Hike Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Southbound hike
DN26 Park
Days N25 - N33                                                                   North of England
Day N26 - Newton le Willows to Charnock Richard
Day N25                          High-speed socks                                 Day N27
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Southbound Home
Sunday, April 15, 2007

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 3.15 pm
Place departed: Newton le Willows, Cheshire
Place arrived: Charnock Richard (near Chorley), Lancashire

Miles: 14.5
Cum miles: 425.7
Percent complete: 45.9

Bed sign Mystery B&B, Charnock Richard  ***
Cost for bed and breakfast:  25 ($50)
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The Nameless Hotel in Newton played true to form this morning. After an indifferent breakfast, it had a problem accepting credit cards. The receptionist was also the cook, the barmaid and the telephone operator, and checkouts with credit cards were beyond her training. Eventually she rustled up a sleepy assistant, and I was on my way.

I started off feeling sluggish, and I'm sure it related to the overnight ambiance. But, the previous day being Grand National day, I had had few choices.

The day's hike was uneventful, being nearly all on an ample footpath of the A49. Traffic was light, partly because the M6 freeway ran roughly parallel but generally out of sight, handling traffic that once went on the road I now walked along. I passed through Wigan, a significant city, and reached the Lancashire border in the afternoon.

In the village of Charnock Richard, a good stopping point, word-of-mouth led me to a former B&B, hard to locate since it had no sign. There I persuaded the proprietress to come out of retirement for one night.  So I stayed at a B&B without a name.  It was better value than a smoky pub or a motel some distance away. I feel I lucked out with this overnight stop: it came after a fair day's walk, early enough in the day to enjoy the evening, and left me with another fair day's walk (to at least Preston) tomorrow.

If you remember, I opened a can of sardines for dinner a few nights ago. And it was an empty can of sardines that I carried in search of a litter box a while back in Astley.  For some reason - perhaps sardines increase brainpower - an idea now occurred to me that fulminated in my mind all day. By the time I reached Charnock Richard, the idea had reached the level of unsurpassed brilliance - just as I ran into the fictional Arthur Bourke-Stewart in the local pub, the Hind's Head.

You may remember Arthur from my April 2 account of our discussion in Axbridge? Running into him again in Charnock Richard was quite a coincidence. Arthur Bourke-Stewart was wearing the same large-lapel shirt, red-tinged trousers, and sandals as at our last meeting. Initially, I was quite concerned that he'd been following me to wreak some kind of revenge. But he quickly set my mind at rest.  Our conversation went like this:

Arthur Bourke-Stewart: Daryl, how good to see you!

Me:  Arthur, likewise!  Or may I call you Art?

Arthur Bourke-Stewart: Call me BS for short, old chap.

Me:  Of course, of course.

BS: I've been meaning to thank you!  Ever since we renamed my town, Lower Weare, in recognition of that Saxon King Yorunda, things have been going swimmingly!

Me:  So you took my advice and renamed the place Lower-yorunda-Weare?

BS: We did indeed.  And now the place is booming!

Me:  Tell me more, old chap, but don't you still owe me a beer?

BS (after buying me a pint of Beck's): Well, the newspapers headlined our new name for some reason. Then the doctors wanted to hold their convention with us, and the nurses too.  Ramada put in a convention center in record time next to the BP station.

Me:  Wonderful.

BS:  And the nudists have bought the trashy trailer park down by the river. The strippers have taken over the old folks' home.  And the evangelists want to book rooms on the same Ramada floor as the Stockland Swingers Club do their weekly calisthenics.

Me:  Truly amazing, BS, truly amazing!

BS:  Funny thing is, I don't understand it at all.  Never expected those folks to have such an interest in Saxon history.

Me:  Well, I hope you're cashing in, BS!  Maybe you bought some land, and are selling it at a vast profit?

BS:  Well, thank you Daryl.  In fact, I have been cashing in, though my ideas are . . . well, perhaps not vast, but certainly half-vast.

Me:  Tell me more.

BS:  Not land, no.  But I've got my wife the night security guard job at the Ramada!  So now we're pulling in two salaries.

Me:  Does she like it?

BS:  Like it?  She loves it!  She even works overtime sometimes - especially when the swingers are in town. Yes, old fellow, thanks to you, we're a two-income household now.

Me:  What's next?

BS:  Well, now you mention it, do you have any other good ideas?

Me: Well, I'm just a hiker fella these days, BS.  We're a pretty dumb crowd really.  All we think about are our gear and our blisters - and how far we've traveled.

