“What do you want to do for your 40th birthday?” my girlfriend Isobel asked, a few months before the big day. I immediately began to think of a loud and enormous party, or a glamorous holiday, and then stopped myself because neither of those things is really me. Then my stomach slipped slightly with excitement and I began to grin. She looked at me, smiling. “What? What is it?!”

On a warm May afternoon two months later we stood outside the house I grew up in – wearing walking boots and carrying rucksacks that contained everything we would need for the next four days – and took the first steps ...


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