Saturday, 5 January 2008

A six month review

The Christmas festivities have slipped into oblivion and I have once more assumed the position: on my favourite settee with a nice glass of red.

Lynnie is watching a horror film on telly, so I have buried my head in my laptop so that I don't see the scary bits. The kittens are curled up on their own parts of the settees and the wood burner is doing what good wood burners do - warming the house and the imaginations as the slow flames drift around the fire-box, slowly licking the cast iron and fire clay. This is domestic bliss in it's most fundamental form - I am warm and sheltered from the dank East Anglian night-time and it is the weekend and I have another day 'off' tomorrow.

It is six months since I have returned from my 'BigWalk' and as it is a new year I thought it time to take stock of last year's efforts.

Firstly, it seems strange to think of my walk as 'last year's walk': My walk was all consuming for so long beforehand and totally so during the walk itself. It was my life for all that time.

A friend of mine has a small pebble that she keeps in her pocket, that during stressful times at work, she quietly holds to remind her of the wild place where she picked it up and the happiness associated with it. Her stressful moments slip into a more real perspective and it is a great way for her to deal with the present situation.

Everyone faces difficult moments from time to time, and I have found myself, like my friend, over the last six months, thinking back to my very real walk. I still have my pet rock ('Ricky') that I picked up at Land's End and carried every mile of the 1,687 miles to John O'Groats. Ricky and me go back a long way.

In previous postings on the blog, I have sometimes described how I felt during the walk; strangely isolated from the society that has nurtured me. It was an odd feeling: to see society, red in tooth and claw, all about me as I strolled between one community and the next. Each community that I encountered was warm and friendly, but yet I felt that in the background, society as a whole seemed to be on a downward spiral.

I remember walking into one small town to witness two large, strong boys beating up a pretty blond girl outside a traveller's site. I managed to stop the beating but I often wonder about the plight of that poor girl, trapped in her own small community, totally isolated from the help that the society outside could, but yet would probably never offer, as they saw the travellers beyond their understanding.

Later that evening, as I walked around the town, I realised that that same society was not even interested in saving the lives of the children within it's own community - the high street was seemingly designed to suck the last shilling from the youngsters' pockets with sports bars and fast food shops. The place was littered with rubbish and boarded up shops. At the time, the Government's response seemed to be the opening of new 'Super Casinos' to further rob the already crumbling society of any chance of healing itself. Thankfully, with a change of Prime Minister, these lunatic plans seem to have been dropped.

This was probably the hardest part of my walk: Physically I was well prepared for it; mentally I was quite shocked at how uncaring society at large had become.

These past six months I have 'rejoined' society once more. It seems I have never been away. I have slotted back into the Axe & Compass and have once more regained my spot at the bar.

This same society is still drifting into oblivion, just as it was before I left for Cornwall to start my walk ten months ago. An even larger proportion of our society's children are becoming even more obese than ever before. More children than ever are leaving school unable to read or write to a standard deemed acceptable by employers, yet we are told that our educational standards are rising.

Our children are given fewer and fewer opportunities at school to experience the thrill of survival in the wind and rain of the mountains as teachers have to fill in more and more paperwork and pass more and more tests in order to take children out for adventure. They risk lawsuits if things go wrong, so unsurprisingly they are unwilling to put their livelihoods at risk.

Until we each stand up and let the politicians know that this is inherently wrong, this idiotic approach will rob some of our children of the life chances that are available: We will rob them of the discovery of self worth and the chance of self improvement. Society will continue its 'safety first' approach and we will slide further down the slippery slope to yet more alienation of our youth. I am talking here of the children who most need our help. Without helping these children discover what they are capable of we will continue to promote a more and more divided society.

It's funny, but I never once imagined prior to setting off on my walk that I would end up pontificating about subjects like this, but that is the real world, not my little bubble that followed me the length of Britain.


  1. Spot on Alan. We need to discover how to prefer the needs of others, the reponsibilities that go with rights and to rediscover that risk is part of life and sometimes thing do go wrong.

  2. Well said Alan! I agree with much of your writing, it would be strange if we agreed on every word. The big issue is about those who claim rights who are not prepared to contribute. To these I say contribute in some form or lose your rights.
    Hope to see you some time Alan when you are this way. Happy New Year!

  3. looks like the hour of the wolf is nibbling at your heels Alan.
    COme on 2008 planning to get underway to look at the +ve side of things as well?

  4. Hi Robin, Derek & John and thanks for your comments:

    You are of course right, John: Let's be more positive and start planning for 2008 - to be a positive agent in society. Maybe to help out with others who are trying and struggling with youth groups. Without my outdoor experiences as a child with my Geography teachers and my scout leaders I would never have found the person I am today.

    I shall try and do something positive about this.


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