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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 23 - Rest day in Fort William

Presuming everything goes to plan, I am now over half way through this walk. I am due to finish at the end of day 44, after just under 500 miles. I've currently walked 245 miles, and I'm on day 23. One might think that I would feel delighted, that there is more effort behind than ahead. But instead I've been feeling a sort of premature nostalgia for what life will be like when it all finishes.

Despite my apartment being ideally comfortable, and no need to wake early today, I woke at 6.30 as usual, and slept fitfully. So I've been a bit weary through the day. If I had to walk I think I'd probably be fine, but having not much to do allowed me to feel that weariness more. It was lovely looking out of my bedroom window at the loch in the early morning though.

I am delighted that I've been able to wash and dry everything over yesterday evening and today, and I have also posted a few bits back home that I no longer need. I'm travelling lighter and lighter. Then I went into the town to get a coffee and look for new Velcro for my GPS strap. The piece that I failed to sew together because I broke two needles in attempting it has disappeared somewhere on the trail, and so the machine regularly throws itself off my shoulder and on to the ground. There are an excellent number of outdoor shops here, including Nevisport, whose sign outside told me to 'get out more'. Not sure that I can. But none supplied Velcro. I finally asked Debbie and Phil at Mountain Warehouse. Not only did they give me a helpful suggestion of a possible hardware shop, Phil also rifled through the stock cupboard to see if there was anything that would do, and then amazingly Debbie said that if the other shop didn't stock it then she'd bring some in from home and meet me in town this evening. How incredibly kind, I felt really supported.

Fort William is another place that feels like it has heart. There's a community centre that runs loads of different activities and groups, and at the other end of town I stood outside the Buzz Project ( last night listening to some youngsters rehearsing their band. It works with young people who are struggling with rural isolation through musical opportunities. One of its strap lines was 'Music can be an alternative to negativity, enabling an individual to channel potentially destructive attitudes into positive creative achievements'

No argument from me about that.

I bumped into Yvonne and Jan again at the West Highland Museum. I came here 6 years ago with David, but it was good looking again at some of the exhibits, such as the 1940s film of the training of the Commandos, lots of young men swinging from trees with baggy shorts and gym shoes. There was also a touching display of the clothes that Queen Victoria donated to John Brown, her confidante and possibly lover. She was buried with a lock of his hair and his photograph, it didn't say whether she had Albert's photo in there too.

Less touching and more hilarious was a display simply described as 'Prince Charles Edward as an umbrella stand' and then also Prince Charles Edward Stuart's Trews. They'd have been brilliant in my Bay City Roller phase.

The museum volunteer told me at the entrance that I'd see the difference since coming in 2017, as they'd gone all modern with AI. And it was so, I could don a headset and have a look round the ancient Fort William as if I was really there.

Many people have been caught up with the disappointment of the Aluminium Story display in Kinlochleven being closed. As a tiny compensation, the museum had an enormous slab of aluminium, weighing half a ton. It could have made 7178 rolls of BacoFoil, I'm told.

Today there has been actual sunshine, and it was great strolling around the town in the warmth, listening to the buskers. One piper seemed to be having trouble with one of his chanters, as it was emitting a long screech that was a major 9th above the drone. For those who don't do music theory, basically the sound was something that could clear your sinuses.

In contrast, I also listened to Cascade Melodies, a duo playing on Chapman Sticks, a 12 stringed electronic instrument similar to a guitar. I'd never seen one before, it sounds lovely. Mark and Steffi are very accomplished musicians who travel the world street performing. They're worth looking up.

Lunch at the amazing Rain cafe, at which there was an overload of choice of brilliant cakes. I had a cinnamon croffin. Another first.

And then for a complete change, I took myself off to see Mission Impossible at the Highland Cinema. This is a two screen independent cinema that also has a cafe and a bar, housed in a lovely new building. The seats were comfy and the screen and sound were excellent, and the adverts were lovely, for soap and Scottish salmon. But I found this a bit of an overload too. Having not watched any television at all since leaving home, being at a big screen felt quite a lot. I got the hang of it, and enjoyed watching Tom Cruise running very fast with pumpy arms, and jumping off stuff and showing younger women how to drive. But I was interested at how disconnected I've become from that sort of media with three weeks away from it. I was very proud to see Jessie's great friend Daisy's name up on the screen though.

Hopefully an early night and some good sleep tonight, and then I start the Great Glen Way in the morning, arriving in Inverness next week.

Lunch at Rain cafe - excellent

Local tipple - Apple and ACV kombucha

Brunch burger with egg, hash brown, halloumi and Monterey Jack and sciracha mayo, all una home made brioche bun

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