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I hope to finish the final leg of this walk soon, so now seems like a good time to look over some of the ground that has been covered. Starting in January 2008, I have walked from Southport Pier to Boundary Road on the edge of Hove, in 42 sections. The shortest of these was around a mile crossing Liverpool, the longest 25 miles in Bucks. All that remains to do is the last few miles to Brighton Pier. The total distance covered will have been around 225 miles. A five-hour journey by car or train, which we have made so frequently that it has become routine, has been expanded into a three-year odyssey, full of mundane wonders.

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Constructing my own Long Distance Path as I went along, I have joined up my birthtown with the place I live now. Along the way I have walked along roads, paths, canals, rivers, bridleways, green lanes and, latterly, a couple of twittens. Like a rambling Dr Frankenstein I’ve stitched together a route from whatever material came to hand. Bits of official routes, named after Monarchs, Jubilees, Pilgrims, the Thames, the Downs (North and South) and so on, have been hotwired with more obscure footpaths to produce the lurching creature that is my unique journey.

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A desire path to McDonalds


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My personal waypoints have included places I’ve lived (Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Dudley) or that have some meaning to me, such as Mentmore, former home of grandparents and site of childhood holidays. I have woven the journey around motorways, travelling over, under and alongside the M6, the M40 (for its entire length) and the M25. Occasionally I have climbed banks to peak at the traffic. That might not have been a badger that you saw…

The walking has become part of my identity, or rather an idea of walking. ‘Did you go walking at the weekend?’ people ask at work. This question always makes me feel oddly uneasy, as if I am letting people down if I haven’t been tramping through the Peak District swathed in GoreTex. In fact, this walk has involved few noted beauty spots and I’m just as likely to have been circumnavigating a sewage farm on the outskirts of a dormitory suburb in the Home Counties. Which is not to say there hasn’t been beauty of the unexpected kind – wading waist deep through crops, finding a dead station, the cloistered cool of a motorway underpass, lost-alphabet graffiti, hidden meadows and underwater art…

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Liverpool Loop alphabet

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Stafford to Wolverhampton

I have walked beside canals that have silted up, through paths overgrown with nettles, on a railway sinking into mud.


All the time, unsuspected by me, my own internal channels were become occluded, arteries hardening with atherosclerosis. The treatment for this involved new bypass routes for blood and oxygen being created, skilled handiwork in a hospital right next to the route. The scope of my walking was reduced, initially to crossing the ward with ‘tottering old-man steps’, soon to five- and ten-minute excursions. After three months I was able to resume the interrupted journey.

As well as the walk itself, there have been some sidetrips, including the now-famous exploration of non-existent Argleton as discovered by Mike Nolan. The Argleton post has had tens of thousands of views, whereas the unreliable travelogues I normally produce notch up mere tens. Bizarrely, it led to press articles and radio appearances, whilst Argleton has acquired a status as a minor myth, spawning at least one book and various websites.

And now it is nearly done. The route bisects the country like an extended Boundary Road. I have worn out a pair of boots, though they are still serviceable. Currently they are standing on my parents’ patio, outside the back door, waiting for me to put them on for last miles of this trip.

However this won’t be my last travel-and-writing project. Brighton Pier will be a lingam fertilising the ocean of possibility to create my next Quixotic quest… watch this space.

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“I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen…” Robert Sheppard, The Given, 2010

In Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball, published in the year I was born (1961), the character Domino Vitali provides an interesting account of the origin of an iconic image: the sailor on the John Player Navy Cut cigarette packets.

