Trailwalker 2013 – The Rest

The next section was quite high and exposed. We had maps and directions, and noticed that the distances given for each stage and the distances between checkpoints didn’t add up. The numbers given with the directions were wrong, and we had no real idea how far apart the checkpoints were any more – somewhere between 7 and 12km, which was not at all helpful. After a short while, or possibly longer – time was starting to lose meaning – we caught up with the girls again. There was fog. There was a ring of trees that may or may not have been either a hallucination or something from a King Arthur story.

John walking cheerfully through the fog. Photo by Ben Head.
John walking cheerfully through the fog. Photo by Ben Head.

Continue reading “Trailwalker 2013 – The Rest”


Trailwalker 2013 – The First 50km.

I was going to write this weeks ago, honestly I was. About my very long walk that I went on and on about for ages until you were all bored witless. I wanted to write it the very next day. Except I was half dead. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. I was very, very tired. And far too emotional to write coherently. And didn’t know what I thought about it, or about anything. And then I went on holiday, and only had my phone, which you can’t write a decent blog entry on anyway, and I was having far too much fun, and so on. But here I am, and my memories may not be as fresh as they were, but at least I’ve regained the ability to think. And also the ability to walk. But more on that later.

Right. Some context. I am a moderately unfit man desperately trying to cling to the idea that I’m still young as the big 30 hurtles towards me at an alarming pace. Back in February, a friend called me saying that he and a couple of other guys had agreed to do a 100km walk for charity at the end of July, and that the walk would be over 30 hours, giving a nice slow average speed, but one of the guys wasn’t sure if he could commit so could I be a back up? I didn’t immediately refuse. Looking back, that was my first mistake. So a week later, I was part of the team. If you’re interested in the details of the event, the official website can all be found here. I was very aware that I was in no condition to be walking 100km, but the walk was 6 months away. If I did steadily longer and harder walks every couple of weeks, I had plenty of time to get my fitness up. In retrospect, failing to do steadily longer and harder walks every couple of weeks was mistake number two.

The South Downs Way, along which we walked. Photo by RB Create, taken from the Trailwalker Website.
The South Downs Way, along which we walked. Photo by RB Create, taken from the Trailwalker Website.

Continue reading “Trailwalker 2013 – The First 50km.”

Socks and Painkillers

Last weekend I walked 37 miles. And it hurt.

I am, as they say, in training. For a reason that I myself can’t quite comprehend, I’ve agreed to take part in a charity walk. A 100km charity walk. For those of you unfamiliar with the metric system, that’s 62 miles. We have 30 hours to do it. No sleep, no spreading it over a few days, just starting, walking 62 miles then stopping.

One of the views on my last training walk.
One of the views on my last training walk.

Continue reading “Socks and Painkillers”

A Weekend on the Edge of Asia

Back in October, I went to Istanbul for a long weekend. I’ve been planning on writing about it ever since. The latest idea was to reflect on the two most famous of Istanbul’s historical sites; the Hagia Spohia (also called the Aya Sophia) and the Blue Mosque. I even got half way through writing a post about them. If I’d finished it, it would’ve told you that the current Hagia Sophia is the third church to stand on that site, and this one was completed in 537AD, and was a Cathedral then a Mosque then a museum, and is much more architecturally clever than the nearby Blue Mosque, even though the latter is much more recent, and many other facts about these buildings. Quite a few of them, I took from Wikipedia, because I’m not actually an expert on these buildings. And, unless you’re really really sad – much more so even than me, which is unlikely – it would have bored you senseless. It bored me, and I was the one writing it. It was a list of facts. Facts do not make a story, and a story is not what captures the imagination. They can tell you that the inside of the Blue Mosque contained more than 20,000 hand-made blue tiles, but they cannot tell you the way that your eyes are drawn upwards when you stand in the middle of the massive structure, or the calmness and silence to be found within, similar to that which can be experienced in some of Europe’s oldest and largest Cathedrals.

The Aya Sophia. I was going to tell you lots of fact about it, but instead I think you should just look at the pretty picture for a bit.
Photo Credit:

Continue reading “A Weekend on the Edge of Asia”

The World’s Oldest Parliament?

The World’s Oldest Parliament?

At the end of December I went on a very enjoyable trip to Iceland. One of
the highlights was a visit to the site of what I was told was the World’s
oldest parliament, the Althing. I’d vaguely heard of Iceland having the
oldest parliament before, and didn’t really question this. It was only when
I got back and told people about my trip that I started to wonder. I mean,
I’m used to tourist boards stretching the truth, finding a way of arguing
that their particular attraction is the biggest/oldest/best, but the fact
that I’d heard of this parliament before had made me accept that what I was
being told was fact.


Continue reading “The World’s Oldest Parliament?”

12 Hours Without Food

A couple of months ago I decided, in support of a Muslim friend, to join them in fasting for one day. This was back in October, and meant not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. Sunrise was just after 6am, and sunset was around 6.30pm, so it was just over 12 hours. Doesn’t sound that hard, I thought. I can get up early and have a big breakfast, so it’s basically just skipping lunch. So I gave it a go. Anyway, I fully intended to blog about it at the time, but being both forgetful and lazy, I didn’t.  Fortunately, I kept a few notes throughout the day, and so, without any further comment, I present them for you here:

Continue reading “12 Hours Without Food”

Moush-e Bahoosh va Shir-e Shirin (The Clever Mouse and the Sweet Lion)

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been attempting to learn Farsi/Persian. Yesterday I learnt enough new verbs to start coming up with simple sentences, so this morning I wrote a (very) short story:


اسم من موش باهوش است

چون من موش هستم و باهوش هستم

دیروز، من دوست من شیری دیدم

شیری شیر است

ولی او شیرین است

شیرها شیر دوست دارند خیلی زیاد

ولی ما موشها  موزها بیشتر دوست داریم

Esme man Moush-e Bahoosh hast,
chon man moush hastam va bahoosh hastam.
Diruz, man doost-e-man Shiri didam.
Shiri shir hast, vali u shirin hast.
Shirha shir doost darand kheili ziyad,
vali ma moushha mouzha bishtar doost darim.

My name is Clever Mouse,
because I am a mouse and I am clever.
Yesterday I saw my friend Shiri.
Shiri is a lion, but he is sweet.
Lions like milk very much,
but we mice prefer bananas.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, this story looks like it was written by a three year old. In my defence, I’ve been speaking Persian for a lot less than three years. Also, it loses quite a lot in the translation, and because of this it sounds weird in English. “Clever Mouse” is a rubbish name, whilst the Persian version, “Moush-e Bahoosh” , sounds pretty brilliant to me. Similarly, I have no idea whether mice actually like bananas or not, I just wanted to write “moushha mouzha” because it sounds good. I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that “shir” means both lion and milk (anyone thinking WTF!? “Lion and milk!?”, you’re not alone. It also means tap. Yeah), and the very similar “shirin” means sweet. Hence “Shiri shir hast, vali u shirin hast“: “Shiri is a lion, but he is sweet”, and “Shirha shir doost darand“: Lions like milk” which sound cool in Persian and naff in English.