Aside 24 Mar

Apologies for being away for a bit – below another of my short stories – enjoy!

 

AWAY FROM HOME

As the bus pulled away from the kerb Andrew suddenly felt isolated. His mother had not wanted him to go on the school trip and begged him to wait another year before he ventured as far afield as Wales, but he was determined to establish his independence and had argued and demanded he be allowed to go. As the bus turned the corner he could still see his mother waving anxiously and wished with all his heart he had listened to her.
He sat at the back of the bus, a solitary figure amongst so many laughing, excited children. He was frightened and felt no such sensation, only trepidation for what lay ahead and what the other children had in store for him.
With his red hair, horn-rimmed glasses and gaunt appearance he had always been the butt of jokes and pranks by the other children. He had learned to live with and accept it as a way of life.
Approaching the motorway, he decided to read his geography book to try to take his mind off the receding safety of his familiar surroundings.
Half an hour later, the other children’s exuberance had increased and Mrs Abbott, the geography teacher, was trying desperately to control the riotous group. Andrew knew it would not be long before their attentions turned to him. Unfortunately, he was right. Before he knew what was happening, someone had snatched his rucksack off the seat next to him and was quickly rifling the contents. It was Jimmy Evans. Although Jimmy was at heart a good natured soul he could not resist taunting Andrew and making his friends laugh with his snipes. Andrew seemed to constantly annoy him. Being smaller than Jimmy, Andrew just let him carry on until he found something else of interest – his cheese and ham sandwiches,
“You don’t want these do you squirt” Jimmy asked menacingly.
Though his stomach rumbled, he nervously shook his head and continued staring at his book; to antagonise Jimmy would be a big mistake as he knew only too well from previous experience.
By the time the bus pulled in to the gates of the camp, Andrew was trying desperately to think of some illness that would send him home, his mother’s warning repeating itself in his head. He retrieved his suitcase from the back of the bus and fell into line. They were led up the grass-lined path and taken to their allotted dormitory. Three other buses had pulled up behind their bus and people were milling about everywhere. Andrew had only a fleeting glance at the roaming hills and feathering sky above him.
The dormitory was grey inside and bunk beds were lined up regimentally along either side with a locker separating each set of beds. Andrew chose the bunk bed nearest the door and set about unpacking his things. As he glanced around at the wooden floors and neatly made bunks, he tried to control his fear and get things into perspective. He had just finished unpacking when Mrs Abbott asked everyone to line up for lunch. He looked around on the trek to the canteen and felt instantly detached, the open expanse of fields to his right frightening him enormously. As the line came to a sudden halt, Andrew bumped into the person in front of him, Jimmy Evans! Jimmy immediately turned round and punched him in the arm, shouting
“Watch where you’re goin’ you stupid idiot!”.
Andrew retreated and joined the back of the queue. Picking up his tray in the noisy canteen, he found no trouble finding a seat in an unobtrusive corner and began to eat his lunch of mashed potato, carrots, mince and gravy followed by apple pie and custard. He chewed every mouthful carefully, dreading the inevitable return to the dormitory.
The afternoon passed uneventfully for Andrew, and he began slowly relaxing, walking alone around the camp during his free-time, hands in pockets, day-dreaming and breathing in the fresh air of the gentle spring afternoon. He began to notice the birds, and their constant chattering comforted Andrew.
On his return to the dormitory there was a flurry of activity as his class began to get ready for the evening disco. As he approached the showers he tried to control the trembling in his legs. He opened his soap bag and began washing his hands and face. There was no way he was attempting to take a shower with Jimmy Evans and his friends larking about in there.
He smiled to himself as he crossed the gravel path as he realised he had achieved not being noticed by Jimmy, and was quite looking forward to the disco. He entered the dormitory and realised immediately why Jimmy had left him alone – his clothes and books were strewn across the whole length of the room, garments his mother had lovingly packed were tossed on the bed, having first been trodden on by muddy shoes. He felt the tears sting his eyes as he retrieved his belongings and tried to sort out the chaos Jimmy and his friends had left.
