Friday, June 22, 2012

Until next time...

I am sitting here, biding time to start the trip back to home, drinking the two Brit classics together because I am too late for afternoon and too early for evening—tea, and gin and tonic. Inversnaid, it turns out, is the final destination for this leg. Oh, well, that is what a detour into the Lake District will do. I am sad that I couldn't have done any more walking but as it was I nearly cried when I saw the chemist and the promise it carried for a possibly good nights sleep. To get to the chemist, and that sleep, was a kilometre walk down the hill to the ferry, a half hour ferry ride, a three hour train ride to Fort William, a half hour wait for the train back and a two hour train ride to Crianlarich. Mind you, it was a stunning train journey to watch while I reclined against the immanently useful Wesley. Coughing my lungs out, regardless of my hard won cough medicine, stumbling along Main Street and cursing the lack of numbers in street addresses because it means you never know whether you turned the right way when you got to the intersection,I saw a man come running out of his house calling my name. I had turned the right way and this was Charlie. Same-as-me Charlie. He was starting to think that he would have to call out mountain rescue for me, thinking the reason I was late was because I had been walking in the weather. Then he heard my cough. 'I had that cough', he said. 'It lasted three weeks.' It better bloody not. (I have since Dr Googled it and what I am going to do tonight is put Vicks Vaporub on the bottom of my feet, put socks over them and put them up—this, I am reliably(?) advised will stop the coughing.) The B&B was beautiful. Such a divine doona. Charlie went to a lot of trouble to show me how the television works and turn it on to the Riverdance of ball games for me (soccer). He brought me some mints which he swore by as part of his own recovery from the coughing fits and he left me to luxuriate in doona swathered junk TV (replaced the soccer with Lewis, which, I didn't know but you may, is a spin-off series staring Inspector Morse's left-hand man). I told the coughing that I had had enough and I somehow managed to get a few hours sleep—even managing to sleep through the alarm. 

Now I am in a little B&B in Banavie, a suburb of sorts of Fort William, home of the famous Neptune's Staircase (series of canal locks). My room is built into the roof so that if I want to do something upright I pretty much need to go to the door. Its decor is circa nineteen seventy and at first I thought, ergh, and, it's so small, but I have now reigned in the spoiled brat expectations and realised I am paying the same for bed and breakfast in a time-machine of my very own as I would at a youth hostel. There was no point trying to go back and try a couple more days walking. Everytime I exert myself my lungs bubble up in a disturbingly gurgling way and I can't breath. Think my body has decided for me what the mind refused to. I have two days to wait for my train back to Edinburgh so I will catch the train to Mallaig tomorrow—it follows the 'Road to the Isles', heading to the coast off which stand alluringly named islands such as Eigg, Rum and Muck. It is also the rail journey they film for the trip to Hogwarts. You can take a steam train, or you can take the regular train on the same tracks for less dosh. And on Sunday, weather permitting, I will try to climb Ben Nevis and bag the biggest Munro. The sun came out at one stage today and cleared all the clouds from the mountain—mountains like to hold onto weather like a stole around their shoulders, only reluctantly allowing it to be removed. There was snow up there!


And then, it will just be a matter of making my way down south for my flight. Can't believe it is all over. Thank you to everyone I met, everyone who indulged in conversations with me, made me laugh, told me interesting things about themselves and let me tell them about my journey. Thanks for all the kindnesses. And thanks to everyone who read my blog and to my special commenter who replied without fail to everything I posted. I'll be back to Inversnaid sometime in the future and then let us see if we can finally wrap this thing up! Ciao.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

666.2 kms: Rowardennan-Inversnaid.

There really was nothing in between. It would have been cheating to put the names of the few houses in between because they were so remotely away from the track that I couldn't really have said I was there. Oh, maybe Cailness—I got close enough to see their coats hanging up and their windows and doors open. I have no idea how they get there though, because there was also no road. No road, but I was able to get a phone signal?  

The fact that there was no road was the only reason I was technically on the road. I had no other way to get to the bed I had booked at the bunkhouse here in Inversnaid. But if you thought I was a misery yesterday, you should have seen me today. The following was how the conversation with myself went for the first hour and a half stint—on a loop:


I feel like I am in a cone of cold-induced misery.

Sorry, to hear that.

And this hill has been going up for an hour. How can that be? There is no where to go up to.

I'm not really sure, sorry again.

And I can't even stop and have a break otherwise I will be eaten by the midges. Don't you know that once one of the female little suckers bite you, it makes a chemical deposit so all it's friends know where to find and eat you. I am a marked woman.

Yeah, I can see the marks there. Maybe you shouldn't scratch them so hard.

(Glare) And I only got three or four hours sleep again. Every time I coughed, I banged my head on the top bunk.

Mmm, poor you.

I know, I'd cry but all the fluids in my body have been redirected to my nose.

Excuse me, I am just going to step off this cliff.


The second hour and a half was mostly along the lines of 'oh, maybe the drugs have kicked in, this is okay'.


I was going downhill.


And then the track turned treacherous and back up the hill, and I started to feel sorry for myself. And moan. And some poor guy stopped and asked me if I was okay. I just said: 'I have the flu'. Sorry dude, I thought you were asking for an honest answer. Although the honest answer would probably have been 'I have a cold': flu sounds more dramatic. Then I had a coughing fit while two elderly people raced past me like I had the plague. When I finally got to Inversnaid there was a grand hotel sitting on the shores of the lake (I had thought there was only the bunkhouse), and a little sign that said 'Bunkhouse—one kilometer up the hill from the hotel'. I was almost prepared to forfeit my payment and ask for a room at the hotel. Then I saw a building that I thought was the bunkhouse and started up the stairs thinking 'must have been hundred meters up the hill'. I was half way up the stairs and realised that the building didn't really look like a refashioned church (see left). I started back down to the road with the realisation that unfortunately I had read the sign right. A woman stopped her car and asked me where I was going. I explained my idiocy and she drove me the kilometer (seemed like more) to the hostel. Her son freaked out when I came in and called him by name.


So what to do now? I am sharing the world's smallest four-bunk room with Lisa, from Switzerland, who will be subjected to a night of coughing in exchange for a six am start. She's getting up so early because tomorrow's first seven miles are on a rocky, scrambling path between a rock and a loch. And it is going to start raining at eleven, according to the weather forecast. After five bad sleeping nights, and predicting a sixth, I am not sure a six am start works for me (even though I will hear her rustling her plastic bags then). I am fairly sure a walk along a precipice in the rain doesn't work for me either. My accommodation for tomorrow night is fourteen miles away. I really want to get to seven hundred k's. All these considerations. But I am still tempted to catch the ferry across the loch at the civilised hour of midday, and access the facilities that come with the side of the loch that has a road—buses, trains. Access, not necessarily use. Who am I kidding?


Two more things that I have discovered deet can do: if applied to your red-raw-from-blowing nose, it can make you leap about seventeen feet in the air from pain; if applied to your ears in order to keep the midges out of them, it can then ensure that your i-pod earphones become stuck to the inside of your ears, requiring a rather painful bandaid like removal.


Let's see what a night can do for this green lurgy in my body.


Good night to Inversnaid, good night to you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

655.0 kms: Balmaha-Milarrochy-Sallochy-Rowardennan.

The news is on in the Clansman Bar in Rowardennan (view from hotel to Loch Lomond on right). I love British news. It doesn't matter how upper class it is, it is all just about sex and scandal. And football. And, in Scotland, the Independence Referendum. I think maybe Scotland should become independent for its future. (Not that it really has a choice I suppose, I mean, who is really going to make the decision regarding that one. Eh? Even if they have got the Stone of Scone back.) It is just that it has so much water about the place, that when the fuel runs out and water becomes the commodity of power, then Scotland can become a Superpower. They won't want England and it's hosepipe bans hanging on like midges on a stationary walker. 

This may be my shortest blog to date. Good night. Just kidding. But I feel dreadful and staring at whatever garbage is on the TV is much easier than thinking. Oooh, there's Julia. She is in Mexico. She seems unconcerned about the earthquake that has been reported to me via a reliable source— there is certainly nothing about the shaking colonies on the TV. My cold has decided on shifts as its best approach so the cough settles in for the times when I want to sleep, or be in public places (because people love someone coughing all over their public areas), and the congested head and sinuses move in for hills, climbing or times when breathing is helpful. Sorry about the self indulgent moaning.


What is the difference between a hen and a chicken? Is it to do with what bit we end up eating?


Saw my first Highland cattle today. That long fluffy fringe must impair their vision because the second one I saw was trying to mount another bull.


Today's walk summed up in one word: undulating.


I did meet the ranger. Apparently she doesn't just get to wander up and down the paths all the time—mostly she has to be in meetings. She asked me what day I was on. She meant for the West Highland Way. Technically, I answered, the fortieth. When I explained she shook my hand.


I've tried my people, but I am spent.


Good night to Rowardennan, good night to you.


Monday, June 18, 2012

643.4 kms: Easter Drumquhassle-Drymen-Garadhban Forest-Conic Hill-Balmaha.

So sad. There is an end to my tunnel and I can see where it is. The sign at the end does not say John O'Groats, it says Bridge of Orchy. I mean, who has even heard of Bridge of Orchy. It means I have four more walking days, one day to get from the middle of nowhere (Bridge of Orchy) to somwhere sort of somewhere (Fort William), one to bag a big munro (thirteen hundred meters) and one to get from the sort of somewhere to the central somewhereness of Edinburgh for a next day trip to The Big Somewhere (London). Four more days. It is breaking my heart. I want to carry that big lug of a backpack for longer, I want to unpack it fully every single night and pack it all back up again every single morning. What am I saying? (Possibly just that I don't want to go back to work.) The train trips from Fort William to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh to London take about the same amount of time: the distance between the first two is about a hundred and eighty kilometers, between the second, six hundred. Methinks the first train will take a very indirect and stop-filled route. It does appear to go down the side of at least a couple of lochs, so it will probably be lovely. Ooh, I like the trains!! There is the silver lining. 

