My operation* has been postponed again. Of course I’m disappointed, but I’m a patient patient, so it’ll be OK.
This was going to be a post about knitting. But then my brain went galloping off on a tangent, so here we are. Photos show the actual experience we had, whereas the words are about My Very Strong Opinions On The Matter Of How Things Should Have Been. Just after surgery was delayed the previous time, the Stoic Spouse, twinnage, and I last-minute-booked a week’s stay in an old converted stone barn up in Derbyshire, from where I’m drafting this post. (Now that it’s typed up and you’re reading it, we’re back home.)
The cottage was beautiful, with views across the Peak District.
We had plans. We’d hike up big hills, play badminton in the garden, go running, and poke about in streams. But it was SO HOT… and I say that as someone who normally loves heat.
For those of you not based in the UK, I should explain about holidays in the Peak District (and the Lake District, Snowdonia, etc). YOU DO NOT VISIT THESE PLACES IN ORDER TO LOUNGE AROUND IN THE SUN. I’m not going to write this entire post in capitals, BUT PLEASE IMAGINE THAT I AM SHOUTING THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS FROM THE TOP OF MY SOAPBOX, YEAH?
No, you go for the opportunity to hike across rugged and chilly terrain, weighed down by home-made sandwiches and relentless drizzle. Your destination is the summit of a distant peak. It takes several hours to stumble/scramble/stagger up the slope, crossing peat bogs, streams, scree slopes, and worn-away paths. Every so often, you pause to pick a few bilberries, because they’re delicious, and yet so tiny that nobody else has bothered to eat them. Still, the rain comes.
At last, you reach the summit. There’s a horizontal brass plaque on the top of the summit cairn, pointing towards all the geomorphological features you’d be able to see if only you weren’t standing in the centre of a low-flying cloud. Fortunately you have a splendid imagination, so your mind’s eye can picture it all, bathed in gentle golden sunshine.
You and your companions celebrate your collective achievement by wringing out the rainwater from your sandwiches and huddling on the leeward side of the little cairn in order to eat. Then you argue about which plonker left the chocolate biscuits in the car, and someone accidentally drops the Very Last Banana over the edge of a precipice which, two seconds later, confuses the hell out of the sheep that had been minding its own business 150 metres below.
Your ‘waterproof’ clothing is by now not so much leaking as enthusiastically ushering in the rain to make itself at home between your toes and down your back and up your nose and down your legs, and in between the very quantum particles of your soul. You take a silent vow to never ever engage in this mad masochism again. Next year, you’ll book a sedate watercolour-painting holiday in the Dordogne.
But for now, you’re facing a long descent down this stoopid mountain. Compared with the ascent, it’s easier on the lungs but harder on the legs, as you try to hold back from tumbling into a treacherous gallop down a slippy-slidey scree slope which would end in pain and the worse pain of all your companions laughing at you. Just for the record, it’s still raining. Even the sheep look miserable – especially the one who’s trying to figure out why a banana fell on its head.
Whilst you’ve been walking, somebody has moved your car three counties away – at least, that’s the only plausible explanation for why ‘down’ is taking so much longer than ‘up’. Nevertheless you continue because (i) you’re not a quitter, and (ii) you’re a bit lacking in other options. It continues to rain. All of you aches. Even your rucksack aches. Your boots ache, your socks ache, and they’re channeling that pain right back into your feet.
Then somebody needs a wee, so the rest of you shiver, stationary, on this barren moor, whilst the traitorous bladder searches in vain for a large enough clump of heather behind which to maintain its modesty, not that any other fool is out on this hellscape right now, and – even if they were – they really wouldn’t care that your mate Sid is fertilising a gorse bush with the remains of last night’s beer. You continue. Downwards and downwards. (And sometimes upwards again for a bit, to find the stile across a dry stone wall or to evade a slavering farm dog that’s convinced you’re here to rustle its sheep.) Slowly, the terrain softens. There’s grass! And trees! And mosquitoes! And you can see all this because the rain-clouds are at last heading off to harass some other poor blighter. The sun briefly comes out (it’s still cold, mind), and you can at last look back up at the majestic beauty of the peak you just blindly climbed.
Then at last, AT LAST! there’s your car! Back at the accommodation, you change into some refreshingly non-drenched clothes and head out for whatever looks largest on the local pub’s food menu. If you happen to have an experience like the one enjoyed by my friend Maryanne and I, you’ll return from supper to discover that in your absence, the landlord of your accommodation has removed all of the drippy clothing from your room – INCLUDING YOUR ILL-CHOSEN UNDERWEAR-DU-JOUR – and has hung it up to dry for all to see in the conservatory. You realize this as you return to the house and notice your shabby scarlet knickers hanging up for all to see. (And if you have an experience like the one not-really-enjoyed by my friend Toby and I in Norway, you’ll return to find the owner of your accommodation conducting strange witchcraft rites outside your room.)
Some time short of 9pm, you fall into bed. You’re smiling, because THIS HAS BEEN THE BEST DAY OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! Your sole regret is that you didn’t walk FURTHER, FASTER, HIGHER, MUDDIER! This is proving to be the PERFECT HOLIDAY, and tomorrow, you’re gonna be even more ambitious. You fall asleep with an orange-series Ordnance Survey map clutched to your breast, and you dream happily of contours.
THAT, my Fine Fibrous Friends, is a proper holiday – in my arrogant opinion. That’s how to enjoy the hillier and more northern/western bits of the UK. That was how we’d planned to spend this week, indoctrinating the next generation into the masochistic hell-joys of hill-walking. But the unprecedented heat has been a challenge. Climate change is rubbish. We did some hilly walking, some early-morning-badminton, a good deal of poking about in streams, and far too little running.
I can only hope that next year will be different.
*By which I mean the operation to reduce big-boob to the proportions of small-boob, post-cancer.