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Image: Leo Reynolds

“Have you never thought of the romance behind this picture? You see nothing, yet the whole of England is there! Listen…This is the story of Hero, the name on his cap badge.” A career sailor from boyhood, “he went all over the world–to India, China, Japan, America. He had many girls and many fights with cutlasses and fists.” Rising in the ranks to become a bosun, he grew the famous beard and embroidered a picture of himself, framed by a lifebelt. Then, “he came back home on a beautiful golden evening after a wonderful life in the Navy and it was so sad and beautiful and romantic that he decided he would put the beautiful evening into another picture” featuring “the little sailing ship that brought him home from Suez” and “the Needles lighthouse beckoning him in to harbour”. Hero hangs the embroideries in the pub he runs, where one day a Mr John Player and two small boys, his Sons, see the pictures. The rights to copy them are acquired for the sum of a hundred pounds, and combined into one – the round portrait superimposed on the square homecoming picture, obscuring a mermaid – thus creating the image that has adorned Navy Cut packets ever since. As a child at Cheltenham Ladies College, Domino (at that time called Dominetta) carried the picture around with her, as a talisman, “until it fell to pieces”.

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This account could of course be made up – a tale within a tale. There are other origin stories. Various sources (eg Middleton, 2004) refer to a sailor called Thomas Huntley Wood, whose picture had appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1898, “whence it was borrowed for advertising purposes. A friend of Wood’s wrote to the firm suggesting payment of a fee of £15; Wood reduced this to a sum of two guineas ‘and a bit of baccy for myself and the boys on board’.” (The Man Who Sold His Face, in talent imitates, genius steals.) Wood lived in Lower Portslade, as far as I know until he died in 1951. Apparently he tired of the recognition and shaved off his beard. There are other claims for the original sailor, some made in the comments on a Guardian Notes & Queries column. Perhaps many places have a story of ‘their’ sailor who was used as the basis for this picture, like the countless local versions of Hindu deities, or the Madonnas in trees that appear throughout Europe.

© Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

But as a Portslade man brought up on James Bond (of whom my dad approved on the basis that ‘the story starts straight away’) I’ll stick with Thomas Huntley Wood for reality, Domino Vitali (aka Dominetta Petacchi, Dominique Verval in the 1965 film, Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again) for mythology.

I once worked in a newsagent a few streets from where the sailor Wood lived. I remember trying Navy Cut, which were tipless and delicious. However the black packet JPS were the cigarette of the day, so much so that if people just asked for ’20 fags’ that was probably what they meant. These just tasted like burning paint to me. (When the KGB produced a miniature camera disguised as a packet of cigarettes, plainly popular JPS were the model.) Around that time JPS produced black sponsored Lotus Esprit cars to celebrate racing victories; an advertising technique that probably cost them more than the two guineas (£2.10) and some tobacco used to buy Wood’s face. The Esprit had at that point enhanced its fame by appearing in a James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me; in the the film the car was able to convert into a submarine. Until this morning I misremembered the dialogue about the cigarette packet artwork as being from The Spy Who Loved Menovel rather than Thunderball. Had I scrabbled around in the attic to find the book to quote from, I would have been looking for Spy… but in practice I found a slightly suspect free online version of Thunderball – hopefuly the text is fairly accurate. In any case, James Bond himself seems unlikely to have visited Portslade, through another heavy-drinking orphan did…

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Twenty years before Thunderball, in the novel Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (1941) the protagonist George Harvey Bone suffers from a split personality disorder involving long amnesiac spells. In one of these he finds himself wandering an unknown street, and asks a passer-by where he is. Initially he mis-hears ‘Portslade’ as ‘Port Said’. This scene highlights the disorientation of lost identity, and maybe also reflects the nature of the locale, as Portslade itself has been described as ‘a place with a dual character; a veritable ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ of a place’ (in Kipling’s Sussex Revisited, R. Thurston Hopkins, 1929 quoted in Green 1994.) ‘Portslade Hyde is painfully brutal with its squalid water front and rows of grimy houses and shops, while Portslade Jekyll, a mile from the sea, is a benevolent spot and just as pretty and secluded as nine out of ten of the ‘guide book’ villages.’ .

