Matters had come to a head some months before my visit to the consultant. A replacement hip operation had put a brake on my hill-going activities, so I wasn’t all that surprised, when I restarted walking, that my progress was somewhat sluggish. What did surprise me was the lack of improvement, no matter how much exercise I did.
I started to get frustrated and decided that it must be a question of mind over matter and if I made sufficient effort I would break through what I now viewed as an artificial barrier of my own slothful making. If I drove myself really hard all eventually would be well. The culmination of this scheme (and nearly of me) came as I approached the summit of a popular local hill. It was only two or three hundred feet to the top and I decided to push to the trig point in one go and as quickly as I could. I made it without stopping, then something odd happened. The whole of my upper body from the waist to the shoulders seized up and all the breath in my body seemed to have been knocked out of me. All motion ceased and if I resembled anything it must have been a member of China’s terra cotta army, petrified in time and space. My next recollection is being surrounded by a concerned group from the local rambling association uncertain whether it would be best to summon the mountain rescue or the mortician.
The lesson was learnt – a particular version of “less haste, more speed”. So some serious thought was necessary. If I were to walk the hills again, different rules must apply. No more thirty mile jaunts over half a dozen Munros but a journey that moved much more slowly over shorter distances. As it would be necessarily laborious, there was also a need for an incentive, some sort of target to aim at, not so ambitious that its aspiration was dispiriting, yet sufficiently challenging to get me out of the house when it was easier to stay at home. And, curiously enough it was my round of the Scottish 3000ers that suggested the solution. When Munro drew up his now renowned list it was on his own terms. It was his decision to have the cut off point at 3000 feet and he decided what was a mountain and what was not. What I needed was something similar where I could choose what to do, not slavishly follow some other person’s foible – a microcosm of Munros or more likely a wobble of Wilsons. The solution, I realised, was to follow the cri de jour and downsize. But how far down and in what direction? What I needed was an end game. What I needed was a list of my own.