Monday, January 19, 2009

Other Big Walks 3 – The Man Who Broke Out Of The Bank – And Went For A Walk Across France

A week ago we were struggling through the snows of France, only to find it was still minus 7 degrees C. when we arrived in UK. So it seems strange that since our arrival this morning in Singapore, we are suddenly struggling with a temperature of about 30 degrees C. with the high level of humidity that always exists here. My first visit to Singapore was in 1957, so I have long experience of this place and the immense changes that have taken place here during that time.

So, obviously still in transit, there is not much walking being done, although, as mentioned before, the pedometer tells me that I seem to walk 30-35 kms a week without specifically setting out on a hike.

All this travelling, especially the 13 hours we spent on an aircraft overnight, across 8 time zones, have given me the opportunity to catch up on some more books about long walks. I have just re-read the one which has its title above.

Miles Morland was a high-powered City trader, who, as he constantly reminds us, spent his life “Shouting Down A Phone”. In the late 80s he abruptly decided to pack all that in, without having planned his next employment move. While he thought about what he should do with the rest of his life, he would walk across France, taking with him his wife Ghislane, half-French and who not only had no history of exercise, but who, unlike most of the population of the world, had never even owned a pair of trainers.

Miles himself had no recent record of any sort of athletic activity, although he had rowed while at Oxford. But not recently enough to have any relevance. They made one attempt at a sort of training walk in London but no other physical preparation.

Their walk across France was East to West, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. They took the soft option of starting near Narbonne, rather than in the true East of France near the Alps, which halved the distance they could have covered. Nevertheless, for such unprepared physical specimens, 350 miles was a serious undertaking.

There is an attempt to add spice to the story because the pair had been divorced and recently re-married. Was the stress of the walk going to put a strain on their restructured marriage? An intriguing angle, but you never get a sense that there is any possibility of a rupture. Just the odd tiff when Miles keeps trying to second-guess the mappers.

He seems to be surprised that they did not lose more weight, yet the daily pattern seems to be to walk until lunchtime, eat a full lunch of several courses, along with two bottles of wine, have a bit of a sleep, finish the days walk, have another sleep, then hit another full meal in the evening, accompanied by two more bottles of wine. Not the ideal way to lose weight – the wine alone would put paid to that idea. And does wine at lunchtime not put your legs to sleep? It certainly does with me and I don't think I have ever drunk a full bottle with lunch.
Tonight we make another flight through the night. Only 10.5 hours this time, and 5 time zones. The next night's sleep will be in Christchurch and will be terminated by Obama's inaugural address. And soon after that we may be able to get down to some serious walking again.

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