When your get up and go, gets up and goes…

Here I am, day 56 and enjoying a very welcome rest day in Malham – a small village with mahoosive geology. If limestone amphitheatres are you thing, this is the place to be. It also happens one of several key points on the Pennine Way, which I’m currently seven days in to – although it has been pointed out to me – and here is where I need a dripping sarcasm emoji – quite helpfully, that as I did a shortcut in the previous days, I’m not actually ‘doing’ the Pennine Way am I. Thus, all I can take from this is that I have failed already, and I doubt I’ll be allowed to sign any books should I reach the other end for fear of being publicly shamed as a fraud. Seven days in to this utter bitch of a path where every walk seems to take longer (are northern miles different to southern ones?), and quite frankly (and this may be the beer talking) I don’t give a shite. I can’t because if I let it bother me, I may not get one step further. And let’s not forget, I’m aiming for John O’Groats, so for those offended by any shortcuts I take on the PW – get over it! Personally, I’m actually amazed to have gotten this far because there have been times when the old Get Up and Go just got up and went. Quite a few times.
When it went the first time, there was no warning, no goodbye, no note on the mantle piece. And it left a pile of dirty plates in the sink and the tv still on. I found myself standing in the pelting rain with another eight miles ahead of me wondering if I had enough change for a bus, even though I was nowhere near a bus stop. Or even a road. I dragged my sodden arse… sodden everything… through the remaining miles and decided I’d re-evaluate after I’d dried out and had a drink. Not necessarily in that order. Of course, the Get Up and Go did come back eventually, quietly with a mumbled “m’back” before hastily running upstairs (it’s probably the only part of me that can still hastily run – or even just run – up anything). Obviously, I felt we needed a chat, just to lay a few ground rules or at least find out why it left without telling me.

I knocked on the door. “Want to talk about it?” I asked. A muttered “no” came back followed, I’m fairly certain, by “fuck off”. Charming.

I went back later, to try again. 
Me: Open the door!

GUaG: No!

Me: Well at least promise me you won’t do it again!

GUaG: Can’t…

Me: Well at least warn me next time!

GUaG: Can’t…

Me: Great, my mojo is a fucking mono-worded emo!! 

GUaG: Bit rude – we do wear a lot of orange remember.

Me: Open the door!!

GUaG: No…

Me: Ffs… *gives up*
It did do it again of course. And it came back again, straight upstairs. I left it a while before I went to chat this time. I heard snoring but I went in anyway. 

Me: Oi! Wake up!!

GUaG: eh… wha… you could’ve knocked! 

Me: I knocked last time and you wouldn’t let me in. Anyway I don’t have to. I need to get a few things through to you!

GUaG: Oh god, here we go…

Me: Firstly, stop buggering off when I need you!

GUaG: Soz, can’t guarantee that…

Me: We have 50 something more days of this to get through – I expect – nay! DEMAND! that you are around for at least 50 plus of those!!! 

GUaG: 50 something!?!!? FIFTY SOMETHING?!?! Are you mad?!? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING YOU DAFT COW??? And did you really just say nay? 

Me: Don’t you start! I’ve had enough crap off Thighs thank you very much!

GUaG: Christ, thighs were bludy right about you – and you can’t ‘demand’ me!! I’m…

Me: Shut the fuck up!! SECONDLY – you cannot disappear when we are on the hoof!! 

GUaG: Nay! On the hoof!! Hahahaha speak up, you’re sounding a little horse hahahaha *falls over laughing*…

Me: Ffs… hilarious… and THIRDLY…

GUaG: Are those dahlias?

Me: What? Dahlias? Er… yes, they are. How pretty! I’ll get a photo…

I turned to take a picture, hear “laa-ters”, find myself shoved out of the door and the lock turned behind me. 
Days were flying by, mile after mile covered, mostly with GUaG but occasionally not. Sometimes when I woke up, it would be missing making the start to the day hard, arguing with feet to get in the goddamn boots. Coaxing shoulders to put the rucksack straps back on. When it came back this time I was ready for it. I left a trail of mini Snickers and trapped it before it could get in to the bathroom…
Me: Ha! Got you! Now you’ll have to talk to me! 