Andrew now knew he could not risk going to the disco and asked Mrs Abbott if he could be excused as he had a headache. After sitting alone in the darkened dormitory for some time, he decided to go for a walk. He had noticed an exhibition centre on the way to the canteen earlier in the day and decided to investigate.
Walking with his tousled head bent towards the floor, he heard a sobbing sound coming from the back of one of the other dormitories. Approaching carefully, he saw a small blonde figure sitting on one of the refuse bins, head in hands and looking totally dejected. Andrew was undecided as to whether he should leave quietly or offer some help, but the words were out before he could decide,
“Are you okay?” Andrew asked.
The small figure slowly looked up, dirty tears streaked his face and Andrew protectively moved forward. The figure suddenly spoke “I want to go home” he whimpered. Andrew felt a certain empathy with this distressed character and compassionately put his arm around the shoulders of the boy and cuddled him close, “Don’t cry, I am sure things can’t be as bad as all that” Andrew exclaimed.
Suddenly a torrent of words burst forth from the boy most of them smothered in Andrew’s jacket.
“Slow down I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Let’s begin with your name” Andrew asked.
The small child replied plaintively, “Philip”.
“Right Philip, what are you doing out here all on your own?”
“I can’t go to the disco, they’ll all be there” Philip stuttered between sobs.
“Who’ll all be there?”
“Charlie and Kevin and most of the other boys in my class, they hate me, they stopped me from taking a shower, tying me to the sink until they had finished and then releasing me just before the disco began, they’ve hidden my clothes, I want to go home!” Philip started wailing once again.
Andrew cuddled him close and tried to think of a way to stop the child crying
“Let’s go and look in your dormitory and see if we can find your clothes and then we’ll go to the disco together” Andrew offered bravely. Philip looked into Andrew’s face and quickly took hold of his hand.
Entering Philip’s dormitory together they searched quickly for the missing clothes. Finding them stuffed behind a locker Andrew did his best to stretch out the creases. Andrew accompanied Philip to the shower and kept watch at the door whilst he showered and changed.
They entered the disco together, Andrew still holding Philip’s hand. They went up to the tuck shop and Andrew bought two cans of coke and some crisps and then led Philip to a dark corner. Philip cheered up a little and Andrew chatted animatedly with the small boy, trying to take his own mind off Jimmy Evans. Philip explained that he came with a group from St Paul’s School, that his father made him come, saying it would toughen him up. They spent the rest of the evening together unobserved by their tormentors and Andrew escorted Philip back to his dormitory and told him if he had any free-time the next day he was to seek him out and they would explore the exhibition centre together.
Andrew awoke the next morning, stretched, and hastily got up in order to avoid Jimmy in the shower. Returning to the dormitory, Jimmy and his friends passed him, sniggering and obviously pleased with their exploits of the previous evening.
Today it was pond study day and Andrew was keen to begin. He pulled on his wellingtons and lined up with the rest of his class for breakfast. He kept a safe distance from Jimmy and once in the canteen looked for his small friend of the previous night. He quickly spotted him sitting next to his teacher, smiled and gave a small reassuring wave.
On reaching the study classroom he sat near a window listening attentively to Mrs Abbott describing the inhabitants of the pond they were about to study. Andrew was fascinated and made notes on everything Mrs Abbott said. She explained about the Great Crested Newt and how they were protected by British Law and that if anyone found one were to contact her immediately so as not to endanger it. She explained about frogs, toads, water boatmen, dragonflies, damselflies, caddis flies, water skaters and beetles. Andrew scribbled furiously trying to remember all Mrs Abbott was telling them and was anxious to begin his study. The class was separated into groups of two by their names being put into a tin, picked out and matched up. Andrew drained and began wringing his hands together fearfully when his name was matched with Jimmy Evans. A slow smile spread across Jimmy’s face as he cast a quick glance towards Andrew.
Filing out of the classroom, Andrew tripped, dropping his collection of plastic jars and his net. Jimmy stepped over him giving him a sly kick in the ribs as he passed, exclaiming to his friends
“Looks like all the frogs are out here instead of being in the pond”.
They all laughed and Andrew picked himself up trying to control his reddening face.
