Friday 30 July 2010


We hadn’t gone a mile when an unidentified individual asked me a question, ‘So, will ye have any more?’

‘Dan’ I replied to the unidentified individual, ‘that’s a tricky question’.

And it is.

From day one the plan was to have more than one, we both had different numbers in mind but one wasn’t one of them.

The thing is now, we know what can be involved, we know how hard it could be, and we know how miserable you can become when it doesn’t happen.

Those twenty-whatever months hosted some of the darkest days in our lives, and even today I still wonder how we came out of them without one of us throwing in the towel.

You can just about carry yourselves through those times, the problems and needs of anyone else come a distant second.

So how do you go back?

What makes you say ‘I know how bad it can be, but let’s try anyway’? How do you do that when today, here and now, you are more content than you ever could have imagined?

Most importantly there is the matter of what we do have, a wonderful daughter. A wonderful, healthy, happiness-exuding little girl who deserves only smiles of an unforced kind. How would the negative effects of another repeatedly failing conception attempt affect her?

When failure is entrenched in their past, how do people decide when to try again?

What do you do when the desire and appreciation for the potential reward is there, but the risks are greater than ever?

When do you go back into the water?

Sunday 18 July 2010


The UK tourist board don’t mention it much, probably through fear of bigger crowds coming and spoiling it, but along the Hadrian’s Wall path there is a magic door that hurtles you many months into the future.

I came home after just one week to find the baby gone and her much older self sitting upright in her place.

The changes are remarkable.

She waits open mouthed for every spoonful of rice of carrot, and will eat it until she bursts. She will enthusiastically lick or gum attack any kind of fruit you care to present.

She sits in her activity chair, head resting on her fat old woman’s arms, jabbering doe eyed, pausing occasionally to give herself a forearm love bite.

She spots something she wants and goes into a zombie-monkey-like trance, chanting an oddly deep ‘Oooooooh, oooooooh, oooooh’, with stiffened arms outstretched, and eyes quadrupling in circumference.

She talks consistently in some undecipherable bah bah nang nang tongue, decorated with intermittent screeches and throwing back of her head.

She cackles, she covers her mouth and nose with the palms of her hands and breathes a Darth Vader line or two, she pulls her own hair, and she grins.

She grins so wide it looks like it hurts. She smiles so broadly her whole appearance is altered.

She laughs so hard it makes me jealous.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Ouch ouch ouch

Time flies when you’re having trouble standing upright.

That’s what they say, ‘they’ being me.

The last seven days seem like 100 and have me coming over quite Rip van Winkel with the realisation that only one week has gone by.

To recap the Hadrian’s walk in as much detail as anyone is really interested in, but would be afraid to admit, could be done as follows; there was walking, a lot of it, and there was pain, a lot of it.

Day 1 passed with a bit of a blur and a haze of false security, leaving me to set out on day 2 thinking this was a piece of piss. 10 and a half hours walking in the sweltering heat, 2 naps, and one serious hallucination about a talking bottle of cider later, I arrived last back at the bunk barn to find the reward for my stupidity, lack of a sense of direction, and general shocking state of fitness, was a place to sleep on the floor.

Day 3 arrived with me cursing the fact I hadn’t been killed in my sleep by a sweat-craving poisonous rat, crushed by a falling beam, or radiated to death by one of the 215 iPhones that were recharging by my head. As if to yank me back from the depths of despair, the Gods of walking took us through some of the most stunning countryside you could ever see. It was worth the risk to lift my head from watching each footfall every now and again to take in a 360 view of, well, everything. Should someone pass that Robin Hood tree in the coming weeks and find a lung, that's mine, I'd like it back. By day 4 I was a man on a mission, striding over fields, leaving everyone in my stubby-legged-oversized-backpack wake, except for those faster than me, which to be fair, was everyone. The lanky fuckers.

