Category: nature

thing 38: ‘all experience is an arch’: the spirituality of travel

I’m lucky enough to be able to say that Grasmere’s not a long way away for me. Pretty much all year round, though, getting up into the Lakes on a Friday involves crawling along in traffic (and though I can’t really blame people for wanting to drink it all in, that doesn’t mean I don’t blame them, vociferously, in the privacy of my own car). (more…)

thing 28: ‘into the new place out of the blue’: a tale of two bridges

Unknown territory, of which I could definitely say there be dragons. I was going to Wales.

On my only previous visit I’d toiled up Snowdon in a whiteout (cloud, not snow), been put out to discover that some entirely able-bodied people had taken the train up (I mean, really) and then, that evening, shared with Susie a quantity of intoxicants sufficient to leave us spending what felt like hours in front of the telly, watching in a state of rapture the finest programme ever produced. When the credits rolled I don’t know if we were more disturbed to (more…)

thing 25: ‘swimming with the fishes’: sun, speedboat, snorkel

Yes, I know it means dead in Godfather-speak. But it’s what makes snorkelling different from swimming: that you can see you’re swimming with the fishes. So I’m going to call thing 25 that anyway.

Crete, early September. Still around 30 degrees; sea deliciously warm, sky a cloudless forget-me-not blue. We’re towards the end of a two-week stay and unfortunately, because of some health problems (which aren’t mine and must therefore remain private) quite a lot of it has been pretty bad—a debilitating medley of stress, heartbreak, fury, frustration, exhaustion, helplessness… It’s all gone on for years and most of the time I just get my phlegm on, so to speak, and “deal”, but lately I seem to be finding it harder to do so—or perhaps am less willing. Here I am in a lovely place, on holiday and in sore need of relaxation and refreshment. Instead I find myself howling tears of desperation in the middle of tourist-crowded street while people try to sell me lunch, leather goods and windchimes made of shells. More Mike Leigh than Francis Ford Coppola (and  (more…)

thing 24: ‘the marvellous journey’: St Bega’s way, part (iii)

You know when you’re driving along in the rain—the kind that your wipers can’t really cope with, and they go into a sort of frantic ineffectual fastwipe which is slightly silly, somehow, in the way that a powerwalk is—and you see walkers trudging along the verge, heads bowed, sheathed almost entirely in rustling nylon, their huge packs, also nylon-sheathed, rearing behind them like a doom they can’t shake; and you think casually, in passing, ‘Poor bastards’? Well. On day three of the pilgrimage, those poor bastards were us. (more…)

thing 24: ‘… and miles to go before I sleep’: St Bega’s way, part (ii)

It was one of those days Messrs Ordnance & Survey tend to put on the covers of their 1:25,000s: deep green hills, and water sparkling under a sky whose few meringues of cloud only emphasised the depth of the blue.

Usually, stopping for a squint at the map during a trudge across the rain-wreathed landscape, your cag hood rustling about your ears and your face screwed up against the wind, you regard these images with a sort of resentful disbelief. (I call this look ‘the (more…)