- Chris Jones
Day 46 & 47, Wed & Thurs, 29th, 30th March. North Berwick to Edinburgh.
Despite the ribbing I'm getting from mates and my own family, it was never my intention that this walk would resemble a glorified pub crawl. My reasons for having to nip into the occasional pub are many and obvious, public toilets being locked, er, to get out of the rain, er.... nope, I'm struggling now... I'm not even convincing myself here, what can I say, I enjoy a pint and more than that, I enjoy having a chat with complete strangers while enjoying a pint, or three...
Any of you that enjoy getting out for a walk in the country will probably agree with me, there is nothing better than finishing a good days walk, sitting next to the fire in a cosy pub with a decent pint to celebrate your day's achievements.
For me moving from place to place every day, it also gives me the chance to speak to the locals about possible places to eat, safe places to camp or, where I might get a room for the night that's not going to clear out the pocket money Michelle has granted me for the week... 😬
I got a pint of local ale in 'The Auld Hoose' and perched on the end of a bench next to 3 guys that were having a good chat. After a few minutes I was invited into their conversation when they questioned what I was doing and I learned that they were all firefighters, two still serving and one very experienced chap that had recently retired. Unsurprisingly, when they learned the reasons behind my walk, the conversation led onto the many stories these fellas had of dealing with people taking their own lives. Having to cut men down from trees that had chosen the rope, clear up the mess made when someone chose to jump from the multi-storey carpark, even remove bodies from wrecked vehicles when folk had decided to drive their car into stationary objects.
These professional guys were incredibly honest and graphic when describing their experiences but equally, I could tell that each of them was effected by those experiences. Inevitably, the black humour came through as it had with the train drivers but with these guys, I could detect that the impact on them personally, was much deeper. I can't imagine how you could possibly carry out that very challenging job and not be effected deeply.
I have always had a huge respect for our emergency services, especially our firefighters and ambulance crews, a hard enough job dealing with the aftermath of fires and accidents but dealing with and then coping with the experience when individuals have intentionally tried to harm themselves or worse, have taken their own life. Huge respect fellas, a pleasure meeting you.
The guys all lived in Edinburgh so their lift turned up to take them home, I decided to sack it and find somewhere to sleep for the night. I was at the bar asking the barman if he could recommend anywhere when a guy playing pool overheard be and enquired if he could help. He was with three other guys enjoying a few pints while working away from home, a floor screeding gang from Bolton.
Kyle and the guys from Advance Floor Screeding were insistent that I return with them to their AirBnB for the night. The temperature outside was well below 0C so they offered me their sofa. I'll be honest, I was a little worried, having been a builder for many years and having also worked away from home, I half expected us to return to their digs where a crate of beer would appear and we would be supping into the early hours... I couldn't believe it when after 5 minutes sitting in the living room, one of the guys came through from the kitchen with a tray full of cups of tea and a big plate of fresh scones lathered in butter and jam !!! Brilliant, a quick brew and bed, these guys were clearly professionals and had a job to be on first thing in the morning...
Up and out early in the morning, it was freezing cold so I got a wriggle on. A fairly uneventful walk along the banks of the Forth of Firth, through and around golf courses, past old mining villages. Aberlady and Longniddry passed by and eventually just at last light I arrived at Prestonpans. I did try to get into a campsite which amazingly was open but they didn't accept tourers or tents so I had no choice but to walk into the first pub I came to. The same story again, I got chatting to various people but this time I tried to get into a could of b'n'b's, everywhere was booked up with contractors so no joy. A chap sitting at the back of the pub reading his book overheard me mention that I was from Lincolnshire so indroduced himself. Paul, an ex Police Officer who had spent many years in Lincolnshire when at school kindly offered me a bed which I accepted, providing he would allow me to buy us a Chinese takeaway.
After a good nights sleep, I set off for my last day of walking on this leg of my adventure. I had been invited to a meeting in Edinburgh on the Friday night, another meeting in Berwick on the Saturday and then back to Lincolnshire on the Sunday to see my family.