Down Traveling the West Highland
Way by William Kerr
Life is hard, I need a remedy for the way
I feel the words of the great Mr. Francis (or Mike to his friends)
Rossi. When you get scunnered and feel down there is only one thing to do,
get your act together my bread keeps landing jam side down as the song
continues. So what do you do about it? Sit on your backside and greet the
face off everyone, make everyone else miserable, lie in your bed all day,
get drunk, (I that sometimes works) no, you still have to face it in
sobriety. Life can fling a lot of fastballs at you; you can catch them, or
dodge them. Dodging is always easy, but it will always come back and
probably hit you right in the kisser. The breads landed jam side down
again. Now catching it can be a hazard, it might even be fatal, but even
if a fatality occurs, it cannot come back and bite you, because your no
there, your dead. But you dont want that to happen. So youve got to deal
with it properly.
You could pass it on to someone, you can
keep it, or you can kill it dead, make the problem the fatality. You can
also deal with it in somewhat more un-conventional ways.
Act daft only dodging balls
Ignore completely I dont know what you are talking about officer, the
gun is in my hand, the butler saw me do it, but I did not do it.
Give it to someone else gone do me a favour, take all this grief away,
Aye no bother, I am the greatest friend you have in the whole wide
world, bring all your problems to me and I will solve them. Does anyone
have a pal like this, if so introduce me to him or her.
a deal with the devil dont fancy living to eternity in a great big
a deal with God, I that might be ok. God help me with all my worries and
I will help others. I cannot fix this problem, but I can fix someone
elses. So you help fix mine and I will help another.
I need to consider that one, take a note,
and pray harder. I know this works, because I have experienced it in the
past, like all the options before it (except selling my soul, maybe thats
for another time).
You really need to see the whole problem,
whats the under lying issues here. If I understand what is getting me
down, I should be able to resolve it, by myself or at least with the help
of someone else.
Same old song everyday Jam Side Down;
Status Quo; Man gets up, goes to work, works hard (most of the time),
comes home, has his dinner, watches telly, goes to bed. Aye, does that
sound a bit familiar, do I know that man, I am sure I have met him some
where before. Of course this can change, and has changed on several
occasions. Sometimes man goes and visits someone else, has dinner, watches
telly, comes home and goes to bed. You see life can be different.
Right what we need is a good shake, how
can we stop the bread from landing jam side down. You may say, dont put
jam on the bread in the first place; if you do nothing, nothing bad can
happen. Aye, that is true, but again thats only one away from catching
the fatal ball. So we need to do something, make a few changes, nothing to
strenuous or taxing. Get something to look forward to. Something I havent
done before, something worthwhile. Option five, I cannot fix this problem,
but I can fix someone elses, so you (God) help fix mine and I will help
another. Why not do something really big (for me anyway) and make some
money for a charity at the same time. I am sure I myself would appreciate
all my efforts; maybe this can make a difference. Instead of working
towards targets for an employer where there may not be great personal
satisfaction, or working hard to meet the expenses of everyday life, maybe
just doing something simple, something to help another can make all the
difference. This sounded a good idea.
I know I couldnt do it myself. I need to
involve others. I cannot go to the corner shop myself, I need company.
There is no fun after all, working alone, the task I have chosen, will be
difficult, it could also be dangerous, it would be bloody lonely all by
myself and I dont want to be seen as Billy no mates while doing it.
Late August 2004
Sunday morning, bright and early, feeling
a bit rough from the night before. There is nothing worse than doing (I
mean doing, not playing, I do golf, good golfers play it. This is a chore)
18 holes on a wet Sunday morning with a wee bit of a headache. The usual
crew was there, it was quite a good turnout for August, and Carnwath golf
course looked pretty miserable in my eyes, but looked a great opportunity
in the eyes of some others. Too many bloody hills.
Right guys who fancies walking the West
Highland Way I ask.
The response was deafening in its silence.
