He’s Off…

Well, he didn’t start last night. You see Sunday morning, about nine o’clock, he decided he’d see if the old MSR Whisperlite was working. It wasn’t. So, he had to run into Bristol, after his duties at 10:30 Mass, to buy a stove.  (There was no time to service the MSR…they’re brilliant things, but temperamental…I think I’ve managed to light it without either swearing or burning myself twice in about 120,000 miles and twelve years).
After he finished packing, he lifted the pack. I looked at his face, and lifted it myself. ‘Hell!’ I said and looked at him carefully. ‘Have you got books in here?’ (Andy once hiked the Chiapas with a huge text on semiotics in his backpack. He never read it, but assured me he needed it.)
‘No!’ he said.
He went through the pack and discarded several tons of unnecessary weight. This took time.
Then he thought he might take his car to the end of the trail. This involved negotiations with the pub landlord and a pint. We got back into the car as large grey clouds moved in, and motored up the M4 towards Heathrow.
‘We’re not going to get there much before six,’ I observed.
Andy grunted.
‘It gets dark early when it’s this overcast.’
Sigh.
I drove for another five miles. ‘We could call the hotel and see if you could stay with us tonight…if they can move us from a twin to a triple.’
Silence.
‘There’s a steam room.’
Silence.
‘And I’ve already paid for two breakfasts and kids eat free.’
So Andy started off this morning about 10am with a tummy full of coffee, cooked breakfast and croissant. Libs and I got him to Ivinghoe Beacon, where he posed for this photo,
shouting, ‘This is for you, Rett Research!!!’
We were going to walk with him the first half mile or so. But the dog was being silly, and it was clear we were holding him back. So we hugged and said good luck and…
… he was gone.
The dog whimpered and fretted on the lead, barking after his Alpha. A half an hour later, Libs, Andy’s daughter, also started to cry.
‘Don’t be silly,’ I said to them both. ‘He’ll be fine.’
And I’m sure he will. I can still see the semiotics text in our bookshelves as I write. It went 45K miles that year; by plane, foot, bus, and Mexican second-class train. It survived a downpour in a rainforest, a curious pair of black bears and a memorable encounter with armed insurgents. But it made it here, to our home. And it still has its dust jacket.

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51.8420° N, 0.6058° W
Ivinghoe Beacon (Map below)
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He’s Ready To Go!

The vintage Lowe Alpine pack, in day-glo nineties colours, sits in the corner of the bedroom.

Ringed around it are bits of kit; our MSR mosquito-weight stove (‘Have you checked that it’s working?’ ‘No. It’ll work.’), an REI three season bag (‘Won’t it get colder than 13?’ ‘Yeah, but I’m always hot.’), an inflatable pad (‘Do you want me to get something a bit better?’ ‘Why? These work fine.’), the RAB Storm bivvy bag (‘Do you think you should try it out in the garden?’ Dismissive glance.), a small torch (‘Have you got an extra bulb? Extra battery?’ Sigh. ‘It’s NEW.’), the solar phone charger I insisted upon (‘If you don’t take your phone, I’ll pretend to be sick so that you can’t go.’ ‘Oh, allright, then.’), and various other bits and pieces (‘You’ll need some waterproof trousers. Proper ones.’ ‘You got me some last big camping trip…don’t you remember? They’ve still got the tags on.’ ‘Oh.’).

He wants to keep his bag under 30lbs.

He’ll carry a few packets of food, but really, it’s not like he’s heading off into the wilderness… The Ridgeway National Trail passes through several villages and towns. He’ll be within reach of a shop every day…and that goes for tap water, as well. I got him a two-litre ‘hydration system’ (‘I have a hydration system. It’s called a bottle.’), but he’ll use lots of fluid walking so many hours a day. And he’s a caffeine  addict…I seriously can’t imagine Andy starting the day without boiling up a cup of tea and have seen him go through great lengths to do so…so he’ll need the water. I imagine during his shopping trips a few biscuits will find their ways into his hands, as will a latte or two.

Andy says that if the trail was a climb, or if he had to take more gear, he probably couldn’t do it without some serious training. But because it’s relatively flat (he keeps calling it ‘a stroll’) and he’s not carrying too much, he’ll be fine.

He probably will be absolutely fine, that’s the irritating part of it. Because of Andy’s athletic youth, he has a great deal of what they call ‘residual fitness’. He has large muscles and well-cushioned joints. He has incredible physical and mental endurance. But he’s also got soft little white feet that have, for the last ten years, only worn hiking boots when it snows.

Which is why I’ve also insisted he carry quite a few special blister plasters and an anti-blister film stick.

He’ll pack it all up tomorrow and starts walking on Sunday…er… I mean strolling.
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Andy’s Walk

Andy Wadsworth is raising money for Rett Syndrome Research UK by walking the Ridgeway, an ancient pilgrimage site. He’ll be walking 86 miles alone, camping with a bivvy bag and cooking one meal a day.

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Rett Syndrome effects young female children.  Imagine the symptoms of autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe anxiety disorders all developing inexorably in one little girl…

Rett Syndrome is the most physically disabling of the autism spectrum disorders. It strikes at random in early childhood, and parents watch their daughters lose their developmental milestones and slide into a life of helplessness and pain.

There is no treatment beyond supportive, and often ineffective, measures such as feeding tubes, bracing, orthopedic and GI surgeries, and medications for anxiety and seizures. First recognized only 25 years ago, the prevalence of Rett Syndrome equals that of Cystic Fibrosis, Huntingtons and Motor Neurone Disease but is vastly underfunded in comparison to those disorders.

Many girls live into adulthood, requiring total, 24-hour-a-day care.

The Rett Syndrome Research UK Trust is funding very promising research that may soon provide a cure for this distressing and diminishing syndrome.

If you have loved a little girl in your life, please support Andy by giving to the trust.

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