements and the personal stories behind those, but because I always wonder what I could have achieved in that sphere if not for a couple of serious injuries after I had already run three half marathons when I was about 25. Despite my walking exploits more recently, I fear that it would be impossible for me to take up serious (or even frivolous) running again without endangering my physical health. So as well as being impressed, I am also slightly envious – so it is best for me just to read the stories of my friends and it doesn’t make me any less proud of what they have done.

So for me to talk today about the somewhat easier task of walking – and 16.5 miles. No, I won’t say too much more, because it pales in comparison. The route took in a direct-ish route to Fareham and then up to and around Knowle village before returning on a path just to the east of Knowle back down to Funtley. I walked along the edge of the proposed Welbourne village site and I’m not going to get in the rights and wrongs of this development, though I can see both sides of the argument. If I was that bothered about the number of views and comments on my blog, at this point I would espouse one side or the other and let the nature of social media take its course. But one thing I would say, that that part of the walk was beautifully quiet with the M27 traffic in the distance barely registering a sound.

No issues with hamstrings or knees today. I heeded the implied advice to not push myself up or down too many inclines and felt well within myself today. I’ll see how I am during the week and plan accordingly.

Change of plan

Two changes of plan, actually. Or maybe changes in two plans. I mentioned a few weeks ago about a new challenge that needed planning for feasibility, and I’m afraid that it is just not feasible. As I said at the time, the death of a stalwart of the cricket club had been a shock, though he had been diagnosed with cancer about five years ago. He had worked tirelessly to raise money for the Rocky Appeal and my plan was to use my next challenge to raise for that charity.

Obviously, it would be hard to beat Land’s End to John O’Groats but I felt that walking between all the mainland first team grounds in the Hampshire Cricket League would have been a great and suitable way for remembering the life of our friend. However, the Hampshire League clubs stretch from Verwood and beyond Bournemouth to the south west, Shrewton in Wiltshire to the west, Hungerford in Berkshire in the north and the Rowledge area on the Surrey border in the north east. Even a fair amount of work optimising the route couldn’t reduce the mileage much below 600 miles. That would mean an absolute minimum of 5 weeks off work, working on 120 miles per week, which is pushing it since 100 is a reasonable limit for me if it included one rest day per week (which is really necessary). I don’t think it reasonable to have more than four weeks off at this time, and so I’m not even going to bother to ask the powers that be. You have to understand that this sort of thing is quite expensive too, what with extra food and accommodation along the way. I can’t expect loads of people to put me up – though I did have one or two offers when I confided in friends – and to be quite frank I am not great company when I am pounding the roads day after day; I become absolutely self-absorbed, not to say neurotic, and can never be quite as gracious as I ought to be.

But I still want to do something for the Rocky Appeal. I just don’t know what. I did think about doing all the grounds by driving to a particular spot each day and doing a circular route that might take in 6-8 grounds, then driving home. There are over 150 grounds but it feels like a watered down version of what would be a proper challenge. I still might look into that, though time is getting on and I need to sort this out soon if it is going to be that.

The other change of plan was to walk today rather than Easter Monday. And despite a latish start and not feeling that enthusiastic, it turned out to be the longest walk of the year so far. With the longer summer hours, it is more feasible to break into the 20+ mile numbers without having to walk in the dark. A not very direct route to Stubbington (7 miles) and then my favourite sea front speed walk through Lee on Solent, except that this time I carried on the coastal route, past Stokes Bay Angling Club before turning toward the inners of Gosport. A good spell of that had been on the pebbles and beach shingle, so this was no cake walk. The end of Lent encouraged me to have my first chocolate for 47 days, but surely I haven’t sacrificed this for so long that the price of a Feast from an ice cream van should be £1.80! Ok, I could wait a bit longer for what I deserved.

Plenty of cricket and football for me to listen to on the radio, which did help the miles go by and rack up more easily than they ought to. I can’t say that I know the Gosport area that well and I often had a gut feeling as to the direction I should be taking rather than a planned route. There are plenty of footpaths with signs toward Fareham so that does help. My feet, and especially the little toes, are a trifle tender and I wouldn’t be wanting to knock out another long one tomorrow. 24.5 miles and that is more than enough. Feet up now.


Early-burly pre-footie foot race

The Easter holiday weekend gives a chance for a couple of walks – with Saturday earmarked for cricket and other arrangements for Sunday, it is to be Friday and Monday. Of course, this was complicated by the big Pompey v Plymouth clash this afternoon, live on Sky – or, in my case, an internet feed. So I was quite motivated to make an early start, and was out of the house by 8:30am. Quite a feat given that I am often not on my way to work by that time on a normal work day.