Aye thats what we call a rubber ear (it cannot hear). Total silence. Well
if at first you dont succeed
Anybody fancy walking the way for St
Andrews Hospice I continued, they will not ignore this request, they
might say no, but I will get an answer, and if I get a response I can then
cajole them into joining me in my great trek northwards.
When do you fancy doing it?
Wheres the west highland way, Ill know
tell you who asked that one
I ah fancy doing that said George,
Wee Peter chirped in,
You could nae walk the length of yourself
not alone to Fort William
You men of little faith, where there is a
way; I will have the will
Are you gonny git the train all the way
and walk up and down it, the sarcasm scars me.
I was now becoming the butt of one or two
Sunday morning jokes, the guys where in form and fit to roast the heart
out of anyone. Dont worry I think, I can handle this; this is timid for a
days golf. Time to take the moral high ground.
No, Ive always fancied doing this and I
thought before I get any older and my belly gets any bigger I better do
it, and thought, why not raise some money for the hospice at the same
Aye, `av always fancied doin that, aye,
Im up for that good reply from George and what was expected.
So who else then I asked, there was
just a brief pause.
Sounds good, aye me too Johnny chipped
in. Four others also agreed, but I thought their commitment sounded a bit
sparse. Some wanted to know what the cost was and when are we going to do
Ah might be working was said, Aye
there is a first time for everything I replied.
Listen to the apple and orange seller,
never done a hard days graft in his life
Now guys, you know me, I would never
handle anything that is orange, just apples, nice green ones, yes, the
first football digs of the day, 1-0 to the Celts.
I thought the consensus was good all in
all, I had three serious commitments including myself and a couple of
hopefuls, not a bad start to the gowf I thought.
St Andrews Hospice in Airdrie Lanarkshire
is a hospital run by Nuns, Sisters of Charity and many good volunteers and
a few paid staff who provide palliative care within our county and to
others from beyond as well. It was well reported in the local paper The
Advertiser that they are looking to raise £1.8m to build a new wing. Its
annual running costs are £3.5m of which £2.0m must be raised through
thought to myself again! I know this will be the perfect solution. Raising
some cash for the hospice. Get lots of people involved, the more raising
money, and then the more money we can give to this good cause. But more to
the point, its something that can help break down the daily routines that
have now come along in my life. I can plan a fitness regime to get in
shape. I can plan logistics for the trip, organise travel, accommodation,
research what and when is the best way to do this. Sounds a good idea I
thought, something to look forward too.
Half a dozen said Aye, a great response.
If we all raised £300.00 each in
sponsorship thats nearly two grand I added
We can also run a couple of wee nights
in the pub, get the karaoke going, Ill see Stuart and get that
organised. Johnny always willing to help, the saying shit through your
ribs and would give you his arse comes to mind.
Aye that sounds good, the more money we
raise the better; I replied followed with a few ayes of agreement from my
Now the golf didnt seem all that bad
after that, I played to my usual standard one up from a shitty game, but
It was well worth the effort getting out here today, to enjoy the great
game of gowf with fellow members of the Spikey Shoes Golf Society.
Although some showed more enthusiasm than others, some wanted a bit more
detail, what dates, whats the cost, where a we staying, but all in all
consensus was met. I had now a better job to do.
Saturday 09.Aprill 2005, 7.00am
I felt like a wean going the school trip,
the day had arrived. Can you remember that feeling, 9 years of age,
getting up out of bed, the sun it is shinning, new shorts and shirt,
plastic sandals with the toes cut out, Aye its summer after all, nothing
like you have grown 4 inches since the sandals last outing and a quick
adjustment with a pair of scissors ensure their use for another summer,
its time to go the school trip. Strathhaven Park, Calderpark Zoo, and if
you where really lucky like the top class, Portobello, magic. Pieces in
salmon, eating shit all day, dodgems and waltzers, seaside rock, very
special days. But today was extra special, the first in a long time, the
day that I have practiced for, I use the word practice, as to use the
word trained would be totally inappropriate.
