Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day Eight

We are at Concots. 268 kms down. Just a few to go :-)

Glory be! Today I had my first walk of under 30 kms – 27 kms in fact – thanks to some nifty work by my navigation officer, and ditching the Grandes Randonnėes for the day.

I seemed to spend most of the day walking past military bases and training areas. Gay had picked a road which took a more direct line from Caylus to Concots than the GRs. It became obvious that one reason the GRs skirted the are could be because nobody is allowed near it. I have never seen so many signs saying “Domaine Militaire – Defense d’Entrer”, so many truck carrying passels of soldier boys, or heard so much gunfire. Since I lived in Stone, near an ammo factory, in the early 60s.

I am always impressed by how tough and fit and smart French soldiers seem. We have a parachute regiment based in Carcassonne and the Foreign Legion at Castelnaudary, so we often have these troops on exercise nearby, or tramping past the house with blackened faces and guns at the ready.

Here’s an interesting story – at least I think it is. Yesterday when I arrived in Caylus, I couldn’t find the campsite, where Gay and V-Force One were already ensconced. It was lunchtime, so as usual in a French village (another superb mediaeval one) there was nobody to be seen in the streets. I went to a point where I could here voices from an upstairs window, and I hallooed. A voice replied. It took me a few goes to find which window the head was popping from. The head said, “Do you speak English?”

It turned out to be Alistair Hamilton, a very Scottish name, but a very Welsh man. In fact a Cardiff supporter. Now today, the day after I was speaking to him, Cardiff are playing Blackpool at Wembley. The winner will enter the Premiership, what used to be the First Division (this is soccer I am talking about). At least two of my brothers are avid Blackpool supporters. Blackpool used to be one of the top teams and Gaile, my late first wife, in whose memory I am doing this Big Walk to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK, had two uncles playing in the famous “Matthews Cup Final” of 1953, which Blackpool won. In fact one uncle, Harry Johnson, was the captain of the team and the other was Stanley Mortensen, the only person ever to score a hat-trick in a Cup Final at Wembley, unlike Stanley Matthews, who didn’t score at all. If Blackpool win today, it will be back to the glory days for them after decades spent in the much lower divisions. At least one of my brothers will be at Wembley today, and so will all the family of the aforementioned Alistair Hamilton.

So that was enough of a coincidence. But add to that the fact that Alistair and his wife are next week off south to camp in, yes, Puivert, where I live and where I started VBW 8 days ago.

No comments: