Category: reflection

thing 22: ‘… in this blank of things, a harmony’: a night under canvas

’96 cans of beer, or 3 dead otters.’

This was Jana’s response when I asked how much the big cool-box held. But before you get on the blower to the RSPCA, let me add that part of her work supports a research programme about otters, which involves the collection and study of otter-corpses. Makes sense, of course, to cool them: minimise whiff, preserve the maximum amount of information… Still. I was kinda glad we were using a different cool-box for our trip. (Plus: (read more…)

thing 21: ‘come to the edge’: abseiling, part (ii)

Not poppy nor mandragora nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, shall ever medicine me to that sweet sleep which I owedst before I said I’d abseil off the church tower. That final week before the event saw a lot of small-hours reflecting.

Some of my wilder imaginings had eased a little. The primary fantasy had been connected to a severe, persistent, boarding-school-engendered case of body dysmorphia. In this fantasy, Person 1 of the two-man team running the abseil on the day would take one look at me, pick up his loudhailer—because for the fantasy to be its most nightmarish, he and his colleague would be at some distance from each other, say, a sports’ field length away; which field would, of course, be packed with spectators—pick up his loudhailer and broadcast to Person 2, ‘Mike, we’re going to need The Big Harness for this one’. Now, thanks to the practice with Andy, I could grasp the fact that that wouldn’t happen. Still, the fear remained. (read more…)

thing 21: ‘… not what ships are built for’: abseiling, part (i)

“10.30 Andy climbing wall.” Not an entry I ever expected to see in my diary.

I’ve never wanted to climb, don’t think of myself as physically courageous, and am self-conscious and unconfident about learning new bodily skills. I am, to say the least, physically quite other than the long-fingered, lean, limber types I imagined would find a natural habitat at the climbing wall. W—as the Young People would say—TF? But there it was in my diary; and I’d chosen to put it there. Desperate times, and all that.

When I heard the sponsored abseil was on, I went into a kind of ingrowing hysteria (if there can be (read more…)

thing 20: ‘welcome ye treasures which I now receive’: first swim of the year

For weeks now, being in the Cumbrian countryside has been like walking through a 70s Flake ad, only with no innuendo and barely enough chocolate. The meadows are extraordinary this year. I’ve never seen so many buttercups, such clover and poppies, never mind the numberless others I can’t name; and I can’t remember seeing a farmer, one man, mowing a meadow (sorry) for hay, so early. But on this hot Bank Holiday Monday the freshly-cut fields were corduroy-striped with (read more…)

thing 19: ‘…but thinking makes it so’: wall talk

“This is a magnificent piece of walling which shows off the expertise of the men who built them. Note that the wall has horizontal courses, while the top stones slope with the hill and are built with the wall rather than simply sitting on top. There is a strong wall end above the gorge”. Well, who knew? She who hath eyes to see, and all that.

The wall thus celebrated features in a walk round Coniston and the Old Man, given in a booklet produced by the Cumbria Dry Stone Walling Association (from which that description is taken). My friend Jenny suggested (read more…)