I don't know how they did it, but those midges managed to get to places doctors don't get to. Actually, for me, being the great lover of doctors that I am, that could mean anywhere. Okay, places where only lovers should go. If any family are reading this, that is a theoretical and artistic statement, not personal or subjective. I just read about it once in a book. I was so glad to see the sun shining through the perspex window of my beehive this morning. Thought it may deter them. No, midges like sun too.


Short day. I spent a fair bit of time wandering around Drymen in a sort of stupor, trying to work through the above plan in my head. All the snot and irritation that have moved into my head seem to be having a detrimental affect on my thinking ability. Get this. Drymen is not a big place. It has no cafes or bars with wifi (that I could find or be referred to), it has a public phone that can only and exclusively be used to make emergency calls and no private pay phones in any bar or pub: it is a communication black spot. But it has a public library with computers? What? Actually I did use one in Kirkintillloch too, but prior to that, the only library I saw had four wheels and was being driven by an erratic geriatric who nearly collected me on the road—that would have been an ironic death, killed by the books I love. This library was amazing. It had two staff members. One was ringing locals to make sure they knew Jim had died and were they okay, and did they know the funeral was today. The other called Gwen to let her know a great coffee table book highlighting, in pictures, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II had come in, and that she thought it was something Gwen may like to pop in and have a look at. But no, no more Jill Andrews' had come in, don't think she has written anything for a while.

Balmaha's Bay on Loch Lomond
The walking was delightful in the sun. I even relished the chance to climb a rather steep hill—until I got to the downhill bit. I cursed at the kissing gate perched on a hill that wasn't big enough to get my pack through, meaning I had to take it off and then do the major swing to get it on my back while perched on a cliff face. I asked some Americans how my downhill would be. They answered: 'I don't know, I only went up it.' Um. Going up gives you some indication of what it would be like to go down, doesn't it? It is the same hill. Am I the only fool that accesses the upness of the hill for what it would be like to go downhill on. I am staying in a bunkhouse in Balmaha., There seem to be millions of people upstairs, but I have, at last look, a room to myself on the bottom floor. Maybe I coughed up some of the flem that has taken over my body when I booked over the phone this morning, and they have shoved everyone else out of my way for the interests of public health. They are very sweeet though. And I am hoping, forth night lucky, to maybe get a good nights sleep tonight. Cross fingers.


Good night to Balmaha, good night to you.


630.3 kms: Milngavie-Craigallian-Dumgoyne-Upper Gartness-Easter Drumquhassle.

I am staying in a beehive tonight—a very cool beehive with padded red walls and sleeping benches. (see left) Its camping, but not as you know it. It's the Scandinavian thing (unfortunately at the Scandinavian price too—bloody single occupancy). I took it because it was available and had a roof. I was standing under the large sign announcing the start of the West Highland Way and a boy asked if I would please go and sign in to the visitor's book if. He and his boss then managed to agitate my already nervous disposition about my 'winging it' accommodation philosophy—aided in most part by the pages of people who had already signed in for today, and, 'that's just the one book, there is another one over there'. But ultimately, I really just liked the look of my hut. It is like having your own treehouse. Hope I still feel that way when I am trying to sleep. Two bad nights down (one due to discos and mysterious morning thumpings, one due to panicking over a weird charge to my credit card that is useless to try and do something about on a weekend in the middle of the night), I should be due a good sleep regardless.. 

Found out today what the go is with all this talk of midges. I stopped at an honesty box (I would probably stop at a shoebox—actually, yes I would). This one had flasks of tea and coffee, bottles of water and scones with jam and cream! Cup of tea and scone in hand and seated on a chopped tree I suddenly realised I was in a cloud. I stopped the next person walking past, asking 'are these midges?' Yep, that's them. He did say that he thought today's weren't so viscious—'not the vampire ones'. Do the vampire ones have little cloaks? These still managed to get my ears and the bits in between my bangles where I didn't get the deet. Maybe on my head too—I don't think hair is a barrier. I got sucked into a salesman's pitch for a net at the tourist office, but didn't have to resort to it today. Apparently midges are slow fliers and so one good way to stop them is to not stop. I managed some revenge by killing several thousand brushing them off my thermal leggings and by eating three with my scone and five in my tea. Yummy, nutritious protein bombs. There were also a few stuck in the stickiness of my deet. And the half a dozen or so that I inhaled. I can only think that it was worse for them than it was for me—drowing in green cold snot. Suffer midges. This is war.


If you are ever in the Scottish highlands, fighting the midges and wearing a bad set of painted fingernails with no remover, don't worry, deet melts nail polish. Should we put this stuff on our skin!!!


Despite the milllions of people (which really, at my late starting time and snail-like pace I don't really encounter as they are travelling in the same direction—they are just all here in the first night's destination's pubs), it is nice to be back on a long distance path. It has a particularly good path so far, some new intriguingly different ways of getting through fences and increasingly beautiful scenery. Saw my first genuine bull today. He was making the most noise I have ever heard a bovine make. Don't think he was happy and I was very glad I was not in the same field as he. You always see images of sheep and cows but they don't show you the rams and the bulls as a whole. It is because they are really ugly. I am sorry to be so superficial, but when you think cute lambies, cute sheepies, cute cowies, these dudes are not what you imagine seeing. They're butch, big-boned and grumpy. Hanging out to see highland cattle though—just not the bulls. Saw this great herd the other day. They were all like neopolitan ice cream—perfectly divided in three, black, white, black, with the white stripe around their middles. Every single one of them. It was odd and beside one single such marked cow, I haven't seen it anywhere else


Listening to my i-pod today I came across Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road, here's a bit of 'kowture' for my blog:


Oh public road, I say back,

I am not afraid to leave you,

yet I love you


You express me better than I can express myself

You should be more to me than in my poem


I think heroic deeds were all concieved in the open air

And all great poems also

I think I could stop here myself and do miracles

My judgments as thoughts I henceforth try by the open air,

the road


I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like

and whoever beholds me shall like me

I think whoever I see must be happy


From this our freedom.

From this hour I ordain myself

Loos'd of limits and imaginary lines

Going where I list

My own master, total and absolute.


Listening to others

and considering well what they say

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

gently, but with undeniable will,

divesting myself of the holds that would hold me


I inhale great drafts of space.

The east and west are mine,

and the north and south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought


I did not know I held so much goodness

all seems beautiful to me.



Me again—there is something magical about the open road. I will miss this.


Good night to Easter Drumquhassle, good night to you.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

612.6 kms: Kilsyth-Kirkintilloch-(Milngavie).

I knew I had seen a vision of my fat arse on a bus seat for a reason: I just got the day wrong. 

I am not sure I have even done anything today to regale you with. I may just go with some random thoughts and things seen.


For the boy: thirteen more volvos and four more deer.


When I was walking on the Round the Forth path a few days ago—just before I got lost in the maze of Hopetoun House—a man warned me that I was about to see what he didn't know was my fifth deer for that day. This one, unfortunately, had been hit by a vehicle. I was tense. I have been doing this little side project on these three trips which I don't think I have really told many people about—usually I just freak B—— out with it when she looks through my photos and comes across it accidentally. It is a little macabre, but I have been taking photos of roadkill. Okay, you all think I am odd now. Not just any roadkill—just the beautiful, sleeping animals whose essence seems still to be around them. Maybe it is because it shows there is so little difference between life and death. I'm not trying to be profound. Walking like this, on the road parts at least, takes you somewhere where life isn't usually this slow. It is normally the cars that whizz past in these places between 'lives' and people don't see the effects cars can have. But I was really not ready for something as large as a deer. (The largest to date was a badger, all its stubbly feet in the air and stiff as straight whisky, but somehow, sorry to say, not beautiful.) I could smell something wrong first. But when I got to where the spot was someone had already been there and removed the poor thing—after all, this was the route the torch was going to be taking, couldn't possibly have a dead deer there to spoil the event! All that was there to show for the life of that poor deer was a large pool of blood and the flattening of the grass on the side of the road. And somehow its essence too. Don't worry, I didn't take a photo. I am not even sure why I am writing this—maybe I took the second lot of cold and flu tablets too quickly after the first. Do the things you want to do. Don't wait. Tell people that you love them. Even that you like them. Like is absolutely underrated.


Flittering over the canal was a bird, unimaginably blue.


In the cold wind blowing on the canal, a swan floated with her wings full of signets, keeping them warm.


How do you say this: Hawick. That's right, leave out all the middle letters, it is Hoyk. And this: Milngavie. Same again, Mill-guy. I can tell I am on the Glasgow coast of Scotland now rather than the refined Edinburgh side. Two men in the bar where I just ate a whole slice of Banofee Pie (as if I wasn't feeling ill before, it is banana and toffee pie drowned in caramel sauce—there probably would have been fewer calories if I had just drunk two cans of condensed milk) have used the f-word more times in the time it took me to eat my cake than I have heard in all the years before that. It was phenomenal. I wonder what they use when they are cross. As I was coming out of Edinburgh a man walked past having a conversation with himself about the unsuitability of the Scottish political environment and the weather, how it would all change for him as soon as he got to Hawaii. It was like being in the Trainspotting narrative.


I can hear the flesh of the person in the room next to me squeaking against the porcelain of the bath. It is disconcerting. The hotel has given me a 'Good Nights Sleep Guarantee'. Maybe I need to go to reception and say the squeaking is stopping me sleeping. Maybe it is too early at seven pm.


