Well how did that post escape me? Saltburn to Filey

Well what I meant to say was … Saltburn is a sweet little town with a busy bandstand and a pod of dolphins cavorting for our entertainment, though it was a faintly depressing walk in through a dismal housing estate and past a group of yellow vested young offenders making amends tidying and digging. It all had a Tony Hancock Sunday afternoon feeling.  But maybe that was just us. We’d had a long haul in from somewhere delightful on the moors through a forest whose footpaths didn’t resemble any of our assorted guidebooks. It was down to the Forestry Commission doing their thing and churning it all up. It was pretty much “Here be dragons’ , but we made it through with only minor cuts and abrasions.

We ate pie and cherry tomatoes and some strawberries and went to bed, if not to sleep. Next morning we set off in fine weather and saw some intriguing sculpture.IMG_0298IMG_0299

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather was set fair and the moment arrived which happens every year when I look to  send stuff home. Such was my head before the walk – brain scramble might describe it – I brought far too much kit. So I bagged it up and, thanks to Around Me, found a post office in Skinningrove – it was Monday morning and they were super friendly and helpful. They gave me a bin bag, labelled it and sent my extra (and dirty) kit home. The women behind the counter were friendly and concerned and advised us to ‘Hug the fence girls’ as we were approaching Boulby Clifftop the highest point of the East Coast of England.

After that Staithes: very pretty, steep, and postcardy. I saw a Salty Dog but not Bernard Cribbens. IMG_0313IMG_0307

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runswick – a very welcome pot of tea and cake. And onto Sandsend and a very smart hotel. Before then though, an adventure.

Remember Jim. He grew up round here and knew the area well and had told us excitedly of a number of disused railway tunnels he was planning to investigate and do some recording. We hadn’t seen him for a while but came upon him just as he had discovered one of them. Down an embankment, through more rough stuff and plentiful cowpats. We followed him just for a look. The most appealing aspect of this tunnel, for him, was that it curved in the middle and just for a few moments it was impossible to see the light from either end.

Don’t ask me why but we climbed in after him. As we followed Helen said to me, “Do you realise Verity we are going in to a dark disused tunnel with a man who carries an axe?”

But there was no backing out now. We advanced feeling our eyes open wider and wider to accommodate the darkness. We had a headtorch and he stormed on ahead with his torch which showed up piles of rubble and bricks and human detritus. We carried our poles, our best hope in a fight. Not that we distrusted him, he was a decent guy we were fairly sure. But it became clear that other people had been there too. What would we find?

Actually it was just a long dark tunnel. We reached that black midpoint and it was scary, but worse still was the realisation when we reached the other end and realised there was no way we could climb the embankment to reach the footpath. Back through the tunnel was the only way. And Jim has disappeared up a side tunnel recording dropping water  and echoes, we saw his torch flickering, shouted our farewells and quickmarched and climbed out onto the welcoming cowpats. Helen made it through first and just as I began my scramble over the fallen brick and wire I thought of all those films when the last survivor of a zombi infestation is grabbed from behind, and falls back into their greedy clutches. Helen imagined addicts and lonely death in a dark tunnel.

I dreaded zombies.

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Knighton to Drewin farm

Everything is relative. “Not unduly steep” yesterday and “an ascent of almost inhuman severity” on the walk from Knighton to Shewin Farm. It was. And not just one climb, maybe six? We walked 15miles in about 7.5 hrs.

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It was very hard and we ground our way slowly uphill and slithered our way down. We both took a tumble. And if Wales ever hosts the Olympics we suggest slalom skiing in sheep shit.

There were lovely moments.

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We met a man eating a pork pie here. Such is the social whirl. We’ve met very few walkers : a surly Australian girl and a couple from Montreal who do this – and camp! They are unfailingly cheerful and my spirits lift when I see them slurping their yoghurts in a church porch. We offer them a Hobnob.

We’ve been rained on a lot. And we put filthy trousers on as it’s not worth washing them. Our rooms are strewn with our washing and every night we are fed and in bed by 7.30. Despite the weather I am loving it. And we are more than halfway.

