Why I took on the Parish in the first place.
As a younger man I tried all kinds of sports and pastimes, football to Sunday league level, rugby league (it hurts) golf, although my handicap has never dropped below 20, and the most consistent thing about my game is the inconsistency, and virtually every pub sport going. The problem with it all was that I was around for a few weeks, then when the practise kicked in and I started to improve I was off back to sea and the whole cycle started again. Dreams of being a world class sportsman slowly faded away, with my season ticket to Hull City being my only contact with the sporting world.
One thing I did do was walk. I walked to school from an early age, imagine hovis adverts with a sepia tone, baggy shorts and drizzle, that was pretty much life as I romantically remember it in the late 60’s and early 70’s, apart from the short glam rock era which saw me walking in flares, massive collars and long hair. I have photographs but they are safely locked away as I don’t care for blackmail. Walking the three or four miles to school and back every day was a way of not only keeping fit (not my intention) but saving my bus fares for comics and sweets, and also, although I didn’t realise at the time, clearing my thoughts and setting myself up for the day.
Off to sea in 1980, and I kept up this “hobby”, and when the ship moored alongside, whether in Manchester or Mozambique, I was off for a long walk to explore at the first opportunity. As most port areas are usually miles from the nearest town, this could involve 10 miles or more just to get a British newspaper, or whatever toiletries I needed. Either that or sit on board drinking beer with the rest of the crew. Okay, I did this quite often as well.
Fitness wise, being at sea is an equally healthy yet unhealthy life. Sea air and physical hard work being the positive, yet working 24 hours and coming into contact with all kinds of dangerous cargoes the downside. Running around on deck kept me reasonably trim, up until taking command, when it was all paperwork and phone calls, with a steward bringing up constant temptations from the galley. I left weighing about 15 stone to take up a job with even less physical exercise.
A couple of days into the new year in 2007 I weighed myself and was surprised to see the scales touch 17 stones. Something had to be done. I had virtually given up the walking, driving to work and back and sitting around waiting for middle age. It was then that I was talking to my niece, Helen Taylor, who was across for the holidays from the Isle of Man visiting her Yorkshire family.
“Why don’t you do the Parish Walk?”
Words that were to change my life.
I managed to get a video from a colleague who was into fell walking and had taped the event off Sky, watched it twice, the first time wondering what I was thinking of, and the second watching people stumbling over the line after 24 hours, yet smiling with genuine happiness. These people were just like me, normal everyday people doing something special.
I started training.