Sunday, 22 July 2012


It’s time to hit the road. Or maybe the bloke that sold me the boots.
Desperate to get some miles on my legs and reassure myself that walking more than 500 yards is indeed possible, I begin with a plan to pound the streets of Portsmouth. I’d gone no more than a mile (and still had a good view of our apartment) when there was a strong urge to call a cab to take me home.
The strapped on brand spanking new boots felt like they were doing a spectacularly good foot binding job so favored by the ancient Chinese. But I wasn’t a concubine looking for a dream husband in the Ming Dynasty. I’m a bloke who wants to be able to cover 75 miles when we head off on August 5th and the ache in my feet was immense. Of course, I know that after breaking in the newness, things would improve but it was an uncomfortable start. By the way, do you suppose the Chinese official who gathered such virginal small footed girls was known as a Concubine Harvester? Just a thought.
It was midweek, so the sea front was left to the occasional Mum and toddler, along with quite a few runners. Being an athlete in training myself, I attempted to bond with my fellow exercise takers but got blank looks in response. Those who run make it look like an utterly miserable, tortuous way to get the heart pumping and I have never seen a jogger with a smile on his or her face as they embrace ‘the burn’.  Still, with my aching feet, I fear I returned their grimace with a gurning scowl of my own.
Further on, a branded mini-bus revealed that its precious cargo came from a school with learning difficulties. Despite the grey and cold Solent, the kids were all in the sea, splashing around while their nervous carers were locked in a constantly repeated head count of goosebumped bodies. Were Smike alive today, he wouldn’t be allowed to walk the lanes from London to Portsmouth with Nicholas Nickleby. He’d have been made to travel in a mini-bus wearing a day-glo tabard, staring out of the window above the sign that read ‘difficulties’ and ensuring all those on the outside world felt duly warned by his disability.
To take my mind off the feet I found myself reading branding on coaches as well, when a huge white bodied 75 seater slipped by. As a marketing man, I’m flummoxed by their claim ‘The future of travel in Basingstoke’. It bothers me that their vision only extends to the city limits. It bothers me they wish to suggest that Basingstoke has the monopoly on a Dan Dare world. It bothers me that no matter how you sell it, a charabanc simply can’t be the future of travel in 2012 unless Basingstoke is lagging spectacularly behind the rest of the world. And it bothers me that the claim tells me nothing about why I would wish to ride with them. Judging by the bored looks of those on board, they weren’t too bothered either.
I started to take in the shops around me, musing over the viability of the various tiny businesses and the late night tossing and turning of the owner, struggling to make a crust in these trying times. Judging by their dated window display, Passion Lingerie looked like the passion walked out some years ago. The Southsea Health Shop didn’t look especially healthy with a distinct lack of custom and while Hong Kong City and Indian Cottage suggest a whiff of the exotic east, the darkened windows told the real story. An emporium that specialised in selling wooden hinged structures that create swinging barriers between rooms showed no sign of life either. It amused me that the door shop wasn’t open – or even ajar. And if that amused, so did the daft shop names too – Woks Wong Chinese takeaway, Lock Stock & Tackle for a fishing shop and Posy Parker florists at least all tried to engage the passing punter with some humour.
All this musing and I realized my feet had stopped hurting (although I could feel the start of a blister forming) and the miles had rolled by. My muscles had warmed and I was striding along, enjoying the surroundings and the acres of thinking time my 3.5mph effortlessly delivered.

OK, so it was only ten miles in total but a goodish start nonetheless. The blister needed some attention though, so I dropped in to a chemist on the way back for some plasters. And without a hint of irony, it was Boots who supplied the dressing.



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