The Longest Mile

This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where they asked us to:

Share a long journey that you made on foot.

Do I have everything? One last check.

I have my passport, my papers, my phone, my wallet. Every one of those is vital. Oh, and my mask. Unforgettable, in these times. Anything else, I’ll need to wing it.

As I close the door behind me, I am stung by the sticky heat of the late afternoon.

Immediately I know that wearing the showerproof jacket is a mistake, but I glance down at my bag, which is already bursting. But I won’t last a minute in this heat, so I remove the jacket and place it on top of the bag. Though I have no firm timetable, I glance at my watch. Just gone four. But no matter, my only goal is to reach the hotel sometime this evening.

I walk on. At the start, I am confident. It is half a mile to my “normal” bus stop, the stop I use frequently. But I can’t use that one today. Even at this time, this route long-since finished for the day. If I want to travel anywhere now, I must use the other route.

The other route is the express bus. It runs early-to-late, but it hugs the main road, on the other side of the village. The stop brings back memories of my daughter. Can I have a lift to The Lamb? The pub by the stop. Lazy, I thought, but I could use that lift myself, now. Needing to walk into the village centre, then out to the other side, this will be the farthest I have walked in more than five years.

It’s a mile and a quarter. I know. I know all the distances around here, from the days when I used to cycle. My computer told me the lot. 700m – real cyclists used metric – to my regular stop. 1km to the end of our road, 1.5km into the village – a nice, round mile – then 2km to The Lamb. Easy.

But the computer didn’t have to walk it.

The computer didn’t need to carry a bag on its shoulder.

I plod on.

I inexplicably look at my watch. Slow. So what? Already aching from the strap, I promise myself a break soon. That’s the trick. Just this one more hill, just another fifty yards, and then you can have your reward. My mind jogs back to my days as a cyclist. One seasonal ride, only when I’d reached the summit, did I remove a huge slab of Christmas Cake from my pocket.

But no cake today, and I can’t even make the stop. Needing to rest, I set the bag down. The jacket slides onto the ground. Prophetic. But I catch my breath. As the sun beats down, I settle the bag into the groove now forming in my shoulder and remount the coat.

I plod on.

I finally reach my bus stop, and I can’t resist a peak at the timetable. Maybe there was something scheduled, I’d just never noticed it before? But I’ve been using that service for years now, I know the timetable, I’m not mistaken.

I plod on.

Another rest. Summoning every ounce of my energy, I restart, and I’m overjoyed when I finally reach the road to the village. I’m halfway to The Lamb. For the first time, I see cars drive past. In desperation, I wave my thumb. Maybe one of my neighbours will pass? Maybe they’ll see me? Maybe they’ll take pity?

But it’s never happened yet.

I’m tired again. The coat slips and the strap bites further. I notice my foot, for the first time. My toe is rubbing my shoe in the heat. Funny, never happened before.

Nobody stops. I plod on.

I’m walking a definite downhill, now, toward the river, but it doesn’t matter. The cool water makes no difference to the sweltering air above. And I must watch where my feet go. I’m top heavy as it is, I’m asking for trouble. It’s a relief when I finally reach the smoothness of the footbridge, though its single arch requires an extra push to cross. Beneath me, the water gushes. Another time, perfect.

The river navigated, I’m approaching the centre of the village now, although at this time of day, all is quiet. The café which is now the hub closed an hour ago. A pity, I could use refreshment. If I weren’t going somewhere… The small supermarket, however, is open if I’m desperate. But no, I’m on a mission.

A few more steps, and I reach the small park. I know it well because daughter would beg to play on its swings. I’ll get past it, then another pause.

I recognise the house. The guy sells plants from his garage, but I never met him. My foot is sore now, and it’s still hot. But I see the cricket ground ahead. Every village hereabouts has one, but ours is fenced off. I stare through the fence, then I am reminded to cross the road as the pavement evaporates in front of me. As I trudge past Deep Square Leg, The Lamb finally comes into view. Another promise – a rest at The Lamb, and this time, I keep it.

At the Lamb I hit the main road, and I can see my destination. The stop, and more importantly, the seats in the shelter.

I’m not there yet, but as I reach the crossing, there is just one more hurdle. I traverse the ‘A’ road and start the last hundred yards. A newly-electronic bus stop finally tells me not only that I have arrived, but that the next bus is due in fifteen minutes. As I collapse, exhausted, into the burning metal seat, I am finally able to catch my breath. It is six o’clock.