The parameters of the day were to find some interesting new routes and be back home by around 2pm. My mind wandered to the afternoon’s football on a number of occasions while walking, but I enjoyed turning up towards Bursledon station and finding some side roads and footpaths with which I wasn’t that familiar. For a time it was like a bizarre speeded-up version of Rich House, Poor House, with some very well-to-do properties and a roughish feeling estate disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Signposts for ‘Public Footpaths’ were everywhere and eventually they ground me down and I took one, then another and then another. I was never worried that I was lost, even though I was quite disorientated. At the end of the day I was bound to come across somewhere I knew.

Plenty of steep slopes, both up and down, in that spell of the walk and once I negotiated my way into more familiar territory, I was on the way as planned to the Netley – Hamble – Weston Shore area where I hadn’t been for some months. The sea was so calm on a clear morning that wasn’t as warm as perhaps anticipated, but it was very comfortable walking weather. After carrying on to the shore path to Woolston, I took the Itchen Bridge with ease and broke for coffee.

With a bit of time to spare, I took a long cut, as opposed to a short cut, through St Marys, and felt a bit uneasy in a rough looking estate. I have lived in both Portsmouth and Southampton and the cities are quite different. Both have good and bad about them and certainly – and like any other cities – there are rough areas where I wouldn’t want to go walking at night. Of course, as I hustled through to the main road, the old joke that goes along the lines of seeing the best part of Southampton – the road out of the city – came into my mind, though it is worth pointing out that it is also the road in to it. I have some really good friends from Southampton and I love the friendly banter with their footie fans, of whom I know many, both at work and our cricket club in particular. Although I can’t say that I ever want them to win, I don’t absolutely hate the football club as much as some other Pompey fans.

Talking of football, it was now a matter of getting home for about 2pm but it was ok to take Athelstan Road, which has an incline that gets steeper nearer the top, always tough on the legs and lungs, and then a more direct route home. I wandered to the cricket ground, which looked absolutely fantastic for our first pre-season friendly tomorrow. A quick shower at home and then a tense but still enjoyable match to watch, and a big step towards ultimate promotion, despite it only being a draw (we can at least claim that we won the clash on away goals, drawing 2-2 away and now 1-1 at home).

Despite the earlier than comfortable start time, the walk distance was a very good 17.5 miles. I have to be happy with that. Hope to top that on Monday – and celebrate Pompey’s promotion. We’re on our way back.

Why 80?

Why 80 indeed? A question I have been asked twice recently, and it is strange that it has taken three and a half years of blogging for this one to come up. Why “spiceboy80” is the question – well the address with just spiceboy was already taken. I then used the year of my birth, but spiceboy63 was taken. I then looked for another significant number and 80, standing for 1980, was available.

1980 was the season when I first saw Pompey promoted, and quite probably the most enjoyable one. Only when I pondered this further after the question arose, I realised that Pompey promotions and success followed educational achievements. 1980 was the year of my O Levels (note for youngsters: these were like GCSEs but almost entirely exam based and no easy coursework), 1983 was when I gained my 4th A Level (no coursework again) – I had 3 from the previous year and, yeah, it is a long story why I took the 4th. Then in 1987 I got my degree. 1980, 83 and 87 all saw Pompey promotions. Surely a PhD in 1992 would ensure another promotion? No, but a dalliance with the play offs scuppered by fixture congestion after a glorious run to the FA Cup semi final.

By the time 2003 and the Paul Merson inspired Championship winning season came, I was well past educational institutions. However it was the year that I succeeded in the two day Grade 7 board at the Home Office. Yes, a series of interviews and tests that lasted two days. And they say life is tougher these days…….

Not a promotion but a move to a better post in 2008 must have sewn up the FA Cup for Pompey. I really should have considered going for a new post or for promotion this year. That really would have been the clincher, though it now looks as if it will not be needed.

Ok so on to the present day and I decided not to go walking this weekend. The hot weather today would not normally have prevented a decent 15-20 mile walk but I had not felt at my best all week and particularly on Friday morning. So it would have been unwise to push it today. I will have a few chances next Easter weekend, when cricket starts as well! I am looking forward to the Sunday when the end of Lent allows me to partake of chocolate once again, but I won’t go too mad. A good excuse is that I will need some energy. What will be first – Galaxy or Maltesers are the ante-post favourites, with some sort of white chocolate a decent outsider. I can walk it all off.