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My student pictures c1980

However, Portslade has never quite accepted a role as a dystopia. Look at this crest for instance, designed in 1920 by P.J.W. Barker, who owned a shop a few doors up from the newsagents I worked in – ‘A Bunch of Grapes signifying “Health”…An Oak branch signifying “Strength”‘ and a Latin motto ‘which being freely translated means “Here’s health and strength to you”‘. ‘PORTSLADE HAS BEEN FAMOUS FOR HEALTHINESS FOR OVER 100 YEARS’ points out the enterprising druggist, citing the Brighton Herald and the fact that the town had sometimes ‘had the lowest death rate in the kingdom’ (Green, ibid.)

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And healthy effects have been experienced. I have a picture postcard, postmarked PORTSLADE AUG 16 07. The sender was writing from Trafalgar House, another building a few yards from ‘my’ newsagents. “I have been out with Baby this morning from 9 till 11.30, went down by the sea, it was lovely there, I am enjoying myself very much, and certainly feel better” wrote ‘B’ to a Mr F. H. Brookes or Brooker, 48 Tavistock Road, Westbourne Park.

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I hope things worked out for B and Baby. Her postcard featured, incongruously enough, a picture of Orkney. A year later, she would have been able to buy a postcard of Portslade itself, bearing an image with something of the surreal power of a Max Ernst collage, and an ambiguous, even terrifying caption: ‘Dear____ I have no face to tell you all that happens in Portslade.’ (From Middleton, 1997; ‘This delightful postcard dates from 1908.’).

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Over 100 years since the walk with Baby, three-score-and-ten after Hangover Square, half a century after Thunderball, three years after I started walking down from Merseyside, I arrived at Portslade, the ‘Home’ of this blog’s title, having walked some 300 miles, occasionally limping as like Domino I have one leg slightly shorter than the other (though given Ian Fleming’s penchant for giving characters physical flaws (which tend to make women/good characters more attractive, and men/bad characters more monstrous) this may have been an aspect of his fictionalisation of the actual events.) Along the way I walked around the perimeter of Pinewood Studios, where the film version of Thunderball and nearly all other Bonds was made, along with some other films about heroic orphans (Batman, the Supermans). A year ago today I underwent a heart operation, survived and became stronger. If I had recalled the Portslade crest at the time, I would have used it as a talisman of health and strength; the link with my distant home town would have been comforting. Perhaps subconsciously I did recall it; personal ley lines seem to join up all that happens, even as things transform into other things, names and faces change and talismans fall to pieces. I concluded the last bit of walking at Station Road (Hove), a street that has two names as it is also Boundary Road (Portslade). It is hard to say where one ends and the other begins; perhaps there is a line to quietly cross or perhaps both names inhabit the same road.

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“Well thank you anyway for having listened to the story. I know it’s all a fairytale. At least I suppose it is.” – Domin*

References

Portslade: A Pictorial History, Claire Green, Phillimore 1994
Portslade (Britain in Old Photographs series), Judy Middleton, Sutton 1997
Portslade and Hove Memories, Judy Middleton, Sutton 2004
(It is a small world; I remember Ms Green from the library on Old Shoreham Road, and Judy Middleton is my mates’ mum.)

Soon: the final walk to Brighton Pier. Walking Home to 50 will be back!

So is that it? Well, not quite. Read the header – I’m walking to Brighton Pier. The final part will be in the future but I did slip in an extra walk in that direction. I try and do some kind of cardio exercise every day, which often consists of energetic stepping on to a raised platform with weights strapped on to me. Sometimes I walk outdoors instead and, with the sun shining on the street I was brought up in, I decided to do one more walk and at the same time get my daily exercise.

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Years ago I walked to school every day, a two-valley affair which took about 40 minutes. (Thus I saved my bus fare to buy comics, fuelling the mind you are now seeing evidence of.) I replicated this walk, following the Drove Road route that as the name implies was once used for moving sheep and cattle. Having ‘Walked Home’ ™ I now walked past an Emmaus Community, temporary home for some folks who have nowhere else – and a great secondhand shop.

