Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Septimus Flown

Took Septimus and Mrs Septimus to the airport at Carcassonne, then went into the "new town" (800 years old) to found out where the theatre Jean Deschamps is. We have booked to see Status Quo in that theatre next week. In Carcassonne they have a music festival for the whole of July, with more than one act per night appearing in a number of theatres.

Turns out the theatre we want is open-air and is in the Cite, a complete mediaeval walled city which is one of the major tourist attractions in France. The tourist office not only told us where the theatre is but booked us into a hotel for the same night as the show (which does not start until 2130). They also told us the forecast for this afternoon is at least 38 degrees Celsius. As we drove out of Carcassonne at 1130 the temperature was already 33 degrees.

This confirmed me in my decision to have a rest day today, which is not only a day when the morning is consumed by the visit to Carcassone, but is also our wedding anniversary. Tonight we are going to what we hear is a splendid restaurant at Camon - halfway to Mirepoix. The restaurant has been open only two or three years and we have only recently heard about it. The former Abbaye which houses it is also an up-market bed and breakfast, so we have booked to stay overnight as well. This could affect tomorrow's walking as well, but we shall see.

I wonder how many of my blog readers remember the original Septimus Willem, who I think was a pet spider belonging to the comic cartoon character Lord Snooty? Answers on a postcard, please.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Septimus Willing

Septimus Willlem did the big walk from Mirepoix with me this morning - 33 kms. This means he has walked 120 kms since arriving here last Tuesday. He had been telling people at home there was a possibility of him walking 100 kms in the week. He well exceeded his own prediction. Tomorrow we take him to Carcassonne for the flight home and a well-earned rest.

He say "I always recognised that VBW is an enormous task, walking 30 kms relentlessly day after day for 10 weeks, but walking this week(6 days actually) of 120 kms has made me realise the true enormity of the undertaking".

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Septimus On The March

I thought that, having visitors, this would be a thin week on the walking kilometrage front. However, Septimus has stepped up to the mark and accompanied me from Quillan via two different routes, from Lavelanet, and on a march up to the chateau and across the plain, circumnavigating the airstrip (yes, our tiny village of Puivert supports, or at leasts hosts, a very active gliding club), across a ford and back to base.

Today the temperature ramped up into the 30s but, nothing daunted, we walked well over 20 kms and climbed from 290 metres to 650, then again from below 500 metres to about 650. All that at about 20 kms to the litre (of water). If you don't count the one cup of tea, two cups of coffee and one pain aux raisins we consumed before starting.

My total for the week is 133 kms, bringing me to 2304 kms walked this year.

Tomorrow, with the temperature forecast to be even higher, Septimus and I plan to walk the 33 kms from Mirepoix to Puivert, a walk I have mentioned many times before in this blog.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Buttons not Bows

Welcome to the new visitors to the blog as a result of this article in the Blackpool Gazette:


Just to correct a couple of points in the story. The headline reads (it may have changed on the Internet version by the time you see it) that I am walking to the Pyrenees, whereas in reality I am walking from the Pyrenees.

Also, at the end of the story, it refers to contributions. I should make it clear that the only financial contributions I am seeking are for a charity, UK Pancreatic Cancer (as I announced a few days ago on this blog). In the next few days a "button" will appear on this blog which, when clicked, will make it easy for people to contribute directly to that charity, to help fight a terrible disease which took a mother from my children and a grandmother from my grandchildren, one of which, wee Alessandro, she sadly never saw.

The only other contributions I am seeking are in the form of advice, tips and general encouragement, of which I am receiving plenty.

The picture above is one that I took when Septimus and I were walking from Quillan to my home in Puivert a couple of days ago. Just a sample of the scenery here in Paradise. And obviously within walking distance!

For those too young to remember, "Buttons and Bows" was a hit song once upon a time. It first appeared in the Bob Hope and Jane Russell movie "Paleface" and was excruciatingly performed by Dr Frasier Crane, with most of the words having disappeared from his mouth.

No Septimus at Montsegur

I was a bit disappointed yesterday. Septimus Willem, since he arrived on Tuesday, has been joining me on my walks. Yesterday we were scheduled to do a hike I have never done before, from home to the famous and mysterious castle at Montsegur.