I am stopping there. God knows what will come out next. Start another long distance walk tomorrow—the West Highland Way. I'll be walking past lochs and bens. This will be real Scottish countryside. I am even going to try and bag myself a Munro. (Climb a mountain over three thousand feet. There are 283 or so of them in Scotland and you can, or I do, often question Scots about the number of Munros they have. The highest I have met so far is sixty-nine.)


Sorry, no photo. I am feeling ick and have just had the worst restaurant experience. I know, that is a white whine (see the Age from a Saturday ages ago in the section where they have new words for the twenty-first century—its basically the complaining of the privileged). Instead of me walking and getting you a photo I have chosen to get in bed with a scandalous book (Fifty Shades of Grey) that I just had to have for the torment of a twenty-five minute bus ride. I worry myself. Where are those night-time cold and flu pills?


Good night to Milngavie, good night to you.



Friday, June 15, 2012

602.8 kms: (Beancross)-Falkirk Wheel-Bonnybridge-Underwood/Lock 17-Auchinstarry-Kilsyth.

I did not expect to do those sorts of kilometers today (not that it is record breaking in any sense). I would not have been surprised to actually see my fat arse on a bus seat all the way to Kilsyth. I hit the snooze button for an hour and a half before dragging myself up and out into the fine Scottish summer. Today, in summer, it got to a high of eleven degrees. And it spat rain all day. In Melbourne, I noticed, it was sunny and seventeen—in winter!!!!!! What is strange though is I am not sure that if this weather was transposed, very legitimately into the Melbourne winter and I was walking around in it, whether I would not think it was too cold for this sort of a malarky. As it is, in this summer environment, it seems bearable. 

After an inordinate amount of faffing in the centre of Falkirk (breakfast, internet searches for accommodation, phoning said accommodation, post-officing), I caught the bus back to the Wheel. Then I faffed a bit more by having lunch and my first Irn-Bru, the Scottish national soft-drink. And finally, I hit the towpath at about two in the afternooon. I wasn't convinced I still wouldn't have to resort to a bus somewhere, but two feet took me all the way to my scary-exterior-modern-interior hotel in Kilsyth, The Coachman. I stopped at Lock 17 for what I have discovered belatedly is the answer to my toilet issues—a drink that allows less fluid in than it buys the right to use the toilet to let out: espresso. The establishment in the middle of nowhere that is the restaurant at Lock 17 is, very bizarrely, an Indian Restaurant and Pub. It is an eighteenth century stables and Inn for the horses that, at the time, pulled the barges along the canal. Now it is ultra modern and serves that quintessential Indian-Scottish dish, the Haggis Pakora. What the ... ? If I wasn't already so full of spicy Falkirk Wheel meatballs, I would have tried it just because it sounds so odd. But if haggis is so calorie rich already, what on earth does deep frying it in batter do to it?


Despite the espresso I had to find a bush to dive into again. If the country was run by women, this would not happen and we would not get to our final destinations only to find weeds tucked in our underpants. There would be PC's all over my maps (Public Conveniences). The towpath was high on a bank with no hiddey spots. It did, however, at one stage stretch straight for quite a while and I was tempted to just go for it. Luckily I didn't because even though it seemed I could see people if they were there, a cyclist turned up shortly out of nowhere and they would have definitely caught me. There was no-one on the canal either. No-one until I came stumbling out of the bushes when I eventually found a spot that didn't look like I would sink into four meters of mud. I sincerely think there is a conspiracy to catch me with my pants down.

Thanks to Doug and Agnes at Lilliesleaf, Easter Cottages, for sending this through to me.

Oh great, Friday night disco at The Coachman is just starting downstairs. If the waitresses were freaking out about someone having dinner by themselves this evening (and coping by pretending I didn't exist), then they will have a canupture if I go and get stonkered and dance a bit by myself won't they. I'll stay in my room and dance with Wes instead.

Good night to Kilsyth, good night to you.

P.s: I am being made a mockery of, ignore everything I saidabout coping with the weather—after a night of disco and bangings at five am, I think I now have a cold. I think it is either from that room or from bearing my bot to the elements. Pooey.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

586.2 kms: Belsyde-Almond-Falkirk-Falkirk Wheel-(Beancross).

Odd day. 

I had all the emotions—it was an emotions tasting plate. I had a sun-induced sunny dispositon. I had a certain amount of unexpected fear. I had elation and excitement. I had awe. There was frustration, turned annoyance and then plain grumpiness. I had the joy of new encounters with people. I had disappointment. And I had pure exhaustion. Some of those explain themselves, the others need more elaboration.



I am beginning to think there is something wrong with my inner ears because heights are starting to make me nervous. I get vertigo—that strange urge to go over the edge. Two things made me a bit spooked today and the first was to do with heights: I had to cross an aqueduct. It wasn't so much the height, I felt nauseous thinking about that. But, rather, I was convinced that I was going to end up in the canal as it passed over the duct with me. Two factors: narrow path, high wind. Wind into my pack throws me off balance. My centre of gravity is all wacky. Whatever it was, I thought I would never get over the aqueduct, and I breathed huge breaths of relief every time I went behind one of the solid posts. I did survive, and I didn't end up in the water. The second obstacle was a six hundred and twenty meter tunnel. The towpath ran through the tunnel alongside the canal. There was at least a rail between myself and the canal this time. I would have completely freaked if there hadn't been. The path was sloped toward the canal and slippery as underground gets, and it was dark. And full of fools. I feel that the edges of my invincibility are being gnawed at. Damn. I feel too young to be vincible. I breathed great gulps of steamy air when I came out of there, and, like the cure for that other cold thing, Dementors, ate lots of fudge to make myself feel sugarly better.


Elation and excitement:

Yesterday evening when I found myself back on the towpath headed from Linlithgow to my accommodation in Belsyde, I called out to two ladies in the front of a canal boat who were having a bevy in the evening sunshine, that their's was the life. We had a bit of a chat—one has the obligatory relatives in Perth. They joked that if they saw me tomorrow they would give me a lift. It was their boat (I wasn't aware at the time as the ladies were inside) that spurred me to walk at speed for about half a hour earlier in the day (they are only supposed to go four miles per hour, and I paced them for that time). When I got to just before the Falkirk Wheel they were moored alongside the canal edge. The ladies, Maree and Liz, invited me on to go on the wheel—they were just about to go on it. I jumped on board. The rest of this story is mixed up in 'awe'.

Liz has a dog called Charlie. He appeared to be a Jack Russell. When I saw the boat earlier he was pacing back and forth on the back of the boat, unable to decide which side to watch from. He has a lifejacket—now, he took a dive into the canal the first time the guys, including their partners, Captain and Skipper (sorry, forgot the boys' names), did this canal system. This is their third holiday here. The lifejacket is great because it enables him to be carried like a handbag if needed. After the wheel we went down a lock as well. Charlie had a friend, Jet, who was a black dog who passed away eighteen months ago. Now Charlie has a fascination with black dogs, which is why, as we watched the lock edge advance past the windows, there was nervous yelling for Charlie to come away from the black dog watching and get back on the sinking (in a good sense, this wasn't the Minnow) boat! All was well, and the crew dropped me off after the lock and headed on their way. It was fabby. And just a low number of hundreds of meters not walked.



The Falkirk Wheel links the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal. The two canals run their respective courses at an about thirty-five meter height difference. In the past it would take all day to get from one to the other on a course of eleven locks. That was prior to 1933. Between then and 2002, the link between the canals was broken. And then the Falkirk Wheel. Effectively the wheel is two pools of canal on a wheel that rotates, aided by the counterweight of the two edges. A boats sails onto one end. The gates close to lock the adjacent water off. The wheel rotates until the top part is at the bottom and vice versa. The gates open and the boat sails off on its new level. All that takes the same energy as boiling eight kettles. It is an amazing structure—beautiful. See, awe.


Frustration, annoyance, grumpiness and disappointment:

At the wheel centre I went into Tourist Info to get some accommodation. It is Linlithgow all over except that there is no Nan at the end of this story. The only place available was on the north-eastern edge of Falkirk—I am west, and Falkirk isn't that teeny. I have to say that the people who helped me were lovely—it was just the situation that got to me in the end. I decided to just take the long-searched-for and finally found room at the Travelodge. Victoria at Tourist Info tried to book it for me but poor thing ended up in trauma because she thought it had double charged my card and not finalised. I spoke to a robotic customer service person who made the booking reluctantly. Apparently Travelodge's website doesn't like foreign credit cards—that is good for an international company? Victoria directed me to the bus and the lovely bus driver, while he drove me into the centre of town, devised the best route for me then on to Beancross. His instructions were amazing except for one little confused right instead of left (understandable as it wasn't his route and he, I believe, just remembered the wrong hotel in the right place). After walking a kilometer in the wrong direction and ending up on the freeway entrance, I went back and found the hotel in the other direction. It was where disappointment kicked in. I am too spoiled by B&B's, but I fail to see how hotels survive alongside with their bad rates, no inclusions and icky rooms. Because of desperate people like me obviously. I think at least a hundred thousand people have been in that room before me. The bed was hollow, the pillows and doona mean. The walls were filthy and the carpet too. The heater didn't work. There was a sparsity of electrical plugs and only half of those worked without causing concerns for electrocution. But it was a bed, and a roof. With views of the freeway. And I was pooped.



After all that, and despite being excited to sate my growling appetite at the Beancross Pub, which looked lovely, I lay down and had a snooze. Snooze became nap became ignoring the alarm became three am change into pjs became the ignoring of the alarm again. Fourteen hours of sleep.


Good night to Beancross, good night to you.