GUaG: you can’t make me talk! I’m not a bludy puppet!! 

Me: Whatevs… you could at least give me some obvious warning before you go!! You pissed of just when I needed you most!! 

GUaG: Yeah, well I’m sick of cows…

Me: YOU’RE sick of them?!? So you thought leaving me just as I was walking through a herd of the bastarding things was appropriate? I COULD HAVE BEEN GORED YOU MANIAC!!! 

GUaG: *rolls eyeballs* They didn’t have horns you tit, and they were what, 8, 9 months old?

Me: That’s not the bludy point!! And what about when we were going up Moel whatever-the-fuck-it-was?!? 

GUaG: Rain. Don’t like being wet…

Me: Oh boo-hoo…

GUaG: No need for sarcasm…

Me: There’s every goddam need!! And on the way to Black Hill?!? YOU LEFT ME IN A FUCKING SWAMP!!!

GUaG: Right. Well. That was an accident. 

Me: An accident?!? I fell over and was up to my thighs in shitty reeds and muddy water!! I couldn’t stand up!!! ACCIDENT?!? Come here – I’m going to slap you!! 

GUaG: oooo someone got out of bed the wrong side this morning! 

Me: Don’t push it!! You are useless!!! 

GUaG: I guess I’m just finding this a bit harder than I thought it would be…

Me: I KNOW!! But your not helping by buggering off when I need you!!

GUaG: Oh, you’ll be fine…

Me: Aaaaargh!!! You have no idea what your goddamn job is do you?! *mimics* ‘ooo you’ll be fine’… now I really am going to slap you!!! 

Things descended into a bit of hand slapping, hair pulling at this point. Someone – possibly Thighs, started chanting ‘fight, fight’… It ended when I got my fingers in GUaGs nostrils and they rubbed a handful of mini snickers in my face, tripped me up and legged it upstairs yelling “don’t choke on the peanuts mofo!!” I let them go and ate the chocolate as most of it was in my mouth anyway. 
As it stands, we are at a bit of a stalemate. My Get Up and Go is here the majority of the time but I’m not sure at what point it may disappear again. All I can do is make sure that if it does I have the wherewithal to ensure it comes back or can fill in until it does. I knew that getting to the end of this walk, even without doing the sodding Pennine Way, was going to be a more about my mind than my body. I can’t let myself get sideswiped by thinking I’ve failed the Pennine Way, because there are so many other things I have achieved at this stage, and that’s hopefully why my Get Up and Go keeps coming back – even if they are not going to admit it. 
Thighs: Well that was a fucking poxy fight!! I could’ve had ‘em.…

Hamstrings/Knees/Feet: Oh Shut up Thighs!! 

Thighs: *mutter* both… 

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Muscle memory…


Two weeks ago I got dragged out of bed, bundled into the car and driven down to Cornwall. Although the trip had been months in the planning, I still didn’t feel ready. In body or mind. Especially mind. I clung to my bed like shit to a blanket. Him: C’mon, get up. 

Me: Haha. You do know I was just joking about this walk don’t you? Hahahaha ha… 

Him: Hilarious. You’ve got 15 minutes. 

Me: But I’m not going to be in my own bed for three months!! 

Him: Three and a half. Twelve minutes…

Me: Well, just let me pack hahaha…

Him: Again, hilarious. Eleven…

Me: Fml… 

The following morning was pretty much a repeat except this time I was taken to Lands End. We got in to the vast car park without paying as I was just being ‘dropped off’, and there was no way the support crew was going to stump up £6. I procrastinated as much as I could with photos (although not at the ‘official’ signpost which is a book ahead, roped off, commercial extravaganza, with the ever present twatty photographer blocking any useable picture. I wasn’t going to take even a surreptitious shot with “Bernice ‘heart’ Des, June 2017” in the background.) I wrote a postcard. I went to the loo. I admired the view. I looked at an exhibit (someone roller skated it in 1992 in 9 days, 5 hours and 23 minutes!!) then went to the loo again. I looked at the car park, working out what my chances of getting to the car were. Zero. The support crew were having none of it. They literally pushed me toward the path “Pendeen Watch is that way”, and without a backward glance (except from the dog) they were gone. Wait! What!? No?! I’M NOT READY!!! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PANTS!! It was less ‘start of a challenge’ and more of a drive by wife dumping.

