Walking versus Transport

These days, my ambulant abilities seem to be almost solely restricted to mechanically assisted travel – be it by plane, train or automobile. The only walking I really seem to accomplish is along endlessly long airport corridors towing a mid-sized wheely-bin load of cabin luggage supplemented by an eternally preferable mile or so of evening dog walking. So I thought that maybe it was time, if only because I haven’t had one for a while, to share a grumpy old moan about modern transport in Britain and beyond.

So – here goes.

Firstly: Driving. From now on, I vow to avoid the M1 at all costs. It is a hateful hell-hole of a road which just seems to have an endless series of speed restrictions and road works. If you need to get anywhere in good time you need to plan for an additional hour, or maybe two – particularly if your departure time matches that of the daily commuters. And if you dare to attempt to travel it’s length in the middle of the night, to get to an airport at stupid o’clock, then forget it: It will be closed at random places beyond any Satnav system knowledge and any diversion will sit you in a 3 a.m. traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. It is not a road – it is an obstacle course! Other roads to avoid include the M42, M5, M6 and the A1 North of Doncaster. Oh and the M74 – if only because of the ar****les in white vans hiding alongside bridges with speed cameras!

Secondly: It’s official. I really hate airports! I’m not going to boast about my supposedly extensive and exotic travels recently, as I want to be absolutely clear in expressing that international travel really isn’t glamorous these days. I’ve seen more than my fair share of terminals in recent months, particularly Heathrow T5, and though I still manage to maintain an air of pleasantry and smiles, deep inside all I can see is an endless myriad of:

  1. Parking nightmares. If you park within a mile of the airport it, you might need to up the credit limit on your MasterCard. In a word – extortionate!
  2. Transfer buses – a soulless mode of transport made worse by having to wait for one in a howling winter gale underneath T5.
  3. Queues – oh my god are airports good at queues – even if you are a fast-track flyer.
  4. Dragged hand luggage – just the best trip hazard going
  5. Security checks – requiring you to unpack, dismantle and repack a perfectly organised set of personal essentials in under a minute. I now understand why some people are so adept at dismantling and reassembling assault rifles.
  6. Pungent perfume smells, war-painted shop assistants and numerous pointless designer shops devoid of clientele.
  7. Miserable looking business travellers who huff at you if you cross their path.
  8. People rushing to get on the plane first. That one always baffles me – do they just want a nice big slot for their cabin bag?
  9. Overly long corridors: Yesterday I clocked up 2 miles …. inside two airports!
  10. Escalators up, then down and then in, out and shake it all about.
  11. Electronic passport gates that just don’t work and thus deposit you in another queue.
  12. Occasional dodgy foreign airport officials looking to bleed you of the odd dollar or fifty just to get in the country.
  13. Overly cheesy airline crew who try to convince you that flying with them is a pleasure
  14. And the treat of flying business class spoilt by a bloke in the next seat with a non-stop sneezing affliction and a disturbing twitch.

Thirdly: Rail travel. To be brutally honest, trains are my favourite mode of travel, but with a few conditions thrown in:

  1. I’m not travelling at rush hour and paying through the nose to stand next to a draughty door.
  2. I’m not sitting next to a student whose head-phoned music rhythmically psssts my ears like a night time blood seeking mosquito.
  3. I’m not sitting in the same carriage as someone who likes to shout down the phone and inform the world that he is “on the train!”
  4. I’m not sitting in a train with a small collection of loud mouthed, mildly threatening, drunk, tattooed prats.
  5. The train isn’t sitting at a red light for hours with the vague excuses of a “another broken down train blocking the line” crackling through the tannoy.
  6. My train’s departing platform hasn’t been changed with less than a two minute warning.
  7. It’s not cancelled!

All in all, travel seems to have lost some of it’s glitz. Yes, it is lovely to see new places and meet new people. Yes, I enjoy people watching and smiling wryly at those whose stress levels get a bit frayed.  Yes, I like a window seat to watch the world below or the countryside whistle past. Yes, I sometimes like the challenge of getting from A to B without mishap and with just a little bit of comfort time to spare. Yes, I even quite like the occasional bumpy landing (thanks Storm Doris) or waiting on the runway during heavy snow and watching the plane get de-iced.  But hell – I prefer walking!

top-100-badge

 

You will be toastie this Christmas!

