Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bit of a Stroll

Since Caroline’s death I’ve stopped drinking alcohol because my head just hasn’t been in the right place for that, stopped smoking after a brief venture back into it while she was dying, and I started walking. The reason for this last is twofold. In the past I have been prone to depression and know that exercise is the best cure and, if ever there was a time for depression to get hold of me, it’s now. Also, for many years I’ve wanted to lose some weight, so I’m walking and dieting. I guess the psychology of it is that I’m controlling something I can control and fighting a battle I can win. I’ll now intersperse this with some pictures from one of the last walks I took. 

Head out from Latchingdon ...

past what used to be the Wagon and Horses pub. 
A common sight in Essex is the house that 'used to be a pub'.

As far as the dieting is concerned I’ve cut out potatoes, bread, pasta, rice … basically high or complex carbs. In fact, since I’m now living alone, I got all that stuff out of the house so I have little choice in the matter. I’m now eating one meal a day of veg like cabbage, courgettes or peas along with some meat or fish. Sometimes I’ll eat some more in the evening: fruit, canned fish or nuts.

Turn right down the permanently dank Rectory Lane ...

to the end where someone is converting a water tower into a house, 
and seems to have got no further than this over 2 years. Turn left...

I started off with a walk Caroline and I did together, though in reverse and with some variation to the route. This was basically a circuit in Maldon that included the side of the river and the promenade. I then bought a pedometer or, rather, I bought some cheap pedometers off ebay then discovering how crap they were gave them to a charity shop and got something better: an Omron GoSmart pedometer. I also learned that 10,000 paces a day is what I should be aiming for, and began extending that walk. I’m now somewhere in the region of 15,000 paces.

along Lower Burnham Road overlooking the Crouch until reaching ...

the war memorial. Turn right.

I went from a 2 mile walk a day to 4 miles, then 5 and finally to where I am now at 7+ miles a day. I extended the walk around Maldon to take me round the ring road to the other side, then back, and then along the river and the prom again. However, one thing has perpetually annoyed me about walking around Maldon: I have to drive to get there.

Tramp down to Althorne Station. Manage to get across the level crossing without being squashed because, y'know, trains don't tend to swerve in unexpected directions.  

Finally reach the River Crouch and turn left at the marina. 

Take in the briny air and observe the mud.

I next used Google Earth to plot some circuits from my house in Latchingdon and these came in at 5, 6 and 7+ miles. The problem with this part of Essex is that pavement runs out once you get beyond the bounds of a village. I could have tried some of the local footpaths but, as you know, it has been very wet and I would probably have come back with a few pounds of Essex clay on each shoe. As for walking beside the roads … well you can usually find a verge to walk on or beside and, if you listen and keep your eyes open, it’s easy enough to step out of the way.

Tramp uphill from the sea wall back to 

the boring roads.

I’ve done a number of circuits now (it’s working out at about 50 miles a week) but have now settled on one that takes me down to the river Crouch, along that for a little way, then back up and home by road. It’s about 7.5 miles and the pictures of that walk are what you are seeing here. Maybe these aren’t for British people but, the internet is worldwide so others might be interested… 

Go past what used to be the Black Lion where Caroline worked behind the bar in the days when I first met her - another 'used to be a pub' house - then back by...

dodgy roads where white van man tries to clip you with his wing mirror.



joshua said...

You are walking an oddly beautiful path, especially that water tower house thing- it reminds me of a fantasy place like Weathertop from Lord of the Rings.

Hopefully the walks keep things going well for you, depression is an awful mire to tread through.

Andrew said...

I use exercise to relieve stress and long walks for getting my head straight, particularly when things are not going well.

You seem to be making some very positive moves, I hope you pull through ok!

I recently bought a pedometer, and find it difficult to get to 10,000 steps as I have a desk job in London. I'm finding that I have to cut out the bus on the way to the station and walk instead, otherwise I miss the target!

Unknown said...

Nice work Neal. At least your boring roads have daffodils atm. :-)

Sean said...

Instead of a pedometer,have you thought about a GPS watch? Garmin makes some inexpensive ones. They track everything. Speed, distance, calories, location, etc. You can also upload the data and track your routes on online. Google Earth,maps, and dedicated exercise sites. They're very motivational.

Sean said...

Instead of a pedometer,have you thought about a GPS watch? Garmin makes some inexpensive ones. They track everything. Speed, distance, calories, location, etc. You can also upload the data and track your routes on online. Google Earth,maps, and dedicated exercise sites. They're very motivational.

Dan said...

On the subject of boring roads, I find that they tend to become much more interesting on a bike. On a mountain bike I usually reckon on 8 MPH as a long-term average speed; this lets you exercise whilst being able to get off main roads most of the time.

Cycling also gives you ample time to stop and investigate anything you fancy, whilst a long, boring road becomes much less boring when you can simply put on a bit of speed and leave it behind.

bascule said...

I came here to say what Sean said. I've seen Garmin GPS watches with altimeters and swim friendly. You could log your mountain walks and swims in the harbour.

iwsmith said...

I don't know you Neal. I do read your books and have enjoyed them thoroughly. I began to follow your blog only recently. So I cannot speak as if I am your friend. But I was touched by your last blog entry and really happy to see this one.

This is a great positive step in what must be the right direction after your wife's death and I commend you for it. Keep it up and over time you will feel many benefits I am sure. I cannot imagine what it must feel like for you at this time. I think it is good to write about it here too and get support from your fans.

I am surprised to learn that we used to live close together. I did live in Rayleigh, but now find myself living in Santiago, Chile. I used to cycle to Battlesbridge and then cycle East for as long as I could. I once fell into the mud with my bike... off road cycling. It felt a wee bit dangerous as the mud clings to you.

I should follow your lead on the diet. Just eat less and eat correctly my girlfriend tells me.



GraemeGRFinch said...

Home Sick now ... thanks. :-) Is it a stretch to get down as far as the Roche near Sutton? There's a superb walk there along the dykes. And what's wrong with a drive to a new mini adventure. And without wishing to be cheeky, get a plants and trees mini guide, and learn the names of what you see. As a qualified tree surgeon, apparently boring roads for some never are for me, because I know what I'm looking at and it's likely reason for being there. ttfn

Neil said...

Good to see you are getting out and keeping active.

I read about Caroline passing away, but didn't really know what to say.

Neal Asher said...

I guess I was being a bit disingenuous with that 'boring road' stuff. In reality I was finding everything around me interesting.

OK, as I write this now my pedometer reads 20863 steps which is just over 10 miles. Been a busy day. Yes, I've thought about the GPS watch - maybe next year.

lubertdas said...


Please do us all a big favor and make sure you wear something HIGH VISIBILITY!

We don't want you getting hit by a car or a truck (lorry)!

Remember that's exactly what happened to Steven King!

Be careful!

lubertdas said...

I forgot to congratulate you on your exercise regimen. I've been walking for at least an hour every day since the new year on my treadmill desk. I can watch a movie/tv show, play a game, or surf the web while I walk.

I learned this trick from Neal Stephenson's novel REAMDE.