And that was it. My walk had started. OMFG. 

So, that was two weeks ago. I was going to post a blog on the first day, then the first week… but the first two weeks are the hardest I think – for me anyway, I started out in a state of denial ferchrisakes! – and I wanted to get some distance under my belt, just to be sure that nothing was immediately going to fall off or break down… or just break. And I’m not talking about kit. Some of the denial is wearing off now, although I think my body may want to still be in denial but it’s hard to ignore aching knees and swollen feet.  

My personal trainer (yes, I did do some training for this, although clearly not enough) says that muscles have memory. Mine remembered all right, about three hours after I started walking… (WARNING: Bad language alert!!)

Right Thigh: It’s been way more than an hour. Why isn’t she putting that ruddy pack down?!

Left Thigh: Must be a longer training session, maybe?

Right Thigh: Hmmm, I dunno. If it is it’s a bludy long training session… I need a coffee… 

Right Hamstring: I saw two water bottles go in the pack. And a hat and sunglasses… 

Right Thigh: For training?!? 

Left Hamstring: Still, it’s nice to be doing it by the seaside.

Left Glute: The seaside!? 

Right Thigh: We’re on the coast? What the hell are we doing on the fucking coast? 

Left Glute: I LOVE the seaside!! 

Right Thigh: Shut up Glute, you idiot! Don’t you remember the last time we were on the coast? 

Right Glute:,We had ice cream!!! Can we have Ice cream again?

Right Thigh: The last thing you two need is anymore fucking ice cream!

Left Glute: Bit rude…

Right Glute: That’s body shaming that is… 

Right Thigh: Oh shut up! Why are we… wait… hang on. I recognise this place… we were here last year… 

Left calf: Er… excuse me… I think…

Right Thigh: Heavy pack, walking poles, suncream… IS THAT A FUCKING MAP SHE’S HOLDING??! 

Left Thigh: She NEVER holds maps!! 

Left Calf: Hellooooo!! Down here!!… I think…

Right Thigh: FML… and that looks like…OMFG…

Left Thigh: A SPREADSHEET!!! It’s a fucking spreadsheet!!! 

Left Calf: Oi!! Can you not hear me? OI!!! 

Right Thigh: WHAT?!? What have you got to say, Calf?! Well? Spit it out!! 

Left Calf: Alright, no need to get shirty. I was going to say, I think we are on ‘A Walk’. A BIG one. 

Right Thigh: We were told we were never doing another one!! Where the fuck are we going this time?! Anyone?!

Right Calf: I think we are going to Scotland.

Right Thigh: Scotland?! FUCKING SCOTLAND?!? So why are we in shitting Cornwall?!?

Right Hamstring: Uh-oh… I… I… I think I saw an acorn about an hour ago… didn’t like to mention it…

Left Thigh: So you think NOW is a good time to bring it up?! Right Thigh is going off on one and you just throw that in?!? Are you fucking mad?! 

Right Hamstring: *metaphorically rolls eyeballs and keeps quiet*

Right Thigh: So, let me get this straight… we’re back on the coast path – that’s THE COAST PATH OF PAIN!! – and we’re going to Scotland. From Cornwall. WHY WASN’T I TOLD ABOUT THIS?!?  

Right Calf: I think we are walking there. 

Right Glute: Will there be ice cream in Scotland? 

Right Thigh: OMG!! SPASM, I’M GOING INTO SPASM!!

Right Hamstring: Ffs. Relax!! RELAX!! You bludy drama queen…

Me: What the hell is going on down there?

Right Thigh: Are we fucking walking to fucking Scotland? ACTUALLY WALKING?!? ALL. THAT. WAY?

Me: Stop shouting! And yes. 

Right Thigh: Why weren’t we told?!? 

Me: So the training wasn’t a clue? And I thought maybe you would over react perhaps?

Right Thigh: Overreact? OVERFUCKINGREACT?!? I’ll give you overreact!! We are going on strike!!! 

Me: Whoa!! Oh no you’re not! I’m not at Pendeen Watch yet. And besides. I have an agreement with feet. 