That afternoon things went back down the toilet once again and my knee decided to go on strike. It turned its back on its normal duties of simple things like supporting half my body, and meant that day 5 was a wash out. Disappointingly, I spent the afternoon on my bed rubbing myself and moaning, and not out walking rubbing myself and moaning. Some good did come of it though; I discovered ibuprofen gel and the magic that it weaves on human lower extremities. Thanks to this wonderful invention, I set off on day 6 as stoned as an Iranian adulteress, happy to let my new best friend in a tube lead my way on the last day. Wind and rain fought against me for every one of those last 16 miles but Mother Nature is no match for copious amounts of drugs, and sometime mid afternoon I strolled over the West end point of Hadrian’s wall path.

Like most of Angelina Jolie’s conquests might reflect after their first and final night together, I might not have finished it off, but I survived.

Despite his bewildering lack of understanding what a mile is, Dan is owed a huge thanks for putting this together over the course of the last year or more. It’s hard to source a bottle of water on parts of that path, never mind accommodation and food for 35 whingers. A big thanks to his whole family, and his old walking mates who kept wasters like me going when throwing yourself sobbing into a ditch was an attractive option. Same goes to all the other walkers too, every one of whom made me chuckle just enough to make it bearable.

I look like parts of my body were dipped alternately in whitewash and purple paint, my flaking sunburn has left enough of my DNA behind to convict me of every crime from Bowness to Wallsend, I ache from the waist down, and the dried and dying blisters leave the smell of rotting flesh hang in the air, but it is all worth it to see that you lot have raised £700 plus, of the almost certainly reached £20,000 target.

Now the real world is demanding my attention again in the form of a little girl who found a new voice in my absence. She is constantly grinning like a demented monkey, has put on some good weight, likes to high five at every opportunity, and regularly throws her legs back up over her head.

I love seeing her progress but that last bit she can stop immediately.

Oh well, one step at a time.

Monday 5 July 2010

Stupid tortoises

By the time you read this, I will be dead.

Well, I won’t, but I always wanted to say that. Then again, if you are reading this for the first time sometime around 2060 I very well could be. Anyway, by the time you read this I will be on my knees under a back pack as heavy as myself and twice as big.

Today starts Hadrian’s Walk, where I will join the rest of the Dan Hughes cult in an attempt to walk across England.

It hit me yesterday how utterly stupid a man I am. I’m not fit, I’m not sporty, and I’m not entirely sure I’m in full possession of all my senses. Everything I am going to need for the next week is on my back. Unless you are a camel or a tortoise, that cannot be a good thing.

I don’t want to go, so why the idiocy? Why the happy-ending-less self abuse? Why leave my two ladies behind for a week?

It makes a difference, that’s why. Everyone that is going is each making a small difference, and as any good mathematician or corrupt banker will tell you, lots of small differences make a big difference.

It makes a big difference to families who have lost children. It helps them in a practical way when their worlds are at their lowest point. Every one of you who have donated, every one of you who has promoted the walk and the trust on blogs, twitter and facebook, every one of you who has encouraged the walkers as they prepare and fundraise, every one of you have helped us make those small differences.

Through this site you’ve raised just over £600, this is more than I expected, and I am grateful and delighted. Overall, the fundraising is currently at over £17,000 of the £20,000 target.

So this is, in effect, the last call to arms before I lose my legs, £600 is brilliant, but wouldn’t £650 be even better? If you find that you can help, please do so here.

It’s help we all hope we will never need, but some do.

Friday 2 July 2010

Day One

She’s not broken.

I didn’t need the sellotape, the baby is unscarred, and the house is still standing strong. Ok, maybe the house is creaking a little but that has nothing to do with yesterday.

Yesterday, Thursday the first day of July in the two thousand and tenth year of the Gregorian calendar, we packed ET off to work and I began my first weighty and stressful day as a temporary stay-at-home father.

5 episodes of Dexter later all was still well with the world and the child. Granted her first word may turn out to be ‘disembowel’, but nobody’s perfect.

She laughed, screeched, drank, ate, and shitted with all the vigour of a drunk being beaten with a baseball bat.

Today, an action packed day lies ahead for us, oh the plans we have would make Barney’s place seem Guantanamo for infants. There’s lying in and napping, followed by world cup quarter finals, and then annual dramatic and entertaining elimination from Wimbledon of the only British man who knows what a tennis racket is.

Oh, and I think there’s some vaccination appointment or other thrown in there too. We might squeeze that in.