TRESPASS: Retreat Mens Down Jacket

Whether you are a Brexiteer or not, my outdoor clothing choice has always been drawn towards British brands. It might be something to do with our usually naff weather but one thing we seem to be truly good at is designing top quality outdoor kit. Having used predominantly British clothing for my entire coast walk, I was delighted to be asked to test a Trespass Retreat Men’s Down Jacket

retreat-majkdol20003-blk-a_copy_7

The jacket is not one I would normally use for heavy trekking or an adventure where sweating might be a tad profuse, but for general low energy strolling, a bit of winter dog walking, sitting around the campsite or watching your favourite football / rugby team at their latest home defeat, this jacket is a real winner. To say it is cosy is a minor understatement. With authentic down insulation (80% down / 20% feather – power fill 600) it is lightweight, yet as snug as any bugs favourite sleeping bag.

An easy to pull on padded winter jacket, it is perfectly and equally suitable for those chilly spring, autumn or Scottish summer evenings without making you look like the latest incarnation of The Michelin Man.  The Retreat Men’s Down Jacket is a luxurious treat and if you find yourself glowing a little more than you should whilst roasting your chestnuts, then just lower the zip….simples.

With 2 lower zipped pockets and 1 internal zipped chest pocket you can keep your precious  phone or wallet safe and make sure that you aren’t bereft of cash for your round of mulled wine or warm mead at the Christmas market. Coming in black with a discreet logo, I can definitely recommend the Retreat Men’s Down Jacket as an excellent option for cold, dry, wintry days.

Don’t forget the women’s jacket equivalent either – Letty Woman’s Down Jacket

How About A Prize Winning Book for Christmas?

create_winner_seal-phpI have to say that I am genuinely and very pleasantly surprised, if not a little shocked!

Not that I am one to brag….err….too much. But it appears that my little tome has won first prize in its category at the 2016 International Photography Awards (IPA).

Now surely that must make it a half-decent Christmas pressie for someone you might love, like, occasionally tolerate, or even cross the road to avoid.

Much though it is truly grand to be awarded a gong of any kind, the manner in which I discovered I had won something was a reflection of my level of expectation.

Late last night I opened what I thought was junk mail from the IPA only to find a request for a high resolution image for the new IPA Book of Photography, featuring this year’s winning images. I responded asking them if they were sure they wanted something from me, as I didn’t think I had won anything. Err….wrong Mr Hill.   And now a few things began to dawn on me. Why was it that I had received an invitation to attend the awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York last month? Maybe it wasn’t just an invitation to part with a huge wad of cash in air fares and tickets to an event they were promoting. Anyway, the invitation was very short notice and though they said that the tickets were complimentary I had some work booked in Sweden (which was then cancelled at even shorter notice…ho hum).

Nonetheless, I never suspected that I really stood a chance when the entry was sent off. Nor was I even sure that the competition was a big deal or particularly well recognised. Err….wrong Mr Hill. Maybe my category was a little low on entries? Err….wrong Mr Hill. So hey – I’m pretty chuffed! Thanks guys!

Maybe now I can actually feed a little from this and get those hefty boxes of books shifted from my study. So if you fancy buying a book or ten for someone this Christmas, or for a birthday or even just for the hell of it, then please do?  Signed copies won’t increase the value – but I can still hold a pen.

create_winner_seal-php

 

 

A professionally reviewed book – gulp!

Undoubtedly there are many people out there who are well versed in the demons to be found within the publishing world and their experience is probably vastly superior to any that I will ever have. For this first-timer, the expectation / dread of an independent analysis of my book has been a scary thought.

So when I found my first truly detailed and professional review I opened it with a great deal of trepidation, as if I were back at school bracing myself for another assassination by my consistent, if less than encouraging, English teacher. In short, I was expecting it to be slammed for grammatical errors and general ineptitude.

However, having read it and digested both the positives and negatives written by Alex Roddie at UKHillwalking, all I can say is….Bang On…. much appreciated Alex!UKH-logo_400x400“….this tremendously fun book about one man’s 5,000-mile trek around the British coastline……it’s a glossy coffee-table book, lavishly illustrated with dozens of photographs, including some really good double-page shots. ….. this is very much a book to dip in and out of as well as read cover to cover.”

