Sticking To The Plan
There’s a lot to be said for sticking to a plan, but then again, it can be a total pain and I prefer an open-minded approach to life. I recently did the leaders walk in the freezing snow. Personally a 8 mile walk in the freezing cold is not my idea of fun, and I don’t hold the No pain no gain attitude. But in this case I felt like I had to stick to the plan, because if I didn’t I would have missed the chance to get together with the group and learn something.I met up with the South Bank Walkers Group on a Sunday morning and we discussed the roles of being a Walk Leader and Map reader. It was interesting and I have put my name forward to do my first walk later in the year. The next newsletter comes out in July so I will be in the July to October issue and I’m going to lead the Seven Sisters Walk. For this walk you need reasonably good weather. I haven’t decided the date yet, but his year at some point! Now that Spring seems to be here I can get out on some decent walks and will be out next Saturday and be writing about that next Sunday.
In the meantime, I am enclosing a very short book review, a novel about someone who went on a very long walk.!
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Written by Rachel Joyce published by Black Swan
A tale of a walk of 627 miles in 87 days from Kingsbury to Berwick
I would describe it as an old-fashioned English story; quaint, sweet, innocent & sad.In short the main character the elderly retired Harold is living an intolerable existence, his wife barely speaks or looks at him, they live separate lives both thwarted by the experience of their son’s suicide. The story takes off really when Harold gets a letter from someone called Queenie to tell him she remembered his kindness and wanted to thank him and that she was dying.
He wants to do the right thing but isn’t sure what it is. Initially he is going to post a letter to her but just can’t face it and feels, in the light of someone dying a letter was nowhere near adequate.He starts walking to a letter box not wanting to post it after meandering past 3 or 4 post-boxes he gets the idea to keep walking and personally visit Queenie, starting in Devon where he lives, to Berwick where she is dying in a hospice. We are not too sure who this character Queenie is at this point.
A lot of the background isn’t revealed until midway in the walk, when Harold is extremely undernourished and ill prepared for the distance walking the 600 miles from Devon to Berwick.The story of how his life became so unbearable becomes clear as the walk evolves.He meets waifs and strays along the way, and even becoming a minor celebratory with many people jumping on the bandwagon with their own reasons for being out there!
There are pleasurable aspects and a newfound joy to be discovered in the simplicity of walking, and living outdoors under an English sky and countryside, that still holds many beauties, something he had forgotten to take time to appreciate.He encounters both a painful recollection of what it is he is escaping and the joy of not knowing where he is going, the unknown future he is moving towards.
It unravels during his walk that Harold’s father was an abusive alcoholic and his wife blamed Harold’s past for the demise of their son, who had turned into a layabout, drunk and a drug addict before hanging himself.
The relationship with Queenie is one of two alienated souls who manage to find solace in each other while working in the Brewery. As Harold is of a time, so is Queenie, an unassuming secretary without the usual attire and personality associated with a secretary, she is humble and conscientious which does her no favours under the rule of the chauvinistic factory owner who try’s it on with her and intimidates her constantly in front of the rest of the staff.
Harold offers some support to Queenie in terms of old fashioned friendship with no strings attached. In turn she takes the blame when Harold goes off the rails when he as he had reacted violently and wrecked the bosses office, whilst still in shock and grief hearing of the death of his son.
The end of the road offers Harold reconciliation with his wife after bearing his soul having witnessed the demise of Queenie who had simply wanted to say thanks; she could no longer actually speak as her tongue had been cut out in an operation relating to her brain tumour. It was a moving end to the story and really the end had to reconcile him and his wife, additionally it is moving to read about the encounters with hangers-on he meets on the road and the different types of people, each with their own stories and grievances slightly lost in need of an awakening, they follow Harold and also contribute to his own healing.