Long-distance walking has its share of good and bad surprizes.
On the plus side, complete strangers are unexpectedly kind and generous. This morning a middle-aged woman out with her dog asked me where I was going, and why. When I told her about Kaibigan she reached into her purse and gave me five pounds "for the children". "I'm afraid it's all I have with me," she said, and then added "I was going to give it to the ice cream man".
And yesterday, I met a very helpful policeman patrolling the broad grassy parkland of South Shields. He went out of his way to show me the path that I was searching for, and we chatted aimiably for about thirty minutes in the afternoon sunshine. Walking together, I asked about the main problems he faced on his beat, and he immediately said "disorderly youth". He said many youngsters in the north east of England are permanently unemployed, and have nothing to do but run around and make trouble. Drugs, now cheap and readily available, compound the problems; he said that ten years ago heroin was a rarity, now it is commonplace. He also talked about the Tyne-Wear rivalry, which often lead to bloody clashes between the youths of Newcastle and Sunderland. He told me it all stems from the Civil War in the 17th century when Sunderland had sided with Cromwell and Newcastle had been for the king, though none of that is recalled nowadays when tribal hatred erupts at football matches...all this local information from a friendly constable.
On the minus side, I really hate finding the carcasses of animals and birds killed by cars which I come across almost every day. This afternoon, along the A189 north of Blyth, I found a beautiful young badger, its head resting on one paw on the kerb, the rest of its body in the gutter. There was no blood visible; it looked as if it was sleeping. I lifted its stiff, cold and surprizingly heavy body off the highway and lowered it into a nearby ditch amid the wild flowers, the frenzied traffic racing blindly by. Such pointless destruction is so cruel and unnecessary.
Before I forget, I must acknowledge a factual error in a previous blog when I claimed that two shillings and sixpence in the old currency was the equivalent of 15 pence in today's money. This mistake was swiftly picked up by a relative (I shan't tell who, but of course it was a Scotsman -- nobody better qualified to count the pennies) who noted that two and six in fact equals 12.5 pence. In correcting me, he said he hoped that I hadn't "completely lost it". Pondering this cryptic statement, I see that I may be losing my hair, toe nails and wits...but I am not so sure about "it". There again, he may be right about that too.