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How can this be when it’s so obviously arduous and uncomfortable? Endorphins of course. And then fact that after such efforts small pleasures feel bigger. Montreal man while yoghurt slurping said “I’d just spoon this down on my sofa at home: here I am really enjoying it. ”

Lots of that. And this.

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Welshpool tonight. 16.5 miles today on much easier terrain. Only got lost once. And a nice cyclist showed us where we were on the map.

Another Long Walk

A long time since I last posted-that phrase has become a familiar refrain- but it’s true nonetheless. And some lovely people have asked me “Where’s the blog? We’ve not heard from you in a while.” And there are reasons.

Family stuff mostly: becoming emotionally and otherwise entangled in affairs which aren’t really mine, except they are. Family life is not like a safety deposit box- and it appears even those are not so safe as they might be – you can draw boundaries and tell yourself as often as you like that “it’s not my stuff” but the sadness creeps in anyhow. However I have found solace in a number of practices.

1. Making cake and then eating cake. My waistline has suffered but at least I am not pouring gin down my throat.

2. Walking, of course. Long walks in the glorious Kentish countryside wordlessly reconnecting with my creator and creation. The bluebells are out and however brief their appearance is each year they never fail to lift my spirit. As do the newly unfurling baby beech leaves, pale and vulnerable, and persistent.

3. Some attempt at mindfulness which should be called mindlessness I feel as it’s the mind, its prevailing thought patterns which churn and lurch in a pointless circular fashion, which send a mood spiralling downwards. I endeavour to catch my thoughts before they gather pace and while acknowledging them return to focussing and following my breath in and out. Very basic. Very effective.

4. Spending time with the little boys, who are transparent and do not yet have complex needs. A biscuit, a nap, a story, a cuddle.

All these help restore and ground me.

And yes I have external reasons why I haven’t been writing but there is also a sense of unworthiness/perfectionism which requires me to write something ‘good’ or well thought through or uplifting. As if my readers needed me to be a certain kind of writer! How narcissistic is that!

Anyhow I’ve started again and as
Helen and I are about to start on Another Long Walk I have the perfect re entry point to the blog.

We are walking Offa’s Dyke and start next Thursday. Eek! Day one is 17.5 miles. There are 400 stiles on the way. We will have ascended the height of Everest by the time we finish at Prestatyn. The guidebook has so much information it makes me feel weak to read it.

But what have I learned? One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, and lots of cake. Looking forward to it.

Chemin Q-Z

Does it matter to anyone else? Has anyone noticed that I haven’t finished my A-Z? I doubt it, but in the spirit of Mastermind – ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ – I’ll draw a line under the walk (which I didn’t finish) today.

That’s the problem with blog posts: you need to do them while your mind is fresh with ideas and humming. Otherwise they go stale and become arduous and dull to write and probabIy duller still to read. I  can’t imagine how it must feel to have an idea for a novel, or any book really, start all fresh faced and enthused with plot and characters a-buzzing and to then settle into the routine of writing everyday whether you like it or not. Whether you like the characters or feel the plot holds together or not. That’s when it becomes work. And things take years to write and rewrite and how gruelling that must be, (and that’s even before editing and submitting it to be published).  A bit like marriage really. You start off all dewy eyed and hopeful and then after a few years, a few kids maybe, a few quarrels and differences, some not quite resolved, you realise that it’s all an act of faith. That you are building something which is bigger than the sum of its mundane parts and hopefully it all hangs together somehow. But if it works for you both, then great.

Well that was a tangent. Where were we?

Q – you can do without quite a lot. And quote of the day.

Eg “I am not sleeping in a bothy even if it would make a good blogpost.”

“I’d rather be following Jesus than Rasputin.” Which refers to two young men on the chemin. One of saintly beauty who was suffering with his rucksack and the other who looked his evil twin. And one from last year which has stayed with me: “I’m a pilgrim, not a martyr.”

R – Randonnee as opposed to pilgrimage? This walk did feel different. The French have cleverly integrated the chemin into a long distance walk GR65. And lots of walkers were doing just that. It did change the feel of it for me and there wasn’t the attachment and pull onwards that happened last year. Almost everyone booked accommodation ahead, so that meant you had to too. It changes things. More security but less spontaneity, less choice in a way. It was just different.