BS (eagerly): Maybe you have an idea about hiking?

Me:  Well, come to think of it, I do.  And you might be just the person to run with it, BS.  But wait, I seem to have finished my beer.

BS (after returning from the bar with two pints of Beck's): What's your idea then?

Me:  This one may knock your socks off, BS.  You know that hikers spend a lot of time thinking about their boots and their backpacks?

BS:  Yes?

Me:  Well they also think about their socks.  You can buy warm socks and cold, thick and thin, wool and nylon, different-color socks - even thousand-mile socks . . .

BS:  Yes, I can see that.

Me:  But there are other characteristics about socks that would make someone a fortune if he could market that kind of sock.

BS:  OK, you've got my interest.

Me:  Wow, we seem to have finished those beers already!

Me (resuming after BS returned from the bar): OK, BS, now listen carefully.  What if I told you that what hikers really want are (a) high-speed socks, (b) socks that resist blisters, (c) socks that cure athlete's foot . . . and (d) at the end of the day, a hearty dinner?

BS (warmly): I'd say you'd have a winner, Daryl, if you could give them all that!  And I just love that term "high-speed socks".

Me: Well, I can guarantee that my product - your product, BS - can do all those things at a cost to you of only 59p for the regular version - and 89p for the premium one.  You can probably market them for five times that.

BS:  Wow, two versions, and a big mark-up.  And this idea can be mine?

Me: Yes, indeed, it can - for just a few beers.  Darn it, we've nearly finished those Beck's!

BS (returning from the bar again): OK then . . .

Me (reaching into my pack): Well, here goes.  See this can of Brunswick Canadian Sardines in Tomato Sauce?  And see this plastic spoon?

BS:  Yes.

Me:  Well, our hiker is instructed to place one or two sardines at the bottom of each of his socks!  Get it?

BS:  Yes.  I mean "no".  How does this work?

Me:  It's easy, BS, it's easy.  As soon as they start hiking with sardines between their toes, they'll want to proceed extremely rapidly to their destination!  That's where the high-speed comes in.

BS (in analytical mode): Hmm.  And what about the blisters and athlete's foot?

Me: Now, BS, do you think they'll give a thought to their blisters and their athlete's foot while the sardines are getting mashed up between their toes?

BS (after effortful further thought): Well, it's hard to find a fault with this, Daryl.  I guess it's a winner!  But how do I give them a free dinner too, and all for 59p?

Me:  That's where the plastic spoon comes in!  Though, of course, some people will just turn their socks inside-out and eat with their fingers.  In any case, it'll be a meal of healthy seafood.

BS: Holy moly, Daryl, that’s brilliant!  You've thought of everything!  How do I get in on this idea?  Oh, I see your beer is finished.

BS (resuming, after returning from the bar): Now, I think you said there was a premium version, costing 89p?

Me: Yes, we need to appeal to customers who like to pay a little more and get a little more.

BS: You mean, kind of, you get what you pay for?

Me:  Precisely.

BS (returning from the bar without my prompting): And what's the premium version?

Me:  You remember the regular version is Brunswick Canadian Sardines in Tomato Sauce?

BS: With the plastic spoon, of course!

Me:  Yes, with the plastic spoon.  The premium version also has a plastic spoon.

BS: And . . .?  Oh, another free beer?

Me: No thanks.  I'm not a freeloader, you know.

BS: OK, but what's the premium version?

Me:  Well, now you mention it, another beer would be very nice.

Me (resuming after BS returns from the bar): Yep, I reckon you could make a fortune with this, BS.

BS (impatiently): Yes, but what's the premium edition?

Me:  Prince's Portuguese Sardines in Sunflower Oil! They may cost a little more, but that sunflower oil is just a little bit more slippery . . . and more delectable at the end of the day.  Did I mention they put some chili in there? It all mixes nicely with the previous day's sardines if the hiker decides to wear his socks for two days. Things kind of mature, if you know what I mean.
BS suddenly ran from the room, and loud, retching noises emanated from the parking lot. Pausing only to finish my beer - and BS's - I retired early for the night at my B&B, behind a thoroughly locked room door.

I wondered if I'd see Arthur Bourke-Stewart again.

You may well question the veracity of this account. I can assure you that it's 100-percent true that it's fictional. All the same, I chortled out loud as I fell asleep.
Day N25                              2007 and 2008 Daryl May                               Day N27