Wednesday, June 13, 2012

569.7 kms: Queensferry-Hopetoun House-Blackness-The Binns-The Park-Linlithgow-Belsyde.

This time I need an answer, okay. Really, I mean it. I need you to tell me why, after six weeks of this, it is not getting any easier. I am miffed. No, I am actually getting cross. I'm on the point of shouting: It's not fair. I need a scientific answer. I'll just wait here while you get it ... 

While I was waiting for you I was googling. I found one answer I liked. It said it was because I wasn't having proper recovery periods. If you don't let your body recover, you get weaker and slower. It possibly makes sense. Even though I just had two days off in Edinburgh? I have had eight days off in forty-two. Wow, forty-two days! How am I ever going to be able to go back to work.


Have you seen my room? I feel like I am staying in a country manor. It certainly looks like one. I am at Belsyde House and Farm. I'd stopped in Linlithgow, hoping for somewhere to stay, but they don't have a lot of options so Tourist Info sent me down here (extra four kilometers or so) to Nan's. It was a little bit out of town so I went to the shops and got dinner provisions for a basic bite, but it turned out far from basic. Nan told me to come and eat in the sitting room. She said she would make me a coffee. I was expecting to borroow a plate and knife, and to get a mug of Nescafe, but I got a tray with a huge cafetiere of delicious coffee (I had three cups and only didn't go back for more because I want to sleep at some stage tonight—I have to let my body recover!) And then! She also brought in a plate of homemade biscuits and chocolates with ladybirds on them (not real ones).

I cannot recommend enough, if you are ever in the area, a stay here: If fact, come to the area for it. One of my fellow guests went for a walk this evening and saw a badger. There is also the very friendly ranga cat, Tess, and a miniature Yorkshire terrier who is smaller than her toy elephant and absolute cuteness to die for.

I''m all over the place. Apologies. Tired. Jittery on too much coffee.

In the spirit of being close to but completely missing the big events (like I did with the Jubillee), I missed the Olympic torch today. On the way out of Queensferry they were closing all the roads. I walked into Hopetoun House, which is both a large and beautiful stately house, and, where the bike path I am following goes through. It seemed quiet, but I figured it's Wednesday, people at work. I decided that it was time for a stop at the tea house and so instead of following the bike route around the grounds I went into the House area. I popped into the tea rooms. It was all industriousness and surprise, but I got my cup of tea and sat outside in the again shining sun. A lady approached me and asked if I was okay. Yes, thanks for asking. Are you here for the event? What event? The torch. Oh. Um, no. Turned out the house was actually closed to the public for the day because of this event. I told her I would finish my cuppa and be on my way, and asked if I could get out the back way as it seemed to indicate on my map. Absolutely, she replied. Absolutely not! They had locked all the gates. But people seem unperturbed by strangers wandering around a closed house in the direction of gates they know are locked: could you not say something! I was doing all I could to avoid having to go back to where I had come in—the long way. Two lovely gentlemen, who I never saw, and could not tell yoou what they looked like or anything about what they appeared to be doing there, were all that stood between me and a severe cracking of the ess-aitch-one-tees. They didn't tell me anything about where certain ways of getting out may be or certain things one would have to do if one were to be confronted with a small ten letter keyboard in one of those places. I didnt hear it from them. But I did manage to eventually get out of that damnable house and on my way again.

I love the Brits though, you have to don't you. They are so fabulous and polite. I had a lovely conversation about weather and the slipperiness of forest paths with a lady who found me hiding in the bushes, convening with nature. Keep Calm and Pretend you didn't see that.

I shouldn't be writing with this head on.

Good night to Belsyde House, good night to you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

546.1 kms: Edinburgh-Cramond Bridge-Dalmeny Estate-Firth of Forth-Queensferry.

The thing I love about the Scots is that they can say my surname. 

I can't understand anything else they say. Just kidding, I get a word in every few. Someone said something to me as I was coming along the waterfront between the two Forth Bridges just now, I plainly understood the word 'backpack'. He translated after I had stared at him answerless for a while: where are you going lass with that big backpack? That way, I said, pointing eastish, and you? Oh, I'm staying right here.


There was sunshine on Leith as I went past. Gives new significance to my favourite Proclaimer's song. I'm thinking sunshine on Leith is not a frequent occurrence. The sunshine shone brightly, surrounded by black clouds that touched the earth in some places. I took a panoramic photo of the difference in skies that surrounded me, recalling too late that the last time I did that it snowed on me. Not today though. In fact the forestry workers (dragging humungous trees out of the forest with tractors and rattling chains) kept exclaiming how warm it was. I think that is because it may have actually got to a two figure temperature with a two at the front!!! A late teen at the very least. Balmy. Both senses.


But what you are all waiting to hear about, I am sure (I would be), is the ghost tour. Wooo, ooo, wooo. Our guide, a diminuitive Aussie with a large black, leather coat and surprisingly strong vocal chords, told us she wasn't there to convince us about the existence of ghosts, but rather to entertain us. There were a great collection of cynics along which helped the entertainment no end. I provided the obligatory paranoid screaming everytime she stamped her foot, kicked doors, or snuck up and yelled. Also when one of the other groupies accidentally elbowed me in a very dark vault. I get jumpy, okay. I was doing the Double Dead Tour which did a bit of both of the things that this company (Blackhart) specialises in—the South Bridge Vaults and the Greyfriars Graveyard. I didn't even realise that there are two bridges running north-south in the Old Town—two apart from the ones you can obviously see linking the New and Old Towns. These two are surmounted by floors and floors of buildings—as they have been for hundreds of years (although now, apparently, not as high as they were). Under these bridges, and believably in order to make money, the builders made vaults on three levels that they then rented out for storage. We're talking sixteenth, seventeenth century here. Of course, with vagrancy laws not allowing anyone to have nowhere to live, people ended up living in these underground spaces. And not the nice people. People like, god forbid, criminals, wantons and the Irish. (This is not my comment about the Irish here, that's how some people of the time looked at things.) It was pitch black, lit with only tallow candles, no running water, no plumbing. The authorities would not follow anyone who managed to escape inside. Life expectancy, once you were forced to live down there, was eighteen months. Grim.

[Aside: I keep ending up sitting next to people who appear to be on first dates. Today's couple don't seem to be going that well. She is sitting with her arms folded and criticised his playing of Scrabble. She is laughing a lot though and she has just allowed him, despite his asking if it offends her on a deep philosophical level, to pay for the meal. Does she owe him anything now? On the other side of me are an incredibly good looking family of three who, in trying to get a sneaky parking space drove their car off a high pavement on the pier and couldn't get it back on again. People had gathered around to help, to no avail. My idea was to jack up the front of the car, put something under the wheel that is too high off the ground and then back up from there—that is what the AA man did at a very high cost. They should have asked me.]

But back to the vaults. And on to the Graveyard because they are linked. In both, bad things happened and now, in both, there appears to be negative energies that attack people. They have had lots of cases of people being scratched, bruised, pushed, even knocked out by these entities. They had photos in their wee scary shop at the end. The energy in the graveyard is meant to be MacKenzie's Poltergeist—created when the grave of arguably the world's first developer of a concentration camp, George MacKenzie, who imprisoned and tortureed twelve hundred people for their religious beliefs, was disturbed in 1998. There were lots of stories about women having their hair pulled and two big burly men who couldn't remove a girl who was being tugged towards the ground, and a guy in a mask who popped in to the tomb we were in to scare us, but we were all, I bet, disappointed that someone (else) didn't get injured on our tour. As she promised, we may not have been convinced, but I, at least, was entertained. We finished with the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby, a dog, who followed his master's coffin into the graveyard and then stayed on his grrave for fourteen years. He is the only dog to have ever been given keys to a city. There is a statue of him outside. I was expecting a noble shepherd or springer, but he was a fluffy lapdog. Maybe that is Lollii's issue—she is too noble to be so loving and loyal.

It was hard to give up the keys to my lovely flat and leave Edinburgh today. I have ended up at the Ravenous Beastie B&B (ominous, and the usual tennant of my room has gone off with the key so I can't lock the door—I hope no beastie tries to come in, I'll put Wes on guard), in Queensferry, a cute little village between the two bridges over the Firth of Forth to Fife. See the view from my window over there on the left. If you lived over there and you were going to go to Edinburgh for a big night of drinking, you would write that down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet before you left, wouldn't you—there is no way you will be able to say it to the taxi driver on the way home. Beside anything else, imagine the spittle. Eeuow. Anyway, it is nice to be on the road again. Yes feet, it is!

Good night to Queensferry, good night to you.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

528.0 kms: Peebles-Eddleston-Leadburn-(Bonnyrigg)-(Edinburgh).

Two sets of brackets! At The Leadburn, as I refuelled on cappuccino and sponge cake, I got talking to Jimmy and Mary at the next table. They were out for a Saturday ride, a bevy, and a look at the Pentland Hills. Jimmy came through from Glasgow fifty years ago and didn't go home. Mary was the quiet type. I said goodbye to them and headed off down the road for another jaunt pre-catching-the-bus. Five hundred meters later they pulled alongside me and stopped traffic (which was fun as I was a little over traffic at that stage). I had told them I was staying in Morrison Street, and as they got up to leave they recalled that the bus that leaves from where they live goes straight to Morrison Street, and they could take me to the bus. I'm rarely, if ever, offered a lift. It would be rude to say no. I protested. I cited 'cheating'. They told me that they wouldn't tell anyone. They drove me to the bus terminus and wouldn't leave until it arrived and Jimmy had told the bus driver to remember to tell me to get off at the right place. I am in Edinburgh. I am in my apartment in Edinburgh. It is surreal. 

