My blisters are getting worse already, one of them moved and a couple of new ones emerged. I keep telling myself that they’ll go away after a week, but first I’ve got to survive that week. Also got a cut on my toe that has developed strangely over the day; probably shouldn’t have put a blister plaster on it.
As we walk to Galashiels I sped ahead. Euan and Robert eventually caught up (as I was putting on some shorts), but James was nowhere to be seen. Robert and Euan reassured me that he’d just gone ahead by taxi, unwilling to hold us back any more. We followed the winding road along in the sunshine and eventually victoriously entered the town of Galashiels. Not long into the grimy streets of the town we almost tripped over James, laying against someone’s fence, sipping Schwepps lemonade like a homeless person recently gone sober. He revealed to us his plan to get a bus back to Edinburgh; the walk had already proved too much, he felt there was no way he’d make it over the border, let alone London. Thus we lost the first member of our party.
We asked a random woman where Tesco was, but she turned out to have dementia, and so we thanked her and decided to strike out in a random direction (flipping a coin was just about as reliable). We found the store after not too long, and returned the trolley (to the dismay of the customer services woman). We declared that the Penicuik manager had insisted upon the transfer, and urged them to call him, just to let him know the trolley had arrived safely.
I had been confident about making the walk, but if every day is as intense as these two I can’t imagine making it five days. This will be the longest three weeks of my life, I think.
We tried to find a footpath from Galashiels to Jedburgh, but everyone we talked to gave contradictory advice. One cab driver (a raw, sun-beaten codger who had happened to give James a lift into Galashiels) gave us complicated directions, followed by asking us where we were headed (although I thought he knew already). His instructions involved a shortcut though some woods, but, he said, stick together. Apparently some weirdo with long hair, the same hat as me (he pointed to my head, eyes wide with exclamation) and a dog roamed the area. This was definitely some sort of warning, but in trying to follow his directions we ended up in a library and were sidetracked for three quarters of an hour working out an efficient route out of Galashiels. We had all number of employees offering help and fresh water for our bottles. Eventually one woman told us to go through Melrose, so we did. This route took a long time and irritated Robert’s blisters in the meantime. Euan and I sat outside a strange building with grass for a roof whilst Robert agonized over his predicament, eventually bursting his blisters.
We arrived in Melrose, suddenly thinking that we should have called all the Anglican priests and asked them if we could stay in their church halls each night of the walk. Robert, however, had already organised and arranged hostels and campsites for us. We better get a move on, he said, I’ve booked one for tomorrow night on the far side of the border. I thought the most conducive thing for our walk would be to get ice-cream. After this purchase we discovered a B-road, which would take us to St Boswells. The road was very hilly, and a man with strange poles stopped to talk to us as Euan caught up. We emerged at Newtown St Boswells, and took a minute to rest on a bench by the side of the road. It was vaguely under the shadow of some trees, opposite an establishment likely to refresh our water supplies. As Euan and Robert went about this task I enjoyed the scenery; apparently a local fete was underway.
We continued on, ignoring some beautiful horses as we ascended a series of hills. Hills of this type were quite scary, as they contained hidden dips and huge vehicles emerged all of a sudden at a fast pace, giving you seconds to move out their path. We reached a minor crossroads and diverged from the road onto the St Cuthbert’s way; part of a walk that meanders round the borders to the Holy Isle. We were bisecting this pilgrim’s route on our quest for London, but for a short time we could join the path and it would take us out near Jedburgh.
The Sun was threatening to set, and so we walked along, looking for a suitable place to camp for the night. As we walked through the woods we heard a whistle and some growling. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and turned to see nothing. The trail twisted along and rounding a corner I saw a large Alsatian run into the dark mesh of trees. It seemed to have been called by someone.
We got tired and pitched the tents in the path. Didn’t make it to the Jedburgh campsite we’d hoped to get to. I’m concerned that this walk is going to be impossible. We’re hoping to take it slowly tomorrow. I wish we could fill our day-bag with useless clothes and send it home, but I don’t even know what’s useless.
It’s about one or two in the morning; I just used the trees as a toilet and there is the faintest sign of light in the North, probably the lights of Edinburgh. Euan woke up because he heard a dog barking. The dog is still barking, but (despite initially seeming to) it has not significantly changed bearing. The dog sounded as if it was moving down the path towards us, but when I was out of the tent I saw nothing. Fingers crossed this isn’t the last entry; I’m clinging to my knife, just in case.