Post 51: April 1993 – On Foot From Coast to Coast – The North of England Way – a ‘New Man’, aged 41
Whilst recognising that on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk you start as a boy and finish as a man, on my coast to coast you start as a man/woman and finish as a younger man/woman, in spirit if not in age. You finish as a ‘New Man’ or ‘New Woman’.
How do you devise a 200-mile walk, complete the walk, then write a book about the walk, all with a full-time job, a wife who works full-time, household chores to do, a dog that needs walking twice a day, two teenage children who need ferrying here and there? Answer: with great difficulty.
The dog walking is no problem as the walking gets you fit, the children don’t mind as long as you do what they want in between walks, the wife may grumble a bit or a lot when you keep disappearing to the computer and away for days and weekends mapping and walking. However, she will forgive you if you do a lot of the ironing, hoovering, washing, shopping and other household chores. So how do you fit all these in?
Never go up or down the stairs without carrying something, such as ironing to be put away or washing to be hung. Never iron things that don’t really need ironing, such as underpants. Buy a dishwasher and microwave. Hoover and dust rooms first that will get dirty again last, for example, bedrooms.
Only twenty-six per cent of men do the weekly household shopping, dropping to eleven per cent of men who have families. If, like me, you are one of the eleven per cent, then do your shopping at 9.00am on a Saturday morning; any earlier, then only one till will be open and you will have to wait for the two people who are always in front of you. If you leave it later in the morning there will be lots of customers resulting in the tills always being busy. Always try to arrange dusting of the living room, ironing and writing Christmas cards to coincide with watching television (often recorded programmes) or listening to the radio. Otherwise you are wasting time; time you haven’t got. When having a day out walking, leave early in the morning (ideally 7.30am, 8.00am at the latest) to avoid traffic jams, thus enabling you to get back early to enable you to keep the wife and children ‘happy.’
Avoid general shopping trips, during which you wander around looking at things but never buy anything. Women in particular are prone to this activity, which has become one of the country’s leading leisure pursuits. To me it is simply a complete waste of time. If you need something, head to the shops and buy it, but don’t go to twenty shops looking at everything only to return to the first shop to buy the article.
A more drastic alternative is not to get married, not to have children, then in theory you should have plenty of time to indulge in walking.
More conventional is to leave the walking until the children have left home, although by that time you will be too unfit for really serious walking and your wife may have got too used to having you around.
Having sorted all these domestic chores out, you are ready to embark on yet another adventure, to experience the freedom and excitement of devising your own long-distance walk. Here is my story.
(Update: in theory, internet shopping and home deliveries in more recent years have made fitting everything in a lot easier).
29 March 1993
Farewells to the family as I left; your mind racked with guilt for abandoning them for a week or so. This guilt does diminish over the years as, when your children become teenagers, you can’t wait to escape some of their annoying habits; not least music so loud your eardrums nearly burst.
Travelled on the train to Leeds, then on to Preston where Alan joined me. It was with a little trepidation that we arrived at a wet Ravenglass station at 3.30pm to embark on this long-awaited adventure – my own coast to coast walk. I was still uncertain whether my knee would withstand 200 miles of walking across England. I also wondered whether my coast to coast route would meet all the original objectives I had set, the overriding objective of which was to select the best southerly coast to coast route. I was not to be disappointed and, indeed, with excellent weather for most of the fourteen-day walk, all my expectations were exceeded.
In the evening we went to the Ratty Arms pub, near the Ratty museum and railway station. Ravenglass is the western home of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, England’s oldest narrow-gauge railway. With a gauge of 15-inches, it’s a bit like riding on your son’s Hornby train set with wind blowing through your hair and beautiful scenery all around. If enthusiasts can make such a small train line profitable, why couldn’t British Rail (as it was then) keep their country lines open in 1963 when Beeching axed many of them?