I tried really, really hard, over and over to get off the road. I had two options in my northbound route today—the A703, its three numbers doing nothing to diminish the amount of traffic swooshing up and down, or the dismantled railway. I persisted as much as I could with the railway despite its locked gates, blocked and concealed entrances, diversions, just plain aborted bits, nettles, boggy earth, mud and cow poo. But in the end the railway, or the farmers who owned the land it went through, beat me and I trudged alongside the road hoping I wouldn't die. I had just turned onto the better road when Jimmy and Mary picked me up. It is interesting to see everything swish past from a car again. In the distance I could see Arthur's Seat. It is a volcano (one of many) on the outskirts of Edinbrgh. I was telling Jimmy that we have one too. He doesn't think it was the same Arthur (King), although he believes that Edinburghians would not hesitate to believe Arthur made it as far as Dromana.

It is tomorrow now and I am in the Queen Anne Tea Rooms at Edinburgh castle. It seemed the most apt place to indulge (I am going to explode) in a traditional afternoon tea—three tiers of scrumptiousness: cucumber sandwich, egg and cress sandwich, ham and mustard roll, scone with jam and cream, and three little cakelets, chocolate, almond and marmalade, and cherry bakewell-esque sponge. Oh, please dont talk about it anymore. I got to be the person who stands around a historic site like a gormless idiot listening to the audio guide. I really didn't want to give it back in the end because it was keeping my ears warm. And guess which fool walked away with tears streaming down their face from the arguably best kept part of the castle, the dog cemetery. In the evening I went on a Literary Pub Tour of Edinburgh. It was this mad dialogue between twos actors who showed the duality of the Edinburgh persona through its literary history—the old town and the new town, the seedy and the respectable, the drunkard and the teetotaller, the ego and the id. I had too many beers too quickly and a fabulous time.

Tomorrow, which is the day after tomorrow depending on how you read it, I am hoping to go on a ghost tour which allegedly has been proved to be one that is often visited by a poltergeist. I have made myself three nights worth of spag-bol which I have when I get home after these nights out. I am enjoying a bottle of Gallo White Zinfadel (which is pink) with it, but have kept the lion's share for tomorrow night when I may be scared out of my wits and need help sleeping.

Good night to Auld Reekie, good night to you.


Friday, June 8, 2012

510.8 kms: Melrose-Galashiels-Cloverfords-(Peebles).

Uh-oh, the brackets mean trouble. Even though that is such a small amount walked for the day, it still somehow looks quite good with the five on the front there. I allowed myself a once-a-trip lateral movement—that is cheaters code for 'I caught the bus'; justified by implying that all it did was take me across rather than up. I have just spent an hour and a half in the Crown Hotel in Peebles, looking for accommodation for tomorrow night, Saturday night, my dread night, especially with every forecast for the next few days being a black-grey cloud with multiple raindrops coming from it. The one place I found was a ninety-pound-a-night fancy hotel. So I did the only thing a girl can do in these circumstances—and it may involve another pair of brackets. I booked three nights accommodation in an apartment in Edinburgh. Make sense? You see the problem is it is still about twenty-three miles to Edinburgh—in sensible distance measurements that is thirty-six point eight k's. And I was whining about twenty-eight. I'm going to set off early, buy a packed lunch from the servo on the corner, and see how far I can get before I have to take a bus. And waiting at the end of it is a one bedroom apartment where I can come and go as I please, sleep in, cook my own meals (oh, my, lord), wash my clothes, three times, and surf all the net I want. [Due to there being so little net in the last couple of places I have been, and what there has been being slower than the one I have at home—3!—I am afraid that I haven't been able to get your feedback and words of encouragement to wing it and it will be okay. I have just had to do it, done, booked.] I got a really good rate for the first two nights and an extremely lousy one for the last night and so it averages out at don't-think-about-the-conversion-rate-think-about-the-fully-equipped-laundry-smelly-trousers.  

My only regret today is that, somewhere, discernable through all the rain, I could see the walking would have been really lovely. I stopped for coffee and cake in Galashiels and orange juice and potato crisps in Cloverfords and by that time it was already three. It didn't take much convincing from the boozy ladies having lunch that I should catch the bus all the way to Peebles 'in this weather'. I had planned to catch it to six miles from Peebles and walk the rest of the way. As it turned out, I went and stood at the bus stop at twenty past for the 'on-the-half-hour' bus, but it decided that that particular half hour wasn't applicable and so by the time I had waited in the rain and cold for forty minutes, it was a bit of a no-brainer to ask for a ticket to Peebles. I was soaked and so stood for a while in the spot where the wheelchairs go. It afforded me a great view through the front windscreen, until I realised just how scary watching a double-decker bus careen at speed through twisting and turning one and a half lane roads actually is and then I sat myself and my wet pack down on a seat where the window was frosted up and I couldn't see my life pass before my eyes. It is curious to note that trees on those roads are the inverse shape of a double decker bus—if that gives you any further clue.

Peebles' High Street: Lovely Summer Day.

I'm tucked in bed now at Mrs Muir's B&B. Mrs Muir is at least two hundred years old and made me want to cry when she pulled her little bent-back self up the stairs to show me my room—just point me in the right direction, I wanted to say, I'll find it. From my bed I can see the cars going past on the main road and through the windows of the houses opposite. They're not really into closing their curtains here. It's something we used to notice in London and nothing has changed. Look in if you dare, they seem to say, and what you see is at your own risk. It is nearly ten pm and, beside the mist coming down over the mountains behind the houses opposite, it is still light enough that you can get by without a light. I'm off to sleep now. Big day. Wish me luck even though it will be after the fact. Thanks.

Good night to Peebles, good night to you.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

499.7 kms: Lilliesleaf-Melrose.

There really was nothing in between.  

The downhill thing was a lie. It's driver-speak. What drivers say: At the end of the road turn left, go over the bridge and then turn right and follow that all the way down into Melrose. What it means: bridge equals going all the way down to the river, they don't build the bridge from the top of the hill, and, in order to then be going downhill to Melrose, there is going to have to be an uphilll first. I thought I had legionnaires because I had no energy and just couldn't pick up any pace. I have no idea if that is a symptom. I did cough once too. But then I looked behind me and I could see right over the valley. It was a case of silent, but deadly, hills. But I can't complain because I am already housed, redressed, bank-visited and in a coffee shop with a latte and a large slice of lemon-drizzle cake. Oh, and the scales said the same this morning, five kilos now.


I had company today on the road. They were cutting the weeds on the side of the road. There is a tractor with a big extendable arm and a man in a truck who follows it around and makes sure there are signs either side of it. He also whipper-snippers the bits the tractor couldn't get. He stopped all the time and had chats. I hope the tractor is okay. He said he worked all year long to guarantee that he got the grass cutting duty—six weeks of unsupervised ease. Even if it did give him hayfever.


I am staying in the eaves of my B&B. I had to crawl up the stairs to stop the backpack banging into the ceiling. Mmm, how will I get down again. Better go and have a look at the Abbey (right) I suppose (Robert the Bruce's heart is apparently in there somewhere—he boiled people so it is amazing he actually had one, but I suppose boiling was de rigeur at the time), rather than sitting here enjoying myself with writing and reading. This is not about relaxing—although if that were really the case, could I have not got the extra three hundred meters done!


Later that same day: So much for that—it was five pounds fifty to go inside the Abbey (the Abbey has no inside), and six pounds! to go into the gardens (even though it was five minutes before last entry and you would only have half an hour to look around). Call me tight, I don't care. Walked around the single block that is Melrose town centre about three times and now all the shops are shut and so all I can do is either go to the pub and read and drink beer or go to my attic and read and drink tea. I chose the latter.


Good night to Melrose, good night to you.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

488.0 kms: Bonchester Bridge-Denholm-Hassendean-Newlands-Lilliesleaf.

England: Over days and days and days—Black volvos: 15 (since last report); Deer: 1.Scotland: One day—Black volvos: 0; Deer: 3.

What does that tell you? I don't know either.


England: Over days and days and days—rain, but never soaked. And the good thing about hail is that it doesn't actually make you wet.

Scotland: Two days—rain, sopping wet, clothes, maps, notebooks, Wesley spread all over my B&B and my boots stuffed with newspaper (eeouw) and sitting in front of the Aga.

What does that tell you? It's raining? Even the locals in the pub seemed to be complaining so I think it is possibly a bit rainier than usual. I told them we kept getting a months worth of rain in single days at home, and to impress me more than I'd impressed them they advised that today we had had a weeks worth in a couple of hours. Um, I think that still means we had more, doesn't it?

Courtesy of BVW. And Leunig.

Seems the sauna did the trick. The first eight kilometres were a breeze with no aches and almost a spring in my step. Even my bag felt lighter. (I'm beginning to think maybe my bag's weight is dependent on the stage of Wesley's bowel movements—he does eat three times his body weight in wood a day.) But this lasted only to a point: the last ten were a long, hard, wet, uphill slog. I know there are three volcanoes in a cluster in my immediate future, but all around them is relatively rolling and no roads or paths seem to actually go up the mountains. So how can I still be going uphill? [They are playing that 'all by myself, don't wanna be, all by myself' song again—is someone trying to tell me something?] Apparently it turns back downhill tomorrow but I'll believe it when I see it.


Cooee is a useful word. I don't think I have ever used it before. I was on a long distance path for about two kilometers today: The Border Abbeys Way. I had been wandering aimlessly around someone's house and a field with an electric fence for ages trying to work out how to access it. Two walkers emerged out of a forest and so I followed them, but soon they were standing in the middle of another field doing lots of pointing. I had seen a pole with a possible flash of orange (the arrow) and headed toward that. Soon they overtook me (cheating) and launched into the next field. I thought I would cheat back, again, and so started behind them but they went off in different directions from each other. I spied the pole in a completely different direction and realised that they were, well, guessing, or, lost. I wanted to yell out but couldn't think what to say to people away on the other side of a field. Cooee popped into my head. And it is just the perfect carrying sound. They reluctantly followed. I don't think they were happy to be put back on track by someone who had only just turned up on the path through a field of horse poo.


