WtGGTtTGG & Sailors Tattoos.

So lockdown is finally easing and it is time to reflect on trail / walking progress during it, and review my ambitions for this year. Hopefully accommodation and campsites will be open in a couple of weeks, and that means I can get going again with my 2020 plan. Good News.

At the start of lockdown, I stuck to local walks from my door step. I’m lucky to live next to open countryside with loads of options. But – it wasn’t possible to walk anything on the National Trails, at first. Plus I’d done the bits of the Pennine Bridleway / Pennine Way nearest my house already.

As things have started to ease I’ve managed some out and back trail walks from the car, avoiding public transport (reserved for key workers, or with adjusted timetables in rural areas making them unreliable for one direction section walking), and weekends (too many people in popular tourist hotspots).

All my walking was legit, and in line with the spirit and letter of the rules as announced. No dodgy ‘eye tests’ to see if my boots were still working properly (?!) before I hit the trail in earnest.

But – 13 weeks of lockdown have severely impacted those plans. I should have more trails, and many more miles in the bag by now. I’d have conservatively walked roughly 1300km in that time I reckon, at 100km a week.

In fact I only walked 543km between March 23rd and June 18th. Most of this being circular loops from home. The trail walking I managed (picking off bits of the Pennine Way), has got me to 72km of the PW walked, but with another 80km of walking back to the car, on those same days. 111% more hiking than necessary to tick the trails off! My average, overage, for the Pennine Bridleway was just 13%, and even lower on the Cleveland Way where my accommodation was en-route, and just metres from the trail for the most part.

So – whilst I am loving the walking, it is taking ages, especially if you factor in a couple of hours driving to the start / finish of the trail.

At risk of nomination (what? again?!) in the ‘Most Boring Blog Post’ awards category, I’m thinking about where the time it would have taken to walk the roughly 750km I’m short has gone. At 4-5km / hour that’s…….anyone, anyone….. roughly 167 hours of movement at my glacial pace. Walking 7 hours a day, that’s about 23 days. Have I wasted that time?

Sure – I’ve made progress on some box sets, even making time for The Sopranos roughly 20 years after everyone else loved it. By the way I’m also loving it… but what else has used the time up?

  • e-Cycling – about 20 hours of that during lockdown. It counts as exercise because you have to pedal, and burns roughly the same Kcals as walking slowly it turns out. Ace fun. 147 hours to find.
  • Casual Walking – where I forgot to track it. About 12 hours. 135 to find.
  • Snowdon by Stepladder – about 6 hours. 129 to find.
  • Decorating Kitchen / Living room. A big room with high ceilings, and I am very, very slow, especially when I’m scared at the top of a 3 metre ladder, or if I run out of foam Haribos. 32 / 97. (Painting Selfie – I believe the meme is “felt cute, might delete later!”).
  • Fitting a new integrated Fridge. Supposed to be a 1hr job. Took me 3 / 94
  • Decorating the Utility room – pointless as I’m the only one who uses it! – 2 / 92
  • Sorting the Garage – best fun I had in lockdown, found some of Grandads old tools. 4 / 88
  • Building a Lego Great Wall of China. Saving my Lego Land Rover Defender in case I get the virus and need to self isolate. 1 / 87
  • Writing Zoom Quizzes for Friends and Family. 4 /83
  • Painting the Entrance Hall. I was looking for jobs at this point. 2 / 81
  • Sanding and Varnishing the Outside Door. Much to the annoyance of Steve next door, who did his a few days later because his wife liked how nice mine came out… Sorry Steve. 5 / 76
  • Moaning at Kristiaan (2 a’s) of the building services company to come mend the hole in the roof… 2 / 74
  • Speccing up a new PC to build. Not built a PC in maybe 14 years as I’m an Apple fan-boy now, but I’m thinking about it, mainly as a piece of sexy looking electronic furniture in some sort of brushed aluminium. Not so much for gaming as its all a bit quick for me these days. But who knows maybe there is a first person Canal Boat simulator? “Oh Man!, 5 rise locks, $hit just got real!”. High End Graphics cards a must for that probably. Still I’m enjoying the endless researching of SKU’s and descending into a YouTube hardware review geek fest. Probably won’t build it, as I’m on £ lockdown until post walking, and finding a new job. 4 / 70
  • Driving to walks… say 12 hours. 12 / 58.
  • Trail planning and replanning. Accommodation nightmares for the SWCP where it took a long time to move everything about. Fair play to YHA, Travelodge, Premier Inn, and all the independent Campsites / Inns for letting me move stuff, even if it was booked as non-refundable. 10 hours. 10 / 48
  • Putting Vinyl records back in the correct order post decorating, and playing a few that I had forgot about. 8 / 40.

