It’s all been a bit weird. I finished most of the planning for this trip way back in early March, making all the accommodation bookings and sorting the train tickets. And then stuck it all in a drawer for 2 months…
Planning the annual SWCP segment keeps me busy during the cold and miserable part of the year when I tend to be far from the hills and focussed on work until warmer weather kicks in. It’s also a good piece of brain training as every year it has involved some tricky problems – scarcity of accomodation in certain places, Army firing range opening times and river crossings. These challenges are the main reason I start early. And the fact that this is a trip I do with others and so have their thoughts to factor in too.
My dad was supposed to be on this trip but had to bail out at the last minute leaving me to make the trip by myself for the first time. Of course, I did travel down a day early in 2009 to do the Portland Bill loop of the SWCP before my dad joined me on the second day, but that’s not quite the same. So being back in Plymouth alone feels a bit strange.
Dad pulled out of the first two days of the trip on wednesday and at that point I couldn’t be sure of my own attendance either. On thursday things changed further when he pulled out of the whole thing and after a frantic 13 hour day in the office I found myself deciding to still go ahead but to cut the full week we’d planned back by 2 days. So now I’m walking only as far as St Austell rather than Falmouth. After the long day in the office I finished packing at 1am.
Back in the office for 7:30 I fought valiantly to get through the list of things I had to complete, but some big issues springing up on the final morning in the office threw it all out and hasty re-negotiation of priorities ensued. I left the office 10 minutes late, which was a major result under the circumstances.
Wound up in the stress sense, I was also really in need of this “trip that nearly didn’t happen” and so was wound up raring to go too.
A slow tube ride took me to Paddington where I found every seat on the train booked. And this was with me having booked the tickets as soon as they became available and still been unable to reserve seats. Attempts to guess who wouldn’t turn up to claim their booked seat failed miserably and I stood to Exeter, my former home for 7 years.
But I sat down for the best bit of the journey along the coast through Dawlish and Teignmouth – the scene of 2010’s walk. This relaxed me slightly and I alighted in Plymouth a bit calmer.
For all the discomfort of the train ride it was still quite quick at 3 1/4 hours. So seeing the first SWCP sign right outside the station was a shock. The walk towards the Hoe along streets I used to walk when I lived in the south west and a B&B in the next street to the place I stayed on my first ever visit to Plymouth added to the surreal feeling.
After all the uncertainty of the last week I half expected my prepaid booking to be ignored and to be told there was no booking for me. Silly of course, but a symptom of the need for something to go right. I checked in no problem and found the Olympic torch passes this way tomorrow. A sign maybe?
No it’s not, as it’s not going to be here until the evening, by which time I’ll be along the coast at Crafthole. Bugger.
I walked along to the Barbican for dinner. Choosing The Ship because of the chalkboard outside saying they had lamb shank (in honour of Dad who insists on at least one each SWCP trip), I ordered a pint of Doom Bar. The tap spluttered and the barman went to change the barrel. Seconds later he was back to tell me he wasn’t allowed to and so I went for the next best option of a pint of Tribute. Which was a pretty poor substitute.
Then I tried to order some food. “No it’s finished” weren’t the words I wanted to hear. “@#%&*!¤¶” I cursed. I got through my mediocre pint and had fish and chips instead. Then retired to my room for Friday night panel shows and Star Trek 2. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have better luck.