S – Stuff. Lots of people we spoke to were doing the walk just to see if they could:not just as a physical challenge, though it was that. To see if they could live more simply. And not as a penance, but as a toe in the water experiment. It was for many a time of refreshment  and opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. To have a break from the news and mediated experience we are force fed – if we allow it. It helps me understand fishing and caravanning a little more.

T – travel. Yes, it broadens your mind. I am a homebody and reluctant to be sociable, but I enjoy the snapshots of the lives that intersect for a moment with mine. Last year on O Cebreiro I saw a tiny wizened woman, probably no older than me, in the pouring rain and sleet getting her animals into her farmyard, thick with muck. Tumbledown fences held together with rotting rope. She was wearing an old dress and overcoat and built up wooden clogs. I would like to have taken a photo of her, but it felt impertinent. This is how she lives.

Tired jollies. Better than ‘panger’ – pre dinner anger. When Helen and I get tired it all gets a bit silly and we start making fun of place names and people and all of it, and I expect it saves us from devouring each other … you had to be there.

Underwear. Three pairs of pants and two bras. Not always dry when you put them on, but clean – ish. Seeing other people in their underwear is  – can’t think of a suitable adjective – an education. The three French ladies we met near the beginning had a complete set of night clothes. They performed an extensive toilette. And after vespers they buttoned up their pyjamas to the very top and turned on their sides and started snoring.

Our last day walking began very early with a surreal breakfast. It happened in an underlit kitchen. The coffee had been made the night before and had to be reheated in a kettle. The bread we retrieved from a paper sack like one we buy large quantities of potatoes in. Toothbreakingly stale. And at the table was a man wolfing  down couscous – his own – in a red t shirt and tight pants. Through a gap in the doorway we could see his wife, still in bed. You don’t get these experiences everyday.

Vaseline. Despite much lubrication I still got a blister. Next time, I’ll wear trainers and change my socks more often.

W wifi. What did we do before it? And offering a Welcome. It’s such a gift and so simple. Of course hosts need to make money from the walkers but some do it with grace and some without. Eye contact doesn’t cost anything.

X – can’t think. Y likewise.

Z – we met Zen boy last year who was pretty gorgeous, though we never spoke to him. He consumed a tiny cup of strong coffee with one cigarette slowly and thoughtfully and could make it last an entire Helen and Verity meal . This year we met Zen man – Racing Snake. He was lean and lovely too. Walked in sandals. Surprising what you remember 🙂

But the final Z goes to Katrin of Asperge fame who was telling a horrified roommate that she had set her alarm for 6.15. “But,” she said, ” It’s very Zen.”

Chemin E – P

So many pretty towns beginning with E: Espalion, Estaing, Espeyrac. We enjoyed them, and they are indeed listed as some of the loveliest towns in France, and I remember each according to their washing arrangements. In Espeyrac we asked two elderly ladies, who had a nice little dog and were doing a wordsearch / sudoku / IQ test on a bench, if we could use their washing line. We admired their dog and appealed to their female fellow feeling.

Seems a shame to waste the lovely sunshine was their take on it. This line was in full sun and on the main road, such as it was. Lucky locals got our smalls and bigs on show for pretty much a whole afternoon. And we got our washing properly dry, (And the sun kills bugs, my microbiologist companion assured me.)

Figeac – jolly nice small town. And we stayed at a Best Western overlooking the river. It was Sunday when we arrived and I’d broken my glasses. I was squinting through the heat haze and making complex plans to have some posted on. Everything was closed. There appeared to be nothing to eat, but we found a fast food outfit which sold spinach and goat’s cheese quiche. Yum. And the next day we found a lovely optician who mended my bins for free and before 9.20 am. We called him Gerard. He was my hero that day. And I told him so. It was all Helen could do to stop me kissing him.

Food. We talked about it pretty much all the time.
France – the most visited country in the whole world.

Gerard – my hero.
Gite d’etapes. Often twinned with a chambre d’hote. Think youth hostel bed fitted out with granny’s lamps and bedding. Ok if the company/food/weather is good. Tricky if too many factors fail to deliver.
Graffiti. There was loads in Spain of variable quality but much of it was encouraging. Buen Camino. Ultraeia. Don’t stop walking. You can do it Duffy Moon. Not much in France and I missed it.