Training is a regime of creating
well-being. Change habits, lifestyle, routines and what and when you eat.
I cannot say I did any of this, it was my intention, and yes 9 months
earlier I had it all planned out. Walk three miles every night until the
New Year, except Saturdays and Sundays. They where the fun nights where we
do something different and go and vist someone elses telly. The truth be
told I only did one night a week. I would have pounded the streets of
Chapelhall for a whole 4.2miles as stated on my Rosemary Connelly
Pedometer; well it was actually Bernies.
I knew this was not enough, the New Year
came, I had to step it up a bit, get on with it. I planned to do 5 nights
a week walking the streets of Chapelhall and Calderbank. This should
prepare me well. You may not realise, I am really a busy man with work
commitments and then home to the family. My strict regime was not
happening. Up until Easter I managed two to three nights a week, walking
between 3 and 6 miles each time. Dont get me wrong I thought I was doing
well. Bernie, my wife seemed happy that I was out and about, walking,
getting ready, in shape for this 100mile trek. I did feel a bit fitter,
but I realised that some days we would be walking up to 20 miles. I felt
my strict regime was totally insufficient. I felt quite panicky at this
time, I have committed myself to do this, as well others, and I need to
get my act together. I thought of that commitment, to the hospice, my
friends and all my potential sponsors. I will get their money.
Two weeks before the planned starting date
I stepped it up. I planned to do two days each week walking 12 miles; I
need to test my capabilities. I also planned to do 5 miles every other
weeknight. I stuck to this. The walk; Chapelhall round to Calderbank via
the Carlisle Road in Airdrie, through Calderbank up to the Flyover at
Newhouse and then follow the new Road from Holytown up to Wishaw through
Ravenscraig, this was hard. But I did it, 12 miles I felt good. I would do
that one more time before the walk. I did feel well, but at times as I
started to stretch myself I was feeling breathless. This worried me a bit
to say the least.
My doctor had carried out an ECG test on
me and sent me into hospital as something was showing up. Surely not a
heart attack I thought, that cannot happen to me. Further tests revealed
that I had in fact an ulcer causing bacteria in my gullet, but more tests,
a treadmill and echo test of the heart had to be done to rule out all
issues with the heart.
Dr Ferry, said that I had not to walk the
West Highland Way,
No way I said.
One week before we set off she was going
to spoil it. Another five guys were depending on me, the sick people of
Airdrie where depending on me, my ego was depending on me. I have never
felt fitter in all my life.
Its not advisable until we get the other
tests done she told me. That would take another couple of weeks to
arrange even going through my private Health Insurer.
I had stopped the fags now (or small café
crèmes to be precise) for 10 months. The hill on Lancaster Avenue was
daunting when I first went walking but I now felt better and was coping
with it. Lancaster Avenue, ten-year-old kids run up it. But at the time of
my practice this was my biggest demon. I came over it as I realised there
would be much larger demons to fight off by the time we all got to Fort
After a bit of discussion with Dr Ferry,
and my case being supported by Gavin Hastings (famous Scottish rugby
player and personality) tellyvision adverts telling us all to get off our
backsides and start walking.
Walking for twenty minutes a day is as
good as running twenty minutes a day Gavin told us.
She finally agreed, a general consensus,
walking was good cardio vascular exercise and she agreed to let me go
along, as long as I would take it easy, and if I felt any chest pains I
would immediately stop. I thought to myself, aye Ill stop all right,
probably stone dead.
Dont worry I said to her, Ill get one
of the guys doing the walk with me to carry a defibulator in his backpack.
She didnt see the joke.
I continued ok, I will take it easy.
It was a done deal, and added that I
would cancel my plans to run up Ben Nevis (UKs highest mountain) on
reaching Fort William at the end of our journey. She looked at me
perplexed, `is he kidding me on or is he stupid enough to think that he
can do that`.