My hosts at Easter Cottage are so lovely. They have listened to my whole story with interest, looked at pictures of Lolli, stuffed newspaper in my shoes, and, most impressively, given me the front room—huge, no stairs, double bed, the warmest looking doona. (I heard someone saying, as I was coming home from the pub, that they couldn't believe they were going out in a ski-jacket. Believe it! It is freezing.) They also have scales. Damn. Possibly, on first look, it appears maybe (are those enough disclaiming words) that there has been a bit more of a loss but I will try again tomorrow to verify. In the mean time I am heading under that doona with tea, biscuits and a good book.


Did you know that Lilliesleaf's eleven hole golfcourse was built by a resident who got jacked off by a club in the near vicinity refusing to allow him to play. That's the way!


Good night to Lilliesleaf, good night to you.








Tuesday, June 5, 2012

470.0 kms: Kielder-Deadwater-the Scottish border-the B6357-Note o' the Gate-Wolfehopelee-Bonchester Bridge.

I'm in Scotland. The first person I met called me lass. I also have a nasty suspicion that he was too stingy to give me a lift because he lied about where he was going—I can see you, you know. Is that two for two of the Scottish stereotypes. I had a Mars bar, but I brought it from England so it wasn't deep fried. 

It is not that I asked for a lift mind you. He had waved at me going past, turned around and then slowed when he got beside me and apologised because he was 'just going to the next field', and couldn't give a lift. Then he zoomed off in his golf-cart-esque tractor for miles and miles. Either he is the richest landlord in Scotland, and the next field is in the next county or I will see him in the pub. The pub that was twenty-eight kilometers away! Now my feet really know what they have to be mad about. It wasn't technically difficult. A lady in the shop yesterday had told me 'it's all uphill'. I laughed. Of course it is, I'm going north, that's the uphill direction. I wasn't laughing today. I think I had a six or seven kilometer climb. Plus all the other descents and ascents around it. Also, in order to get on the right road—the B6357—I had to go backwards and then back up again for about six k's. There was no way to avoid it. Everyone had told me I wouldn't be able to get through the forest on the paths (that would have cut maybe ten k's off my day). I could see a route through but it would depend on the quality of the path. I got out my compass (which has not a single idea where north is), gave myself a quick guessing game of how to use it (moot when the compass has no sense of direction) and took a two k' round trip look into the forest to see if I could do it. I should have listened. The path I wanted was so poor I would have broken a leg. I could see that it was possible to do while looking out over the valley, but I knew once I went into the valley the perspective would be lost and so would I. I went back to the road. I managed to cut a tad off the aggravating detour by following a disused rail line but, as you can see, it was still a long day. And it rained. And, if I stopped somewhere to rest my poor feet, the midges descended. I nearly jumped with joy when I saw the Horse and Hounds. The guy in the Kielder shop had called them yesterday for me so I could have accommodation as a goal to get me through the day.


My shower is a sauna. I am not being metaphoric: it is a sauna with a little wooden seat. I had a sauna. Thirty-eight degreees it got to in there. Then you have your shower straight away. Nice. Not sure if it is enough to remove the stiffness. Is this supposed to be good for me? I think tomorrow I will do about ten kilometers and that will bring everything back to normal. I am definitely no superwoman!


Good night to Bonchester Bridge, good night to you.



Sunday, June 3, 2012

441.9 kms: Falstone-Dam-Wave Chamber-55/02-Belvedere-Robin's Hut-Salmon Squares-Janus Chairs-Viewpoint-Silas Capitalis-Kielder.

There are, the English claim, large numbers of very clever, very amazing, engineers who this country is built upon. Engineering, correct me if I am wrong, is quite an exact science. A millimeter (or the equivalent sub-division of an inch) wrong here and spans of bridges wave at each other as they pass in the middle of the river instead of meeting. But. What is the story with mile marking? When the English post signs to tell you how far something is from something else it is far from an exact science. (Disclaimer: this is all from personal observation and a healthy dose of walking-based cynicism and may all be a load of cobble but it is what I really, truly believe.) My theory: Something stated to be a quarter of a mile away is in fact somewhere between just over an inch and just short of half a mile away. Today's walk, for example, was sign posted every mile. I have no doubt that sign zero and sign eleven were exactly where they were supposed to be (although sign eleven was very close to another sign that indicated sign zero was eleven and three-quarters of a mile away??) The ten posts in between, though, were randomly placed somewhere along their given mile. It has to be true. You would be elated when you high-fived eight-miles-to-go, and then it would take two hours for the seven-miles-to-go post to appear. I challenge the UK road authority to prove me wrong. I'm sure if there was more room on the signs it would read more like this:

Town Centre: Over there behind the pub.

Falstone: Just a bit down that track—it's a nice ride.

Bellingham: Absolutely miles away, why don't you catch the bus to Hexham instead.


The eleven miles were great, even if not evenly spaced. It was possiibly a bit more than eleven seeing as I got to go off the road eight times to see artworks. They were mostly small buildings and all incorporated their environments in interesting and interactive ways. Wave Chamber (all the middle locations in the title are the actual artworks rather than places), for example, involved going into a rock chamber and closing the door. It was pitch dark, but as your eyes adjusted you could start to discern images of the waves from outside moving on the floor of the chamber. It was also built to amplify the sounds of the waves. So inside you experienced more acutely what was happening on the outside.


By the time I got to Kielder I was a little over walking though. It is not meant to have a lot of accommodation so I entered with my breath held. I tried first at the hostel. There were too many cars; there was no one at reception. Someone directed me upstairs for staff; the dining room was inundated with people. The staff advised me that the hostel had been booked out by a family. Dejected, I started to head out to the B&B—the camping ground was apparently also booked out. I was saved from immanent misery when someone followed me down the stairs with a staff member and said that they did have one room the family weren't using and I was welcome to use it. Before I knew it I was also invited to share dinner with them, and basically to invade the last night of their annual family gathering. It was an amazingly fun night. Chicken-me firstly had to come into the dining room and announce myself as the family gate-crasher—I am not good with public speaking. After that it was much smaller groups. What an amazing family. The siblings were each one of thirteen, the oldest, Danny, was seventy-nine and the youngest (the twins, Miriam and Pam, my main saviours) were in their forties. Their father was born in eighteen ninety-four, their mother would have been a hundred this year. The siblings had about twenty-eight children between them and they in turn had about twenty-four. If they had all been here, they wouldn't have fit. I had missed their 'Kielder's Got Talent' by two hours—it would have been priceless. I think I laughed for about five hours. We went to the pub, did the quiz that Allan had brought along. I got suckered into most of Allan's jokes. Ralph, or Arthur (I am questioning what I was hearing now), is a staunch anti-royalist who proclaimed a number of times that he wasn't part of the family. He believed that when the matriarch of the family was due with the fourth child of the family, she sent the other three boys out to 'procure' a pram. They found one outside Buckingham Palace. A beautiful one with a royal emblem on it. They brought it home, but it turned out there was still a baby in it—Ralph/Arthur. Strange that none of the Royals noticed he was missing. I could spend this evening recounting last, but I won't. I am going to join their family via Facebook so anyone who is a friend with me may be able to see some of the antics of the Thompson's from sunny South Shields (no guarantee). I love them! I reckon you would too. And if anyone meets Ben, one of the family, in Oz on a working holiday, please show him great hospitality because the family is owed for that which they gave me.


It is now tomorrow. The wacky guests didn't stop at last night. I ended up staying a day in Kielder—I'm suddenly in the middle of somewhere that is a little diffiicult to get out of with the maps I have and I wasn't able to organise packed lunches and the like because of the whirlwind evening, so those were today's missions. I have been speaking to someone this evening—a walker, an elderly man, quite odd—who is either a spinner of tales or should really reconsider being in the countryside. These are some of the things that have happened to him:

He was wallking out on the open moors, nothing to block vision for three hundred and sixty degrees. His wife was walking just behind him. He glanced back at one stage and she was gone. The heather was waist high. It turned out that something had bitten her and she had instantly collapsed straight on her face. Her legs and arms were swollen beyond normality. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and by the time he got back to the car with her at four a.m. he was one great big midge bite.

He was walking on the Pennine. There are sections where enormous stones that look like they used to be houses have been layed over the bog. He was looking at his map instead of the ground and stepped off the stones into the bog. He sank to his neck and still didn't feel the bottom. At the last minute he grabbed out at some vegetation and was able to pull himself back out. He was black from neck to boots. When he arrived at the pub the publican gave him a free beer as long as he promised not to come inside—normally you have to take your boots off at the door, he would have had to take off his body. He was staying with friends. They lined him up against the shed and high-pressure hosed him down. His clothes were washed and dried by being placed around the boiler. In the morning they could stand by themselves.

A bull chased him through a field. He managed to get his pack off, throw it over a six foot fence and scramble after it. The bull just about knocked the fence down to get him but he was long gone.

He is petrified of horses. One day he had to go through a field with a horse in it—no way around. He made his wife go first. She was fine. As soon as he got half way through the field the horse started thundering towards him. He froze, shut his eyes and waited to die. Next thing he felt was a big horse tongue licking his face.