Montsegur is where, during the appalling crusade to wipe out the Cathars, people who followed a religion as Christian, if not more so, than the attackers, the Cathars made their last stand, protected within and around the castle by local lords.

After a long siege, the castle was surrendered and 400 Cathars, rather than put aside their beliefs, marched, singing, onto the funeral pyre.

Montsegur is in a spectacular position and worth a visit just for the scenic value, even if you did not know its tragic history. However, it stands at 4000 feet, so in the weather we had yesterday, it was well buried in cloud and we would have seen nothing. Another day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Raising Money For Charity

There have been many suggestions to me, via comments to this blog, e-mails, various forums which carry news of the walk, that I should be using the event to raise money for a charity.

I have decided that I shall do this. The charity I have chosen is Pancreatic Cancer UK. Did you know that this very nasty and, in my experience, heartlessly rapid cancer, is responsible for 5% of cancer deaths, but receives only 1% of cancer funding? We need to try to change that.

This is a matter particularly close to the heart of me and my daughters Karen and Nicola. My first wife, their mother, died of this dreadful illness only a very few short weeks after diagnosis.

I will set up an arrangement with Just Giving, so that sponsorship donations can be made direct from this blog. I would do that today, but there is a problem with Just Giving's new website. As soon as that problem is fixed I will post more details and a button to "press"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nice Buns

Today I walked the 33 kms from Mirepoix to home, along the Voie Verte. Nothing new about that, I hear you say, I do it every Monday (market day in Mirepoix) except when other things, such as real life, intervene.

What is new is that I remembered to take a picture of my sustenance for the walk. The one on the rightis a croissant aux amandes - a croissant filled with almond paste (before cooking) and plastered with almond pieces. I love anything almond flavoured and one of these for breakfast propels me all the way to Chalabre (23 kms) where I pause, sit on a stone seat on a stone bridge with a magnificent view of the stone Pyrenees, and there I mange the second item, the one on the left in the picture. This is a pain aux raisins, sometimes known as escargot or snail. Filled with lovely raisins and sultanas, it is enough to fuel me up for the final 10 kms to Puivert.

Both these items are sold by boulangers - bakers - all over the area, but this one paricular boulangerie in Mirepoix, which escaped our attention for years because it is a little out of the way, makes particularly fine examples of the breeds.

While walking, I dictated, into a tiny electronic device I have which holds hours of speech, the outline and beginnings of the book of the walk.

You may have noticed that the counters to the right of this blog have disappeared - the one saying how many days and weeks until the start of the walk, the other counting down to the finish line. Apparently these "gadgets" for some reason became faulty, so I had to remove them. I am trying to find replacements. but I think we are now below 47 weeks to the off.

My Walking Route Through France - Stage 3 of 3

Stage 3 of 3. Sarlat to Chatellerault

Day 19.Chatellerault to Rilly sur Vienne. 32 kms

Day 20. Rilly to Langeals. 36 kms

Day 21. Langeals to Couesmes. 30 kms

Day 22. Couesmes to Requeil. 33 kms.

Day 23. Requeil to Preuille le Chetif. 27 kms

Day 24. Preuille to Fresnay sur Sarthe. 40 kms

Day 25 Fresnay to St Denis sur Sarthon. 23 kms

Day 26. St Denis to Serans. 34 kms

Day 27. Serans to Potigny. 31 kms

Day 28 Potigny to St Martin de Fontenay. 22 kms

Day 29. St Martin to Ouistreham and the ferry to Portsmouth. 23 kms

Total for Stage. 331 kms

Again, I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety. If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of direct, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

I have listed only walking days. There will be rest days punctuating the trip. I plan to take a total of 40 days, including rest days, to reach the ferry, leaving 30 days to walk through England.

Rest days will be announced on the blog at least one day before, as will my specific walking plans for the next day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crisis of Conscience

Gay dropped me off in Quillan this morning for my walk up the mountain and home. Above the ridge on which Puivert castle stands, she saw a vulture casting his eye over the terrain. I managed to evade him and arrive home safely, but I don't know how the kitten got on. That's the tiny kitten, barely out of rompers and walking, who was out alone on the track, far from any habitation. I don't reckon hir chances of survival - foxes, pine martens, buzzards, kites, eagles, two kinds of vultures, and who knows what else? It scampered, or barely crawled, off into the undergrowth before I was tempted to have a crisis of conscience.

