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Friday, 3 March 2017

Guilt, the TGO Challenge and Northern Soul

It's the same every year. Three hundred haunted souls spend long winter nights poring over maps, poking through clapped-out camping gear and then with a collective sigh, lean back in their settees and have another snooze. That fitness stuff, the muddy tent and the ripped overtrousers can all be sorted out later. There's plenty of time. 

But with ten weeks to the ghastly moment when we splosh about in the sea on the west coast and turn to the east, I'm bloody-well convinced the girls at Challenge Control stick pins into three hundred numbered dolls, inducing overwhelming guilt that sweeps like a tidal wave over the unfortunates. 

It is with some alarm that I notice that Lord Elpus' and my new walking companion, the VeryVeryNiceMan Mr Williams, reports in his journal that he has been shouldering heavy bags, tramping about in the snow in the Darkest Of Dark Peaks, and camping overnight in the wild wastes. And, in February to boot! 

You'll notice from his piece that not all went exactly to plan, but when does it? It sounded like perfect training for walking with Phil and me. He has now gained experience and so will doubtless leap to help his inept colleagues as they struggle with tent contraptions, dead cold stoves and sloping sleep systems. 

THE NORTHEASTERN WASTELANDS

THE HANGING TREE

My own guilt has forced a redoubling of effort, staggering around the northern wastes of my local patch rather than the benign pines and sands of the east. This involves more miles and more (barely more) metres of ascent. It also involves mud. It's always muddy up north. But the northern patch has a more soulful quality to it; longer, yearning vistas with clarion clear high notes.

With it still being winter, the risk of benightment is very real, and yes, there have been a few Very Close Shaves and home barely gained in the nick of time, before the wolves start their prowls.

TROUBLE WITH THE BBQ

WITH A BLINDING FLASH, DAVID'S STOVE IGNITES

This afternoon a red kite taunted and teased as I snapped away with my phone's wide angle lens. He knew, of course. There is just one salvageable fiercely cropped shot, that neither shows the blighter's redness, his fantastic acrobatics nor his piercing cries.

CUNNING KITE

But sometimes life gives you lemons.

Happily, with this sudden slew of strolling, I am now back up to my three miles a day target for the year to date, and the new boots are becoming like well-worn slippers.

22 comments:

  1. I have a theory that I think you will applaud, that gets you out of all that training nonsense. As a young man it is possible to train and become fitter. There is an age limit (not sure of the exact age, but I know I'm well past it) when training only promotes further deterioration of the body, so it's better to keep what you've got in reserve to cope with the happy project you really want to do, instead of unhappily carting rucksacks full of bricks over miles of undulation.

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    1. I shall refer your sage advice to one of an appropriate age, Lord Elpus. He'll thank you for it in May. It certainly beats the beasting the poor fellow receives at the hands of Miss Whiplash.

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  2. I remember reading your 'training plan' for last years event!good to see you have introduced a 'poke' at the equipment cupboard! This year as well as a walk or two, bit worrying if your fellow trampers have actually been out before the first day of Spring! Best you swap this new boots for fast trainers! Lovely photos by the way!

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    1. Thank you, kind Sir!
      At the end of the day, they have to wait for me, as the bounders are dreadful with those mappy things. I'm little better, mind, but bluff my way across, mostly...

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  3. Alan, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this photographing of birds malarkey can easily lead to exasperation and industrial language. I understand they need to employ stealth and secrecy to survive in the wild; but do they really need to take the... well, you know the word.

    I know how it should be done; I've had it explained to me often enough by folks who know their stuff. It involves a lot of patience, perseverance and sitting motionless in all weathers; unfortunately knowing the theory and putting into practice are two different things. And I'm too much of a wimp to sit shivering in the undergrowth waiting for the perfect shot.

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    1. You see, the thing is, this particular chap kept buzzing me as I was strolling along purposefully. I was aiming at a bit of a work-out on my northern territory eight and a half miler in the new booties. In the end I stopped and pointed my camera (phone) at the blighter assured that this would see him off. But no! He kept circling - vulture-like. So I stopped completely, roundly cursing the chap and occasionally shifting position on the byway as he toured over the tree tops. But he *still* stooged about.
      He knew, you know. He just knew. Phone cameras are shite at taking pictures of birds. Zoom in and all you're left with is a muddy outline of a few pixels by a few less pixels.
      When I finally got going again, my average speed had plummeted. Plummeted!
      Ghastly.

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  4. Hello Dave

    This afternoon we had the pleasure of listening to Jim Crumley in conversation with Hamish Brown at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews (Stanza Festival). Crumley is, of course, well known as a superb nature writer and master of sitting still for hours letting wild life come to him. He recounted a time when he sat watching a Golden Eagle which had landed on top of a crag. It didn't move for five hours and neither did he until he left as darkness fell in the glen. I couldn't do this to save my life.

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  5. Alan - all this training business just risks injury thus ensuring that you can't do the very walk you've been training for. I'm on the hills several times a week and never seem to be free of injury these days!

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    1. It's not the walking.
      She kicks your shins in bed when you're fast asleep, you know. That would explain the mysterious bruising. Shin splints? Nope. Bruised shins.
      :-)

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  6. Not sure how golden eagle got capital G and E!

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    1. Well, if any bird deserves capital letters, that would be the one. I loved Jim Crumley's book 'A high and lonely place' about the Cairngorms and the surrounding landscape. I still have a few of Jim's on my list of must reads, including 'The last wolf' which I'm ashamed to say I still haven't read.

      Hope all is well with yourself and Lynne.

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  7. Alan. Sir Hugh is accurate in his comment above. Training only makes a difference for the young. Mine is simply making my legs hurty. My brain is pointing out to said legs that they are in their 60th year and their main purpose in life should now be to raise the adjoined feet onto the sofa, or to convey my body to the cupboard in which the whisky is stored.

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    1. Phil has a few cupboards nailed to the walls of his Akto. But they're always locked. At least, when I'm about.
      He does always come through with a decent Breakfast Snifta though.
      Lung inflators. Makes men out of wimps.

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  8. Poetic words and worrying sentiments, Alan. Atleast for a first time Challenger such as myself! Sue and Ali seem like such nice souls too. The image of 300 voodoo dolls pinned to the walls of Challenge Control shall haunt my thoughts for the next 10wks. 10wks!! Really? Cripes I better get training harder...

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    1. "Sue and Ali seem like such nice souls too"

      Blimey! I've known these girls as both man and boy! (If you get my drift.) Vicious, Sir! Vicious! They can break your leg with their wings as they hiss at you! And when they stampede! Sheesh!
      Don't wear red.

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  9. Having just met Sue and Ali last night, they did indeed seem like very nice souls. It can't possibly be just an illusion. Can it...?

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    1. All I'll say on this is, remember to phone in to Challenge Control on time.
      Their wrath is awful to behold!
      ;-)

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  10. I am re-reading your posts and getting disturbed by the levels of fitness you must be reaching. My tactic now will be to order new gear and produce another spreadsheet or two. I am informed that will be as useful in ensuring a successful crossing of Scotland as all this walking through the English countryside.

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    1. I tried the new gear ploy, with a rucsack, boots and flash insoles. The spreadsheet is next, to calm the nerves.
      This walking thing is overrated...

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