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  • Chris Jones

Day 79. Saturday May 20th, Ardersier to Inverness.

Yesterday was the hottest day so far on this walk, I was cooked when I got into Ardersier. According to any long distance hiking manual, there's only one thing a well baked walker (yes, that's walker, it's an 'l') can do in such situations, find a nice cool swimming pool to bathe in. If circumstances be such, that no nice cool swimming pool has been provided, the next option is of course... yep, you've guessed it, pub... 🥵🍺 I sat outside the pub in the village, took my boots off and had to weigh my socks down so that they didn't run off., they were honking !!! 😷The landlady fetched me a pint of ice cool life saver and within 3 or 4 minutes, she was fetching me another....

I don't care what anyone says, a cup of tea or a cold glass of coke just ain't cutting it, an ice cold pint of premium lager is the only cure. Besides which, my hideous, painfully white hobbits feet are so embarrassing, the beer masks the shame. I sat for an hour or so, enjoying the cold beer and the heat of the sun on my aching legs and feet. My mind had been preoccupied all day with thoughts of a conversation I'd had the day before in a bar. I was asked by a pair of couples what I was doing and why so I explained the well versed edited explanation. A little while later, one of the guys broke away and came over to talk to me. He didn't want to talk in front of his wife, it had only been a year since their son had taken his own life and clearly it was still very raw. A professional young man, a consultant anesthetist and a couple of weeks before he was due to be married. It was a truly heartbreaking story which this poor couple and their daughter are having to deal with every day and as is often the case, nobody in this young man's life had any idea he was suffering.

It's hard not to be affected when I hear these stories, every time, I get so upset at how close I was to burdoning my family with this living nightmare and I'm not ashamed to say, it upsets me to point that I sometimes find myself sobbing as I'm staggering along the beach. It also gives me a kick up the arse, refocusing me to work harder to do all I can to spread the word, to work out how I can contribute to helping others to not have to go through what this poor family are going through. It can only be a daily living nightmare.

According to the Samaritans who publish the results collated by the Office for National Statistics, 6,538 people took their own lives in 2021, that's 331 more than in 2020. Men are still more likely to take their own lives, 15.8 per 100,000 with females at 5.5 per 100,000 and the most alarming statistic, men between 50-54 are now the highest group at 22.5 per 100,000.

You can do the sums yourself but horrifyingly, this equates to 18 people every day thinking they have no alternative but to end their pain, but at the very instant they do it, they create what must be the most devastating pain to all those people in their lives... surely we have to do something about this.... don't we ??? 😔

The sun disappeared behind the pub so I headed in for some food and learned that the Masonic dominoes team would be in shortly, they had a league match that evening... ooh,er, a Masonic Dominoes Team, something you might expect to find in Yorkshire I guess... They doffed their flap caps to me when they arrived and one kind chap told me he would open the lodge up for me the following morning.

I was pitched up and in bed by 9.30pm, I slept well and was awake, up and packed for 7.30am.

It was a chilly morning but one of the Motorhomers made me a coffee which was lovely as I had to wait until 10am for the lodge show around.

I waited for over 2 hours, the chap turned up as promised only to find he had the key to get us into the building but for some reason, he didn't have the key to get into the Lodge !!! 🫣 what a waste of time, I got walking for just after 10.30 and my day just continued to get worse. The walking was all roads, some of which were lethal. Very fast cars coming at me from front and back, my legs were stung to bits by nettles having to continuously jump onto the verge. By 3pm, I gave in, I just couldn't get on as the roads were so busy, I was spending more time standing in the thigh high nettles so I sacked it and got on the bus. I was only a couple of miles from Inverness and I'd had enough, my legs were stinging like hell and my feet were killing me.

As it was my birthday the following day, I'd booked myself into a cheap hotel for 2 nights so was planning on a lot of sleeping and a little bit of playing tourist. I found the lodge and got a look round.

I also met a couple of Freemasons from Wick and John O Groats so I got contact details to have a look around their lodges when I get up there. I went out on the Saturday night for a few beers and enjoyed a nice Chinese meal with all my mate !!! On my own then... 🫣 I spent a lovely couple of hours on my Birthday morning in Inverness Cathedral listening to the choir, what an amazing sound.

The cathedral is very small, as cathedrals go but beautiful none the less.

There was a car show going on all over the city so I walked the streets looking at the vehicles and believe this or believe this not, I never had a single beer on my birthday. I'd possibly overdone it slightly on the Saturday night so completely sober on my 53rd birthday, I was tucked up in bed for 8.30pm and fast asleep in record time after that...

Tomorrow is a new day, a new week and for me, a new year. My 54th year and it starts by heading up into the Highlands, bring it on...

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