Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vic in MacDonald's!

We are still without Internet access at home. So (and this will amaze our friends) we are sitting in MacDonalds (they all have free WiFi) which we only have access to because we are in Carcassonne, having just dropped Septimus off at the airport (thankfully we are far too rural at home to warrant a MacDonalds).

Sep goes home with about 115 kms under his belt. The weather has been superb for his visit and he is well pleased.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

My blogging is a bit restricted at the moment because we are without an Internet connection at home, for at least another week.

We are changing from one provider to another. In their pique, the outgoing provider has pulled the plug as soon at it has received my notice letter.

In the meantime, walking is continuing without interruption. On Sunday we collected young Septimus from Carcassonne airport. He and I are tramping the trails in the excellent weather we have experienced here since our return from USA.

The picture was taken from 350 metres above Quillan (itself at 300 metres of altitude) Wednesday morning.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dancing On The Ceiling

Today I had my first decent walk of the week. I seem to have spent lots of time this week in hospitals, x-ray centres and doctor's offices. I also started off the week with the heavy cold which could have been 'flu but fortunately was not.

Yesterday we had to go to Carcassonne and today is Friday so I have done the 24 kms hike back home from Lavelanet.

Another problem I have had recently has been the knee problem which has been troubling me for two or three weeks. Monday morning it was x-rayed, which showed there is no structural damage or, surprisingly, visible wear and tear or arthritis.

So the knee is still not perfect but I have been doing some exercises and things have improved a bit. The exercises were given to me by the surgeon who looks after the knees and other bits for the Italian soccer team. This was some time ago when I was having similar trouble with my knee. I had arranged to see him through Nicola's contacts in the bone-mending business. I expected him to say I needed an operation but, while I was on the inspection table, he grabbed the tendon under my knee-cap. When I came down through the hole I made in the ceiling, he said "You need to stretch that tendon and this is how you do it". The cartoon above is wonderfully appropriate.

So because of the foregoing, my kilometrage will not be enormous this week. We should get a decent climb down into and up from Quillan tomorrow morning. Sunday is looking a bit doubtful for walking because we are having another visit from Septimus so we have to pick him up at Carcassonne airport.

So the week promises to be one of the shortest I have had for some time but I am happy because the plan is to tick over into the beginning of next year, then have another burst of high-kilometrage weeks in New Zealand, then taper off again until VBW starts on May 15.

Dancing on the Ceiling? Lionel Ritchie?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Walk The Line (dotted)

Been dashing about a bit since we came back from USA last Thursday. Today's dashing was to the second eye hospital in Toulouse. I was tested, and amazed, at the first hospital, by about ten pieces of electronic kit that they tested me with. I am even more amazed now because I have been done by some even more wonderful Star Trek-like contraptions.

I have never seen so many bright lights whizzing about (except in "Close Encounters"), some of which were extremely painful to my dilated eyes. It seems that not only do I have cataracts on both eyes, which I knew, but I also have "pattern dystrophy" in both eyes, which apparently is much more serious. Don't know what they are going to do about it - I have to see the professor again at the first hospital on 30th November. He is fully informed, because I wrote to him, of my schedule, which gives availability for only two 6-week periods at home between now and next August. So I hope that if something needs to be done, it is done either before the end of the year, or between end of March 2010 and VBW-day, which will be 15 May 2010.

However, I got the impression that they will now not bother to operate on my cataracts, which is a shame because I have been hearing such wonderful tales about the results. Not to mention that I have about £600 worth of maps for VBW which at the moment I can not read - I certainly can not make out the dotted lines which indicate the footpaths.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Old Man's List Of Ailments

Picture if you will an old man in his 70th year. He is self-testing, with the appropriate ministry advice, to see if his sore throat and wobblies are a sign of swine flu.

It seems they are not, because the temperature is not sufficiently elevated. This is good, because he does not want to affect the people he has to meet today and tomorrow. That is, the health professionals he has to meet today and tomorrow in connection with his other ailments.

Tomorrow requires a trip to Toulouse for the remaining test on his eyes, before returning to the first hospital in two weeks time, in preparation for the operations. One of the things he has discovered is that if he has the retina operation in the near future, January's trip to New Zealand will be off. Why? Because apparently they put a gas bubble in the eye and if you fly in a pressurised cabin, the bubble explodes and blindness ensues. That leaves two cataracts to be dealt with.

At the lower end of his body, the knee is to be x-rayed this morning, after weeks of pain. The x-ray shows that the bones are in fine condition, with no sign of wear or arthritis. This is excellent news, but when the old man returns to the local doctor this afternoon, there is a certain amound of bafflement about what to do next.

The muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee are very complex indeed. One of them needs to be stretched, but which one? The old man will opt for the "old towel pulling up the toes" trick. It has worked before, in similar circumstances.

May I remind you that this decrepit figure, with this list of ailments, is the one who will set out, in less than six months time, to walk 2,000 kms?

I am indebted to Vincent van Gogh for providing the splendid illustration.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My American friend Jonathan (see "French For A While" linked on this page) has a current post which is headed simply "Sick". The rest of the post, a few words, underlines the point. Knowing Jonathan, he must be really ill if he can not dump his brain into his blog. He is not normally a man of so few words. Get well soon, J.

