Post 49: 28 December 1992
This is a time for reflection. I am sitting in York District Hospital Casualty Department with my left knee the size of a balloon.
The receptionist, who happens to live in my village, was clearly amused at my predicament.
‘Oh, what have you been doing?’ she said, as though I was a naughty little boy. York is one of those places where everyone knows your business.
‘What at your age?’ she said.
‘I was in the dad’s football match, a mistimed tackle just as I was about to score a goal did the damage.’ I said. ‘I was only on for five minutes. I have a history of ligament problems due to jumping off sand dunes; but my wife and children persuaded me to take part.’
When I was seventeen I went on a school geography field trip to the University of Swansea and, whilst surveying a beach, I went for the longest long-jump off a sand dune, but instead badly strained my knee ligaments. My career in sport, as a member of the school football team, basketball captain and keen tennis player, was ended on that fateful day. Since then, I have avoided serious twisting sports, until I was reluctantly persuaded to play in the dad’s football match. As a result, I was again in hospital with a suspected ligament injury. I no longer felt a ‘New Man’. In fact I felt a very old and frail man. After about two hours, a young doctor came to see me.
‘What have we been doing here?’ the doctor said, prodding my knee until I winced, again making me feel like an errant little boy.
‘I was in the dad’s football match and, after a mistimed tackle, pirouetted to end up on the floor.’
‘Ah, I see,’ he said, again feeling my knee to make me grimace. ‘I think you have a bad strain of the crucial ligament. It’s a common football injury, Gazza, Brian Clough and a number of other footballers have had it.’
‘What can be done about it?’
‘Well we could operate, but it’s not worth it on you. Just completely rest it, bandaged up, for two days, then gradually start to use it, but don’t do any twisting sports such as football, badminton, or tennis.’
‘What about long-distance walking?’
‘Yes, couldn’t be better, as long as you build up gradually.’
‘Great, I have a 200-mile coast to coast walk at Easter. Will that be okay?’
‘You’ll have to see.’
1 January 1993
It was a bright sunny day. Having spent a week on the sofa with my leg supported in the air, I was desperate to get my legs moving again. I only had three months left before I was due to walk 200 miles from Ravenglass on the Irish Sea to Scarborough on the North Sea.
After two years of scouring maps, completing day walks and undertaking extensive research of churches, pubs, villages, and breweries, my draft coast to coast guide book was completed; now I wanted to walk it in its entirety. I hobbled along with my cross bearded- collie/whippet tugging me along, a sorry sight (no not the dog) and hardly the ‘New Man’ I was supposed to be.
4 January 1993
Back to work. I could only just manage to drive the car. Coast to coast seemed a remote possibility, but at least my knee was no longer balloon size.
16 January 1993
It was time to see the Doctor. Although I was able to walk short distances of half-a-mile or so, there was often a nagging pain in the knee, like toothache.
‘Will I be able to walk 200 miles coast to coast at Easter?’ I said anticipating a firm no in reply. Was this the end of my dream of walking my own coast to coast route. This had been an obsession, like an itch that you have to scratch and can’t leave alone.
‘Yes, it should be okay by Easter, just keep walking,’ he said surprisingly. ‘Did I tell you about the time I was in the Cairngorms when the wind was so bad we had to crawl on all fours using ice-axes?’
I suddenly realised the advice I was being given to me was by one of those crazy rock climbing types who believe everything is alright, until they stop breathing. Broken legs, ribs, arms etc. don’t stop you climbing or walking; you only stop when rigor mortis has set in.
Some encouragement was better than none, so I began doing longer walks, first half-an-hour, then three-quarters of an hour, an hour and then an hour and a quarter.