originally part of training/fundraising for the Hepatitis C Trust's Nepal trek. Now, sporadic musings...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Picnic - or Routemarch?

End Jan 06

I’d love a fag. I’m finding it very tough after walks, too – obviously, after all that fresh air, I used to need to top up the pollution in my lungs… Last weekend was my first this year without a ‘relapse’. If I can hang out today, that’ll be two weekends…

I’ve drunk much more alcohol this week, though. Maybe explains why my immune system was kicking off yesterday after my coast hike…

But I’m jumping ahead. Michele suggested sending this journal to her, as a sample of my writing. Having seen her fabulous website with her incredible photography, I panicked at the thought of sending her my unedited journal drivel, and went over it to do some preliminary editing…

If anyone is interested in this (and it does feel a bit arrogant to assume that they might be) as ‘a heppie’s prep for the trek’ then that’s exactly what it should be – only stuff relevant to hep C, prep or the trek…

So I’ve tried to weed out the totally irrelevant crap about my daily existence. As I write this, I’ll have to keep looping back to take out irrelevancies… You don’t always know what is an irrelevance until you have the blessing of hindsight.

My aim is fifteen to thirty or more minutes walk every day if possible, with longer stretches at the weekend. So how’s that gone this week?

No walk on Monday – no time! – but then I probably needed a rest day after Sunday’s exertions. (Plenty adrenalin at the prospect of a potential date! That must count for something on the fitness front – though not sure what…) On Tuesday, I walked to my appointment with the manager of the structured day care service, which was lovely – I felt quite euphoric, which surprised me; city walking isn’t really my thing (unless it’s Edinburgh), and certainly not in winter (particularly not in Edinburgh – too viciously cold!). Another cold, misty January afternoon; the bright red disc of the sun, veined by tree silhouettes, slid down through the clouds between the high-rise flats. Another kind of spectacular; not my natural choice, but still beautiful.

Blisters on my toes this time – too-thick socks in my nubuck shoes; I hadn’t expected to be walking anywhere. Had to tape up my toes to walk round to Penny’s later without inflicting further damage.

No walk on Wednesday – no time. Took a long lunch-break Thursday, went to Linda’s for a snack and then we took Cassie, her dog, to the park. Walked home from the pub in the evening, too (and though alcohol four days in a row is not good, three half pints on a first date with no smoking is pretty damn miraculous).

On Friday, walked to meet last night’s date for breakfast. And walked back again. Went back to bed in the afternoon, though – I’m getting too old for late nights followed by early-ish mornings…

I’d pencilled in this weekend for a belated New Year pilgrimage to the coast, which would have been derailed if I'd had a Saturday night visit instead of Thursday night – I’m hardly going to choose to knacker myself during the day before a hot date (though it did take a bit of consultation with girlfriends to establish whether I could legitimately think of it as a date! – am very out-of-practice; but maybe it is like riding a bike… so to speak).

I’m rather pre-occupied on Saturday – not a good sign. It’s bright and clear, and I could do with a bit of sea air to ground me before I slide into obsession about this poor guy. It’s been such a long time since I had a love affair… and I have such a terrible weakness for handsome men…

I throw together a picnic and fill my flask. The drive down on the edge of the Deverills is glorious, Stevie Wonder serenading me on the sound system. Soul-singing stuff – in more sense than one; his music is part of the sound track of my life. The place names on this journey are part of the poetry of my life; Longbridge Deverill, East Knoyle, Shaftesbury, Compton Abbas, Fontmell Magna … I can see a road or a track going up to the summit of the hill in front of me. So I pull over to explore.

It’s bitterly cold. There is even a sprinkling of snow on the hillside. There’s a National Trust notice on the stile near the top, warning of grazing cattle and a BULL. I don’t want ot get to the summit that badly. The view is just fine from where I am, actually. The diversion is quite timely, reminding me it’s already one o’clock, and I must eat. Time for a mini picnic in the car.

Onward. To the strains of Fleetwood Mac and kd lang, the car noses through Sutton Waldron, Iwerne Minster, Child Okeford, Stourpaine (where the editor of Tears in the Fence lives), Blandford Forum (where the East Street Poets meet), Charlton Marshall, Spetisbury (speed cameras), then the back road through fields and Wareham Forest to Sandford, Wareham, Worgret, East Stoke… the turning for East Lulworth; ‘Open’ – well, it never occurred to me it might be closed, it never does. And so far, I’ve never come when it is closed – lots of MOD land around here, Lulworth army camp, and of course the ‘ghost village’ of Tynham; evacuated during the war and never re-populated.

I’ve decided to try the walk from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. Push myself (hmm…). The Heritage Centre car park isn’t busy exactly, but neither is it deserted. There are regular straggles of walkers up the hill. I stick a parking ticket in the car window and put my boots on. My mac is in the car, as an afterthought I pull it on over my fleece – it’ll help keep that wind out.

