This is not good. This is not good at all.  My room in the hostel is up a flight of stairs and going down to the member's kitchen for breakfast is excruciating. I woke a few times in the night with pain in my left leg but fully expected it to be better by the morning. But better it most definitely isn't.

I had planned to have a fairly easy day today. To maybe get a bit beyond Bridge of Allen on the way to Callendar as I have decided to go that way (more old railway lines) rather than what looks like a more difficult route to Crief where I could have picked up old drove routes to Skye.

I spent much of last night planning with the maps. That is, once I had hobbled down the steep hill to the supermarket and back. The Youth Hostel is near the top of the hill, just below the castle. The supermarket, and the station etc is at the bottom.

It was bad but I have had this before. Most notably I got really nasty shin splints at New Year when I walked all the way from the frozen waterfall at Steall to Fort William, hurrying down the road along Glen Nevis. The pain then was worse than it had been on the latter stages of yesterday's walk, so though it was unpleasant, I had not been particularly worried.

But as I go down the stairs to the members kitchen it is obvious that something is badly wrong. Though my right leg feels pretty normal my left hurts just as much as it did last night. The pain has localised around the front of the ankle but is, if anything, more intense than it was yesterday evening.

I get some breakfast and hobble around a bit but it is very soon plain that I am going nowhere today. If I take it very, very easy, I might just manage a half day tomorrow before my train home.

So after breakfast I get my camera and hobble painfully down the hill to do a bit of shopping and to look around Sunday morning Stirling.  Past the municiple buildings that I saw last night and thought were probably the most hideous I had ever seen. So ugly that I could not work out if they were meant to be like that or if they were part stripped as some sort of refurbishment.

I thought that I might catch a train somewhere or go and look at the Wallace monument but just getting down the hill half kills me. OK, so maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but it is that sort of constant pain that leads, within a few minutes of walking, to a headache as well as the original problem. And dosing myself to buggery with ibuprofen might get me going but is surely going to risk doing more damage.

I have a Cafe Nero cappuccino as it seems to be the first to open, then wait for the tourist information office to open and get a few timetables. Then hobble back into the centre of town. There is an independent coffee place called The Burgh Coffee House,  that looks promising so I check it out and get a seriously good coffee.

Then I buy a couple of books from charity shops, but after that I have little option but to wince my way back up to the hotel. Even a tourist day is obviously going to be too much for my leg. By the time I get back up to the hostel it is hurting so much that I cannot even face limping up the little bit of hill that is left to see the castle.

So I spend the day reading Day by A.L.Kennedy.

On Monday morning the leg is still painful. Though now I should say ankle as there is no pain in the rest of my leg. It hurts more to flex my foot than walking, but is still bad enough to rule out any attempt to get further on.

It is overcast and showery today, which is a pity as I go up to the Castle and find that only a few hundred meters from the youth hostel there are fabulous views of the country round about, including to the north west in the direction I will be going if I ever get to Bridge of Allen. That is, the broad glen of the River Teith.

I also look round the graveyard with its seriously  unpresbytarian monument to a woman who was drowned for refusing to be a Catholic.  Those crazy mixed up Victorians, Eh?

The pity of it is that it is an absolutely beautiful day. Perfect for walking. Sun but not too hot, just pleasantly warm.

So instead I spend the day reading Day, by A.L.Kennedy, having finished Balzac's A Murky Business on the train up on Thursday.

On Monday morning the pain has eased a little, but not nearly enough for walking to be a serious consideration. Instead of a race against time I have it in abundence.  This time I do hobble up to look at the Castle and environs, though today is overcast with showers so the light is not nearly so good for photos and I resort to the waterproof, but far inferior Olympus.

I go back down to the great coffee shop but it is having work done so no coffee there. After a pootle I decide I might as well catch a train to Perth.

Because I had planned initially to make for Crief I got my return ticket back from Perth. Now I could get a train to Edinburgh where I have to change trains, and that is quite appealing. But an enquiry at the ticket office yields the information that it costs the same to go to Perth as Edinburgh, and as it is decades since I was in Perth, apart from changing buses or trains, I decide to go there and then get the train back through Fife (which I have already paid for).

Visiblity is poor and I don't see much of the Ochils as the train heads north. But I do see some shapes and realise that they are geese, flying south.  Then I spot some in the fields and then more flying. Hundreds of them, Greylags I suppose but wild.  Winter would seem to be on its way.

It feels like it too. At Perth I limp into town through cold rain. Yesterday and the day before were warm and sunny but this is like Thursday all over again. Perth is not how I remember it. I have the image of a prosperous, rather prim and thin lipped sort of respectable Scottish burgh. But the centre of Perth has pound shops and a frayed look about it, much  less matronly than my memory of it.

But there are lots of charity shops and a discount bookshop, and an independent bakers so I get myself well supplied for the long journey home.  Then I have a deeply unsatisfactory meal in another bakers-cum-cafe. Probably the worst cappuccino of the entire walk, well at least since that pub on the Grand Union Canal on the outskirts of Leicester.

I soon run out of things to do in Perth and so I make my way back to the railway station and sit there reading until my train arrives. When it does I finish Day and move onto Transitions by Iain Banks which I got in hardback from one of the charity shops.

There is not all that much to see on this journey but I follow the route as I now have a Southern Scotland OS Map. These green maps are great for planning, so naturally the OS stopped making them when I was halfway. I finished Northern England and tried to buy South Scotland last time I went to Stanfords map emporium in Covent Garden, only to find that they had ceased to be published.

I have North West Scotland but I am not on it yet.  But I found a South Scotland in one of the gear shops in Stirling, and grabbed it gleefully.

So I count my way through the Fife Towns. But I also start reading Transitions. Which means that I am reading a book by Iain Banks as the train gets to North Queensferry and passed right over Iain Banks's house, as I know he lives almost under the railway bridge somewhere.

It occurs to me that this must happen a lot. And I wonder if it has occurred to him.

I hit Haymarket in rush hour. I have time to go to Susan and Nicks to pick up my walking pole which I forgot there, but my leg is too painful for mad dashes through Edinburgh so I don't call to see if anyone is in.

My train comes and I find a seat, my booked one being taken. I don't mind as I find a comfortable spot and get back into my reading.

Of course it is dark when I get back to Kings Cross and hobble round the corner to get my bus home, wondering when and if this damned leg is going to stop hurting.



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