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I walked down through what used to be a golf course and is now a park at the back of a Sainsbury’s, past the newsagents where I got the first Captain Britain comic with the free mask. Over to the windmill that gives Blatchington Mill its name, and which used to feature on my school blazer and the cap that only ever got worn on the first day.

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There will probably be a school reunion in 2015 but this was not that year so I walked down Holmes Avenue, just like I did when I used to go to get the bus. From there I turned into Elm Drive and then Rowan Avenue, the first street I remember living in. The prescribed cardio minutes achieved, I stopped to look in the yellow-cellophane window of a Christian bookshop in a small parade of shops hallway up the street. There was a print of a child in a red jumper, bathed in light. When asked recently if I had ever had any spiritual experiences, my equivocal answer referred to a memory of being taken to a small park in my pram, here on this street, looking up at the clouds and feeling a vast sense of meaning. Looking for this park, I found a small twitten right where I remembered it. I walked down it and found myself in the back of the huge Hove cemetery. This was quite a shock – could the cemetery have grown so much that it had absorbed my remembered park? Well, logically it could have done I supposed – many have died in the last 45 years. Somewhat cast down I carried on up Rowan Avenue. Soon I found another twitten, which did actually lead to the park I remembered. I was not transported by numinous light, but I did see a pretty mosaic with a heart motif, and another heart, broken in some sad but homely graffiti.

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And walked up past our old house, now the headquarters of a landscape gardening operation called The Grass is Greener. And on, turning down Hangleton Road Road, leaving a hundred stories behind and seeing again the view that is for me worth a thousand Golden Valleys, Boundary Road and the sea.

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I walked on down, crossing under the railway and running up the steps which my dad had run up with full pack on return from National Service.

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Boundary Road (which also goes by the name of Station Road) seems to be both thriving and run-down, a mixture of decades-old family businesses, ethnic groceries, amusement arcades, pet shops, hairdressers and cafes frequently punctuated with charity shops. A Tesco squats in the middle, like the castle of a benign-seeming overlord. Murder, art, buying and selling, drunken-ness and poetry have happened here. I remember many things in this road – from the long-gone Bistro Edward restaurant to a Corgi toys sticker that stayed in the window of a shop for years after it closed. I could give a tour of the absent and erased. If I had substantial resources for art-like capers and fewer commitments, I would live here for a year and a day, never leaving the boundaries of Boundary Road, documenting every shop and cafe and becoming its Robinson Crusoe – but that’s all for another time, or for never.

I will return here to start the final leg of this walk. For now I went to Sami Swoi and had an espresso while I waited for the bus. It was dark in the little restaurant and that coffee was bitter, hot and strong.

The Old Tollgate is a hearty place to eat, a bit like the house in Chaucer that ‘snows pies’ – but the early breakfast is limited to cold choices with no sign of a boiled beverage. Two of us, strangers to each other, ate in silence. Then I was away in the dawn light, walking a few yards down The Street to pick up the Downs Link.

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Seven swans flew across the path. Soon I was crossing the Adur again, with views of Lancing College, the Shoreham flyover and the cement works with its nearby terrace of workers’ houses – all familiar sights.

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I picked up the South Downs Way. I had thought I would be on this for a long time but in the end the way I have come involved less than a mile. I hiked uphill on to the Downs, revelling in the fact that I can do this now without breathlessness or pain. The ground was chalky and there was a thin white mist over everything. The seams of my hands were white in the raw weather – it was as if everything was turning to chalk.

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I followed the gently curving path, across a valley and up to the line of the hill that would take me home.

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Pointed due south I climbed Thundersbarrow Hill. This hill was part of an Iron age settlement, excavated back in the 1930s. ‘Thunder’ could be Thunor, the Saxon Thor. With respect for whatever long-ago person or localised god resided there, I sat on top of the barrow, looking along the coast from Brighton to Worthing – a stretch containing half of my history. I drank some of the Hophead left over from yesterday and poured the rest into the ground as tribute.