I walked 110 kms this week. Omitted to mention that I did 123 last week and have now completed 2171 for the year so far. Don't know how many I will manage this week as we have young Septimus Willem, my brother, and his wife Pat, coming on Tuesday for a week. They want to do some walking, but we also need to socialise and "hang out", so I expect, and don't mind, that the kilometrage will be down a little.

I hope to start the week off with a bang on the walk from Mirepoix to Puivert (33 kms) so anything else will be a bonus.

This has been a tremendous week on my blog and on the various forums and websites which carry the happy news of VBW. In the past 24 hours alone, at least 500 people have read my stuff.

I expect to post the details of the third and final stage of my walk through France tomorrow. I have already worked it out but need to tidy it up for presentation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Walking Route Through France - Stage 2 of 3

Stage 2 of 3. Sarlat to Chatellerault

Day 11. Sarlat to Le Lardin St Lazare. 32 kms

Day 12. Le Lardin to Lanouaille. 36 kms

Day 13.Lanouaille to Bussiere Galant. 35 kms

Day 14. Bussiere to Le Dognon. 31 kms

Day 15. Le Dognon to Gajoubert. 36 kms

Day 16. Gajoubert to Persac. 34 kms

Day 17. Persac to Touffou. 36 kms

Day 18. Touffou to Chatellerault. 25 kms

Total for Stage. 265 kms

Again, I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety. If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of direct, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

My Walking Route Through France - Stage 1 of 3

Ok, listen up, here it is:

Stage 1 of 3. Puivert to Sarlat le Canada

Day 1. Puivert to Mirepoix. 33 kms

Day 2. Mirepoix to Salles sur l'Hers. 38 kms

Day 3.Salees to Gardouch then to Caraman. 34 kms

Day 4. Caraman to Lavaur. 24 kms

Day 5. Lavaur to Rabastens. 18 kms

Day 6. Rabastens to Bruniquel. 33 kms

Day 7. Bruniquel to Puylaroque. 27 kms

Day 8. Puylaroque St. Pierre Lafeuille. 41 kms

Day 9. St Pierre Lafeuille to St Germain du Bel Air. 19 kms

Day 10. St Germain to Sarlat le Canada 38 kms

Total for Stage. 287 kms

I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety. If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of direct, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feeling Sheepish?

A wet walk (23 kms) home from Lavelanet this morning. We are paying the price for a few hot days. After nearly 3 years of dithering around, the temperature suddenly rose to its normal summer highs in the mid-30s. 30 was barely touched in 2007 and 2008, for about 4 days in total, which is fine by us. Mid-30s is far too hot, 25 is about right.

Along with the high temperatures, we had very high humidity and of course this has been followed, as usual here on the slopes of the Pyrenees, by thunderstorms and heavy downpours. The normal pattern between May and September is temperatures over 30, punctuated and cooled down by storms every 7 to 10 days. But brought to an end by thunderstorms after 2 days?

The thunder was rolling as I walked along the Voie Verte, which was a little concerning, as I was pretty exposed. And what about when I climbed the big hill at Rivel and was on a much higher point for a while - fortunately the storm had passed by the time I was there.

It has been a good week for spotting animals. Gay and I saw a young fox crossing the road in front of us a few days ago. Several times while walking in the woods I have heard herds of wild boar a-gruntin' and a-snortin' very close by. On one occasion there was an almighty gruntin' and a sudden noise. I thought I was about to be charged but fortunately they must have been running away. Yesterday I heard the sound of a lot of hooves to my left, in the woods. I was peering that way, then looked forward to see a mangnificently-antlered cerf (red deer stag) crossing the track in front of me. I gather he was the rearguard and I had missed the rest. What beautiful animals they are.

The animal story of the week concerns not wild animals, but sheep. As I was passing the Chinaman's house the other day, I crossed over to shake his flimsy hand - he must weigh less than 100 pounds - where he sat, as usual, in the shade of his garage. He asked me if I wanted some sheep, some moutons, some brebis. He obviously knows somebody who is selling some of these. He seemed most sincere in the offer. I reminded him I am a vegetarian but he still thought the offer was good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New iPhone 3G S

This morning, I received an e-mail from Apple about the new version of the iPhone. I usually ignore these - yet another expensive gadget which I do not need. However, one of the pictures showed me that the iPhone now contains a compass. Investigating further, I found that the iPhone contains maps and GPS route directions. Does anybody have any experience of using the iPhone for route-finding.

