Author: John Bines
“They’re doing a ‘walk and talk’ to the Burgess Hill game next week”, my friend said as the fourth East Grinstead goal went in against the Heath (Haywards). I’d heard him talk of these before. As a Palace fan, he had previously walked to the Cottage (Fulham) and the Library (Arsenal) before matches on a Saturday. “Why not”, I thought. I’ve had some mental health challenges over the years so anything I could do to raise awareness of the issue sounded good. I was a little sceptical of the benefits of sharing my own experiences with other walkers, but I agreed to give it a go.
Autumnal walk and talk through mid Sussex woodland
We met at a quarter past twelve at Hanbury (the Haywards Heath ground), and nine of us set off. After the inevitable Impish football banter with two Palace fans, one Arsenal, one Fulham, and a few agnostics, we soon separated out. I found myself talking with a man who had recently lost a relative after being their carer for many years. He was considering what to do next and had experienced mental health challenges. He shared his insight that, after many years of effectively being defined by caring for somebody, it was time to redefine himself. As an empty nester (well, nearly), this resonated with me. I was particularly struck by his positivity, especially as he was the Arsenal fan.
A little later on the walk, I talked with another man. We focused on the negativity that completely swamps modern life. We bemoaned the loss of Trevor MacDonald’s ‘and finally’, and lamented on the desperate state of the media and, in particular, the BBC. I mentioned my recent departure from the misery-laden lounge of social media as part of a recent mental health recovery. We ended up concluding that in such an environment, we shouldn’t be too surprised when people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson succeed with a simple straightforward message of positivity.
We arrived at Burgess Hill ahead of time but with time to enjoy a beer before kick-off. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours; walking, talking, sharing, reflecting. I’ve counted myself in for the next one – as long as I don’t have to watch Palace play afterwards. I have to look after my mental health after all!