Thursday, March 8, 2007

Day 45 : Linlithgow to Twechar

Wednesday 28th February 2007

Distance Walked: 24.7 miles
Start Time: 8:47
End Time: 16:57
Elapsed Time: 8:10
Weather: Strong wind. Driving rain. Pretty shitty really.
Distance walked so far: 868.1 miles

In Edinburgh Castle it’s possible to visit the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son, the future James I. In Linlithgow are the remains of the castle in which Mary herself was born. I was born on the bathroom floor of a terrace house in Blackburn. It’s not currently a tourist attraction.

I follow the Union Canal out of Linlithgow fearing the worst, for today the wind pummels the face, with the rain crashing down with it. It’s not a high point of the Walk. The canal lacks the infrastructure that you might expect from a potential tourist mecca. No pubs are provided. Just pain, puddles and poo (dog’s, not mine). I sink into myself.

Having crossed the Avon Aqueduct, the second biggest in Britain but impossible to appreciate from the narrow path above, the canal ploughs on towards the dismal environs of Falkirk. Here the grimy houses and foreboding prisons are briefly obscured from view as the waterway plunges for nearly half a mile through a dark tunnel, dug purely so that the land owner at the time would not have to view the passage whilst eating his breakfast.

In its operational days, the canal used to terminate in a series of locks, dropping the boats down to join the Forth & Clyde Canal, before proceeding towards Glasgow. As part of the regeneration of the waterway, the locks have been replaced by a shiny modern marvel, the Falkirk Wheel, an S-shaped device which ingeniously rotates to raise and lower boats from one canal to another. In the Visitor Centre I learn that it is so efficiently engineered that it is powered by a toaster, or something. Today there’s more demand for toast than for boat lifting, and the foreign, elderly and work-shy visitors sit forlornly in the cafĂ©, wondering what became of themselves and their lives.

Though the canal is different, the second half of the day is an equally vapid experience. The downpours intensify and, by the time I reach Kilsyth, I’m in no mood for the kind of town I’m faced with. Leaving the towpath, I get half-way towards the town centre before determining that I’d rather sleep in my own arse than stay there a minute longer. Dusk is descending, the feet are complaining and it’s five miles to the next major town, Kirkintilloch, but thankfully I happen upon a B&B only a couple of miles down the path at Twechar where, though there are no places to eat and I’m the only customer in the pub, I manage to dry off and inspect the new blister which has formed on top of yeterday’s, like a sixth toe. Stabbing it with the scissors, I swathe my pains in Savlon and look to the hills, for the Highlands are almost within reach.

Song of the day:

Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today /
To see if I still feel /
I focus on the pain /
It’s the only thing that’s real


Ben Joyce said...

I'm chuffed you chose to listen to Cash's cover rather than the piss-poor original :)

Keep on walkin!

Anonymous said...

Damn you Ben! Don't think I won't find you here and everywhere else you make false statements about the NIN original! I'm on to you, sunshine! --Leo :-)