Tag Archives: walking

I’m living in a computer game


Phil: I’ve never been properly into computer games. Truth is, I don’t have the reflexes, nor the enthusiasm for killing things for first-person shooters, and can’t be bothered to spend hours getting involved with the more complex ones.

Many years ago, I did quite enjoy a game on my ZX Spectrum called Tir Na Nog. Cast in the role of Cuchulainn, you are required to mooch around the afterlife in an effort to reunite the pieces of the Seal of Calum.

Basically, you wandered around in what was, for the time, a very impressive graphical environment. Your character moved fluidly, the background scrolled and it was all very nice. I never got into the purpose of the adventure, instead, finding my own amusement.

By pacing out the complex road system, and filling these in on a massive sheet of graph paper, I was able to draw up a very accurate map. This satisfied me enormously, and I didn’t even mind when similar maps appeared in computer magazines. I had done it and they just proved I was right.

Those days of pacing a digital road system came back to me every time I go for a stroll. I’ve become very familiar with the roads and pathways near where I live. Thanks to not being allowed to go anywhere interesting for nine months, the challenge has been to create a bit of variety in my routes. While walks are lovely, the scenery is a bit monotonous now.

It’s a bit like my computerised wandering, except without having to spend seven minutes loading your walk from a cassette. Every slightly different side-road becomes an adventure. Gradually, I am building a mind map (I’m not using the graph paper, human strides not being as consistent as computer ones, anyway, I have Google maps) of even the more complex housing estates nearby. There isn’t really any point in this other than taking me away from staring at a computer screen, but then there isn’t really much point in anything nowadays.

Maybe I just need to be grateful that life is a bit Tir Na Nog rather than Space Invaders!

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Enjoying springtime


Phil: Sat in John Lewis cafe this week with Candice, we both agreed that writing mojo has been missing recently. Truth is that life has been getting in the way of authoring recently.

Life is that stuff you have to do that fills your waking hours and stops you doing the things you dream you really want to do.

Self-help gurus will tell you to stop doing dull stuff and concentrate on things that make you happy. That’s lovely for them but like most stuff in the self-help industry, it’s difficult to reconcile with real life. You can’t stop going to work just because you fancy skipping through pastures dressed in something floaty from Laura Ashley and looking like the lead from a Timotei Shampoo advert.

However, it is important to have a dream and keep plodding toward it. After all, you do the dull stuff like visiting the supermarket and cleaning the car for a reason. If that’s all there is then I’m off to Dignitas. The gurning idiots in the adverts might be excited by 25 different types of washing powder but I rather hope there is more to life than wondering which one will soften without fading colours.

Anyway, another thing I’m struggling with at the moment is going to the gym. It’s not life getting in the way but roadworks. A set of roadworks between me and the leisure centre that would require me to spend 25 minutes in a traffic jam each way every time I wanted to go. Since I’m not that much of a fan, I usually find something better to do. Three weeks and counting so far and judging from the lack of work going on behind the cones, it could be another 3 before things return to normal.

In this case this cloud has a silver lining. I love springtime. It’s by far my favourite season full of new life bursting out everywhere, and every year I always think, “I must get outside and make the most of it” and every year I am busy and it’s summer before I know it.

So, in place of the gym, I’m taking a morning constitutional. That is, I go for a stroll when I should be lifting weights. I take a camera and snap scenes along the way.


I love walking and find it helps me think. In my head I have a good start on the spiel for our session at the literary festival, or at least the opening few minutes. That’s when I’m not simply letting my mind drift, which is quite a lot actually.

Anyway, next time Team NolanParker meet up, hopefully one of us will have enjoyed Prosecco on the patio with the girls and I’ll have enjoyed a good few pleasant walks in the gradually improving weather. And we’ll be as full of mojo as we were of coffee cake on Monday.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryPhil: At the Stratford Literary Festival “How to get published….or How we did it” event, each of the authors took turns to describe their latest novel to the assembled crowd. When it came to Rachel Joyce, she announced the name of her book, but it was so long that only the avid literary groupies desperately scribbling notes at the back could remember it.

The story concerned a man who suddenly decided to walk to see a friend at the other end of the country. Candice wasn’t sure she liked the sound of this but then she did exciting things like flying off to Mexico. Phil felt much more at home with the idea. Indeed, he wondered at the time what it took for someone to do something so completely out of character. He thought that perhaps it would be fun to do something completely different without thinking about it. On a whim. He thought he might enjoy reading about Harold Fry.

A few months later, he had forgotten all about the book but was reminded when he spotted a copy in the local Oxfam bookshop. According to the front cover, the story had the Sunday Express laughing and sobbing. That didn’t sound like much of a recommendation as the Sunday Express is a dreadful paper more interesting in pronouncing the end of the world or trying to shoehorn mentions of the late Princess Diana into every story. Despite this, the book was soon on its way home in his rucksack.

Reading had to wait for a trip to London that provided several hours train travel, Sat in the cosy confines of a Chiltern Railway seat, he began to turn the pages.

The story follows Harold Fry and his walk to see a dying friend. He convinces himself that she can’t expire until he has reached her and the best way to extend her life is to make the journey take as long as possible. In other words, he will walk from Kingsbridge in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Phil liked the sound of this as the idea that you would believe that someone would live a bit longer if you undertook some irrelevant task sounded just like the sort of crazy notion he could fixate on. He liked the idea that Harold was completely unprepared. His journey crept up on him a post box at a time. He couldn’t go back home and buy proper boots to replace his yachting shoes or plan the best route because when you step outside your normal life you can’t drop back in for a few minutes. Return home and the door closes, never to re-open.

As Harold makes his way, painfully slowly, he meets lots of different characters. We also gradually learn the story of his life. His marriage. His son. His relationship with Queenie, the friend who he is walking towards. At one point, he passes close to where Phil lives and it amused him to think that the local paper was capable to playing a pivotal role by doing some reporting.

If there was anything that jarred, it was the speed of the journey. Harold might be old and not in the best of health but he seemed to be walking at around 1/2 a mile an hour on good days. Often, the rate of progress was considerably less than this. Phil couldn’t see the reason for this, but decided that with 4 children, the author spends so much time ferrying them around in a people mover that she hadn’t walked anywhere in years and considered 6 miles in a day to be quite a hike.

Apart from this, the book is a pleasant journey. There are twists and you probably won’t guess them in advance – there are some very deliberate red herrings placed – and the way all the characters related to each other made sense. They fitted. All the revelations made sense for the people they involved. As Phil closed the covers after reading the final chapter, it all fitted together like a well made jigsaw. Very satisfying he concluded.

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