Joke flying overhead at 30000 feet.
Doctors with a sense of humour, not on the NHS.
Right check, backpack, spare shoes, incase
boots get totally soaked. Water Proof trousers to pull over light weight
jeans when it starts to rain. It will start to rain; it always starts to
rain in Scotland. Waterproof jacket as above and a First Aid kit, dont
leave home without it. I should be able to deal with all emergencies other
than bullet holes, but thats not a problem as its been over 200 years
since snipers where last reported to be operating in the Western
Highlands. Spare socks to go with spare shoes a flask of hot coffee and a.
hip flask full of whisky and my Biggles bonnet to cover my head and ears.
Map of route to follow, a whistle and a camera. Now you may think this is
not a lot of clothing or kit to see me for seven days and nights and all
the way to Fort William. Well you are right. You see we have cheated a
In my soul searching nights of how and
when we will do this I thought it would be wise to bring along a Sherpa, a
Sherpa who will carry all our clothes, tents, food, carry-outs from point
A to point B and so on. The Sherpa will make all our food, build camp and
dismantle camp to allow us walkers to get on with the real task at hand,
walking to Fort William. I am sure this is a great plan. I checked my
wallet, cash was there, and credit card was there, pictures of Bernie and
the weans and my rosary beads.
Bernie had agreed to take us all by car to
catch the train at Airdrie train station. We get the train from there to
Milngavie (change at Partick in Glasgow) where we join the start of the
walk. I was assured by the Rail Travel Line that I will get the
Helensburgh train at 09.15am, change at Partick and get the train to
Milngavie (pronounced mul-guy) at 10.25am arriving in Milngavie at
10.40am. Dead easy you may think, but I had no faith in this information
that The Rail Travel Line had provided.
The day before I had given them a call;
Hello can you give me the times of the
trains at around nine tomorrow morning going to Milngavie from Airdrie I
Can you say that again please? said the
male voice at the other end of the phone.
Oh no, here we go again, now a Scotsman
talking to an Indian, in India regarding train times to Milngavie can have
its problems. British Rail had moved all its customer enquires to a call
centre somewhere outside Delhi in India. Now my English colleagues at work
find it hard to understand me, not alone second language speakers in a
foreign land. This is going to be hard.
Hello can you give me the times . of the
trains around 9.00am tomorrow morning going . to Milngavie from Airdrie
I emphasised carefully.
I am so sorry, can you once again repeat
Again, now I am almost spelling it out;
can... you... give... me... the... times... of... the... trains... at...
around... 9.00am... tomorrow... morning... going... to... Milngavie...
Ayrdree to Mulgab he asks Let me see
he pauses I intervene.
No Milngavie spelt M.I.L.N.G.A.V.I.E
Oh, yes, Ayr to Mulgab, I have it here
he said with the sound of great success.
No not Ayr to Mulgab (God, now hes got
me calling it Mulgab), Bernie burst out laughing, I had to join her.
No, excuse me I apologised, Not Ayr to
Milngave, Airdrie to Milngavie.
I was now getting a bit ratty, feeling
that my own command of our language was in doubt.
A.I.R.D.R.I.E. I spelt it out
A long pause, a recess from our
Yes Sir, You will get a train at 09.14
from Airdrie coming from Drum-jel-ouch
That sounds sore I interject. At this
point I can only assume he means Drumgelloch station in Airdrie
Sorry Sir he asks,
No, excuse me carry-on I add
You will get the 9.14 train to
Helensburgh, coming from Drum-jel-ouch and you will have to change at
Belgrove and get the 10.19 train to Mulgab, is that ok Sir he asks
That is fine, I answer back. I thanked
him for his help and took leave from that foreign land.
Why do British rail do that as other
companies like them. It is only to save on costs, do they really
understand that it is killing customers faith in their enquiry service.
They do not see our embarrassment.
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