I would welcome some feedback from anybody with experience of this.

Is it the answer to my need?

French Walking Association?

Now that I have sorted out a safe walking route through England (see Monday 15th June, I am turning my attention to finding the same through France. This is a much bigger proposition, if only because France is so much bigger than England.

As mentioned, I received a great deal of help from the Long Distance Walkers Asssociation. Is there a similar body in France?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summary For New Readers Of The Blog

Welcome to all new readers of the blog, of which there are many in the past few days, Especially those joining me from the AngloInfo websites in France, Spain, Italy and Cyprus. A special “hello” also to members of my old club Altrincham and District Athletics Club.

Reading the Blog. With so many new readers, not all having the time to read the whole blog from its beginning last August – for those who don’t know, in a blog the most recent entry appears at the top of the page – I think it may be necessary to summarise progress to date.

Food. The basic objective of the walk is given in the header above. I am doing the walk alone. My wife Gay would like to accompany me on foot but there are insuperable problems, mainly connected with our diet. We are vegetarians. Unless we want to carry mountains of equipment and food, this means that, walking together, we would have to stay in hotels or hostel-type accommodation and eat food cooked by others in restaurants. As the concept of eating a meal without meat or fish is virtually unkown in France, we would either starve or eat 70 omelettes.

Transport and Accommodation. Therefore we have decided to buy a motor caravan, which Gay will drive while I walk, so that we have our accommodation and cooking facilities with us. The current plan is to sell the van after the walk. We anticipate that what we lose will not exceed what we would otherwise have spent on accommodation and food.

Corporate Sponsorship. There was much discussion in earlier pages about whether I should seek corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of the journey. For instance, whether to ask a motor caravan maker to lend us a van in return for it carrying logos and adverts for his own services. I decided against this because I would feel too obliged – I would feel I was then doing the walk for others and, especially if injury or illness prevents me from completing the walk, that I had let them down.

Raising money for Charity. There have been many suggestions that I should raise money for charity as I walk. I am inclined to do so, but am a bit chary because I would still feel the same sort of obligation as above.

Route. Although France has an incredible network of long distance paths, I will not be using them because they wander about too much and I would not be able to complete the walk in the symbolic 70 days. I will be walking on (quiet) roads from the Pyrenees to Caen/Ouistreham. I will be publishing more details of the route in the near future in the hope of blog readers advising me about off-road routes which are parallel but (clearly) safer. In England, with help I have already refined the route. From Portsmouth to Oxford I will be on long-distance off-road footpaths. From Oxford for most of the rest of the way, on canal paths.

Company. I have had many offers of company along the way – people joining me for sections, even one or two offers of joining me for the whole walk. I am very happy to have company on sections, but I will generally be setting off for a section at 7 in the morning, will not wait for people who are not at the start point at that time, will usually walk for 30 kms non-stop (about 5 hours). For those offering to do the whole walk with me - sadly, I can not envisage wanting to spend 70 days with anybody except my wife. And that is before we get to the problems of accommodation and food.

Book of the Walk. I shall be writing a book about the build-up and the walk itself. Suggestions for a title will be welcomed. One is “Walking Back. Through 70 years in 70 days”.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Safe Walking In England

I am immensely grateful to John Sparshatt of the Long Distance Walkers Association.


John has confirmed that I can walk from Portsmouth to Oxford on various off-road paths:

Solent Way to Brockhampton
Wayfarers Walk to Abbotstone
Oxdrove Way to Badiley
Three Castles Path to Ellisfield
Thames Valley Circular to Goring
Thames Path National Trail to Oxford

A total of 208 kms. I then join up with the Oxford Canal for safe walking on a variety of canals as far as North Cheshire. From there I am virtually on home ground and should be able to find my own way.

John's route confirms that given to me by Marilyn Meeks of Hants Council, except that John recommends the use of the Thames Valley Circular to cut off a big loop in the Thames Path.

John even sent me an overall map of the route and a list of which Ordnance Survey Maps I will need for the trip.