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Then I walked on down into Southwick Hill. Nearly a year ago, as the implications of my atherosclerosis diagnosis and impending bypass operation sank in, I had looked at the end of this walk from the other side of a big scary thing which, conceivably, would be the death of me. What would then happen? I conceived the idea that I would project myself at least this far, if only in some kind of conceptual form, and wrote a poem based on this idea: ‘I am a Downsman Lost‘. People liked it, which led to much subsequent writing and Bypass Pilgrim. And now here I was in the location I had mythologised – early on a Saturday morning with the voices of dog-walkers drifting through the sea mist.

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Walking on past the gorse bushes I picked up the line of the pylons and headed from home with many miles and 25 years of living elsewhere behind me. Down past where the Industrial School used to be, down past the rounders field where we all came out to watch the demolition of Shoreham B Power Station. The last yards, totally familiar, totally new. My parents had said they would leave the back gate open, and they had.

I stayed the night in Horsham, a chilly experience – arriving in the dark, walking around wearing every layer I had with me to find the Malt Shovel, which turned out to be as nice a pub as I have ever been to. I had a pint of Surrey Pilgrim, figuring that I had earned it by walking through that county to arrive here in Sussex.

In the morning I took a 3-minute train ride to get back to Christ’s Hospital, where I had left off. I easily found the Downs Link path and started walking along the broad curves of the disused railway line. Through the trees, watery edges of fields gleamed beneath a bright grey sky. (When did this perpetual wetness become normal? In old films as map sometimes burns: these days would we see water soaking in from the margins? )

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As I approached Southwater, I glimpsed the line of the South Downs for the first time on this walk. Like crossing the border into Sussex, this was a milestone and, briefly, by some gatepost next to an empty field I stood quietly weeping. Then walked on through the village, virtually deserted on a cold Friday morning.

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More miles of Downs Link led to the disused West Grinstead station, complete with railway carriage – like a scene from The Station Agent. I had a second breakfast of tea and toast in a cafe by the A272 (the road that ‘represents England‘).

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It became brighter, the Downs more visible now as I walked on. At Partridge Green I decided to walk to the Dark Star Brewery, tucked away in an industrial estate on the edge of the village. I had a vague idea that it was possible to visit, having read the Ormskirk Baron’s account of his trip there last year. There was indeed a nice little shop, where I was well looked after by James and colleagues. I had a taster of their Partridge beer, named for the place where we stood, to absorb as much localness as possible. (This was lovely and I was suddenly nailed to the spot by a sense of summer.) I bought a 2-pint container of draft Hophead, thinking it would be a nice light thirst-quencher during the remainder of the walk.

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More miles of the Downs Link. I crossed the Adur. In the middle of the afternoon I found a bench with a view across the Adur valley towards Chanctonbury Ring, a hill-fort topped with a ring of trees, landmark and legend-site. There I sat drinking some of the Hophead, simultaneously enjoying the sensation of relaxing in beautiful surroundings and contemplating an odd sense of estrangement, as if this familiar landscape had a terrible side that I was stumbling into through some fluke of routefinding.

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I walked on. It really was sunny now – I could feel myself tanning in the chill. I could now see Truleigh Hill with its radio masts – a clear marker of home, as Truleigh is in a direct line north of my parents’ house.

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However I was not attempting to get all the way back home tonight – Bramber was my destination. I clambered around muddy banks to find the castle, holding on to roots and branches to pull myself up the steepness, thinking of those Buddhas who stay active in the world, ‘splattered in mud and soaked in water’.

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Then I checked in to the Old Tollgate. This was bizarre, as one rarely stays in hotels a few miles from home. There have been many family meals here, so it was odd eating alone in the early hours of the carvery dinner session. I felt like a ghost haunting my own life – reading the spines of books fixed to their shelves, with a mass of appetisers and a pint of Harveys. After dinner I dowsed the rooms for phone signal, and when it appeared sucked in some email, Facebook and Twitter updates – Transreal Mike quoting lyrics from the Grateful Dead song Dark Star – ‘transitive nightfall of diamonds’.