On reaching the pond and finding that the group from St Paul’s was also there, Andrew looked for Philip and spotted him standing close to his teacher. Andrew waved and Philip waved back. He began scooping up water in his net and carefully sifting through the contents. Jimmy had obviously decided that he was not doing anything to help and just sat on the bank letting him do all the work that was fine with Andrew – at least he was being left alone. Mrs Abbott approached the group and warned everybody about Horse-flies and that if they were bitten they were to see her immediately. Jimmy guffawed as if nothing as insignificant as a fly could possibly bother him.
Andrew returned to the pond and was excitedly collecting specimens and labelling his plastic jars when suddenly there was a terrified scream from the other side. The teachers had wandered away and were not aware of anything amiss, Andrew scrambled up the bank trying to see what was going on. He watched the crowd of children on the other side and suddenly realising that Philip was nowhere to be seen, raced around the pond only to find three boys holding Philip’s head under the water, Andrew approached them and tried desperately to free Philip, but the other boys were much stronger so he began shouting towards the teachers, trying to attract their attention. It was useless and Andrew tried once again to get amongst the children and free Philip who was kicking frantically. Suddenly Philip’s body went limp and the children released him. Andrew quickly got hold of Philip’s jacket and was trying desperately to pull him to the bank but Philip was much heavier than he looked. Surprisingly, there was someone else helping to pull Philip’s inert body to the bank. Andrew did not have time to see who it was, but laying Philip down on the bank, he loosened his shirt and put his head in the recovery position as he had been taught in first aid. He began trying to resuscitate Philip and stopped for a brief moment to tell one of the other children to get a teacher. The child was reluctant to go until Andrew bellowed,
“Move it, now”.
The child ran whilst Andrew continued blowing air into Philip’s lungs. Suddenly there was a cough and a splutter and Philip’s eyes opened. He cradled the small boy in his lap until the teacher arrived and took the child up in his arms carrying him hurriedly to the sick bay.
Andrew now had a chance to relax and look around to find his assistant in helping Philip. There was no-one close except Jimmy Evans and Andrew could not believe his eyes when he saw Jimmy’s pants were wet from the knee down. Jimmy gave an awkward smile and walked back to other side of the pond.
The rest of the week passed pleasantly for Andrew, with people congratulating him and telling him how lucky it was for Philip that he was around. Andrew replied to these thanks with an embarrassed smile and then by saying
“I could not have done it without Jimmy’s help”
which always brought a surprised look from the other person.
Philip recovered and was not too badly hurt. He was sent home in a taxi with a teacher for support. His tormentors were also sent home with a message for their parents that they were suspended from school until a meeting could be arranged between them and the head teacher.
On the Friday morning before leaving, Andrew was trying to close his suitcase without success when abruptly Jimmy came through the door of the dormitory and casually moved Andrew aside and sat on the suitcase enabling Andrew to fasten it. Andrew said “thank you” and Jimmy just smiled.
Sitting once again at the back of the bus, Andrew glanced reluctantly out of the window and realised that he had, after all, enjoyed his first week at camp. With a jolt he felt somebody sit next to him and looked up into the smiling face of Jimmy. “I just wanted to say that I never realised how badly you were treated by us until I saw that other boy being bullied. I promise no-one will ever bully you again.” Andrew gulped and waited for a jab in the side or a punch in the arm. Nothing came. He nervously glanced around and smiled at Jimmy who immediately beamed back. On the journey home Andrew showed Jimmy the results of his pond study and explained the difference between dragonflies and damselflies. Jimmy listened politely, though Andrew knew he did not grasp what he was saying.
On turning the corner into the street where his school was situated, Andrew could see his mother waiting anxiously outside the school railings. There were only a few other mothers there but Andrew immediately recognised his mother’s red coat. He ran along the pavement and gave his mother a quick but strong hug and said,
“I wish you hadn’t come to meet me mum, I’m not a baby you know”,
Andrew’s mother looked surprised and tried to put her arm around her son as he pulled away but stayed close and began walking home.