So that is my safe walking route through England more or less sorted. All I need now is similar recommendations to cut out the use of roads, wherever possible, as I make my way up through France. In the next few days I will be publishing more details of my planned route in France, in the hope that I will receive lots of advice, based on local knowledge, so that I can refine the journey further, especially in the interests of safety.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Anglo Info

I mentioned a few days ago that I have discovered the Anglo Info websites, which are replete with useful information for anybody who lives in France, is thinking of doing so, or who has any interest in France.

At the time I was aware of sites for the two local regions here, but now I know there are 16 separate Anglo Info websites for the whole of France. Each has thousands of people, presumably mainly English speaking people, registered. So, if you are interested in selling or buying anything, finding out information about anything, or discussing any subject on the numerous forums (yes, I know it should be forae, but most people think it is forums and this is about communication), you should go to:


Then select the region you are live in or are interested in. You will also see, on the left hand side, that there are similar websites in other countries, and more coming soon.

Now, what has all this got to do with VBW? I want as many people as possible to know about my walk, not only because so many who do know are very interested, but also because of the help I may get about, for instance, safe walking routes in the different regions I will pass through.

I put a brief mention of VBW on each of the French Anglo Info websites a few days ago. The result was a remarkable increase in the number of people reading my blog. I also received numerous encouraging messages, not to mention offers of accommodation, food, showers, walking companions.

Gay and I have lived in France for 12 years and had no idea this resource was available. I have also put a guitar and an IBM Thinkpad X60 laptop computer for sale on Anglo Info - I seem to have sold the guitar and have several people interested in the laptop.

I recommend anybody living in or having an interest in France to have a look at Anglo Info.

C'est,moi wrote in one of the forums:

Hi Vic

What a lovely event you have thought up for yourself! I love hiking myself, I did the 4 day marching event in my home country of the The Netherlands twice, which happens in July each year in Nijmegen, and did the 50km a day march for four days with my brother. Lovely thing to walk, I enjoy it all the time. Hope you don't suffer from blisters like I do, if so, or if you have done, what are your tips for that? I usually tape them up well. Now the only walking I do is nearly every day a 4 hour walk on the golf course! I am definitely going to follow your progress and the actual trip and I wish you all the best with it!

Take care and go for it!

I replied:

Thanks for the kind words.

I use Decathlon's Run 800 socks and Columbia Trailmeister IV shoes. I have never had a blister or sore feet while wearing these - probably in at least 5,000 kilometres.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weight Loss, That's My Girl

I mentioned a while ago that I have walked 2000 kilometres this year without my weight changing at all. This despite the fact that walking is frequently recommended as a good exercise for weight loss.

A different story with my eldest daughter Karen. She has been very overweight for some time. Before that she was bulimic for 12 years, but nobody knew about it because, in the nature of these things, she kept it secret.

Last year she trained for, and accomplished, a ten mile sponsored walk and the 60 mile Manchester to Blackpool sponsored bicycle ride. All this activity did nothing for her weight.

In March she was told by a doctor that if she did not lose a lot of weight she would, not could, become diabetic, with all the risks that entails.

Karen immediately got to grips with this. I am so proud of her achievement. She has lost 45 pounds since the beginning of April. She has shown immense willpower, because she is on a diet of 500 calories a day. You can probably use that up just brushing your teeth and going up and down stairs a couple of times. But she has continued to lead a normal life, although walking and cycling are out for the moment because there is just not enough energy available in her body for that (unless she gives up brushing her teeth).

She is doing all this under supervision and counselling from Lighter Life, who supply her with the sachet food which is all she has eaten for over two months.

Some people say it is not healthy to lose so much weight so quickly, and to live on powdered food. But the diet was suggested by her GP. She had to have a full medical before she started the diet and has to have a full medical every 28 days or else Lighter Life will not continue to supply her with the foodpacks, The counsellor and the doc are ensuring that she is healthy. As Karen says “It isn’t ideal, but it is most certainly more healthy than being 6 stone overweight. I was bulimic for 12 years and no diet, however harsh, could EVER do as much damage to my body (or my state of mind) than that did!!!!!!!! That’s why it’s great that the Lighter Life Programme combines dieting with counselling for eating disorders”

It isn’t easy. She says “I’m finding it SO hard – I haven’t eaten now for 10 weeks and I’m absolutely craving chicken and prawns and egg mayonnaise. Also, at the risk of sounding like a drunken sot, I could do with a glass of red!! I’m feeling pretty miserable and wish I could just stop the diet but I know I’ll beat myself up if I do that”.