Right Thigh: AN AGREEMENT WITH FEET?!? You treacherous bastards!! For the love of Mike why?!? You complained the loudest last time! Along with Knees you wouldn’t bludy stop whining!! You complete and utter knobjockeys!! 

Knees: Oi – leave us out of this!! We didn’t want to bludy go either!! 

Right Thigh: YOU FUCKING KNEW ABOUT THIS TOO?!? 

Knees: No one ever listens to us! 

Right Thigh: Twats!! 

Knees: Can’t hear you! Fingers in our ears! Lalalalalalalalala… 

Right Thigh: Oh very mature. Well don’t ask for my bludy help when you get on a flight of fuckin 100 steps!! FEET!! Nothing to say you weasley little scrotebags? 

Feet: *tiny voice* Sorry. We were promised gel insoles…

Right Thigh: Gel insoles… you sold us out for a pair of fucking gel insoles?!? *facepalm*

Left Thigh: Is it too late to go home? I want to go home…

I’m now at day 14 having a rest day in Bude trying to persuade my muscles that it will get easier. (Aaaarggh I should’ve done more training!!) We have a tough couple of days coming up but what I learned from last year was there’s no point rushing it, no point trying to get to the destination as fast as possible. I need to enjoy it otherwise there is no point. It’s only day 14. I have many more to do and I plan on doing them! (Providing my feet or knees or both don’t rebel – they have already started whinging.)

Right Glute: We can stop for a cream tea! 

Left Glute:,Yes! That’s better than ice cream!! 

Right Thigh: FML

101 Damnations: Walking from Lands End to John O’Groats

shutterstock_145574677LEJOG

It would be wrong of me to proclaim that I had a long held ambition to walk ‘End to End’. Indeed, and as MrA likes to point out, after I walked the South West Coast Path last year (630 miles and the equivalent elevation of FOUR Everests in case you are wondering or for returning readers, had forgotten), I was pretty certain that, as I had done one long walk, I wouldn’t be doing another one. I was gone for 51 days and all I had to do was keep the sea on my right. (My friends thought I was on an extended pub crawl and my neighbours – who didn’t know where I was – thought Moreton had gone a bit Midsomer and that my body would be found in due course down the well in the garden.) But it was by no means an easy walk and I believe my exact words, while stood under the monument that marks the end of the SWCP drinking champagne and feeling delirious with relief, were “If I ever think about doing something this f**king stupid again, keep giving me wine until I pass out and can’t remember thinking it.”

That walk came about as a result of a ‘to do’ list I wrote when I hit a BIG birthday. The sort of birthday that comes out of nowhere and makes you sit up and notice a few things. Like how much quicker the months have passed since the last birthday and you haven’t yet got round to doing some things you realise you said you were going to do a whole year ago – or even two. How a small ache doesn’t just disappear now after a night’s rest or a recurring click isn’t coming from the armchair frame when you sit down but from your knee. Like how you look in the mirror and wonder when the hell did my face start slipping off? I truly hadn’t thought of myself as getting older (in my head I’m still somewhere in my 20s, and occasionally I slip back in to my teens apparently) and it was a shock to realise that maybe I had been taking both time and health for granted. My list was just to try and get a few things done, while I still could. I’m still trying.

This walk, this notion of completing ‘End to End’, or LEJOG to give it it’s popular term, came about by accident. A late night foray on Amazon and a wrong delivery address. That’s all it took. But for a hasty mouse click, the book I ordered while thinking “that vaguely looks interesting” would be languishing at the back of a dark draw. How soon I had forgotten the pain that some of those 51 days entailed and the curses uttered when the last mile always seemed like five. No surprise to say that wine was involved in the decision but whether to much or too little is open for debate.

The book fell in to the wrong hands and my protestations of ‘I was just looking!!’ fell on deaf ears. Within two weeks a spreadsheet was set up, within four additional maps arrived in the post. Over the long winter nights, accommodation was planned and routes plotted over fields, paths and byways of three countries.

Now, sitting among bits of kit (so much bludy kit!), finalising what I’m taking and what I’m not, I’m counting down to the start date, and I don’t mind telling you the internal damnations have started already. What the f**k were you thinking?! Don’t you remember last time? The pain? The blisters? YOU RAN OUT OF PANTS YOU MAD STUPID WOMAN!! I daresay there will be many more to come.

