Category: reflection

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. (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 (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 (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 (more…)

thing 18: ‘kissing the joy as it flies’: a bluebell wood

Like Bach, wild swimming and my sister’s home-made blue cheese and mushroom pizza, spring soon exhausts my superlatives, so I’ll simply go with Hopkins and say that ‘Nothing is so beautiful as spring’. On a day like this, who could possibly disagree?

I discovered this tiny nature reserve only last year—a friend recommended it—and by the time I got there the bluebells were already on the wane. Ever since, I’d been looking forward to this spring and (more…)