Women endure pain without complaining, whereas men like to let everyone know they are suffering. Generalisations of this kind are complete tosh, of course - until anecdotal evidence pops up to lend them credence, as it did in the case of my partner who, after walking 27 miles a day for five days, acquired so many blisters her feet were in danger of disintegration. Yet she never complained of pain or hinted at capitulation, despite the five more days of walking ahead of her. I cannot confidently claim that I would be as stoical in the circumstances.
With a swell of pride, a nod of admiration and a wince of empathy I watched her hobble off at the start of day six before directing my curiosity at the swarm of motorhomes and campervans which had begun arriving at our campsite. They turned out to be full of enthusiasts of a pursuit I had never previously come across - radio-controlled model yacht racing - and they were gathering for the National Championships about to take place on the adjacent lake.
"Nice boat," I said to a couple of chaps fixing the mast into the hull of their 1.5 metre long pride and joy. "Is that made of carbon fibre?" They looked up from their task - I had caught their attention by admiring their craft and, at the same time, flourishing a scrap of technical knowledge.
"Yes", they beamed.
"It's a very expensive material isn't it?"
They beamed even wider. "That's right. But we don't tell the wife," said one, while the other glanced sideways at a motorhome where a woman could be seen busying herself in the galley.
But I could not hold their interest for long: they probably detected the tone of incredulity in my voice and, besides, their attention was focused on the contest. Although I was tempted - briefly - to stay and watch the start of the racing, they took so long with and were so absorbed in their preparations that I grew restless for the open road. Fully-grown men racing radio-controlled model yachts: who knew?
When I stopped for lunch I made the by now ritual round of phone calls to solicitors and estate agents in order to chivvy along the process of selling our flat and buying another. "This", I said to myself, "is going nowhere (rather like a yacht with a defective radio control). It's time to get a grip on the situation." But my calls always seem to be effective only in irritating everyone - including me - while the process itself remains deadlocked. So deeply ingrained in our legal system is the adversarial mindset that even conveyancing solicitors seem to feel obliged to adopt a 'let's see who blinks first' technique, each side waiting for the other to send documents, then subsequently apportioning blame for the resulting inertia on the other's lack of competence. I was glad to get back to my duties as logistics manager for my partner's walk, in which capacity I could at least be effective.
On day ten she reached her intended destination and, after a celebratory lunch with family and friends, we drove back to Manchester. Once home, my duties were re-defined: I became medical orderly (all those awkward-to-reach creases under the toes) and fetcher/carrier for someone whose feet had quite suddenly become incapable of another step - due, I am sure, to the realisation that her mission had been accomplished. Stoicism, no longer needed, melted away as she went deep into recovery mode. It was then I heard the first expression of pain.
"My feet hurt," she said.