And last, but by no means least, he was sleeping in his car in a forest car park between walks. In the miiddle of the night he could hear tapping on the back of the car. He thought it was robbers. He turned off the car interior light so it wouldn't come on and snuck out and around to the back. He wasn't sure if it was him or the mountain goat that got the biggest fright, but these goats apparently have huge horns and it charged at him. His first instinct was to grab the horns. The goat flipped him and he ended up on the goat's back, riding around, hanging onto it horns. It was now he realised that the only thing he wore to bed that night, Marilyn Monroe style, was his wristwatch.

As I said, story teller, or should he just hide at home and never come out?


This is a blog that is too long. Sorry.


Good night to Kielder, good night to you.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

421.0 kms: Shitlington Crags-Bellingham-Lanehead-Donkleywood-Falston.

There were horses in Donkleywood. How demeaning? 

The spare bed was so soft and warm that I reset the alarm clock and hit snooze several times more. I was going to leave a note but thought I may see my hosts having their breaky or up-and-about. Didn't see them and didn't leave a note but if Katey is reading this, please pass on to yourself and your folks my thanks for the great company, the roof over my head and the super-soft warmness. I can't express how grateful I was to not have to walk any further. (And have a great time at the festival—hope the shoes don't hurt.)


By the time I got to Bellingham I was famished and managed to lick the plate of full English breakfast clean (after this many, this is an achievment). Still no to black pudding and tomatoes though. Not sure which of those is the greater evil. I got the Saturday night paranoias and stopped in at the Heritage Centre to look at accommodation options in my possible destination (Falstone). I wished I hadn't been so hungry to stop straight away because when I walked into the carpark of the Heritage Centre I saw several faces turn to watch me from the 'Carriage Cafe'. They were all sitting in the diner's car of the parked train. It was comical. Cup of tea? No; I have nine and a bit miles to go and it is already past twelve.


I told you about my rashes (clearing up nicely, thanks) so I suppose we are now close enough for me to tell you about this. My nine miles started, but luckily didn't wholly include, how shall we say this, tummy troubles. I walked out of town, got to my crossroads and a hundred and fifty yards later had to stop at a hotel for the facade of ordering that cup of tea after all, while desperately waiting for the respectable amount of time to wait to ask to use the facilities. That got me by for about an hour, but when the next round struck it was a matter of finding a tree. Five hundred agonising meters later I did. It was one in which I could watch vehicles drive by from my crouched position. My next stop it was cyclists, who, I realised, could continue up the hill for an even better view of what I was doing—dignity be damned for the tummy-troubled.


Oh no! I am in my B&B (The Blackcock Inn, see right), where the first b stands for bunkbed, and can hear the karaoke a little too well. Currently it is 'All by myself, don't wanna be ...'


Realised at dinner that I have no idea how to use a fish knife. Anyone?


I seem to have lucked on a good way to go. Tomorrow I will have an eleven mile hike on the shores of Kielder Lake. It is beset with open air achitectural sculptures. I am excited. ( ... and I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad ... ) I also seem to have made my way into a pink section of the map (from the abundance of contour lines stacked right up next to each other: hilly). But I have had several mudless hours under my belt. Ah! Bliss. I am not sure walking in a forest around a lake will keep me mudless, but it can't be as bad as the Pennine can it? Please say no.


Good night to Falstone (YMCA for the second time!), good night to you.



Friday, June 1, 2012

403.1 kms: Once Brewed-Steel Rigg-Hawk Side-Leadgate-Shitlington Crags.

I am bog-christened. Whole boot in. Mud down into the inside. I am just glad the boot came too when I managed to pull my leg out. I am definitely back on the Pennine. I think that pennine is actually a midland word for bog. I think the signs aren't saying 'walk this way', but rather 'watch out! there is a bog if you go that way towards Leadgate, seven and a quarter miles'. Needless to say I didn't make my twenty-five kilometre day to Bellingham (Bellin-gym). I cursed a lot. I may have, at one stage, rumour has it and only Wesley can confirm, slammed both poles into the ground (which meant they sank about a half a foot) and let off the f-bomb and the the word bog in the same interjection. But isn't it odd, because even the worst days sometimes happen for a reason. If it had been easier going I would have made it to Bellingham and probably be laid up in some generic pub (or a very fabby one?). Instead I am on a crag top in someone's spare room. I am not sure that the lovely folks here want me to say anything more—it is a bit of a long story involving marmalade, camping stoves, bunk beds and environmental water testing and you'll have to ask me in person when you see me (and then possibly be disappointed because it is maybe not as intriguing as that list may suggest). All I can say is this feels like the toastiest bed I've had all trip, I've had a good laugh and chat with my hosts and the in-betweens of my toes have been thoroughly cleaned by the dog. The only bad side, I just realised, was that I kept them late from making their dinner—and for that I am so sorry! 

I've decided to can the Pennine as well. I'll just keep an eye out for the rarer pennine-warnings on other routes. I would have ended up with a twenty-eight kilometre day with no facilities except the should-have-already-been there Bellingham. It'll add a bit of mileage probably—but who's counting. Turns out I am. Did you notice? I'm up where most of my other trips finished. That means I am going into unchartered kilometre counting territory. Very exciting.


My question: Do young people not understand hosteling? Not really my question because now I am answering it. I had two girls in my room last night (damn). They were at the pub. I came back earlier than them and jumped into bed, planning on a early start for the long day. I left the light on so they could organise themselves when they got back—past eleven. Mind you, I couldn't sleep because of the light. I didn't fuss or fight when they came in and admittedly they were quite good, but when I got up this morning they tossed and turned and huffed like blue whales. Hosteling is all about the different time zones of the inhabitants of a room, it is all about plastic bag rustling while others sleep. How can they not know that? How can they not expect, in a hostel where everyone is a walker (except them, I am not sure how they landed there),that everyone will be going to bed at nine and getting up at seven and moaning about their feet. That is just the way it is. What's the most annoying thing that you have had happen to you in a hostel?


I notice heaps of blogs with a question at the end now. Do you?


Good night to Shitlington Crags, good night to you.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

382.4 kms: Greenhead-Walltown-Cockmount Hill-Shield on the Wall-Once Brewed.

See, what I think happened is that Hadrian's Wall Path heard that its cousin, Pennine Way was going to run with it for a day. There has always been a sort of family animosity. Pennine is the upstart: takes the hardest way up anything and the second hardest (after jumping off with a parachute) back down. Hadrian's Wall Path said to itself 'I'm no second-rate country bumpkin; if its mettle testing you want I can test your mettle'. And hence, today. A huge field climb was followed by the wall running along the very edge of two escarpments, and the wall path running along side that. Escarpments (see one in the right of the photo) seem a simple issue on first appearance—one up, one down. Right? Wrong. They are interspersed with multiple fissures which require scrambling downs and back-ups with the latter always seeming to be just that bit higher on each successive climb. I give thanks to the God, Fate or Deity which looks after reluctant mountain climbers though, as I always find that my ups are harder than my downs. I much, much prefer that. If I had had to go down some of my ups, I would probably have sat down on the edge, pushed off and hoped to still be alive at the bottom. Either side of the day the paths walk together, Hadrian's Wall Path can be heard yelling out: 'Get down to the flat bit! Now! Don't care if it's not anywhere near the wall. I am going to die! Show-off git, Pennine, good riddance!' Tomorrow I head off on the show-off git Pennine. Funny thing is, looking at my guide, it seems like an awfully tame day for the Pennine—long, but undulating rather than torturous. I think it may have sprained something trying to upstage its coast to coast country cousin. 

[Aside: It is tomorrow. I am not on the Pennine. I wrote this all yesterday and it has disappeared. Mortified. I got up this morning, looked out of the window and couldn't see the escarpments. Suddenly things like banks and sorting out why I can't see my cash passport balance, and posting maps and a new pair of shorts to replace my ripped ones all seemed very important. I read the weather report posted at reception to confirm my own analysis and it was confirmed: hundred and three percent chance of rain all day. I booked in for another night.]

Tortured feet to the right.

Twice today I tried to cheat. I didn't try a third time. By cheating I mean I tried to take little sketchy paths that appeared to go round rather than up and down. On the first I somehow ended up behind another wall that appeared from nowhere. There was a gate but the farmer was busy tying it up. He refused to make eye contact and seeing as I knew that I had done the wrong thing, I turned back. I spied a short cut to get back on the right track and took it—right through a large patch of nettles! Leason learned? No way, Jose. The second such path was over lush grass. It was hard to judge what the surface beneath was like. Suddenly, and it happens that quickly doesn't it, I was on my arse. My foot had disappeared into a hole that went to my knee. I thanked those supernatural beings again. I had no apparent strains, sprains or pulls—just a sock and a shoe full of sand. I don't have to worry about that dream of falling over any more, it's done. Although currently that dream does involve falling into dank, smelly water with my pack on and wondering whether, one, I'll just automatically sink to the bottom or will I be able to swim to the edge, or, two, my iPad will be destroyed. Lesson learned? You bet! Every up upped, every down downed.


English whining (hee hee) aside, these are actually some of the phrases that could be heard coming from my mouth today:


This is ace!


Excuse me cow, would you know if total immersion in water—for example, by walking across a river—renders the Goretex layer in my boots useless. I only ask because the morning dew seems to be making my socks wet.


Are you okay Wes? Is the rain getting you?


This is friggin' amazing!


Sheep, do you know how far from Once Brewed I am?


Ok, enough with the $%@* ups already. I don't care if there is a beacon, do we actually have to go right up to it?


I have single use of my room at the hostel this evening (unless something has changed since dinner). I am having the last of the school group's teacher's coffee, courtesy of the chef, gratis. It does come with sitting in the dining room while the group does its activities. They are quite odd. One group is child-slave-labouring over copper jewellery production. One group is playing a game where someone just had to move back three places because they didn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and then made dinner and all the others got sick. Hmm. Last group is repairing costumes. There is one shower for every five or so rooms, four beds minimum per room. Lucky it is not busy. It is the second steamiest room I have ever seen that wasn't a sauna. I am ever-grateful that I have thongs now.