 

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20 Feb

BUBBLING UNDER
It had started mid-gulp of vodka, my first but definitely not my last of the day! A stinging sensation began on my chest moving gradually to my right arm. After another gulp I rolled up my sleeve to investigate and what a sight! I can only describe it as something out of a Ridley Scott movie, he of “Alien” fame. My skin was bubbling reminiscent of cheese on top of toast under a grill, not that I had felt any hunger pangs in the last few weeks. I watched and as each second passed more gnarly red bumps appeared. I shook my head wondering if this was to do with the alcohol or the sun streaming through the kitchen window. I looked again, they were still there.
I ran to the mirror, the one in the bedroom was bigger but for now the one in the hallway was nearest. I peered through the glass rotating my arm this way and that, pulling down my jumper below the non-existent cleavage to check what was happening there. Glaring intently everything appeared normal, no lumps, not even a spot or blemish, everything was fine. There was nothing unusual in the brown eyes staring back at me apart from the bloodshot. I flexed my arm thinking it might be a trick of the light from the front door but no, nothing there. I blinked once, twice and then back into the mirror, same thing completely normal! On looking back at my arm out of the mirror’s reflection it was still fizzing away and spreading towards my shoulder.
By the end of my third vodka, about noon, the whole of my body was covered. It must be a trick of the mind I thought, there’s no way this could be invisible in a mirror. I raced upstairs to the bedroom. Jack had left his wet towel from his morning shower on the bed, moving it slightly to one side I paraded in front of the mirror trying to catch it out, turning quickly and then darting backwards and forwards seeing if it made any difference. It didn’t and now the sores were beginning to blister. I rang Jack on his mobile, naturally he thought I was drunk and started shouting down the phone,
“What do you mean the mirror is lying to you?”
“Like I said it’s not telling the truth” I tried to explain
“Now you know what it feels like” he yelled and then ended the call.
I sat weeping softly curled up naked on the cool Egyptian white cotton sheets that were a wedding present from Auntie Ann it was the only comfort I could find. I don’t know how long it took for some kind of thought to penetrate through the pain I was now feeling. But eventually one thought stealthily managed to slip through, that’s it Auntie Ann she’d be able to help. As I dialled her number the blisters on my hands began to pop like bubble wrap and the pain was intensifying by the second.
“Auntie Ann, Auntie Ann is that you?” who I expected to answer I don’t know when I had actually punched in the number and checked it on the screen on the phone twice
“Pamela?”
“Yes, it’s me; well I think it’s me”
“Have you been drinking again dear?”
“No, no honest well not since lunch time anyway, I can’t, something happened”
“What? Is it you and Jack?”
“No, it’s the mirrors, they’re all lying” I tried to explain
“Lying where? Have you taken them down?”
“Auntie Ann, please! I got up this morning and I started to get these lumps, they started on my arms and chest but now they’re spreading”
“Do you have cream dear, E45 should do it”
“Yes, I mean yes I have cream but I don’t think that’s the answer. I mean the sores aren’t the problem it’s the mirrors”
“Pamela you’re not making any sense” complained Auntie Ann
“Right, when I look in the mirrors I can’t see any sores I just look normal” I tried again
“You are normal dear, well apart from the drinking. Look I have an appointment I’m off to Tessa’s for lunch, see you Tuesday as usual, cheerio”
And with that I was once again left sitting pondering my dilemma. What if this was some kind of alcohol induced nightmare? I’d read about them in the pamphlets Jack brought home, something to do with a 10 or 12 Step Programme. I’d only briefly glanced at them; after all I am not an alcoholic no matter how they try to convince me. I just like the occasional pick-me-up. Now I know what you are thinking I’ve already had three this morning but it’s my day off so I am entitled to a bit of freedom on my day off.
That reminds me I haven’t had a drink for at least an hour, see I can do without it. I mean nobody moans about people smoking first thing in the morning, well they do but surely if you’re in your own home it can’t be doing much harm to other people can it? It’s all down to personal choice and I choose to drink, it’s an adult thing choice.