When she gets to her target weight she will, under counselling, be gradually reintroduced to normal food and trained to maintain her newly trim figure.

As I said above, I am very proud of Karen’s achievement and think this company, and her doctor, should be commended for what they have done for her.

Karen was ambivalent about me telling this story in my blog. But after speaking with husband Kenny she decided it would be worth it if it helps one other person to lose some weight which is affecting their health, or to realise that there really IS life after bulimia. She has been joking recently that for the past 15 years she has had partial bulimia – she could master the eating but not the purging!!!!!

A really 'good' side effect of Lighter Life is that she has not suffered with her hiatus hernia or her IBS since she started it.

Attached are is a photo of Karen wearing the trousers which she wore for my first 'weigh in' at LL. She said that she was going to keep wearing them for the weigh-ins for as many weeks as she could. After 3 weeks they felt like they were falling down. Last Christmas she wore them to go out and she was really, really uncomfortable all night because they were digging in her waist. She can take them off without undoing them now!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Safe Walking In England

Readers of the blog will recall that I am in desperate need of a safe walking route, when I reach England, from Portsmouth to Oxford, where I will join the canal system and walk safely on the towpaths.

Today I had a really helpful e-mail from a lady called Marilyn at Hants County Council.

Thank you for your enquiry about a route from Portsmouth to Oxford.

I would advise you to contact the Long Distance Walkers Ass as they will be able to provide you with details.

It would be best to follow routes that are waymarked with logo's that you can follow from the Coast .

From Portsmouth you can follow the Solent Way along the coast and on the east is Portsmouth Wayfarers Walk just outside Portsmouth an small section of the South Downs Way then back on to the Wayfarers Walk to New Alresford picking up a section of the Ox Drove Way until the Three Castles Path comes in which you can follow up to Windsor where you would then follow the Thames National Trail that leads into Oxford.

The best maps would be the OS Explore maps as the routes will be indicated on these with a green diamond.
The website address for the Long Distance Ass is http://www.ldwa.org.uk/

I if can be of further help you come back to me.

I Have not yet checked out how much that route wanders about but it sounds just the ticket. It should mean that I have a safe, off-road walking route almost into Lancashire, which is where my ultimate goal, Blackpool, is.

I hope to receive similar advice about some of the French sections of VBW.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Music Out, Writing In

Marginally over 48 weeks to go. A rainy day discouraging me from walking (this will be a heavy walking week even if today is a rest day. I have been doing some serious thinking, resulting in a drastic decision.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am in a quandary over whether to put in the effort required to write a book about VBW. I know how difficult it will be to find a publisher who is interested. I know I will have to write at least half the book before I even try to find a publisher, and I know that the effort may be futile. So many good books are written but never reach public view.

And yet my inclination is to put in the effort. To give it a go. Especially after all the wonderful messages of support I have had recently from readers of this blog and all the AngloInfo websites on which I have described VBW. A lot of people out there are interested in this. Many more than I would have ever thought.

That leads me to the next problem. The amount of time I am putting into walking at the moment, added to all the other time-consuming activities in my life, does not leave me with enough hours in the day to devote to the book-writing task.

Something will have to go. Long-time denizens of my blog will know that, since the age of 60, I have become a guitarist. I have even reached the level of playing in a band, on stage. But my lessons, including the necessary travelling, take up one afternoon a week, and practice consumes at least one hour of every day.

I love it, but progress, or even maintenance of the standard I have reached, take far more effort and time than they would in a younger person. And how many years of improvement do I have left (how I wish I had learnt to play when I was young!). Sadly, I have decided to ditch the music for over a year - until after VBW, when I hope my tutor, Santiago Cozar, will have me back.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2000 in 2009, So Far

Today's 19 kms walk home from Quillan market, during which I saw not a single person, apart from those passing in cars on the two short (total 3 kms) road sections, takes me to over 2000 kms for the year so far.

So I should be getting in 4000 kms or so this year as part of my training for VBW. To be followed by a final spurt of another 1000/1500 kms, mainly in New Zealand, before I start the Walk proper.

It is a beautiful day today and I was reminded yet again as I walked, and now I look out from the house, what a truly beautiful area this is. Gay and I certainly feel very privileged to live here.