On the negatives, he certainly hits the spot in sussing that I was struggling to edit the book and find a narrative beyond the original blog that worked. I really could have used his professional skills in identifying where I could trim out the excess prose and be a little more finite. However, if you know me, you will know that I can ramble on (‘scuse the pun) a bit and that maybe I needed to shrink the dull bits, even if I believed that they were just as important – if only to demonstrate the full flavour of the walk.

“……despite its many good qualities, the book does tend to become a little repetitive in places. Let’s face it, the day-to-day routine of walking around the coast isn’t that engaging to read about even if you’re the most committed outdoor enthusiast…..”

On the positives. All I can say is thank you Alex. It really is lovely to know that he saw through my facade to appreciate that I don’t like taking life or myself too seriously.

“The narrative is unfailingly positive and light-hearted, with a good sprinkling of humour and plenty of commentary on the landscapes he’s walking through…………The book has a cheerful sense of fun and I think it takes itself less seriously than many outdoor tomes.”

“……this book grew on me and I found myself enthralled by the gradual process of life on the trail supplanting normal life, becoming ordinary in itself, so that the inevitable return home became the next big adventure.” 

So genuinely – thanks again Alex. You can clearly express yourself far more succinctly than I ever could.

Read the full review here.

UKH-logo_400x400

 

 

#KMF2016

Well…..I wasn’t quite as high up on the bill as Scouting for Girls and Toploader at the Keswick Mountain Festival, but I did get a decent audience. A big thanks to those of you who came and listened to my ramblings in the adventure tipi, I hope you enjoyed my brief talk. It seems the bars and music emptied most of the festival goers of their cash by Sunday morning and book sales were …..errr tough. I think I might have spent a tad more cash than I took….ho dee hum!DSCF6880For all you outdoorsy types – I can certainly recommend KMF. Whether you are a lycra clad fitness fanatic who the enjoys the masochistic pleasures of participating in a 50km trail race or you prefer queuing for the bar and some live music (that’s much more my category) – then there is something for everyone. I think this could be on my calendar for next year. Either way – you can always enjoy people watching and looking out for all the expensive outdoor clothing logos amidst a sea of waterproofs and woolly hats.DSCF6935THANK YOU… AND GOODNIGHT #KMF2016!!

 

Talking not walking

After a highly depressing weekend in the Peak District, where I can confirm that my fitness has now returned to a rather pathetic, flabby level – I have instead taken to “flogging a dead horse” and giving a few talks about my coast walk whilst attempting to flog a few books.  I have a few dates coming up, but the first one is next weekend (11:30am, 22nd May) at the Keswick Mountain Festival. It sounds as if it is cracking weekend for any outdoorsy types, with live music, exhibitors, races, loads of land and water based activities, some top notch speakers and me. So if you are coming along, please pop in and say hi and maybe let me persuade you to part with your hard earned cash for a copy of my book / door stop.

Click on the pictures below for more info.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 17.38.57Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 17.39.40

Keswick Mountain Festival

 

 

More Junk Mail?

Like the vast majority of us, many emails hit my spam mailbox every single day and most of them are complete and utter junk. Beyond the usual array of phishing rubbish, irritating PPI warriors and offers from any shop I may have once used in the last ten years, this one turned up last night.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.49.25

Considering I haven’t bought or sold anything on eBay for a few years it’s arrival has generated a few questions. For info: An email promoting pre-planned funerals sat a little disturbingly below this one.

  1. How do they know?
  2. Who the hell is selling a copy on eBay?
  3. And at what price?

Further investigation reassuringly revealed that it wasn’t another cut price bookseller taking a huge wedge from my cover price and selling it at £1.99. I know it’s unlikely to make any best seller list, but for me it’s nice to get it out there and attempt to recover a few of my costs.

If you haven’t bought it already, why not buy it direct from me or my publisher. Please visit MY BOOK page for details on how you can get it.

P.S. For the curious types reading this far down any of my blatantly promotional and slightly self-indulgent posts….my spam mail no longer attracts junk advertising viagra or male appendage enlargement products. Strangely I am little disappointed. I must be beyond the point of no return!