I leave here in the 22nd June and start from Lands End the following day. If I can avoid injury and illness and, more importantly, keep my head straight, it will take me 101 days and over 1250 miles. I’ve thrown in the Offas Dyke Path and the Pennine Way because I may as well tick them off on the way – hell, why not? – and I’ll be doing both the very lovely West Highland Way and Great Glen Way for the second time. If I think of this as just individual sections to complete, just joining up the dots bit by bit (from one pub to the next!), then I may not get too overwhelmed by it all. I’ll be able to pull on my walking boots every morning and walk out into whatever the British weather is going to chuck at me. And really, all I have to do is just head north – what could possibly go wrong?

 

A picture speaks a 1000 words…

Day 1 a

I’m trying to sort out the photographs that I took on the walk. I was thinking that 2 or 3  per day would be sufficient but it turns out that on some days I have appeared to have just randomly aimed and I’m having trouble deciding which out of a bad bunch to include without missing a day out.

I ditched my SLR in the very early stages i.e. before I even left home, when I realised just how much extra weight it would contribute and I don’t think I regretted that decision except on the few occasions when I saw seals. And dolphins. And some other stuff… I therefore relied on the camera in my phone and obviously this wasn’t ideal, but they are all I have so I’ll just try to use what I’ve got.

So, while I’m sorting them out, I’ll kick off with this one. The picture above was taken at the start of the walk, Day 1. I would have preferred to have just shown the enormous monument but the Support Crew insisted I got in the picture (in case ‘someone needed proof’ apparently). The walk almost started and ended there.

Him: You can’t not be in a picture that’s about you walking the path.
Me: Yes I can.
Him: It’s proof you started here!
Me: It’s proof I stood here like a knob…
Him: Just stand by it.
Me: I’d rather not. Can’t you just include my foot or something?
Him: Can you lift your foot so it’s up on the outline bit?
Me: Point taken. How about just my hand?
Him: You can’t have some random floating hand – it has to be seen to be yours…
Me: Oh ffs… fine but try and cut as much of me off as possible.
Him: Right, just point at the end of the walk…
Me: *points*
Him: That’s not the end of the walk
Me: It isn’t?! Fuck… really?
Him: No, it’s near the big clue with Poole written on it.
Me: Whatever, just take the goddamn picture so I can start walking there!
Him: Move your hand!
Me: Just take the picture!
Him: But it’s wrong!
Me: It doesn’t matter! No ones going to see this anyway!
Him: Do you even know where you are walking to today?
Me: TAKE THE GODDAMN PICTURE!!
Him: You’re pointing at the wrong place!
Me: So I’ll effin’ photoshop my hand in the right place – TAKE THE FOOFIN’ PICTURE!!

Anyway, he took the picture and a few more that I guarantee will never see the light of day. Proof, if anybody needs it, that I did start at the beginning. And no, I didn’t bother photoshopping my hand in the right place as you can see – I’d look like I was double jointed or had a dislocated shoulder.

Shame about that lens flare though…

 

Sweet dreams are made of this

image

I’m not entirely sure who told me that the secret to a successful walk would be a good nights sleep and the right diet. I can quite truthfully say that in the past six weeks I have rarely had either. I know this sounds a little odd given that I have stayed in some very nice places with beds that I’m sure would have sent many of you off to the sandman. Some of the beds have been so big that I could happily starfish without touching either side (NOTE: starfishing is a luxury not to be squandered). Others, I have had to act like a squid trying to escape through a straw. But regardless of whether they have been smart hotel, modest b&b or budget youth hostel, they have all been either too hot, too noisy or both. The duvets have been suffocating in the majority of rooms. How bludy cold do these places get?! They don’t because the heating never goes off. Ever. Unless it’s a b&b then the Dimplex will have ominous notes about messing with the settings AT YOUR PERIL! I’m a sheet and blankets girl, layer on, layer off, open a window… I cannot think of one time in six weeks I have slept with the duvet fully on. If I’ve been able to open the window (restricted in some cases to an inch in case I get the urge to throw myself out through duvet heat related angst) then the noise outside means I have to resort to earplugs and the pleasure of listening to myself breathe all night. Partly comforting and partly freaking out as any half asleep snorting irregularity has me wide eyed thinking ‘SLEEP APONEA I CANT BREATHE!!’ (sp).