H – Humble. Reverses, small aches and pains, keep you (me) humble.

I (still) loved the walking, the simplicity, only carrying what you need, lack of distraction and being in the moment.

John and Kevin: exceptional men both. Thank you xx

Laundry – totally preoccupying. Second only to showering ourselves and checking the beds were clean. In Cajerc we found a launderette – yippee – but were defeated by the signage. Two reasonably bright women with 70 years of independent laundry experience between them managed to make the machine go but could find no way of adding powder. Couldn’t find powder even.

M is for MONSTER RAVING LOONY HOT.

N and O is for ‘normalement il y a un orage’… I had asked about the meteo – weather forecast – and this was the cafe owner’s reply. We were bewildered too. It wasn’t like we were in the tropics.

P is for Puy lentils. Dressed with oil, vinegar and onion were surprisingly good. And a welcome part of our five a day, which took some planning and finding. It made me appreciate the variety and plenty of my normal diet.

And it’s the contrast with our normal lives which speaks most when walking to Helen and me: having a week or two with few choices, no status, little chance of making this more comfortable with the outlay of a few euros. We appreciate our privilege, not because we are playing poor – we could pull out at any stage and did – but because for a few weeks we choose to simplify and see what really is necessary, and what we can do without.

Quite a lot.

A-Z of our chemin

Last week I enjoyed the train journey up from Cahors: very pleasant and quiet and none of the antisocial behaviour we have to endure on our trains here in the UK. No beer cans, no public/private/business phone conversations and no leaking hip hop noise from bad earphones. I got home at 10pm and hit the ground running next day as Thompsons young and younger still were staying at ours while their new home took shape in the village. The contrast of complete independence and autonomy with a revisiting of the joy and bedlam of babies and toddlers has been exhausting but a lot of fun nonetheless. We are lucky to have a bolt hole in which to regroup and that’s where I am right now.

So looking back on the fortnight we had in France I thought I’d do a short review in note form.

A is for ampoule. This means blister. I’ve not really had them before and don’t want them again.

Aligot: never again please.

Asperge: a charming frenchwoman looked me up and down one morning in my walking gear. She raised her index finger and said “Asperge.” Asparagus. Lean bean perhaps? Needless to say I was thrilled.

Asking for help. We got better at it. Part of this journey, inner and outer is about not trying to do it all by ourselves. So asking the way, for help making phone calls, for explanations and then, at the risk of looking foolish, asking someone to repeat it, doucement, doucement.

B is for baguette. Universal bread and of variable quality. Filling but strangely unsatisfying. Also appearing in Bread soup the night before we came home with water and onions.

C is for Conques. Everyone finishes their randonnee at Conques. It’s a medieval town and looks like a film set. It was throbbing with tourists and wasps the day we arrived. We made our way downhill out of town to our campsite did our washing, and sat by the pool, feeling glad and a tad smug not to be tourists.

Cahors. Very large town, 21000 people, set on a dramatic bend in the river. It was a gruelling descent down from the limestone plateau (La Causse) and we crossed a beautiful stone bridge into the city proper to be met by an accueil: an historic welcome for pilgrims maintained by volunteers who offered us a very welcome cold drink, small biscuit and a prune!

Chapelle: one a day was enough. But they were rather lovely in a gentle and simple way, without the lurid ornament of some we’ve seen.

Decazeville. Just after the glory of Conques lies Decazeville. Say it out loud. If you were the town council wouldn’t you moot a new name? Especially as it held the largest open cast mine in Europe. You can visit it. We skipped this town and picked up again somewhere more scenic and pretty sounding, which escapes me now. If I need to see a defunct mine, Helen has promised to take me to Selby, or some such.

Desole: What the French say when they’re not really.

“Il y a du wifi?” Hopeful tone and engaging smile. “Non. Desole” End of discussion.

