No item of news in the last half century has given me greater glee than the announcement that Nigel Farage is to walk from Sunderland to London in protest at something. I can’t remember what, but that’s not the point. The point is that he is truly inspirational. And so, as I was getting stuck into my second bottle of Reserva Especial Carmenere (£6.95 from Majestic) the other night, I had an idea of my own: the next day, I would walk from the MacHovel to Alyth. After all, if Farage – albeit a year and a bit younger than me – can walk the 280-odd miles from the Empire Theatre, Sunderland (or wherever) to Smith Square in London (to holler at the EU flag that flies from Europe House), then I can walk 3.5 miles downhill into town to pick up a packet of Cutters Choice and the latest Private Eye.
The rulers of the Achaemenid Persian empire would make their policy decisions in this manner: if they had conceived an idea in drunkenness, they would reconsider it in sobriety the next day. (And, interestingly, vice-versa.) Was I really going to do this? Hell, yeah. Maybe.
I had skimmed over a headline earlier which had suggested that everyone should do 10,000 “steps” a day, which seems an awful lot. How many do I do a day? Well, it’s 300 paces exactly from the MacHovel to the Big House (in an earlier column I translated this into yards – which was then further translated, doubtless by some Europhile sub-editor on this magazine, into metres), and I do that trip once a day on average, which there and back leaves me 9,400 paces short of anything that would do me any good.
From here to Alyth is not quite 10,000 paces, I suspect, but it is still loads. And I have heard countless times that walking without distractions would be extremely beneficial to my creativity. Will Self walks hundreds of miles a day and look how many novels he’s written. My ideas bank has been somewhat overdrawn of late, so why not?
The next morning I woke up with something of a thick head, and as I plodded down to the laundry room with a bin liner full of unclean linen I began to think that maybe Sober Me and Unsober Me were going to have to agree to differ on this one. But then I remembered the Pilgrimage of Saint Nigel and it was a lovely day, so off I set. A distance of 3.5 miles would take me an hour, so by the time I got back my shirts and undergarments would be sparkling white – and not only that, my brain would be full of creative thoughts, and my risk of a heart attack or stroke would be diminished, as would my cholesterol levels, and so on.
About halfway down the hill I noticed that I was beginning to develop a twinge in my right hip joint, like I was some kind of old person. Also, my feet were beginning to hurt. And, more worryingly, it was becoming increasingly clear that, apart from noticing that there were birds going tweet in the trees, there wasn’t really much in the way of original thought going on in my head. I also had overdressed, and sweat was forming and then cooling on my back. Was I going to get pneumonia? I started hoping that someone from the Big House would come down in a vehicle and give me a lift. I was also becoming acutely aware that the return journey would be uphill all the way. I began to think that maybe a restorative pint would be in order.
I staggered into the excellent butcher’s in Alyth (Ewarts) for a pork pie, and told them that I’d walked there, and they couldn’t have been more impressed if I’d told them I’d walked from the moon. I mentioned my notion of the rewarding pint and they said I would be fully justified in having two.
So I sat in the bar of the Alyth Hotel, nursing a pint of 80 Shilling, and wondered if it would really be so bad if I booked a taxi for the journey back. After all, it would only be a fiver. And did I really want to risk ruining my feet and hip joint? So I did. And had another pint.
The official story I put out when I got back was that I walked both ways. Reader, I am not proud of this lie. Frankly, I’m astonished they even believed me.
The next two days were spent in immobile agony. I had not known so many muscles were involved in walking. Even my neck hurt. My one consolation was that if I was feeling bad after this modest excursion, then Nigel Farage is going to wish he was dead before he gets to Ryhope. There is also the possibility that he might even actually die. One does not like to wish ill of people, but I hope his knees fall off, at least.
I told my daughter about my adventure later. She agreed that for me, this was an astonishing amount of exercise.
“Well,” she concluded, “that should sort you out for the next 20 years.”
This article appears in the 06 Mar 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The next crash