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…)

thing 24: ‘he tells her that the earth is flat…’: St Bega’s way, part (i)

‘[It is without any perceptible trace of actual regret that] we regret to announce the cancellation of the 5.01 Northern Trains service to Carlisle’.

At least I think that’s what the announcement said; Margaret and I were too busy exchanging dismayed glances to notice all the details. Fortunately the patient staff at Lancaster found us an alternative service and we’d only be an hour delayed. Unfortunately, they’d also had to find the same alternative for the other 759 people who’d hoped to get the cancelled service, so (more…)

thing 23: ‘where the soul can think aloud’: a walk on the beach

Nobody brings anything small into a bar round here.

One of the lines which convinced me about Tom Waits; and I remain convinced, despite the discovery that the line was lifted more or less verbatim from Harvey. In the film, Elwood P Dowd also claims ‘I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years… and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it’. I went to the beach, this day, feeling that reality had definitely won out over me—more TS Eliot and a reality overdose than Jimmy Stewart and an escape from it. But maybe people rarely bring anything small to the sea, either. (more…)

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: (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. (more…)