I notice that I am getting a surge of visitors to the blog, referred from a couple of websites that I have only just discovered. Both these sites cater for English people living in France - one covers Languedoc-Roussillon, where I live - the other covers Mide-Pyrenees, which starts a few kilometres away from this house, on the Aude/Ariege border.



The two sites contain a great deal of useful information, "for sale" sections, discussion forums on any topic you care to initiate. I assume there are equivalent websites for other regions of France.

Highlly recommended. I wish I had known of them earlier.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Walking In France

My good friend Jonathan Scrivens, in his excellent blog "French for a While" (which is always reachable from this blog by clicking on the right and down a bit) had a question the other day. This is the relevant posting:


He was saying that in the USA runners are advised to run facing the traffic, ie on the left side of the road. But he has noticed runners here in France running with their backs to the traffic, ie on the right side of the road. The question is, why is it different here? The answer is - foolishness. The same sort of foolishness which has many of these runners wearing dark colours so they can not be seen easily.

I have mentioned several times on my blog, which is about walking, but the same applies to runners, that if you walk on the left, you can see the traffic coming towards you, if they do not seem to be pulling out to avoid you, you can at least see them and take evasive action (if there is somewhere to go).

The real danger comes from traffic approaching from behind you, theoretically on the other side of the road. If they decide to overtake, they can be very close to you, or, if you are very unlucky, if their judgement is bad, if you stumble or veer off course slightly, bingo, you are a goner.

My advice is, run or walk on the left. Keep your eyes peeled for the traffic approaching you. If there is no traffic approaching you, keep glancing behind for the overtaking nutters or even, if you hear traffic behind you, step onto the verge until they have gone. You will lose some time, but it is better than losing your life.

Having said the above, there are times when it is best to move over to the right hand side of the road. For instance if you are approaching a blind left curve, especially if there is a steep bank or some other hindrance to you jumping out of the way of oncoming cars. As I said, then you walk on the right, but you show great caution every time you hear a car behind you.

And wear something highly visible, white or, even better, bright yellow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ghost Of Dr Barbara Moore

I walked 34 kilometres today, my normal Monday route from Mirepoix to Puivert. My legs were pretty tired at the end of it. I was reminded once again of Dr Barbara Moore, when she was walking from Lands End in England to John o' Groats in Scotland. She used to walk 40 miles a day, which is nearer to 60 kms than 30. She covered the same daily distance when she walked across America, coast to coast. She was phenomenal, although she was not approaching 70 years of age, as I am.

I have mentioned before that I get a lot of data about who looks at my blog. It is all a bit spooky. I can tell what people have been searching for on Google, for instance, which leads them to my blog. A surprising number of searchers, from all over the world, have been looking for information on Dr Barbara Moore. One of my postings was about her, which is why Google leads them to my blog.

There is little information available about her, which makes it all the more surprising that so many people know about her in the first place. So many seem to be interested in her and her achievements that I am very surprised that there does not seem to be a book about the lady.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thunder Rolls

So sings Garth Brooks. And so speak the heavens in this area, quite often. Normally every few days during the summer. This year is no different

We have had a few warm, dry days (not many, because I remember being totally sodden last Tuesday as I walked the mere 6 kms home from Nebias), so the weather gods have decided to punish us for enjoying it. They have been shifting the furniture upstairs with a vengeance, hurling their lightning bolts down at us, and emptying every water container they have up there. Not to mention the temperature returning to levels last seen during the winter. A little celebration we attended at the buvette down by the lakeside last night was enjoyable, but I have to say it is the first time I have sat inside the fridge for a meal.

Gay and I managed the 13kms walk up and down to Quillan yesterday morning without getting too wet, and I took advantage of a dry spell to get in 20 kms today. I had to get out, if only to escape the appalling news that England had been beaten at cricket - not so surprising, but by Holland?!!!

So the week finished up with a not too despicable 90.5 kms, bringing the total for the year to 1939 kms. And today Gay and I exercised our democratic franchise for the first time in 15 years. It is that long since we lived in Britain. The only votes we are allowed in France are for local elections - unfortunately we are away when that happens - and to select our European Members of Parliament. We are sure our man will win - after all, when we went to USA to ensure that Obama won, that worked, didn't it?