When Jack and I met at University he was all for a good time, going out every night, sleeping the days away but now it’s all responsibility, responsibility, responsibility, oh and don’t forget that old albatross the mortgage! Jack seems so distant, he says it’s me that I am usually so out of it by the time he gets home he just goes to bed so as not to cause an argument.
I mean, if I was that bad why didn’t he leave? Love that’s why. Can’t do without me, and that’s the way it should be. I love him so there’s nothing more to be said. I would do anything for Jack, apart from changing my whole persona which is what most of the arguments are about. I mean that’s just unreasonable.
I wriggled uncomfortably on the stool beside the dressing table and could feel each blister popping as I wriggled. They’re leaking now these little pustules. Jack will think I’ve wet myself again! I wonder whether my weak bladder is hereditary, I’d broached the subject with Jack and he’d just sighed and asked when I was going to face the truth which was no answer at all if you ask me.
It is indeed time for another drink. As I tried to lower myself gradually down the stairs I could feel the blisters stretching and stinging as I moved. This cannot be normal! I reached the kitchen out of breath with the exertion of the stairs. I reached for the vodka bottle which for some reason was empty. It couldn’t be I’d only had three hadn’t I? I checked in my little emergency cupboard under the sink, nothing, it was empty. I was becoming manic flinging open doors searching for any kind of alcohol and then I remembered mouthwash! Jack had made a mistake this week with the shopping and had bought one containing alcohol. He’s usually so carefully. I made my way gingerly upstairs breathing through the pain. I’m so glad I never became pregnant could never have managed the whole giving birth thing, mind you with non-existent periods that would be a miracle.
Reaching the bathroom I hung on to the bathroom cabinet as I flung it open. An empty mouthwash bottle stared at me; well it would if it had eyes. Jack had emptied it. Good old Jack!
What now? I’d have to go to the shop on the corner. I checked in the mirror once again but the sight that greeted me was normal. Only when I looked down at myself most of the skin on my arms was now congealed together in one big sore. I’ll just have to cover up.
Scarf, hoodie, coat what must I look like in the middle of summer. Doesn’t matter with a bit of luck no-one will know who I am in this get up, they’ll just think I’m some sort of eccentric or a celebrity. I manage the front steps and quickly checking down the road, finding there was no-one about stepped out into the street heading in the direction of the shop. Closed! It was lunchtime. Would this day never end?
I think there’s another shop by the church, passing quickly in case someone prayed for the leper. I listened to a conversation behind me.
“What do you mean it was only one” said a youngish voice
“I just felt I had to, it was the polite thing to do” said a male voice
“Polite, look in our condition we can’t afford lapses. Do you want to end up back where you were imagining the boils and the sores and not being able to go out and all that stuff about mirrors?” said the youngish voice
“I know, I know, I’m just glad you called this morning” replied the male voice
“That’s what I am here for. Now let’s get you inside” said the youngish voice.
I couldn’t turn round but could hear their footsteps retreating behind me. What was all that about? Was that a coincidence or what? That older guy must have the same problem as me. As I quickly turned I could see two men disappearing into the side entrance of the church. Maybe I’ll pop in after I’d been to the shop and see what it was all about. At that moment I had a searing pain through both my arms and felt as if the pain was dragging me along the street in the direction the men had taken. I didn’t even knock on the door, couldn’t as this invisible force pushed me through arms outstretched.
As I lay sprawled on the floor two men approached and lifted me gently on to a chair.
“Hi, that was a great entrance” said a quiet voice.
“Mistake, sorry?”
“Don’t think so, are you okay now?”
“Where am I?”
“Alcoholics anonymous”
“Oh my god!” I replied as I gingerly lifted my sleeve to see my skin back to normal and the pain was gone.

