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Fen Rivers Way Walk, Part 3

We left Downham Market in good time after a traditional and filling Full English breakfast. Well, I had the Full English; TheHusband was more restrained. We walked back out of town, pausing only to pick up a Cornish pasty and sweet roll at the bakery we’d seen on the way in. Our lunches had been a bit sketchy the previous two days because the pubs were either too early in the walk, closed, or too far off the road when we passed by them (and there weren’t many to begin with). The bakery smelled wonderful and was doing a brisk business at 8:45 on a Monday morning.

This was our last day and the walk to King’s Lynn was a straight 13-mile shot up the Great Ouse. For the first couple of miles we walked on a high bank that lies between the river and the channel, and the weather was cool and cloudy.

The river had turned tidal by this point, and there were fewer swans and birdlife overall, but the cormorants we saw looked like sleek fighter jets. Speaking of which, the quiet was regularly broken by very loud fighters which we couldn’t see but could definitely hear. Looking at our maps on a break, we discovered that we were quite near RAF Marham, a major base.

It was an uneventful walk through the morning, with bridges spanning the river every two to three miles. After a couple of hours we closed in on the Wiggenhall villages: St. Germans, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Mary the Virgin, and St. Peter. Wiggenhall St. Peter features a beautiful church that is now in ruins:

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De-quantifying my life

Liz has a great post about quantified reading and the stress it can induce when we set goals for things that are supposed to be enjoyable. I commented there, but I kept thinking about the ways in which tracking and quantification of everyday habits has permeated the lives of so many of us. Part of it is human nature; making “best of” lists and remembering things in relation to other things is enjoyable. But these tendencies are exacerbated by incentives to make money off them. It isn’t new, of course: Cosmo was doing “10 best ways to put the spark back in your relationship” before I was old enough to have sparky relationships. But it’s so much more pervasive now because of the need for content that generates ad clicks and the technological advances that let us keep track of everything.

I started doing reading challenges a few years ago. The original idea was to help me track my reading and to expand my range of reading material. After several years of participating in Romancelandia and especially while reviewing for Dear Author I was reading romance almost exclusively, and newly released romance novels at that. I missed the other genres, but a steady diet of short, easy-to-digest genre fiction had reduced my ability to read longer and more complex work. Reading challenges like PopSugar gave me a way to branch out and feel like I was accomplishing something.

This approach was helpful in getting me back to reading a wider variety of fiction, and the Mt. TBR and Harlequin challenges highlighted the discrepancy between what I was reading and the books that were piling up unread because I couldn’t resist a new release or a sale. But they also stressed me out: would I make my TBR challenge goal, how many books would I read, how many underrepresented authors was I reading, etc. etc. Not meeting a number, however arbitrarily that number had been chosen, seemed like a failure. A small failure, but still a failure.

Reading isn’t the only area in which I’ve quantified some quotidian aspect of my life. Like most women I’ve counted calories, tracked everything I’ve eaten, and generally made food a focus of scrutiny. I lost the most weight (and kept it off) when I stopped doing that, and I haven’t dieted in any meaningful way in years. But I still get the urge to do so, especially when I put on a few pounds or see yet another “easy” way to track my food intake. The various hacks of apps like My Fitness Pal have helped me avoid getting back on that psychological treadmill, though.

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Fen Rivers Way Walk, Part 2

The second day of our walk fell on a Sunday, so we were a bit later starting out. But our inn was right on the path, so we hopped the stile and walked half a mile to the Littleport train stop. We then took a right and headed up onto the bank to the bridge that would take us to the east side of the river and the path north. This is one of the least attractive parts of the walk, because the path lies between the river and the A10 motorway. Since it was Sunday the traffic was lighter but it was still unpleasant, and we even had a White Van Man yell something out the window at us (we couldn’t make out the exact words but they weren’t words of encouragement). We slogged on in the wind and cold for about three miles, when we came to a junction where a creek joined the river. At that point we were more than ready to see the motorway fork right while we forked left.

In previous years’ accounts of this stretch walkers had talked about how difficult the path was. Luckily, it had been mowed by a large machine and so we weren’t fighting chest-high plants. We encountered a retired farmer who told us that the mowers had been through less than a month ago, so we really felt fortunate. We saw a few birds, including the ever-present swans, but not as many as on the previous day.

We also had up close and personal views of the agricultural productivity of the region. This is one of several hay buildings we saw on the way:

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Fen Rivers Way Walk, Part 1

We skipped Thanksgiving this year in favor of another walking holiday. We didn’t have much time, because the semester is not yet over (*cries*) but we were able to put together a week and go to England. Given it was late November and therefore likely to be cold, rainy, and dark, we looked for a path that would be doable under a variety of conditions. We settled on the Fen Rivers Way, which runs from Cambridge to King’s Lynn along the Cam and Great Ouse rivers.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cambridge (TheH has lived in or near there for stretches of time since he was a teenager), and we’ve visited Ely and its magnificent cathedral, as well as surrounding villages. And we’ve even walked part of the river path from Cambridge. But we’d never been to King’s Lynn or that corner of Norfolk. It is very flat, but the Fens are beautiful in their own way. Efforts to drain the Fens and make them agriculturally productive began in the 17th century and there are some impressive feats of engineering. In addition, people live in narrowboats along the rivers, so you have that culture as well. It can be very windy, but that part of southeast England gets less rain than a lot of the country, so we decided to chance it.

The path itself is 48-50 miles, and we allotted three days. These would be longer days mileage-wise than we averaged in Wales, but with no elevation and slightly lighter packs, we thought we could manage it. The main constraint was going to be the light: there would only be about 7 1/2 hours of sun a day at this time of year, and sunset would come by 4pm. The temperature was forecast to be in the 40s, with low 50s a couple of days, and the rain was supposed to be intermittent and rarely heavy (unlike the Midlands and the North, where there had been significant rain and flooding the week before).

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for November: The Memory Collector by Fiona Harper

I’m almost on time! Yeah, not really, but I was away for a week and mostly offline. This month’s challenge was sweet/spicy, i.e., you pick a TBR book that is at one of the ends of the explicitness spectrum. At least that’s how I interpret it. I went for sweet and chose a women’s fiction book by an author whose work I’ve enjoyed in both her Harlequin and single-title incarnations.

Memory Collector cover

The promo for this novel said that it was for fans of Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a book that I had very mixed feelings about (my review is here). But I thought that Harper was likely to provide me with a good read, so I bought this last year soon after it came out. It’s women’s fiction with a romantic storyline, with a narrator who is 32, single, and struggling with issues. For those of you who have strong feelings about this, it’s told in 1st person present. I didn’t notice it right away but once I did I couldn’t stop noticing.

Heather Lucas looks to be getting along OK. She has a good job, albeit a contract one, as a documentarian and archivist for private collections, she lives in a flat she likes, and she gets along reasonably well with her sister Faith and loves her niece and nephew. But it’s clear from early on that Heather doesn’t have things under control. Her flat is unnaturally pristine except for a spare room which is packed to the ceiling with stuff. And she visits Mothercare a bit too often for someone who doesn’t have children who need what the store sells.

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