2021 (brief) Review
In the dying throws of 2021, I had two firsts (firsts for a long time anyway).
5.15 AM I saw a large brown owl sitting on a low branch not fifteen feet away. A tawny I think. It took exception to my rechargeable, multi-lumen, LED headtorch and silently swooped down from it's perch before gaining height and flying up into the nearby woods. No noise whatsoever, it's ultra-soft feathers allowing it to be silent while hunting. Unlike the nearby pigeon, frantically scrambling out of a tree sounding like a herd of panicked cows clambering up a gravelly bank.
5.30 AM I fell over. Got wrapped up with a straggling bramble and fell headfirst on to a muddy path. Yes despite my rechargeable, multi-lumen, LED headtorch, I tripped over a twig and ended up in an untidy lump. Glad nobody was watching, though the dog paused and gave me a quizzical look.
Looking on the bright side, that’s the first time I’ve fallen over in over 9000 miles.
I’ve just worked it out, in the 6 years since I started (power) walking for medical reasons I’ve walked to Cape Town at the bottom of Africa and am now on the way back. Specifically, I'm on the B1 Highway just past Keetsmanshoop in Namibia, about 700 miles into the return trip. (Trip, Huh!). Pretty good for a fat boy eh?
I've highlighted the 'power' aspect of my walking because, though I know the amount of effort involved, it's not easy to tell from the outside!
We’re coming towards the end of 2021. What a bugger of a year this has been! Actually, for us, not too bad. But it’s been difficult for many.
Actually, this year has seen a number of firsts (in addition to owls and falling). Jan held her first art exhibition. A lifelong ambition ticked off. Well done. In fact, it ran in conjunction with her second exhibition at another venue. Like buses. She also got diagnosed with T2 diabetes, but went low carb, lost a few pounds and has reversed it. Well done again. She also painted a series of greetings cards and Christmas cards, some of which we had printed. Looked dead posh they did! Very good they were too. Well done again, again.
Jan’s daughter (Carly) and family moved up to Cumbria, Ravenstonedale in The Howgill Fells. A magical spot, great for the grandchildren (now 8 and 6, or thereabouts!), great for Richard’s Mountain Leader walking activities and great for us who can go and stay in lovely holiday accommodation when there’s a vacancy. Plenty of walking and cycling (electric) in wonderful countryside – if a tad nippy out of summer! Their house is at about 1000 feet and you go up geographically and down meteorologically from there.
It seems ages ago but it’s less than a year they’ve been there. Our first visit I asked Carly if I should bring my tools to help them put their own stamp on the holiday accommodation. ‘No, no, of course not,’ she said. ‘It’s supposed to be a holiday. Besides, you can use Richard’s!’
The Howgill Fells and our mini adventures therein feature in a book I published this year, A Bike at Large. It appears to polarise opinion. Two reviews sit next to one another, one says, ‘crap, dull, gave up.’ While the other says ‘brilliant and funny.’ Go figure, (as they say in Amazonland). It’s the fourth in the ‘At Large’ series, following 3 boat books. This cycling one is a sort of antidote to books and magazines that show off super-fit demigods. Those established glossy magazines that feature wondrous tales of tanned, lythe creatures who cruise the highways and byways. I’m more of an ageing blob battling to get to the village where I know someone has left some free duck eggs on their garden wall. Whether they are strictly for out of town porkers like me, I’m not sure. Whatever, I wrap a couple in my spare socks and scoot away into the dawn, much like an owl, only noisier and fatter.
Damn good those eggs were too. Kwackers.
Being electrically assisted, my bike is a real boon, allowing me to revisit adventures latterly out of range of my knackered legs. It’s brilliant fun riding on single track tarmac ribbons that criss-cross the fells. Often my only companions are the curlews with their magical songs, those haunting rippling trills that echo across the miles of beautiful fells. Then there's the sheep with their unbearably cute springtime lambs in their pristine white, woolly coats.
We bought a new car in order to transport the bike, the dog and all necessary kit to exciting 'day-out' venues. Fifteen miles into the first adventure it didn’t get off to the best start when the dog was sick on the picnic hamper. Bit of an appetite suppressor there. But things have improved since after we started leaving him at home (not).
It’s been tough for many people recently, with various restrictions. The demographic of our avenue has meant that sadly a number of folk have succumbed to the damned virus. But we have managed a couple of street parties where one chap, a former professional singer, sings in tune, and the rest of us don’t. Instead, we sit in the sun and drink wine of indeterminate parentage. These sing-song get-togethers have confirmed my opinion that most people's throats are better suited to wine than song. Or should that be whine and song?
We have a friend who’s waiting for his second knee replacement. This is an 83-year-old neighbour who unkindly described my power-walking style as ‘pedestrian’. As soon as he’s fit I’ll be asking him to come and do some digging in our garden. That should put a stop to his clever comments! After all, there’s no point two of us ending up with a dicky back – not when I’ve cycling commitments to fulfil.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year.