 

Aside 18 Feb

BEAUTY WITHIN

There were no mirrors in the room. Not that she minded she could see all she needed to reflected in others eyes. The way they looked downwards as soon as they approached and realised the dried leathery handbag in the bed was actually human. Their chattering conversation concerning skin grafts and plastic surgery wouldn’t mend the mental scars they were inflicting with their patronising patter. She knew she was bitter but couldn’t seem to shake off these feelings that were threatening to overcome her sense of self-worth.

She welcomed the nurses, they were professional as they plumped up her pillows and re-arranged the guilt flowers in vases. They were all brisk and businesslike no niceties (too busy) but she preferred that to the pity and horror she got from family who came to see the freak they were related to. She knew she was being hard on herself but then she had no-one else to blame.

80% they said – no-one could see the other 20% the bit that was pink, smooth and wholesome rather than the brown scale that now passed for her skin. The 20% was so touchable she ran her crisped fingers up and down her inner leg revelling in the completeness of it, the rosebud colour reflecting on the white sheets. Alone she would open her nightgown and stare at the perfect formulation of the hairs, freckles and veins clearly visible when tightening her muscles.

James had left. He couldn’t handle it apparently. Anyone would have thought he‘d been in the fire. Her friends had told her he blamed himself for leaving her alone after the argument. That was silly! She was the one who was smoking, she was the one who’d drank the two bottles of wine and fallen asleep while the last cigarette she would ever smoke landed on the rug they‘d picked together in Habitat. It was a blessing he’d stopped visiting.

Lucky to be alive they said. Lucky! She’d contemplated that word so often in the last six months. The visits from friends had stopped after two months. Only family visited now. Duty bound every Sunday they trooped through with bags of grapes (ironic now she looked like a dried one). She giggled; at least the anti-depressants were working.

Walking again had been the hardest lesson, stretching out the tautened skin; the pain had become second nature. Each step was an event she likened to the Olympics and awarded herself medals, bronze on a bad day, and gold on a good day. She was determined and approached every physiotherapy session like an athlete changing into her tracksuit, her skin becoming her very own body armour. Occasionally she found herself thinking why she made the effort and the answer was always the same there was nothing else to do except to keep battling to release the anger pent up inside. All the anger was directed at her mainly al least that was allowed.

She thought back about how long she used to take to choose a new dress or a pair of jeans scrutinising herself in the mirrors in the changing rooms turning this way and that. Vain that‘s what she was. She used to rush home to try them and on once more revel in the purchase of yet more camouflage. Nowadays her only purchases were online and consisted mainly of comfortable track-suits, velour no less!

Her release was imminent and her mind was playing tricks. Could she actually walk down a street and cope with the stares, the pointing and possible happy slapping she was going to have to endure? No longer cocooned in her little lint nest of a hospital room. All in good time said Nurse Too Busy to Talk. Mirrors had to be faced first said Nurse Superefficient who had been plaguing her for a week to take a peek. The pictures in her mind of her previous reflection needed to be replaced bit by bit gradually emerging like a backwards butterfly. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

It was worse, oh her eyes were the same green but nothing else was familiar the leathery dry skin with sparse patches of hair (it may grow back eventually they had said). Self-pity, her old friend, was getting her nowhere just get on with it she screamed inside her head. She cried her last she had vowed no more tears. Kevin the physiotherapist popped his head round the door:

“And how’s our very own frazzle face today?”
“Get lost” she shouted
“Quick lets harness that anger and get you standing up” he said laughing
“If I must then I must”
“Get your kit on then I’m not taking you out like that”
“Give me 10 minutes”
“I’ll give you 5 now hurry up”

Political correctness was not one of Kevin’s fortes but most of the time he knew it was the only way some of them would be able cope. He knew she was struggling inside but he was not going to let it defeat her. She was stronger than most and her extensive vocabulary of expletives kept him amused. He’d seen pictures of her before and in his mind she’d never looked better. He’d always admired the strength and tenacity of his patients and never, ever, encouraged self-pity. The nurses were constantly tutting at his gung-ho approach waiting for the civil law suit to be filed – it hadn’t happened to date so he must be doing something right!