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Only Bank That Pays Interest These Days

I am very much behind with my walking this week. I got a good start on Monday, with a total of 34.5 kms for the day. The next day I offset this with 10 kms. It went downhill after that.

We have been away for a few days, in the Creuse, well away from here in Central France. 5 or 6 hours driving each way, which tends to put a damper on walking. Also, as the purpose of our trip was to visit friends Judith and Rob and Ann and Mike, the time not spent driving from Wednesday to Friday was spent deep in meaningful conversation, and even more meaningful eating and drinking.

So the kilometre cupboard is looking a little bare with only about 52 kms in there for the week. I am sure that with Saturday and Sunday to go I will be able to keep the daily average above 10 kms, but will be unable to clock up 100 kms this week. I promise to try to make up for it next week.

And I am still well ahead of my target, with hundreds of spare kilometres in the bank, a balance that will pay dividends in the future, I hope. It's certainly the only bank I know of which is paying out any significant interest this year.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Book Of The Walk?

When I started this blog last year, I stated that one of its functions is to act as a diary or database for possible use while writing a possible book about Vic's Big Walk.

But do I really want to do that? I have been involved, in a desultory way, in the writing business, for most of my adult life. I have had a reasonable amount of stuff published. One thing this has made me aware of is the hit and miss nature of success in that field.

Now and again we read in the press about some author's huge success, sometimes with his first book, and how many millions he has made from it. Rarely do we see the truth, which is that thousands and thousands of books are written each year and never see the light of day. Of course some of them are not very good. But many of them are.

It is all down to luck. You write a book. Then you send it off to a publisher who you think would be interested in it. Frequently it sits in the "slush pile" and never gets looked at. Frequently the publisher will only accept offerings from an agent. More often than not, agents will only deal with authors who have already been accepted by a publisher.

There is clearly a great deal of effort involved in writing a book. It is amazing that so many people persist in doing so when the odds are so heavily stacked against them. However good your book is, it is unlikely to be published. If you are lucky it will. If you are determined, even desperate, you will go ahead anyway.

Am I determined or desperate? No, I am not. I love writing and of course I would love to see a book by me about VBW in the bookshops. But I am beginning to think that, with all the effort of planning, training for, and implementation of the Walk itself (not to mention all this bloggery) I am committed enough. That I am not sufficiently enamoured of the book idea to spend the rest of my time slaving over a hot laptop without some indication that it is worth it.

A number of people have told me they are looking forward to the book. Some have even said that they are not spending much time reading the blog because they are waiting for the book.

I have not ruled the idea out altogether. I would be interested in any feedback on this.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Good Days, Bad Days, and Power Rangers

Today I walked home from Mirepoix - my first 30 kms walk this year, although I have done plenty of trots approaching the distance. In the past week I have covered more than 20 kms four times, with one 27 and one 28.

So 30 should not be so different, should it? I should remind you that this is the distance I intend to walk 6 days a week for 10 weeks next year.

So why did I feel so bad today? I was weak and on the verge of staggering more than once before I reached Chalabre at 21 kms. I was drinking plenty. I had a croissant aux amandes for breakfast just before starting the walk. I had a pain aux raisins with me for further sustenance - I scoffed that sitting on one of the stone seats at the bridge in Chalabre, with its magnificent view of the Pyrenees.

I felt an immediate lift after eating the second bun. Maybe my blood sugars were low? Not normally a problem with me, and this is the food which usually fuels this walk (quite successfully). I trudged the further 9 kms to Puivert, which seemed much longer than usual.

Gay must have heard my feet dragging as I entered the courtyard. "Are you very tired?" she said, before she even saw me. Absolutely knackered," says I. "Do you think I am getting past it?" Very sensibly, she said, "Of course not, there are good days and bad days, you know that". Of course I do - it's usually me saying it.

It's always a good day when I see the little feller who is teaching me to be a Power Ranger in the picture above. This is Alessandro, my grandson, who lives in Italy. I have had complaints that some denizens of the blog can not make him out in the smaller picture, so here he is in full living colour and somewhat bigger. I have to say that we have not seen him this year, and it's about time we did. We have been in New Zealand for several months, of course, but normally we would have been for a visit to Italy by now. Nicola and family are in the process of moving house and have hit a technical snag, which is delaying things, so there is nowhere for us to visit. I'll just have to look at the picture.