Mountains

So.  I felt terrible about not trying for Prince tickets, but then  I realised I am actually too lazy and can’t cope with disappointment – how negative is that?  Regardless, I had an angst-ridden night, awake at 4.45, reading my inability, my stasis, in the face of the Purple One as a sign of the fact that life is passing me by, that i will never be a Zelig character and I should punish myself by continuing on this track of apathy and self-denial.  Night thoughts are the worse, aren’t they?

I took evasive action in the morning.  I unfollowed all things Prince and we headed up to Hadrian’s Wall, and I’m pleased to say that a day’s walking blasted the rest of the dross out of my head.  The wall itself is about 6 foot wide and only about 2 foot high in some places, but it just …goes.  There’s nothing to interrupt and barely a house, let alone a village on either side of the wall for miles.  The landscape is light green and rolling and reminded me of frontier.  It felt a lot more optimistic than the landscape of the Lake District and clear, a seventies-postcard clear sky.  

Well, the hills roll and the wall hugs them like a zipper.  In fact I’m not entirely sure that Hadrian didn’t build it to segregate the Scots from England, but to suture us together?  Who knows? Anyway, I was ‘ calfy-hearted ‘ to use a mum phrase (meaning a bit wimpy) when we started out at Cawfield: I’m putting it down to my night mind-wrestles.  Still, Northumberland seems to be the land that Health and Safety forgot; there’s no reflective tape, handrails or cautionary signs.  I imagine they have a pretty active St Johns service or something, but if you fall on your ass, tough tits.

Billed as ‘moderate’ on the guide, it looked nothing but; a series of hills growing in magnitude unfurled before us, the only foothold provided by loose rocks, tufts of grass and boggy mud.  You had to hope the wind kept blowing you forwards on the ascent so that you didn’t fly off. Yes, I was shitting myself, but I wasn’t going to be a not-do this time.  I climbed (on all fours) each rock rollercoaster toute seule.  I hated the before and loved the during and after.  2 out of 3 is a win, right?

 

The best thing about walking for me is not the views, its the genuine need for focus that it lends me.  If I don’t pay attention and shut my brain off from its chatter, I’ll fall.  For once, I don;t have a theme tune in my head, I’m not worrying about someone’s coursework, I’m not thinking about dinner, or missing Prince.  I’m thinking about where to put each foot

 

It’s probably the closest to a child state that I’ll achieve, but with a feeling of risk that you can only get as an adult.  It’s being in the zone, I guess they call it and it feels wonderful.  It staunches the mindshit for ten minutes.  Respite!

I never see much wildlife on these trips (they know to hide).  This time, sitting on a rock chatting to my mother (about bad red wine, prosaically), I heard a thundering and turned to see four hunters on horseback. Dressed in navy, they rose over the brow of the hill like some mythic being drawn out of the ground, followed by three dogs, so alive to the scent hat their eyese were defocused. The four hunters were caricature posh: the women wore girlish pony tails and the men were crimson and well-fed with tiny little chins.

And they all completely ignored me.  Angus (one of the four) was an absolute dear and hopped off to undo the gate and they took off, over the lonely rolling hills, a gradient so steep that they soon disappeared out of view.

I didn’t open the fence for them in some shit small form of protest.  Hunting is bulllying isn’t it? However, i don’t imagine the chicken in my pie had a ball while it was alive, either.  I’m not particularly up to date with the laws on hunting, so it is entirely possible that they were following a scent.  But I’ve always thought the ritual of it, the dressing up in matching outfits like they’re in a band is faintly ridiculous.  Seeing it up close, it felt like part of the landscape.  And if it’s their way of cutting out the brain chatter for an afternoon (and no animal is battered in the process) why the hell not?

 

So, this post is called Mountains for easons of both pleasure and pain.  Pain: it’s a favourite Prince song (still hurting but getting better!) And Pleasure: I feel like I climbed a few this weekend.

This Charming Manc

It's a condiment!

The last couple of months have been filled with the kind of dread and anxiety that I imagine baby cows experience on the veal truck to nowhere.  Leaving London felt impossibly big and the time I had to complete all the ‘things I haven’t yet done’ seemed ridiculously small.  Even the shit bits were romanticised; I gazed at the puke on the pavement like it was morning dew, the shouty smelly weirdo at the tube station became the last bastion of eccentric London.  Sullen moody queue pushers were smiled on fondly.  Could I really be leaving all this splendour behind?

To be honest, by the final week, living as if I were in a film was getting a little tiresome so I was ready to make the break.  The only time I remember being genuinely upset was when it was time to say goodbye to the guy who works in our cornershop.  Friends I know I will stay in touch with, maintaining relations witnewsagents will be more difficult, so the reality of not ever seeing him again was genuinely affecting for both of us.

The move was stressful and long and everything we hoped it would be, so enough of that.  Permit me to be really smug instead.

Manchester. is.  great.  Possibly (and it’s early I know and I haven’t been to work yet) even better than London.  There, I said it, Cockneys! Here are my reasons why, a wide ranging mix of cliche and genuinely excellent observation:

1.  Less pigeons.  This is a major factor for me as I hate those little turds.

2.  Black pudding is practically a condiment.  And it is really good black pudding!  In fact, breakfasts are across the board fabulous; I recommend Teacup (which has a very hands on owner in Mr Scruff, purveyor of fine tea, fine music and a Manc legend) and the Koffeepot, which is like your favourite bits of every previous era rolled into one.

3.  People are friendlier.  Boring but true. The only snake in the grass that we’ve come across so far has been the estate agent!  Football fans are not known for their top table manners, but at Old Trafford recently, people were kindly stepping aside to let people out of the rows in front and everyone was thanking everyone else profusely like it was Oscar night!

4.  I can walk everywhere from my house.  To the station, the theatre, the best bars and pubs.  No more Transport for London Journey Planner!  And I can get to proper real-life countryside (see pic below) in less than 45 minutes!

5.  Traffic lights turn green quicker.   I offer no empirical evidence for this, but I have waited on enough stubborn red men in my life to know a quick and fortuitous change when I see one.

6.  Great Northern Institutions, like Wilkinson’s, where you can get everything for £5.  Never knowingly undersold?  Pah!  Never knowingly disappointed, more like.

7.  And finally; 2 x fish and chips with gravy = £10.  This one alone is enough to guarantee a mass exodus to Lancashire.  Please don’t come.  We don’t want you.

Why stay south, I ask you, why stay south?

Try not to sing the Emmerdale theme tune - this is a shot from Ramsbottom (fnar), which is about 40 minutes from Manchester