I’m sorry about that. I wrote it deliberately laborious, just because I wanted to convey the laborious aspect of the trek itself.

This is the true story of a journey I made just this summer – it was 1¼ miles and is the furthest I have walked since my stroke.

I was so tired by the end of it that all my other grand plans to walk evaporated. When I reached Salisbury (the bus’s destination) I had about enough strength to walk to the taxi rank.

When I checked my foot that evening, my big toe was the size of a golf ball, with a blister on it which pained me for days afterwards. But, when you walk with a limp any way, there’s no point telling people it’s even worse than usual.

It’s ironic because this was the start of a big trip to France. The extra COVID nonsense we needed are the “papers” I refer to at the very start. A few hundred miles, and yet the first of those miles took a full two hours to complete.

I had a wonderful pint of cider that night.


    • You’d have been very sweaty 🤣
      I got very anxious before that visit, and it worries me a lot because I used to take it in my stride. You know, I can boast about living and working on another continent, and how many people can do that? So I am kinda erring on the side of not travelling again, period. The jury is still out.
      It may have been due to all this covid nonsense, which certainly didn’t help. Any future travelling is out of the question while restrictions are in place. The paperwork last time I looked was still broadly the same as when I made this trip, although quarantine has changed on the way back in. So certainly not going anyplace anytime soon.
      I think I probably need to accept that travel is for able-bodied people.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was worried you were going to miss the bus. I haven’t been on anything in recent times except our local buses that come at frequent intervals. Now I’m having chemotherapy I can only get to the front gate two out of three weeks, so I shall never again take for granted walking everywhere as I did before!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Seriously, I think this express one is about 20-30 minutes. But the service that comes to my side of the village is 90 minutes, and the last one is around 2pm. There is a later one but that is primarily a school service. So if you miss that one, you’re stuffed.
          I’ve had to miss hospital appointments in the past because there was no bus. It’s just wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t drive and we purposely bought this house near shops and buses, but all areas need a well planned and supported public transport service, to keep drivers off the road and for those who can’t afford or are unable to drive.

            Liked by 1 person

        • It was the anxiety, really. What I did not realise before the trip was that there would even be any associated anxiety, but now I realise I need to take it into account when contemplating future trips. Frankly, it is so much easier just to stay home.
          I perform voluntary work and a lot of my 70+ clients don’t go on vacation, even. That’s why. So it’s not just me – someone being out of their home environment is a big deal.
          Why I have the same attitude as somebody 70+… I can only assume it is the stroke.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. You described it perfectly when 10 feet seems like a mile. I could feel it and the determination and the pain in different parts of the body. But, you did make it and even though your poor toe paid the price at least you had a good
    pint of cider to end the evening. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I made it, but there was a definite price to pay which, in the future, will make me question “is the journey worth it?”

      I did want to visit another friend, who is in Paris, but at most I want to meet them for lunch or something. Because if the only thing to cry off is lunch, that’s not so bad is it?

      To be honest it was more the anxiety than anything physical, but certainly after this trip, I don’t trust myself not to cry off.


    • Yes, just for about half a week. I was encroaching on someone’s vacation, so I didn’t want to hang around too long. My French was rusty but it was wonderful just to be on French soil again. It’d be nice to go back after covid but not so nice, I think, to rely on public transport. I think it’s as bad there as here. I have a friend in Paris I haven’t seen in 10 years -we’re both keen to meet and besides, I haven’t met her new husband yet!

      Liked by 1 person

    • ferry. I don’t fly – CO2. The best way, potentially, is the train – the UK gets about 1/3 of its power from renewables – but that’s a lot of grief getting into London and out of Paris. Even now, it was a 2 hr train whereas by car it used to be 45 minutes. Which meant I couldn’t travel the day of the ferry, but had to get to the port the day before and stay in a hotel, i.e. more expensive.
      There are all sorts of little discriminations take place by not being a part of the mainstream.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My favourite vacation, btw, used to be to drive to the port (Portsmouth), then just take my bike across on the ferry, then cycle through northern France. You could do a triangle, Portsmouth – St Malo – Caen – Portsmouth, which gave me 3 days onmy bike from St Malo to Caen. Man, it was perfect.

        Cancale, in Brittany

        Liked by 2 people

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