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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 2 February 2014

WALK 8. Shipley - Heaton

A failure which cost me money. We'd planned to do rock climbing on Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain (Heh, heh. It's in Scotland). We pitched our two tents below - me alone, brother Sir Hugh and his pal, Gimmer, in the other. During the night, it rained. It does that in Scotland. Rain that changed the immediate landscape; a trickle became a burn (Scot. = stream) which became a small waterfall - through both our tents.

The next day we took the train south. Sir Hugh and Gimmer left to climb in the Lake District; I to Bradford to dump my tent and motorcycle up to rejoin them.

At 4 am I emerged from the train at Shipley a mere 3 miles from Heaton the suburb where I lived. The most direct route took in a steepish path through hillside woods. But what the heck?

I shouldered my rucksack with difficulty but didn't think much about that. After a mile, however, it was all I could think about. Rain had tripled the weight of my tent and sleeping bag. I leant against someone's garden wall knowing I didn't dare take off the rucksack to rest. I'd never get it back on again. Still I faced the hillside path.

I have no memory of what followed. The pain in my shoulders fused with my resentment about the cost of futilely going from Bradford to Scotland and back. Perhaps I thought about PB, my first love. I hope so. Perhaps I envisaged myself ski-ing (two decades ahead) where uphill is by lift. Perhaps I imagined renouncing “outdoors” and switching to opera. Unhealthily writing novels. Tote that barge, lift that bale… Do you know? It isn’t even fun merely remembering.

NOTE. Pic isn't me


  1. I have snapshot memories of that event. Gimmer and I left the train at Penrith aiming for Langdale. I'm not sure of all details of our journey, but I remember boiling an egg (our only food) on the shores of Ullswater at a very early hour of the morning, then walking most ofUllswater's length, but part of that involved a terrifying lift in the Outward Bound School Land Rover with a mad instructor driver. We did walk from the top of Kirkstone Pass down The Struggle into Ambleside and had a hugely indulgent meal in Dodd's Café (now long gone) before catching the bus to Langdale.

    An epic few days, and like you I can't say I reflect on it with much pleasure, but, without being able to explain why I am glad we did it.

    In those days our Commando (ex-army) rucksacks alone weighed nearly as much as my total backpacking kit today.

  2. It's clear from the photo that your attire was inappropriate for hiking and camping. I wonder if you also wore a tie in your reporter role, fouling the typewriter carriage or even threatening to jam the presses with your peacockery.

  3. Sir Hugh: I fear you and Gimmer had to be more or less written out of this histoire, left to tell your own story. Did you toss up to find who got to cut the egg and who to choose?

    MikeM: Of course I wore a tie as a baby journo. These were the fifties, things were formal. You wore a tie even if you were due to be hanged on the morrow.

  4. You have me worried now. Could there come a time when I "renounce the outdoors?" Maybe keeping on writing about it (which takes up more time than being in it) will keep me out there.