Sound proofing is just an architects myth. Old pipes, bathroom fans,  floorboards, slamming doors, loud TVs, couples having noisy balcony sex (Falmouth, in case you’re interested)…  FUCKING SEAGULLS! Kicking out time at the pub, bin lorries, sirens, sheep,  (neither associated to my knowledge), yelling neighbours (At the Shaldon b&b – “You are a slut Cassie, what would my muutherrr theenk…” That’s right Gerado, have drink and I’m not only wrong but I’m a slut because I haven’t dried the dishes…”) Dogs barking, doors slamming, loud conversations in corridors, FUCKING SEAGULLS!!…

Let’s not even discuss the communal room joys of a youth hostel. (Recently as I tried to crack the window just a tad – “You want to open a window!?!? But it will get so cold!” from one of our European colleagues brought up with duvets the size of a small car. Me: “we’ll I’m sure with EIGHT people in here then there won’t be much opportunity for the cold air to even get as far as your top bunk. In fact I’m pretty certain the three farting, snoring people in the beds around you will produce enough warm air to cancel out the puff of air coming through the inch gap…” OK, so I didn’t say that but I think my look may have conveyed it.) It goes without saying that a bunk room in a hostel has its own set of sleep deprivation guidelines drawn up by a insomniac lunatic. No.1: Those sleeping in top bunks must return drunk to the room after 12.30am and turn the light on. Then off. Then on. Then off.

Then on.

And camping. I have to mention camping because for at least three nights (more recently four) out of seven Maison de la Canvas has been the place where I get to rest my head. Or not. If I was given the choice of entering hell with either a duvet or a sleeping bag then I’m not entirely sure which I would choose. And this is coming from the person who actually researched and then purchased the sleeping bag in question. Normally, this particular bag is adequate for most situations. But then I bought it in on the basis that the pitch would be in either the Lakes or Wales or any of a number of places that are not the summer south coast of the UK. For this particular location it manages to be both too warm and too cold. And too restrictive for restless legs that don’t want to stop walking even in repose. Consequently I end up with one leg in, the zip open and my upper half trying not to slip out onto the groundsheet. All compounded by the fact that Fat Airic, my trusty sleeping mat, has in recent weeks become flat Airic, possibly, probably, caused by someone’s fat-fur-arsed, flappy pawed, scrabble through a minuscule gap in the tent partition because they heard a noise they didn’t like. My part of the tent is safer apparently. She is banned from my bit of tent for a reason. Now Fat Airic, and I, are paying the consequences. My once comfy mattress becomes mere insulation as the night wears on. In the morning it’s a toss up whether the bag or the mat have won the competition to create my own personal sleeping hell. I’m a knotted pretzel, tangled in half lofted synthetic lying on a deflated mat that has shifted itself into a weird angle that only part of me can actually lie on without cramp inducing contortions. I may or may not have a dog sleeping on my head. If I’m lucky both earplugs will have remained in. More likely, one is stuck to my cheek or forever lost in whatever earplug vacuum they disappear to.

Then I have to get up and start walking. Fresh, rested and with an earplug stuck to my face.

All mapped out

image

382 miles done
24,500m of ascent
At least 500m spent running away from bovine hoodlums

It was a short day today which means I had time on my hands which of course I put to good use; lunch in The Blue Peter, followed by a cream tea then an evening snack at the Three Pilchards. (Only three pilchards this time – someone has nicked two pilchards! Bastards!) I feel a quest coming on whereby I have to find a pub called the One Pilchard, or even simply The Pilchard or possibly the Someone-Has-Nicked-All-The-Bludy-Pilchards Inn (Freehold).

Polperro is a very quaint and typical coastal fishing village. It is also on a new map which makes 8 maps so far. It may be possible to do this entire walk without any maps, but I prefer knowing I have one with me. It would be easier to read them if I had brought my glasses with me but perhaps not being able to see the contour lines is no bad thing. Besides, I have a cheat whereby I photograph the section I need for the day so I can enlarge it if necessary. This means I can use the map but not actually use the map. This is important.