[Aside from the future again: Feeling slightly shameful for abandoning walking when the teachers were making the kids go out, I caught the bus to Hexham. Did all the things I needed to do. On the way back I could see all the groups of people who are travelling in the same direction and whom I have met up with a few times walking along. They all looked very colourful in their rain gear, but also a little grumpy. Ah, the benefits of not booking ahead.


A blog about successful blogs suggested that successful blogs shouldn't be about 'you'. Oops. How do you write a blog about your travels without mentioning yourself? Which reminds me that lately the signs on every gate are going contra to all others I have seen previously. They say don't use the path, walk on other areas to stop erosion, and don't walk single file. Do they know how hard, almost impossible, it is to not walk single file when you are on your own. I have to try and walk on two not-paths simultaneously. The blog also suggests inviting discussion—maybe with a question. Have you had a time recently when you had to look to the heavens and thank some unknown force for something?


It also said don't make your blogs too long.]


Good night to Once Brewed, good night to you.


371.1 kms: Low Rigg-Haytongate Hut-Banks-Birdoswald-Greenhead.

I saw the Pennine Way again today, doing what only the Pennine Way can do, coming vertically down a mountain. So now I am on both routes for a bit. I did a very bad thing though. Very, very bad. My room for the night is quite large (youth hostel booked out—possibly by the large group of elderly Germans who just stormed the pub) and so I opened up all the remaining maps I have all the way to Edinburgh and laid them out. I see, in my future, another trip to the UK in order to finish LeJog. I am mortified. I really did think I would finish it this time. I keep trying to sing to myself a mantra about LeJog and JogLe taking three months if you can manage to stick to a straight line but I do still feel a little defeated. Having looked at maps stretching across a large B&B room, I start to wonder if I'll even make it to Edinburgh!! Can you all start thinking about another 'b' based theme for me please. Although I did already, when someone else poo-poo-ed my finishing earlier on my journey, ask V—— if he would like to come if I did it again so it may simply be 'Bifurcating Britain (begrudgingly) with the Boy and a bedraggled Beaver'. Maybe this time we can do what all the others do—drive the car to the end point each day, catch a bus to the start point and walk to the car and then drive to find accommodation; or; get the luggage delivered place to place, although in the middle of Scotland I think that service may become increasingly difficult to find. 

Okay, the terrible, terrible part over, I will turn to something lighter. There was a part of me that thought Hadrian's Wall would be like Offa's Dyke—a grass covered lump that accompanies the path. I was walking along with Tracey and Annette for a little bit (doing the wall in seven days, camping the whole way). Shortly after they pointed out that I had a large tree branch hanging from the back of my trousers (the countryside version of trailing toilet paper from tucked in tights), they pointed out the first 'official' spotting of the wall along the track. It was messy and crumbly, but definitely wall-ish and two thousand years old. But it got better. Soon it was Romanly straight walls and forts and turrets all over the place. I started walking past them, saying to Wesley: 'Another bit of ancient history on your left'.


Twenty k's was a hard one though (despite my apparent giving up of pledges) because there was really nothing, accommodation wise, between fifteen and thirty and so I settled for the former. Actually between fifteen and what appeared to be thirty. I am back on my lovely informative Pennine Way guide and it states that the next section (which, it turns out, starts in Greenhead and finishes in Steel Rigg) has accommodation options in Once Brewed and Twice Brewed which is where I thought thirty k's would be, but the guide gives the distance as only ten k's—albeit, ten k's of knee-testing ups and downs. The two days afterwards are long and facilities-poor and so I am going, pledge-be-damned, to have a late start/short day tomorrow and just stop at either one of the Breweds. Do some washing, enjoy the rain. If it happens: cloudy and seventeen was a morning thing only today; the afternoon was sunshine filled and sweaty. To the point where I accused some people of looking at my redness—it's my blood vessel's proximity to the surface of my skin, I can't help going this colour when the temperature goes over freezing and I move at least one muscle, stop staring at me!


The photo in the photo is the photo everyone has of the wall. Chances are, when I see that vista, I will not have my iPad out to take the real thing and so this will have to suffice.


I cannot tell you how popular Wesley is. Everyone loves him. Everyone asks about him. Everyone questions whether he is part of the 'I only have things, in this huge pack you have just commented on, that are absolutely essential' delusion. Tracey, mentioned earlier, asked me if I had weighed my bag. 'Fourteen kilos about', I said, hastely adding 'but everything I have is absolutely essential'. She replied: 'Yeah, mine was thirteen, but when I added my platypus [people get him confused] it went up to fourteen'. I think Tracey was being sarcastic. And Tracey, when challenged, was unable to produce said platypus. Are people mocking me today?


Met a group of autistic kids doing the walk for 'Help for Heroes'. They were lovely. And they are on Facebook if you want to see how they are doing!!! Gosh, what a trip for them and their carers. Lots and lots of people on the walk today though—it's just hi, hi, hi, all day long.


I'll leave you with a little of the Latin I have been learning. See if you can work it out without just popping the whole phrase into a Google search:

Unitam barbari spatioum proprium tuum invadant.

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?

Unitam logica falsa tuam philosophiam totam suffodiant.


Good night to Greenhead, good night to you.



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

355.8 kms: Carlisle-Low Crosby-Bleatarn-Walton-Low Rigg.

You probably don't want to know this but I keep getting rashes. Too late, now you know. I find it disturbing too. And they are on spots that people can see at a casual glance. Today it is on the backs of my calves and around the edges of my socks as well as one arm. I have no idea what is causing it. I don't recall being nettle-bit. I have changed Olay cream/suntan lotion today but if it was that why isn't it everywhere that I put the cream and why is inside the sock line of one foot? I don't think it is sunburn even though it is burning like mad—it isn't uniform and doesn't look particularly like sunburn. Maybe it is heat rash. It was the hottest day today—no wind or breeze at all. I had made a solemn promise to not stop before twenty k's. As you can see I broke the promise. Excuses I gave myself all come courtesy of the Rambling Rose Tearooms in Walton. Dee, one of the proprietors, told me that they did dinners on sunday and monday nights; I read that as nowhere within possible walking distance for my twenty k's does dinner and I am hungry today. Dee told me about a B&B (Low Rigg Farm;; their beautiful view attached) six hundred meters away that only had one room filled tonight so far—out of nine; I read that as 'whoo hoo, they have vacancies!' Dee told me that the really hilly bits start soon after Walton; I read that as 'well, your knee is playing up now, what will it be like if you have to go on the really hilly bits!!' So here I am at Low Rigg Farm, just had my lovely dinner at the Rambling Rose (Andy's signature Thai green curry, and mixed fruit crumble with custard). The owners of the other boots at the door of the B&B were also there and invited me to eat with them. They are Belle and Belle's beau—I am really disappointed with my terrible name sense. I try to listen and retain but they fly into spaces of my brain that I can't retrieve them from. Annoyed! 

I am quite enjoying Hadrian's Wall so far. I will enjoy it even more if the predicted cloudy and seventeen degrees happens tomorrow. Bliss!! Give me two days of that and I am sure I will have some sort of a complaint. The enjoyment stems from relative flatness and ease of finding your way on the track. It also comes in the little surprises along the way. I have seen a couple of honesty boxes and self-serve shacks where goodies and drinks are offered at extremely reasonable prices. I stopped for a while on the grass beside the 'Stall on the Wall' and ate a chocolate bar and drank blackcurrant juice. Shortbread biscuits also made their way into my bag courtesy of the stall. Possibly the cow next door gets fed too many stall treats as she was lowing at me with great expectations. City Slicker moment: I missed a sheep in the same field giving birth by possibly only minutes. One baby was up on sturdy-ish legs, the other was still trying hard. Mum was licking them clean. They were so cute. There was a farm that had set up a portaloo. There was a pub in Low Cosby that was possibly the snuggest and cosiest one I have ever seen—thank goodness it wasn't a bleak, dreary day because I wouldn't have left. I was outside instead. I cannot imagine what the drunks on a saturday night must look like when they come out after a session though—they would have matching welts and bruising on foreheads whacked on low beams. There was, of course, the Rambling Rose Tearooms. The village had poached Dee and Andy from their tearooms outside Brampton to come and be the teashop in Walton because the pub has closed down and there is nowhere for the locals and the walkers. The ex-publican still lives there and offered the pub up for sale at two-twenty grand. The Village did a major fundraiser and raised almost the whole amount and then he refused to sell saying the price had gone to three-fifty. Now he spends his spare time hiding the tearoom's sign in the hedge. Odd fellow.


There are scales in the bathroom. I did it again. I got on them in the afternoon, after a scone with jam and cream, three cups of tea and a gingerbeer. I have only lost three kilos. Three kilos in three hundred kilometres. It is the new thing I obsess about at night when I am going to sleep—falling over with my rucksack on has had to take a backseat. That is why I made the twenty kilometre pledge. That is why I tried to go faster today (and probably why I ended up with a sore knee). That is why I pledged to only eat meat and vegetables and cakes—so no potatoes, bread, sweets, pasta, rice, soft drink, alcohol, point living. I think what I am giving up is pledging; I am not very good at it. Can I say in my defence that there are not a lot of vegetables on offer. I'm just saying ... easier to get cake ... not an excuse ... but ...


Good night to Low Rigg, good night to you.


P.S: Today also had a running pheasant. There is nothing in the world funnier than a running pheasant. If John Cleese was a bird he would be a pheasant—physically, not mentally. He would be smarter than an infinity of pheasants I would say. But I cannot stop laughing when I see one. The cows thought I was mad.