Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missed Opportunities

As promised, I walked 30 kms on Monday. Mirepoix to Puivert. Once again I saw not a single person in the first 21 kms. Strangely, the first human I encountered, in Chalabre, was the same one as last time - a man we call Monsieur Partout. Years ago, after we had encountered him in several of the locations hereabouts, he said to us, "Je suis partout!" - "I am everywhere". So he does not realise this, but he saddled himself with the soubriquet of Partout forever.

As usual, I had a rest day on Tuesday. This is because Tuesday is the day of my weekly (when I am here, which is about half the Tuesdays of the year) guitar lesson. So I spend the morning catching up on the practice I should have done, and the afternoon at the lesson in Lavelanet with my tutor, Santiago Cazar.

This morning I walked 16kms, so the average for the three walking days so far this week, getting into the swing of it again after the Presidential election hiatus in USA, is over 20 kms a day. That is fine for this stage and about two thirds of the daily rate I shall require for VBW, when I shall have to maintain 30 kms a day, 6 days a week for 10 weeks.

This morning's walk was the same as Sunday's, from Quillan, except that it was cold and raining (the people of Quillan will tell you that it always rains on Wednesday, because that is market day). The scene of Sunday's photograph was a little greyer today, but still beautiful. The normal route of this walk, unlike most of VBW, is off-road. There are only about 3 kms where I have not much option than to walk at the roadside. But today, because I knew the tracks would be muddy, and because I know I will have to get used to walking with the traffic, and because the last time I tried that on this same route it was the busy month of August, I decided to try it again. So it was up the hill by track, then 10 kms on the edge of the road.

It was indeed much quieter than August, and bearable, although I still had to keep a weather eye on the traffic behind me. I was walking on the left, against the flow of vehicles but, as I have said before, the real danger is with overtaking vehicles, which can pass very close to one, and the drivers of which do not seem to realise that a walker can slip, stumble or lurch sideways. And of course, their own judgement may not be perfect.

There were a few large trucks and once again I was struck by something which I have noticed, not only here in France, but in UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia - in fact virtually everywhere I have been. It is the waste of marketing opportunity by the vehicle owners. Some vehicles have the name of the company, maybe the telephone number, sometimes even a website. Occasionally a snappy but usually meaningless phrase. But very few tell you what the companies actually do. So you are hardly likely, when stuck in a traffic jam behind one of these uninformative missed opportunities, to make a note of the details. Even if they provide a service you desperately need, you are not going to know.

A few words are all it requires. Or one word. Gay and I were driving up the M5 in England a few years ago. We were behind a refrigerated truck which had this emblazoned across the back, and probably on the sides as well:


I can't be sure about the validity of the upper and lower cases in my version, but that sign told us everything we needed to know about the lorry's business - the vehicle was refrigerated, the business was import and export, the proprietor was called Davies and was probably Welsh, and he had a sense of humour. Being Welsh he could probably sing it. Of course there were contact details as well. If we lived in the country and had need of those services we would have made a note of the phone number and Bob would have been his uncle.

As it is, even without a need, we have never forgotten it. Clearly.

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