16 August 2014

What to do with the rest of my life?

When you loose someone close to you, you are also reminded of your own mortality. If I keep myself fit and baring accidents I estimate I have a good 10-15 years of travel time left in me before I need to go into a care home. I am not being morbid, but trying to be realistic so I can have a plan and not just drift through the rest of my life. I also need to have a firm plan for the end of my life as there is no one who will care for me as I cared for Hanna, and I certainly do not want Hanna's daughters wiping my bottom nor even my own sons. But the least said about them the better. A home is the answer and I will try and find a suitable 2 or 3, since when I make that last leap there also needs to be a vacancy. But that's in the future, what about now.

Well I've decided to go back to my roots. I am the son of an infantry soldier and I was an infantry soldier too. As a youth I loved the out doors and walking and camping. As a subaltern I was also a mountaineering instructor and loved climbing. I would have continued doing that, but after one short expedition in my own time, the wife at the time said, "me or the mountains"  and foolishly I threw my boots into the corner, instead of packing my gear and heading for the hills. Being realistic I am now too old to go climbing, but not walking. If I can combine walking with ancient rubble and foreign lands then that is a bonus.

What immediately sprung to mind with this idea was of course the St James' Pilgrims way to Santiago de Compostela! But there are many other paths too. Hadrian's Wall for example. Well the first thing I did then was to go out and buy myself a new pair of hiking boots. I also bought a guide book on the St James' Pilgrims Way. 

This afternoon I put the new boots on, strung a pack on my back and out I went. As I left the house the very first thought that hit me was, it felt so right, the years rolled off me and it was as if I was 45 years younger. "I can do this," said I, I feel young, fit and energetic! Well I am none of those things really, but the feeling of having a good pair of boots on my feet and a pack on my back did really transport me back in time. It felt so natural. 

I walked to Hanna's resting place and chatted with her about my idea. She might have called me "crazy" again, but I think she would be supportive. My Dad would be leaping for joy and saying, "go for it" as he wanted to do just that in New Zealand when he retired, but my mother wouldn't let him even try. 

I spent 3 and half hours walking in what amounts to the wilderness here the other side of the cemetery towards Viersen. I gave the boots a good workout. Took them up and down steep inclines, through mud and wet grass, over stony ground and sandy soil. I broke trails through chest high nettles and brambles. And what pleased me most I was alone. I love solitude and the peace of the woods. I got as close as 2 metres before the Hare took off. I could also have rescued a damsel in distress. She had let her bike fall over in the woods and the rear mud guard was bent so badly it was touching the wheel, but sadly I did not have my Leatherman tool with me and my fingers were not strong enough on their own.

I returned to the cemetery in the pouring rain which let up as I got there. After checking with Hanna I came home to a shower and tea, feeling tired, a little sore round the ankles as I have not worn boots for the last  23 years, but the feet were fine. 

So I have a plan. It starts with getting fit enough to walk 25 km per day with a pack on my back. Then we will see where these boots take me. They were made for walking after all and as we all know a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. I have taken that step today.