Derriere impeccable. Not me this time. We met three Aussie women who were great fun and game girls. They had some lovely kit but it didn’t stop them purchasing a little more. The saleswoman got Bronwen to try on some shorts, made her turn round and made her year – and a sale – with the words, ‘derriere impeccable’. So much better than ‘nice arse’.

To be continued.

 

 

Not long now

Two months, TWO MONTHS (!) since I last blogged. And here is an update on my forlorn hope plants.

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Haven’t they done well? Marvellous what a transplant, some intermittent watering and lots of neglect will do.

I’ve had a lot of ideas for blogs, mostly they come when I am out running or walking ie not at a computer. I am not sure how interesting my musings at home are but I know, don’t I? – that writing about trips away are popular with readers.

And we have another one planned.

Last year Helen and I did Our Long Walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella. On the way we met a number of people who had begun the walk further back along The Way. Some had begun at Vezelay, some at Le Puy en Velay and one from Haarlem – rather alarmingly she had left her family on 1st March and was making her way to Santiago – this was late May. They added a lot to our experience and all said that the walk through France was worth doing. And that the food was better.

So this year Helen and I are attempting to walk from Le Puy which I think is in Auvergne to SJPP in the Basque country. It’s another 500 miles and through some beautiful country side in SW France. We said last year we would do this but now, now we have to make good on our promise. We have the kit, we have the tickets, we have the guidebooks.IMG_3937

There’s nothing like the sainted Brierley this year. We enjoyed his guidebook at many levels. His relief maps and tips were useful and his opinions and honest spirituality were a good starting point. He was the ‘Learn from Me’ parent and we were rebellious adolescents: we enjoyed disagreeing with him and I personally defaced his publication with smart remarks. “Oh really Mr Brierley, 18 km with no shelter and no water is sublime on the meseta. Really? You should get out more.”  (I heard a marvellous quote this morning on radio 4, that a mother’s place is in the wrong. So true.) But like a parent he earned our grudging respect, so much so that I have bought three of the same guidebook for different purposes. One I lost because I left the hostel before dawn and didn’t check my kit properly. One for snipping up, scrap booking and defacing. And one to read and show.

This year’s guides are sterile in comparison. Heavy on the maps and a tad clinical and, alarmingly, Miam Miam Dodo ( Yum Yum Bye Byes) is in French. Both of us have some French and are hoping the total immersion experience will bring all that vocabulary flooding back. But none of this gets any easier as we age. I will celebrate my 55th birthday on this walk and find reaching for the correct English word like feeling into the back of dark cupboard feeling pretty certain there’s a useful pair of shoes in there, but being unable to lay my hands on them instantly. So heaven only knows what it will be like in French.

I made a list of all the words we learned in Spanish last year and it runs to around 150, maybe more. So as I went with five: “Dos cervesas por favor – Gracias” – I am hoping the ratio of improvement will be similar, as actually deep down, very deep in a wardrobe of my brain which may back onto Narnia, I know a lot of vocabulary and indeed some grammar. I’ll let you know.

It’s a strange feeling this year. Last time I was nervous and many things were complete unknowns. This time we have more idea. We have honed our kit list and acquired those important merino base layers. And our thermals bought in the hellhole which is Carrion Regardless are coming with us. And Helen has done lot of snoring research and bought some industrial ear plugs.

I don’t feel so nervous.  The walking will be fun, mostly and that’s the bit I really like. The stages are graded by difficulty green, orange and red. There are three red days.

The food should be better  – could it be worse? And the accommodation will be French. Say no more. I’ll let you know.

 

June 4th

A year ago yesterday Helen and I walked into Santiago de Compestella having spent nearly six weeks walking across Northern Spain. It feels like yesterday and also a distant memory. It was a huge and varied experience, up there with childbirth for the full monty. We arrived sweaty and elated and a little disbelieving that we’d made it. We hugged each other and lots of other people. Had our picture taken by another pilgrim and then sat in a corner of the sunlit square, taking time to arrive as our guru, John Brierley advised. I had a silent weep, of joy I think now, relief maybe, though we never really considered giving up.

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We checked into the swankiest hotel on the square and made full use of their sparkling facilities.

In some way it compensated for the dire places we had stayed along the way, however there was still a piper playing strangely unconnected notes outside our window from before dawn till well after lights out.