The hotel room was comfortable. Around 3am the alarm on my iPhone went off – some quiet birdsong that is supposed to lead to gentle awakening. But I had not set the alarm, and nothing I could do would turn it off. Then I realised it was in fact a real bird, a blackbird maybe, singing from the high dust-ivy eaves of the flint-wall house dimly visible from the hotel window. Unable to sleep, I lay in the Best Western dark, cradled in countless subtle networks, wondering how I had actually got there and planning and re-planning the next route.

After a couple of meetings in London, I spent the night at the Premier Inn portion of London County Hall, a building which once housed the GLC and is now sharecropped by assorted hotels, shops and Zen-themed food-and-beverage outlets.

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I was sleeping as close to the London Eye as I have ever been, which was somewhat disconcerting – like being a tiny visitor to an oversized funfair.

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In the morning, having enjoyed the bizarreness of being woken by the actual Big Ben, I transformed from work-mode to walking-mode. Having worn a suit that I judged to be past its best I decided to leave it in the bin rather than carry it on a long walk. I justified this outrage to recycling by conceiving it as a symbolic ritual, a sort of Reggie-Perrin-like shedding of identity.

From Waterloo I took a train to Guildford and resumed the walk. I decided to head up to the Cathedral, last seen on a family trip when I was a child. After a cup of tea I went inside, where I was suitably awestruck at the incredibly high vertical white-stone lines. Over the door as I left I read LET EVERY LIVING THING THAT HAS BREATH PRAISE THE LORD, bringing a flashback to that morning’s meditation practice, noting breaths whilst gazing at a hotel wall.  It promised to be a wet day but I resolved to see the wetness as some kind of good thing (living water) rather than an inconvenience.

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I walked down towards the town, straying into the campus of the University of Surrey – the fifth campus to be encountered on this walk. After a while I was back on the River Wey, and a mile or so later I picked up the Pilgrim’s Way.

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It has been suggested (eg in Eric Parker’s Surrey in the County Books series) that the Pilgrim’s Way may never have been extensively used by pilgrims. Whatever the case may be, the idea of an ‘ancient trackway between Winchester and Canterbury’ is a compelling one. Having assumed a ‘pilgrim’ role myself it seemed important to walk some of it. After crossing an A-road remembered from childhood pre-M25 drives and climbing a street with a house called Narnia, I ascended the Chantries wooded hill. The North Downs are unknown territory to me. As a citizen of the South Downs they always sounded like a copy, and thus irrelevant to actually visit. In practice I found them enchanting and full of surprises.

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From the top of the Chantries I looked back towards Shalford Common, dimly seen through branches and rain, onetime site of an enormous Fair, possibly the model for Vanity Fair itself, as John Bunyan may have lived there. At this distance, I could not see ‘such things sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not’ or for that matter ‘jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind’. Neither will I claim to be walking to the Celestial City – though I did climb the next steep hill to St Martha’s-on-the-Hill.

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From there I walked down a path turned into a sluice by the rain. More hills and woods in increasing gloom took me to Peaslake, where I stayed the night in the Hurtwood Inn. (Here I left a jumper in the bin, one that I bought in Florida. Another layer of identity shed. At this rate I will arrive in Brighton naked, like an early Quaker prophet, ‘going naked for a sign’.)

The next day’s walking was undertaken at a rush, as I had a specific train to catch and along way to go, around another 14 miles. I had hoped to climb the Coneyhurst Hill I had read about in S.P.B Mais Hills of the South but instead saw it as a shadowy shape through trees.

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After a hike through Ewhurst I joined the Downs Link trail, which consists mostly of disused railway and which will eventually take me the bulk of the way home. On aching legs I ate up the miles. While I crouched hobbit-like by the road to eat a sandwich, riders passed by. Perhaps the London Eye had been that Eye of Sauron and this was Lord of the Rings… or at least a story of a return my own ‘Shire’.

