just to be the man who walked a thousand miles

Paul’s back tomorrow. It’s been odd without him in the house – the air smells fresher, certainly, and the toilet is remarkably un-pebbledashed, but it’s been quiet and my feet have been getting cold during the night. We very rarely spend the night apart – I can genuinely only think of 6 nights, in over eight years, where we haven’t been burbling sleepy nonsense in each other’s ears and dutch-ovening our way through the night. I’ll be glad to have him back, I’m about three days away from dressing in rags and wailing around the street in the rain like Eponine from Les Mis. In the meantime, a little bit about walking – I’ve walked for years.

I don’t know how well any of you know Newcastle, but there’s a town moor just outside the main city – a lovely, open field with a well-lit path cutting right across it. Well, to help improve my fitness, I’ve taken to walking across there into work and back in the evenings a couple of times a week – four miles in total. I’m not doing this to boost my weight-loss but rather to get back to a decent level of fitness. You don’t need to exercise for SW to work, but well, it can’t do any harm.

Of course, the town moor, by the very nature of its name, is also used by lots of other people, and has four unique problems – cyclists, walkers, dog-walkers and cows. Let’s take cyclists first.

A few years ago, you’d be lucky if a cyclist had anything more than two wheels and a handlebar as they went past you. Times have changed, not least because you can now sense their self-satisfied attitudes before you see them, drifting ahead of their bike like a breath on your neck. I’m not a fervent anti-cyclist – admittedly, I don’t see the point, but the ‘Professional’ cyclist does wind me up.

Now its not the helmet-cam that gets me cross, although it’s just so needlessly passive-aggressive – the Halfords equivalent of wearing a sign saying Telltale Tit on it. It’s not even the lycra, which clings to every wrinkle and takes away the mystery of whether a man has a matt or gloss finish. No…it’s the lights that wind me up – I used to cycle merrily in the dark along country roads with only the little reflector that came free with my box of Frosties lighting the way, with my long black coat and my shit goth black hair billowing behind me like the gayest Scottish Widow you’ve ever seen. Now you see cyclists coming towards you looking like a tiny mobile oil-rig, all shiny helmets (admittedly not the first time I’ve had one of them come at me of a morning) and blinking lights morse-coding ‘YES, I AM A TWAT’ on the front. It’s lucky I’m not epileptic, I’d be twitching halfway to Sunderland by the time I finished my walk.

Then see there’s other walkers – I’m an incredibly competitive person but also someone who is fundamentally lazy, a dangerous combination. I don’t like to be ‘outwalked’ by anyone, but I’m too fat and slovenly to move beyond a speed that could be best described as ‘god bless him, he’s trying’. If I see someone coming up behind me (admittedly not the first time I’ve had that happen of a morning, either) I’ll immediately try and quicken my pace, but I’ll sharp need to slow down as my trousers start smoking and the smell of bacon wafts around me.  I’ll lump joggers and runners in with this lot – fair play to anyone who wants to improve their fitness, it’s all good fun, but why do so many need to run towards you with that weird cum-face thing going on?

Dog-walkers are even worse, though. I don’t mind dogs, but only if they’re decent, dog-sized dogs – not cats that bark. As a rule, if you can lift up a dog with one hand, it’s too small for me. I like walking a dog to be a battle of wills, see. But by the by, it’s those people who let the dog run up to you and jump up on my work trousers – I don’t particularly like dogs I don’t know at the best of times, but I could really do without a muddy pawprint over my crotch. Oh how the owners laugh gaily as I shoo their little shitmachine away from me, all ‘OH HE’S REALLY NO BOTHER’ and ‘OH HOW HE LIKES YOU’. I’d love to reply ‘DO YOU THINK I COULD DROP-KICK HIM OVER ST JAMES PARK FROM HERE?’ but of course I’m too British so I just laugh nervously and call them rude words as soon as they turn their back. Keep your dog on a leash if you’re incapable of calling them back, it’s really that simple.

The final problem is cows. For eight months of the year, there are about two hundred cows milling around on the moor. No-one else seems fazed by them but they make incredibly nervous. I grew up in the country and was never fazed, but one day I was walking across the town moor with my headphones on, in a world of my own, when a cow ‘crept’ (I say crept, a cow weighs around 100 stone or so, so she did well) up behind me and nudged my side with her nose. I got such a fright that I actually screamed out loud like a jessie and well, now I’m terrified of them! There’s only one place in Newcastle for 100-stone beasts with insanely long eyelashes and pendulous titties and that’s the Bigg Market. I console myself by eating their brethren with a smug smile.

So yes, walking. Perilous. Recipes tomorrow when t’other half returns! I PROMISE.

J

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