The fluffy white towels were just as we imagined them. And imagining them had helped us when the towels had been grubby and thin.

But the varied experience was all part of it.

The blisters, the snorers, the borers, the unimaginative menu, the hail and snow. The quiet pleasure of leaving an anonymous village before dawn and feeling the sun on our backs as it came up, casting our shadows long before us as we walked westwards.

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The daily ritual of café con leche.

And not knowing what we might find around the next corner, unexpected kindness and beauty.

One of the joys for Helen and me was the lack of planning. Normally hyper-organised we let a lot things just fall into place and felt the freer for it. For that time it was right.

 

 

 

Three years ago yesterday my daughter got married and the wedding and reception came together in a fluid and joyful way as a result of months of thought and careful planning. It wasn’t without hitch or incident, the bat, the fight, the gas going out, but on the whole it was great.

And since then, so much has happened. I have two grandsons. Both of whom were surprises and both bring life and smiles and energy to my world. Who’d be without them for not being planned?

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My dad had a stroke not long after the wedding and is with some courage, rebuilding his world. My son fell in love and then out of love with a beautiful girl and her daughter who are now lost to us. Today I heard of the death of a young woman I never met but who had so much to live for. Her loss makes me weep, even at some remove.

So what am I saying? Sometimes we plan and we need to. It is fitting. Sometimes plans are unnecessary and we can enjoy spontaneity and the flow of life in all its fullness. Sometimes things happen and they knock you sideways and off your feet, on to your back and kick you in the guts. You don’t know what’s around the next corner. So live today. Say yes.

Live while you are alive.

Buy those flowers. Smile at him.  Invite them over.

Look up.

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I thought I’d deleted this picture below, but it snuck in.

 

 

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Coming back to myself

Another long break from writing and no excuses. Ok just one. I’ve been busy. Not busy like when you’re in full time work or have three children under four busy, (or both of those, heaven help them). Busy as in we have recently bought a place by the sea and I have been equipping it. This is a task I know many women would just LOVE, but those who know me will know that I am a truly hopeless shopper and take little pleasure in prolonged browsing.

Many times I have been to Ikea/Asda/insert name of large shapeless store and filled my trolley with stuff I think I want, only to find that I don’t as the checkout looms and the thought of the queues and packing and unpacking just overwhelms me and I abandon my cart.

Also I don’t like too much choice. (As an a aside, I am glad I met Mr T when I did! Life partner sorted at 22. Phew). But this is about shopping. I once did all my Christmas food shop from a small Co op in Rochester much to my neighbour’s amusement. I couldn’t face Tesco and the mad scramble.

Internet shopping was invented for me. I can order five dresses – which I did pre wedding –  and send all of them back, postage paid. I can click and collect – O frabjous day calloo callay! But when you are buying a sofa, or dining table, something you’ll have to live with for QUITE SOME TIME, it really does mean trawling round the shops and spending a deal of time and money. Even then you have to make the leap of imagination in placing said smart furniture into a previously only glimpsed room. It’s so darn risky and quite a trial for the queen of indecision.

Anyhow we’re getting there. We have dilemmas over beds and mattresses not arriving together. And the wrong bed, too small 4’6″ not 5′. (I was agitating for a truly huge bed but Mr T said no. He likes to know there’s someone beside him evidently. Sweet.) But for the most part the stuff is on its way.

But yesterday he went down to receive a bed and some chairs, and I decided to walk down and join him later. I got a series of very happy texts from him about the sun and the sea and the furniture so it was a good decision.

I walked from my house on the hill to Sandgate about 8 miles and despite crossing the M20 and the Highspeed rail link, a lovelier walk would be hard to imagine. The sun was shining and the birds were busy doing their Disney thing and I felt strong and full of energy.IMG_3491

There were a few hazards – the footpath crosses a golf course. My brother in law’s brother had his teeth knocked out and his jaw smashed by a stray golfball so I walked that part pretty quickily and in addition I was wearing the purple pilgrim jacket of protection so I survived that unscathed. Then the walk took me across a field which is often full of cows, and I know from Adam Henson on Countryfile that you should not enter a field of cows without a stick – he doesn’t – even if their interest is completely benign, they can turn and trample. And then I would be a purple pancake in a cow field. So I picked one up – hefty isn’t it? I wasn’t going to stand any nonsense, calves or no calves.