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Which came soon enough. After three years and perhaps 300 miles of digression and diversion, I walked through the border into Sussex. Crossed the Arun and saw chalk ground for the first time on the journey.

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Took a little piece with which to draw something, one day. Maybe sketch a heart run though with borderlines on to some wall in the suburbs of the City, and leave it to wash away in the rain. Maybe write my name on an exposed chalk cliff stratum, white on white, leave it hidden in plain view.

New Year resolved

Inspired by Phil Sorrell’s thoughtful post about the benefits of precision in New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve come up with a few of my own.

Finish Walking Home to 50
The clock is ticking now – I’m in my ‘fiftieth year’ so technically I should finish before my 50th birthday, in early December. With only about 40 miles to go as the crow flies this shouldn’t be too difficult in theory. The (probably dull) Downs Link covers most of the territory in a railway-track curve, so there is a sort of hyperspace wormhole to get me there quickly if that’s what I want. Other routes involving a bit more North and/or South Down-time are alluring, so it’s win-win really. And I could always declare a new form of maths in which my fiftieth year starts with my 50th birthday… But no, my resolution is to get to the end of Brighton pier by 7/12/2011.

Carry on exercising
I always thought I was pretty fit but a bunch of blocked arteries proved me wrong. So I’m much more resolute in terms of exercise, which for me needs to be regular and to fulfil the criteria for effective cardiovascular working out. It would be very easy to get ‘wibbly-wobbly’ (to use Phil’s expression) and drift to missing out days then weeks, or not doing enough. (I sometimes count unpleasant or boring things as part of the warm-up, even though they probably aren’t physically active enough.) So the resolution is to do at least three full cardio sessions per week, preferably more, with 15-minutes warmup, 20 mins sustained work at 95-117 bpm and 10 mins cooldown. (That heartrate, by the way, was prescribed for me in rehab and takes into account my drug cocktail and fitness level. In case you were thinking it’s on the low side and are envisaging me ‘exercising’ by, say, being carried around in a chair reading a novel.)

Carry on with healthy eating
Same reason as above. I’m not on a ‘special diet’, just the same as everyone is recommended to eat, but with added motivation. However being me I decided to declare war on cholesterol and to pursue this with the vigour and inventiveness of Batman or The Punisher. So I avoid saturated fat, poring over the labels on packets with fanatical intensity until they yield their secrets or burst into flames; eat my way through fields of oats, carboys of flax oil and shoals of oily fish; do the 5-a-day thing. With attitude. You should see my muesli – one bowl punches the balls out of cholesterol for half the street and gives you two hits of fruit if you just look at it. The resolution is simply to carry on with all of this, and not to suddenly go mad and eat a pound of lard.

The demon drink
Plagiarising Phil again I’ll stick within the recommended healthy limits. After all, the last thing I want is another health-thing to worry about – and I dislike hangovers. So 21 units it is. To facilitate this I’ll avoid stockpiling bottles – ‘buy it, drink it’ will be the approach.

Smaller reading piles
I also intend to avoid stockpiling books. I have too many that don’t get read, so I won’t be buying new books (other than reference ones) unless I plan to read the straight away.

Bigger writing piles
Back when I was recovering, the writing was just pouring out of me and I had the time to edit, rewrite and self-publish a book. Now that I’m back at work my headspace is more constricted and there is less time. I also do less blogging though I do have Twitter leaching words out of me 140chrs at a time. But I am still writing on the quiet. To give this some focus I’ll resolve to self-publish something, at least a pamphlet, during 2011.

    Update: On the Cushion

Cripes – forgot the most important one of all – despite just having read an interesting post on the subject from Solitary Walker… I will continue my fledgling meditation practice with a daily 30 minute sit, whatever occurs. Hardcore.

Happy 2011 everyone. Let us be cheerful, healthy and playful in our explorings.

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To illustrate this here’s a picture of me (middle), with >21units of alcohol on the table and an unread book next to me. But that was last year; this year it will all be different.

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