Flask, food, extra jumpers and my journal (just in case) are a fair weight. From experience, I know this hill can make me shaky and sick, so I try to be really disciplined at setting a slow and steady pace. I’m so impatient… I also know how tiring I find snail’s pace – I’ve done this hill many times with Isla at two years old, then three, four, and last year, five years old… I do like stopping to take in the view; after only a few moments the gradient is so steep it’s well worth stopping to look back over the bay. Spectacular.

Soon, I’m over the crest of the hill, and there’s the arch of the Man o’War and the stretch of beach with the caves where I intend to have my picnic. The wind on top of the hill is really strong, I have to battle to stay walking in a straight line. I feel a bit like a tortoise or something as the wind keeps grabbing my hefty backpack. Off the top, it’s more sheltered – just as well, I couldn’t manage that effort for long.

This place never fails to lift my spirits. And it’s just perfect for trek prep; rough hilly terrain rising several hundred feet above sea level. After a week’s camping here, I feel as though I’ve been at a health farm – even though we smoke, booze and eat gluttonously. It’s all the fresh air and sunlight, the haul to the beach and back every day, the swimming in icy sea water, the daily cliff walk with Carole – and not having to cook. That sense of being cared for, nurtured… of just lazing about, reading, chatting, laughing… You can’t beat it. And then I began coming as part of my New Year ritual homage to the ocean (and a vast improvement on Spittal beach it is, too). Any chance I get, I’ll come here to spend the afternoon – longer, if it’s hot, because then I can lounge about and write. It’s a magical place.

Down on the beach, it’s more laboured on the stones. There’s no-one in my favourite cave – the one that’s big enough for four of five people to sit comfortably, out the wind. (Number one Son and three of his friends and I sat in here on the first of January two years running – both times I got a bit chilled, though). I clamber up, and get stuck into my provisions. Bringing extra clothes was a brainwave – I sit on my mac with a jumper over it to stop my arse getting cold, and pull the other spare jumper on. In combination with the hot ginger and honey, I’m as cosy as toast. I decide the flask was inspired, if slightly heavy to lug about.

All this is only about the equivalent of an hour’s walk, so I decide to venture as far along the beach as I can. It’s hard work – and I hit a wind tunnel effect about half-way along. I’d give up and turn back, but I’m dying for a pee after all that fluid, and I’d prefer to be out of sight of the other walkers. I’m soon sheltered by the cliff again.

It seems fitting to run through my dance meditation in the natural ‘altar space’ close by the end of the beach. Good for boosting my temperature, which plummeted a bit in the wind tunnel. On the way back, I’m into the wind, so I don’t notice the cold, I’m struggling too hard. A couple of pebbles strike my face; I’m really shocked – as well as in pain. The wind really is so strong as to blow large pieces of grit off the cliff… Wow.

I climb into the cave again for a rest and some more provisions. Last week, it might have been the lack of sustenance that made me feel ill; I don’t intend to make that mistake this week.

I’d write, but I’m afraid of chilling if I get ‘on a roll’. I can always write sitting in the car, in the warm… so I decide to head back, maybe see if I can find somewhere to grab a coffee to keep me alert on the way back.

It’s slow work; my bag feels no lighter – though surely it must be? I’ve hardly any food left. The flask is a bit monstrous, I suppose. Clambering up the hill back to Lulworth, this time I keep stopping to turn and look back at the rosying clouds of the sunset. I’ve had exchanges with several walkers that have made the experience feel less solitary. Not that I mind solitary for something like this, but unexpected exchanges with people are always a delight.

The descent to the car is full of aches and pains around my joints. That’s all they are, I tell myself, aches and pains – tomorrow, they’ll have gone. Be careful not to over-favour and do yourself a real injury.

I need a coffee. I head along the coast; stopping at an old-fashioned level crossing with antiquated signals to let a passenger train through. It really does feel like another age here... Towards the sparkling lights of Weymouth, I’m thinking I should find a coffee bar there. But it’s winter, I have no change left for parking, and no energy left for finding a café once I have parked. As I’m not sure which road to take in the dark, I end up partially retracing my steps before taking a wrong turning. I’m knackered, my face is stinging from warming up after being so cold – I last felt this after coming out of that November blizzard with Sheena – I feel overheated, and my glands feel swollen. It suddenly occurs to me this is my first solo trip to Durdle Door. And this is the reason I don’t do this sort of thing by myself – because I get nervous I can’t get myself home again!

I manage to get home safe. I’m glad I cooked on Friday, I just have to heat up the rice and chickpea thingy. Rabbit Proof Fence is on TV tonight – I wanted to see that at the cinema when it came out.

I’m too tired to concentrate. So I watch Sea of Souls instead – for the music of the Scots accents – and go to bed.


Mike said...

Don't wear them boots out before you go


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I began blogging during training for a trek in the Himalayas... several lifetimes ago. Currently working on my novel - in the tiny spaces left by a 50 hour plus working week...