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So on I strode feeling like Julia Bradbury or Janet Street Porter, planning this blog and smiling to myself about walking with my ‘staff’, as if I were royalty. However there were other dangers, which I found out about after I had crossed the MOD field!

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Nevertheless this is what I discovered: that as I walked I felt freer and more myself and less pressured by issues which feel so huge – this or that sofa, family concerns, whether our neighbours are going to be pleasant, whether they will respect the rules – important to me as you know – telescope backwards and become less and less significant and all this stuff,  which seems so pressing just isn’t. My mind loosened up and again the walk and my body and my self merged and I felt that liberating sense of flow which is so precious and so hard to describe or share.

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There’s a line in Lord of the Rings when, after his eleventy first birthday party, Bilbo sets off on his travels again. He says to Gandalf: “Don’t worry about me. I am as happy now as I’ve ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But the time has come and I am being swept off my feet at last. “

He then begins to sing ‘The road goes ever on and on’  – which I do too on occasion but mostly I say ” I am as happy now as I’ve ever been”. And it’s mostly when I am walking because it frees me in a way I can’t explain but try to.

I wish you kept a blog: take two

I agree. I have some friends and family who live quietly interesting lives and I am interested. I am going to post about my perceived need for originality in blogging and why when I try that I shoot myself in the foot.

When I think about a blogpost, which I do quite often, it’s often when I am out walking or running. I see a crop of toadstools or a broken gate or some such and it gets me thinking and my thoughts just spread out like an ink blot on paper which is just lovely and relaxing and playful. I don’t have a notebook to hand, like a proper writer would and so I have to try to remember them. Hard for the sporadically functioning middle aged mind, but one tries. Still, many promising blog posts are lost by the time I’ve changed my socks and I get caught up with washing and meals and the stuff of life and much of that spontaneous creativity is lost.

Who was it, Walt Whitman or Thoreau who went into the woods in order to live deliberately? “Thoreau”, reples Wikipedia and I am reminded that his sojourn there in supposed isolation was facilitated by his mother and sister who did his laundry and brought him food. http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2012/05/henry-david-thoreau-and-the-paradox-of-self-sufficiency/ Where would he have been without them?  Much thinner even than the gaunt figure we see in the link.

Nonetheless he took steps to simplify his life and find out what vein in the daily tasks of living was most rich in interest, and walking was fruitful to reflection and processing and, lucky him, he didn’t have to think about clean pants or tuck.

Back to me.

I think about what I write. What I might write. I have no idea why people read what I write but they do and sometimes they comment, which I enjoy. It makes it more of a conversation, less of a monologue.

I’d like it to be original but I realise with all the blogs, books and information in the world it’s hardly going to be. And if I overthink these posts they die in the water. Some of the the most popular blogs are about ordinary things, that many of us do. Being a parent. Drinking coffee. Knitting.

So if I put to rest my grandiose notions of being original, what’s left? Random reflections on my very ordinary life? Yes I suppose, there’s nothing terribly intellectual or profound. But I hope my voice comes through in these posts. I hope they sound like me, which is gentle and curious and often amused by the world. And more and more full of wonder. I wonder at the everydayness of things and enjoy them so much more than when I was young. And it’s that voice, my individuality which is unique and ‘speaks’.

Writing is either alive or dead. It speaks to you or it doesn’t. We read and hear so much which lies flat on the page. My daughter recently told me of a book she had been given which she threw away because of the fatuousness of the first page. It described a life she neither recognised nor had any interest in. More than that didn’t feel authentic. Maybe what sets apart all those blogs about parenting and sobriety is their genuineness and honesty.

I write a few emails, fewer letters. Even phone calls are less numerous than they used to be. Texting is so quick and Facebook offers fun but illusory friendship. I follow a few people on Instagram and get a snapshot of their world, in this country or abroad. I so enjoy it. The light and the shade. The pictures of dogs, food and family, shopping and sunsets. No pressure, but I wish you kept a blog.