After that I’m struggling. 40 hours of time I should have been walking where I can’t think of anything truly productive I did instead. Looking back – that’s the best part of a working week, and there were days when I did nothing. Like zero. Other than eat / drink too much. So what went on?

Like quite a few people I spoke to, especially those who live alone and didn’t have access to co-habiting family (for the hugs…), or key workers (for some chat…) after a few weeks the novelty of lockdown wore off, and there was a low spot.

A time when Zoom calls were no longer any kind of substitute for human contact. Were they ever? I mean its fun (at first) looking directly up your Mum or Dads nose for an hour on video conference because of how they’ve angled the iPad, but its not the same as looking up their schnoz in person.


I’m not saying that single occupancy households had it worse than those with >1 person them as I’m sure being cooped up with others could result in frayed nerves and arguments which would be tough as well! I’m just writing from my experience, and a few low days were had where big-ish questions were asked:

Why did I leave a great job, with people I liked, that paid well to be as ‘idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean’?

What if I can’t get another job at the end of this?

I’m not even doing the walking which I planned for about a year, and saved the £ for longer than that, so what was the point! Wagh!

Obviously – time for a reality check – many thousands of people have had worse lockdown experiences than me, whose only had to cope with boredom, occasional low mood and disruption to my plans. Those who have worked to care for the ill, or lost loved ones in particular, and they have my respect and sympathies. My point is that in addition to acknowledging the service and sacrifice of those at the Covid-19 coalface, lets not under estimate the impact on mental health of everyone from this sea change in how we all are living.

Thank goodness that I have within The Compound where I live a couple of other solo-habiters who I could meet in ‘the park’ (socially distant and all above board) for a proper chat. One mate (Vanessa, who’s also struggled on her own in lockdown, unable to see grandchildren, or her dad…) has been dabbling with on-line dating, and her stories of the internationally based, sex pest weirdos (no like really, really weird…) who have been asking for, or worse sending anatomy based pics / reflectoporn has been a highlight. We’ve eagerly waited for Friday to come around for the next episode and we’ve talked about her potentially monetising her apparent attractiveness to these deviants with her own website : Kinky-Ness.dom. Hopefully that is a dead URL, and doesn’t take you to the dark side of the internet! I have not checked.

Anyway – in writing this and remembering the ‘painted ocean’ lyric from Iron Maiden’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner – which I’ll be honest was my introduction to Coleridges poem – got me thinking about how to respond to the boredom and low mood of lockdown. It reminded me of the old sailors tattoo : HOLD – FAST spread across the knuckles. And that being a reminder to hold on, in stormy weather, and wait for better sailing ahead.

Thinking about HOLD – FAST also got me thinking about how to articulate that need for mental fortitude, and to look to the future positively in other ways, and I couldn’t find a better way of putting it than that old sailors ink.

I recalled Billy Oceans – When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going, from childhood. Name me a better bass line (I’ll wait!). I was about 10 when it came out as the theme song to ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ but great song as it is, I don’t have enough knuckles to fit it on my hands. By the way, in writing this post, I found out that the saxophonist in the song was Vernon Jeffrey Smith. Not a massive Billy O fan, and hadn’t looked into it before, but I apologise for my ignorance nonetheless. Watching the official movie tie in (banned from the BBC!) music video you’d think it was Danny De Vito. I was duped! I honestly thought DDV was an accomplished sax-man until today. Anyroad – here is VJS nailing it on Top of the Pops back in 1986. Don’t know if this was in the TOTP miming era or not. I assume not, as if they wanted to mime it they would have got Danny back. Hmmm, I’ve got sidetracked into Sax chat. Sorry. Back to the trail talk:

Hopefully we are through the worst of lockdown now, and whereas there were restrictions on travel before, now we can drive as far as we need for exercise, and that means I can get out of my (walking) dreams and into my car (beep beep) (sorry, not sorry…) to hit the trails again. I’m no longer kidding myself that I will squeeze in all the trails before I need to work again, but if I HOLD-FAST and stick to my revised plans I should be able to tick a few more off. PS – note to self : Listen to more Billy Ocean.

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