I hope I am not about to know how he feels, but I am definitely going down with something myself - the sore throat, the runny nose, the wobbly legs, the aching body, et cetera. I wonder where I caught it? Let's see, it is three days since I was on an aircraft ...

Friday, November 13, 2009


I have passed a few milestones today. At half past eleven this morning I was passing kilometre 13 on the Voie Verte, the redundant railway track. The track starts at the old Lavelanet railway station, 2 kms from the centre of town, so I had walked 15 kms. I still had 9 kms to go before I reached home. At that 15 kms point, I had clocked up 4,000 kms for the year.

More notable figures for today. It is the 25th anniversary of the day I met my wife Gay. It is also the 25th birthday of my granddaughter Alexandra – Alex’s birth was the reason Gay and I met.

Clearly we are back in France and back to normal walking patterns. Today I am hiking 24 kms, after walking just 7 kms a day in the hospital park in Indiana. Things have changed a little while we were away. The Pyrenees are blanketed with snow. The weir which we see as we enter the carpark in Lavelanet is pounding with water instead of the trickle there for the past few months. I think we can say that winter has arrived and the drought is over.

More statistics. I have already exceeded my training target for the year. The plan was to average 10 kms a day, which would have given me 3650 kms in total for the year. I am already well in excess of that - clearly more to be done before the end of the year, although there will be interruptions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Farewell, Mr Lincoln

Well, we have had our last training walk in the USA before the big one.

Much of this week's walking was around Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln spent most of his adult life before leaving for Washington as President-elect.

The Lincoln museum makes wonderful use of holograms and was well worth the 4-hour drive, the overnight, and the same drive back.

Our last walk here was in the park. Today we have no time for such things as we are about to set out for the 24-hour journey back. We shall not miss out on exercise - on the way here we walked 10 kms, just round airports.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Peddling

Today I am turning my blog over for a guest spot.

Justin Walsh-Newton contacted me some time ago, just before his own epic trip, which he has now completed.

He has ridden across France, starting not too far away from us, on the Mediterranean coast near Beziers. I am not sure exactly how close to us he came, but I know from reading his blog, that he passed through Mirepoix, and commented on its marvels. As I usually walk home from Mirepoix at least once a week, it is possible that we were there on the same day.

He says he met tons of interesting people along the way; he cycled over 1,000 miles; raised £3000 through just giving and got well over 10,000 hits on his blog.

So what? He is a young man, of only 43 years. Well, get this - he did all this within 11 months of open heart surgery to replace his Aortic valve.

What a hero. Now he is thinking hard about what to do next!

Read his blog at:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Am The Entertainer

I am the entertainer
And I know just where I stand
Another serenader
And another long-haired band
Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game, you'll forget my name
And I won't be here in another year
If I don't stay on the charts

Verse one of a song which I know best as sung by the late Waylon Jennings. I have just learned, while preparing this post, that the song was actually written by Billy Joel.

Anyway, it seems that now I am The Entertainer. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about the "Evening with Vic Heaney" which is being set up for after the walk.

Chris, who is the organiser and host of the event, has now put the details on his website. Click on the following URL for details:

May see you there!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Squirreling Money Away

Still managing to tick over by doing a 7 kms walk each morning. Lots of squirrels in the park, dashing about, piling up the nuts for winter.

This reminded me that Christmas is not too far away. We shall be doing the same as last year, sending out only a few cards to people who are not on the Internet, sending a message to everybody else, maybe an electronic card.

Scrooge? Not at all, the money we would have spent on the great annual Christmas card rush will go instead to a charity of my choice (guess which one?).

I urge you to do the same - if not to my charity Pancreatic Cancer, then to another. The money will do far more good than it would spent on an ephemeral card.

Monday, November 2, 2009

(Not) The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Walker

One of the disadvantages of being, for a change, in a city, is that walking is restricted to local parks and the quiet roads leading there. The main roads are impossibly busy, traffic-wise. I can not imagine how Dr Barbara Moore and others have walked across America, or even, as in the case of Bruce Tulloh, run from sea to shining sea.

However, one of the advantages of being limited by circumstances to shorter walks (about 7 kms of a morning) is that for a change I have the pleasure of being accompanied daily by Gay. We get out for our walk among the squirrels as soon as it is light, so as not to impinge on the day of our hosts. We come home and find that Lorenzo has cooked up a storm of muffins or pancakes. Jane's coffee is among the best in the world. So a jolly breakfast meeting follows the walk, with plans being made for the rest of the day or the week, such as tomorrow's drive to Bloomington.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hallowe'en Ramble

We are managing to get in a regular 7 kms walk in the park every morning. First we have to walk down Dexter and another couple of streets, via some pretty amazing Hallowe'en displays in the gardens. One has a series of graves, with skeletal hands and bodies trying to climb out of the depths. On one roof there is a huge inflatable black cat on top of a house - almost taking up the entire roof. Every now and then it moves its head back and forth, scouring the area for victims. Unlike most cats it is not very observant - it does not seem to have noticed the sacrificial goat tethered in the garden next door.