You see, the maps I’m using, OS Landrangers, are ‘on loan’ from the Support Crew and must be treated as though they are hand-illuminated vellum relics. I’m amazed I haven’t been issued with white cotton gloves. And god forbid I should refold them so that the bit I need is visible. I tried that once but made the mistake of doing it within view of the Keeper of the Maps. Had I taken the Magna Carta and folded it a few times I doubt the reaction would have been as bad. Think Edvard Munch. One day I am going to fold a map into one of those origami fortune teller thingys that you used to make at school that had numbers and words or colours on them that you had to chose and then do ‘in’, ‘out’, ‘in’, however many times only to open a fold back that invariably said “you smell”. All the fold out bits on my giant origami fortune teller folded map would say “you smell”.. The sight of a badly folded map would probably be grounds for divorce at the very least. Rule No.1 – don’t touch the maps without permission. So, by all means mess with the pants – this is not eligible to be a rule apparently –
BUT DO NOT MESS WITH THE MAPS!

A conversation from last weekend, the last item packed into the car boot ready to be repitched at the next campsite…
Him: Where’s the map?
George: Oh crap…
Me: No idea, haven’t seen it, haven’t touched it. I need to photograph it.
Him: It was on the pillows. I left it on top.
Me: Well it wasn’t there when I put the pillows away.
George: I’m getting in the car…
Him: You must have moved it…
Me: Nope, I didn’t. There was no map on the pillows.
Him: So where is it?
Me: *thinks – where you put it* Not a clue.
Him: *thinks hysterically – you’ve left it in the tent!!!* Perhaps you missed it when you took the tent inner down…
George: Uh-oh…
Me: Nope. I would’ve seen it. It’s not in the tent inner.
Him: Well you did leave a torch in there once – it was in there for 3 months.
Me: That’s because it was hanging from the ceiling of the tent inner. Did you leave the map hanging from the tent inner ceiling?
Him: No, but…
Me: Then it. Is. Not. Still. In. There. Honey. I did not move it. I do not know where it is. I did not touch it. Rule No 1 remember..
Him: *mutter* map *mutter* tent *mutter*…
Me: What? Look, empty the car, find the inner, and check but I have to get walking – good job I’ve got my guide book. Where’s George? Why are you in the car? C’mon, let’s go…
George: zzzzzzzzzzzz
A few hours later after meeting up on the path…
Me: Gosh, is that the map you are holding by any chance?
George: she’s been saving that sarcasm for 3 hours.
Him: Look! Seagulls!
Me: You found it then…
Him: More seagulls!!
Me: It wasn’t in the inner, so where did you find it?
Him: I can’t believe how many seagulls there are…
Me: We are standing on a sea cliff. Where was it?
Him: It had accidentally fallen into the kettle bag.
Me: The kettle bag was five feet away.
Him: Maybe George knocked it in.
George: WTF?!
Me: Maybe…
George: Rule No. 1 my arse… Give me 5 minutes in the bludy map cupboard when we get home…

It’s going to take another five maps to get me to the end. That’s if George doesn’t get to them first…

Half way there

image

Yesterday I started walking from Porthallow, the official halfway point. The picture shows the towering monument to the 315 mile point. At first I thought it was the mysteriously disappeared Ed Milliband Labour tombstone granite carved election promises as I wasn’t expecting such a massive marker – I’d been looking for a small plaque while waiting for the Five Pilchards to open. On the stone it lists all the varieties of flora and fauna you might see on the path, from Dragonflies to Campion, Bladder Wrack** to Monks Hood, Samphire, Lichen, Choughs and Grey Seals… There really has been an abundance of colour from endless wild flowers all the way and when the sound of the sea is calm day quiet or far enough away, then much of my walk has been to the accompaniment of birdsong. It may actually have been the bird equivalent of ‘gerrroffmoilarnd’ but it always sounded nice and I didn’t get my eyes pecked out which is always a bonus. 