“Are you ready yet?”
“Having trouble with the zip. Can you do it?”
“I could, but that would be defeating the object of the session”
“Okay, okay I’ve got it now anyway”

She shuffled towards the end of the bed where Kevin was waiting with the wheelchair to take her to the torture chamber commonly called the “physiotherapy room”.

“Ow” she screamed easing herself down
“Don’t start all that, you know you can’t feel anything!” said Kevin
“Just wanted to see if you’d fall for it one last time” she taunted
“I don’t know what I’m going to do once you’ve gone”
“Find another victim!”
“Oh you’re good, very good”

Kevin wheeled her off laughing to himself confident that this one was going to make it.

 

 

Snowdonia

17 Feb

Snowdonia August 2009

Of course to do the whole walking thing you have to have the correct equipment I was told. Walking boots (preferably 10 years old and well worn), haversack containing all necessary bits and bobs to cover every eventuality including mars bar, water, first aid kit (containing plasters for the inevitable blisters that will appear despite the 10 year maturity of your walking boots!), the Nordic walking poles and of course a compass. As every seasoned walker knows a compass could save your life – I’m not too sure how this occurs unless you actually know how to use the compass i.e. attending a three month course in orienteering so the fact that it is neither edible nor drinkable is of no bloody use whatsoever.

The walking is the pleasure, the hours of solitude and being at one with nature, the birds singing the soft rushing of the wind the absolute peace. What? That’s not what I say, I can quite easily find hours of peace and solitude in my own back garden without five hours of constant walking on uneven ground (despoiling the environment with every step by the way) following the herd that are today’s walkers up the side of a mountain.

I mean, some of them looked totally ill-equipped to go for a walk to the park never mind a slog up a steep gradient but hey ho off they went anyway with a packet of salt & vinegar crisps and a carton of Vimto in a Netto bag they’d found in the bathroom at their B & B. I just dreaded to think how many call outs the rescue service were going to receive today – I know it had been raining constantly for two weeks and this was the first dry day we’d had so wouldn’t a much better idea have been to sit peacefully with a Richard & Judy summer read at the side of Lake Padarn with a faithful companion by your side to stave off any unwanted encroachers. Paradise in the sun. Ok so the toxic warning sign at the side of the Lake was a bit of a put off but as my trusty companion had an aversion to water I had no problems on that score – he looks like a Japanese Water Dog but there any resemblance vanishes.

I had kissed my other partner (there are three in this relationship, me, him and the dog) goodbye, farewell, a bientot, ciao, arrevederci at base camp and waved him off up the mountain track making sure he had at least a bottle of water. Yes I am unfit and yes it did not fill me with glee the thought of putting one foot in front of the other for the rest of the morning not to mention the constant nodding of the head at heaving, puffing and sweating out of condition families overtaking me up the mountain track. I had toyed with the idea of taking the train and meeting him at the top but as the next available train was 3.00 pm there seemed little point.

I opted for the lakeside and apart from two unruly jack russells whose owner very kindly let them off their leads just before they met my beloved Nam (it means “devotion to” in Buddhism) and me having to disentangle his lead from around both the bench and my own legs a good two hours was spent reading, taking in the breathtaking, if not slightly daunting, view of the slate quarries and stroking my Nam.

I headed back to our B & B for a well earned cup of coffee six chapters into my book. We had a balcony overlooking the High Street in Llanberis and I sat waiting patiently for my conquering hero to return. I don’t think he noticed me on the balcony at first and was wincing quite badly and sweating like a turkey at Christmas but I guess he must have seen out of the corner of his eye as he suddenly put on a jaunty gait as he approached the B & B. Ah well at least he could tell people back home that he was into extreme sports now! He entered our room and my questions of how was it at the top and was the view as good as people said were met with grunts and groans as he endeavoured to remove his walking boots from his swollen feet. Needless to say he didn’t leave the B & B for the rest of the day claiming he had to re-charge his batteries and all extreme sports enthusiasts had to take at least a day off before attempting further feats of bravery! Aaaah bless his blistered little feet.