I am a pedestrian. A walker. I don’t drive. I had a motorbike once, that was…not a success. Keeping a bicycle on the road seems a technical challenge beyond my means and at a forty mile commute a physical one as well. Besides, any vehicle I pilot carries the inherent risk to other road users of me drifting off into inner space and not paying any attention to my surroundings.
I’ve been known, when leaving the house in the morning to walk to the bus station, to suddenly find myself outside my son’s old nursery, the opposite direction. My feet have gone on autopilot whilst my brain has been on loftier levels of imagination. (Probably working on my zombie apocalypse survival plan.) Since I’ve not been wiped out by passing traffic I can only assume I’m sentient enough to look both ways.
So I plod the streets. A usual working day is about 8 miles of pavement time. Which is nice and healthy. (Imagine the size I’d be if I didn’t!) But it does require a comfy pair of shoes. Or, in my case, my trusty old Karrimor Walking Boots. They have been for years my support on many an adventure. But now, I’m afraid, they are being retired, the soles are cracked, the heels worn down. They are (*sniff*) an Ex-Boot.
A good pair of boots are like a good marriage. Sure, you may lose the shine, but it molds to fit you perfectly and give you the support you need. Ironically, I bought these pair of Karrimor Boots not long after Mrs Bloke and I got married thirteen years ago (I’m going to keep using the brand name, just in case Karrimor want to repay the free advertising by sending me a new pair. Worth a shot right? I did really love my boots.)
They were bought for me to wear during a five day charity survival challenge in the wild woods of Rutland. It was to raise money for the Anthony Nolan trust, a cause close to my heart. Although I never needed a Bone Marrow transplant, the Anthony Nolan trust maintain a register of people willing to donate to those suffering Leukaemia and other blood diseases. And, if I may just pause to bang their drum a moment, I would recommend everyone look into it. I had bone marrow extracted as part of my treatment, in case I ever needed a transplant in the future I could be given my own back. So I know what the procedure feels like and, trust me, it’s no big deal. A quick general anaesthetic and a couple of days mild bruising round the hips. Actually it was following that procedure that I had confirmed what my mother had always told me. I wasn’t fat, I am indeed thick boned. Dr Chapman, my surgeon, told me they had trouble getting the bone marrow out of my hip bone from the back, so they had to flip me and do the front as well. Thick bones you see.
Anyway, check them out, sign up. A couple of days mild discomfort to give someone, often a child, a chance of life is a great deal in my opinion. You can find out more here..www.anthonynolan.org/
Anyway, back to my boots. I spent that week in the woods, in pouring rain and storm force winds, living under leaves and branches. We had a local news reporter staying with us and a camera crew following us round all week. Which led to complaints, as, during a live link up during children’s TV we could all be seen gutting the corpse of a deer in the background. ‘Mummy, what are they doing to Bambi?’
The mud of those woods never really came out of the boots but I wore them as a badge of honour. They splashed through streams, carried me along beaches and pounded many, many pavements.
They were on my feet when I spent a day hiking the Northumbrian Coastal Trail which, for reasons known only to the route makers leaves the coast for an excursion into the foothills of the Cheviots. Up in those hills I strayed from the route to visit St Cuthbert’s cave. St Cuthbert is a local religious celebrity in Northumbria and, if memory serves, to avoid his body being stolen or defiled during Viking raids on the coast, his remains were taken to safety in Durham. Legend has it was rested on this site. Set into the hillside, it is less a cave than a large overhang of rock. Now surrounded by a copse of fir trees it was easily the most spiritual place I have ever visited. It is a fair distance from any road, so visitors are few and I had it to my self. It was warm, quiet and so, so peaceful. The rocks surrounding the cave had burial inscriptions carved into them, along with graffiti scratched centuries before. If you ever get the chance, visit.
Those boots carried me along the North Norfolk Coast, sponsored to walk one Million Steps for Leicester Royal Infirmary, ending on the 10th anniversary of my diagnosis. It coincided with a plague of Ladybirds that August and I crunched along red tracks for three days. One of the little blighters even started eating my arm. Didn’t get far I’ll admit but it left a tiny scar. Who knew Ladybirds did that? Mrs Bloke and a very small little Bloke met me at the finish line on Cromer pier. We let him go on a bouncy castle, every time he jumped, a cloud of Ladybirds would be flipped up into the air as well. Just another irreplaceable memory.
Their last big romp out was with Little Bloke this year, taking his first big walk, tramping the Iceni Way, from King’s Lynn up to, in theory, Hunstanton, via Castle Rising and Sandringham. Twenty miles. I never thought his little legs would make it, but by God he showed me. We had a lovely day, chatting and walking. Lunch in Castle Rising Castle, a brass band playing Abba in Sandringham and a huge deluge in Dersingham. We didn’t quite make Hunstanton, but he gave it a bloody good try. When I measured it out afterwards he had done seventeen miles. That’s a lot of steps for a nine year old.
So, the practical part of me now has to battle the sentimental part, and make me sling those old boots in the bin. And whilst that makes me sad, it means I need to get another pair of good boots to carry me once again thousands of miles forward.
And I start to think of what adventures those new boots will take me on, what memories they’ll forge. And then I itch to pull out a map or two….
And if anyone from Karrimor is reading this, I take a size Nine thank you.
If you liked this piece, you might enjoy some of my other wistful posts;
And if you did like it, please tell someone, I’m always keen on new visitors!