So, I could look at being over halfway now as on my way home. I like that idea, but I haven’t been that homesick yet that I’ve wanted to hop on the nearest bus. Tired, yes. Exhausted even, sometimes to the point of questioning why I’m even doing this. But never, so far, homesick enough to flag down the nearest moving vehicle and demand that they take me home. (If you see a golf cart on the motorway in the next three weeks, check if it’s me and if it is make it turn round and take me back to the path!) When I think about it, I can only really remember one occasion when I thought ‘I’m ready to go home now’ and that was 16 years ago, sitting in Mumbai airport after being overseas for a while.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my home, I love being there. But I’ve been away from home quite often in the past – coincidentally the first time was at the age of 16 when I first came down to the South West to stay with my sister who was doing holiday work near Salcombe. I came for just a week but got asked to stay, working for the summer. I then came back the following year before I went off to Poly (as it was back in those days…). There are people I miss of course, but as someone who often works by themselves, I’m not dependent on seeing people everyday. And the OH turns up with George at the weekend. A few days separation isn’t going to kill us given that we have, at times, not only lived separately in different parts of a country but also in totally different hemispheres.  So, providing he turns up with clean pants***, we’re all good. George just turns up with the attitude of “Really? Again? Where the foof are we this time? I just got my spot back under Steve Gee’s desk, caught up with Bill the farm dog and now I’m bludy back in the sodding car blur blur blur blur blur blur…” In a cartoon world she’d be pulling out a collection cap and placard stating ‘World’s most mistreated Border Collie, please give generously…’ There is a two minute window where she actually looks pleased to see me, all smiles and wiggles, we have a group hug (yes, a group hug) then the attitude starts.

There really isn’t any chance to get lonely. In general I’ve stopped and chatted to a couple of people each day. I’ve often seen the same people (and shared a YHA room with them!) on a number of days in a row, and inevitably you strike up a conversation. Many of these are from Europe – Belgian, Scandinavian – and a lot of Germans. The Australians come back most years. All here to walk our coast path. Some for a week, some for a few, small sections or specific bits. We forget sometimes that we have our brilliant network of paths that are of interest to overseas visitors. The SWCP may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is up there with some of the great walking in the world, it really is. Our coast line is phenomenal and and unique and it’s sometimes hard to appreciate that. The referendum result will not stop people wanting to visit our quite frankly, awesome shores. We should be more appreciative of what we have and how we live here. We should be grateful that we can make decisions for ourselves and are able to have opinions that don’t result in persecution or prejudice or pitchfork and torch… And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

The friendliness of the majority of people I have met of any nationality, is what is making this walk all the more memorable for me. I would however like to make a specific mention of a couple we met in Ilfracombe. After a long days walk we were looking, like everyone else, to just catch the last of the evening sun for a drink. Having George reduced our options and we ended up at a mahoosive Whetherspoons where table space was at a premium. The VERY LOVELY Helen and Mike kindly made room at their table – nicely in the sun – and we struck a conversation that saw us talking for quite a few hours and a few more pints as the sun went down. I can only say that the lack of food and a pint more than I probably should have drunk resulted in my calling the VERY LOVELY Helen trailer trash so I’m taking this opportunity to once again apologise to the VERY LOVELY Helen who is NOT trailer trash. I am not going to be allowed to forget that I said it in any hurry and hope that the VERY LOVELY Helen and Mike enjoyed the wedding that they were there to attend. If we did ever meet you again I would of course NEVER mention double wide trailers…

** Bladder WRACK Mr Nolan not Bladder Wreck as you thought yours might be on the walk to Tintagel… Just in case you read this.

*** He messed with the pants. My carefully laid pants schedule was tampered with.
Me: Where are all my pants?
Him: You didn’t need that many.
Me: There were enough in the bag to see me through a few weeks! I said don’t mess with the pants!
Him: Yes, but you are not going to wear them all at once. You need 7 pairs max at anyone time…
Me: So you made a decision to just put 7 pairs in?!!? How do you know you’ve picked the right 7?
Him: They were mostly black. How can I get the wrong black pants?
Me: That’s not the pount. You messed with the pants…
Him: I’m doing the washing, your pants are fine.
Me: You messed *mutter* pants *mutter* *mutter*…
Him: I can not bother to bring them next time…
Me: *silence*…