Another weekend preparing for our adventure and it occurs to me life is starting to resemble the 'set-up' scenes on some dodgy TV reality/makeover show. You can just hear the Nick Knowles-style voiceover, every syllable oozing sardonic delight as he sums up the catalogue of woe thus far: evidence – if evidence were needed – of the sheer enormity of the protaginists' challenge, the impossibility of success against such odds.
...'Will the girls remember which end of the compass points north?... Will Gail remember to pack her map and will her hair colour exactly match the Paramo jacket?... How many finger nails will Judy break before throwing in the towel? And whose was this crazy idea anyway? Don't they know there are beaches out there, poolside recliners with a never-ending supply of gin and tonic, fresh towels and sun cream, vast expanses of unfeasibly blue water just waiting to be paddled...
Last week it was slipping on a scree path (broken finger nail, bruised bum, grazed coccyx), and dehydration, followed by a points-earning backflip off stepping stone in the-beck-that-bit-back (very bruised ribs, soggy pants).
At some point, too, I've acquired a 'tweaky' knee – generally fine for most of my walking or running but every now and then, it just 'tweaks' – cue a session at the chiropractor and some instruction from him on how to inflict pain on myself by the judicious application of thumb pressure. And it does seem to do the trick. Once I've stopped myself screaming.
And then, as if not being able to breathe thanks to increasingly painful ribs wasn't enough, the birch pollen decides to put in an unseasonably early appearance – prompting friends to ask if I'm okay because my 'breathing sounds a bit laboured'. Just what you need when you're attempting to walk across England, taking in the odd hill here and there. So now the asthma medication is upped – but at least that's manageable.
And THEN, yesterday, my little 'LDW Gruppenfuhrer friend', as I've now affectionately named her (seasoned long distance walker in whose wake uphill I am often to be found puffing, panting and generally begging for mercy) suggests we do a walk from Dovestone Reservoir, up and round the crags which line the Chew valley. Great, I thought, good training... until I climbed out of bed... no, attempted to climb out of bed, yesterday morning and realised that the pain in my ribs has now partly migrated to my right hip joint! Cue another little trick from Tim the chiropractor, involving pinning a flourescent (although I have to confess the day-glo bit is not mandatory!) tennis ball to the wall with my bum and wriggling around until I find the spot that REALLY hurts, then applying even more pressure. I generally stop when the screaming gets too loud. Heaven knows what the neighbours must think.
Anyway, what with that and the Nurofen, it was a cracking day out with blue sky and sunshine and (largely) the place to ourselves, as we skirted the valley sides with some amazing drops beneath us into the valley.
More torture with the thumb screws and the tennis ball on my return – accompanied, I probably should say, by a large glass of wine. (I'm told it's an integral part of the Coast to Coast experience!)
Another fine walk this morning, this time a little nearer home – in fact, walked straight out my door and off on an admittedly very flat route round the local footpaths and looplines. Good three hours' yomp. I can't pretend my alter ego Creaky Old Jude didn't climb out of bed masquerading as me this morning but one look at that tennis ball and she was off!
So there we are. And – getting back to Mr Knowles and his genre for a moment – you and I both know it's only so much televisual windbaggery. It always comes good in the end.
That said, those three little words 'flourescent tennis ball' now added to my ever-lengthening packing list...