Archive for July, 2021

Anglezarke, West Pennines

Oh, dullard brain, why do we push so far?
Who the hell do we think we are?
Three thousand years of philosophy,
And we think we’ll bottom it, over a cup of tea.

But that side of things has passed us by.
Before we catch up, the pigs will fly.
What we learned as a student, we don’t need any more,
All the nuts and bolts, of the physical world.

But the history of thought is a queer old fish.
Who said that, and who said this?
But more than that, what does it all mean?
And is it as hard as their language makes it seem?

In short, is philosophy not simply a curse?
Three thousand years and the world’s getting worse.
Those bearded old chaps, I’m sure they meant well,
But if they did us any good, it’s very hard to tell.

A change in the weather

Okay, I didn’t mean that. I was just tired and grumpy after a bad night with a blocked nose, and assailed by dreams of wasps. After such a hot spell, the forecast was for a change in the weather, so if I wanted to get out for the day, Monday was the best shot, but it was lunchtime by the time I made it out to the car. The wasp dream was triggered by an infestation of the little blighters. They’d been around for a while, making a nest in the attic, and were now pouring out like a biblical plague from a hole in the soffet board, dive-bombing as I loaded up. A few of them made it into the car with me.

I was caught in an ethical dilemma here. On the one hand, the environmentalists would say leave them alone if they’re doing no harm, while the pest men would say just kill them all, before they do some damage. I shooed the wasps from the car and set off, not entirely sure where I was going. I let the car decide, and it delivered me to Anglezarke.

Although the forecast was for cooler weather, it was still in the mid-twenties. But these don’t feel like the summers of childhood. Maybe we feel heat differently as we get older, but I’m sure there’s more to it, indeed something alien about the oppressive weight of summers now – at least those few weeks in the year when the sun really turns the wick up. We’d not be walking far, that was for sure. I let the boots choose, and they delivered me up to the Pikestones.

I knew the rest from here, barely three miles round. I could have stayed at home and walked further by doing laps around the garden, then sitting under the tree and drinking something cold. Except for the wasps. I had to admit, those wasps were becoming an issue, and only a matter of time before someone was stung. What to do, then? Get someone in, or have a go myself? Gor-blimey no, say the pest men. But what could possibly go wrong?

I’m reading about Hellenistic philosophy at the moment, this being the period commencing with the rapid rise of Alexander the Great’s empire, third century BC, and its long, slow disintegration. Those turbulent times had an effect on the collective psyche, which in turn spawned a new type of thinking – one that was concerned more with the nature of being, than the nature of reality. The times were causing great anxiety, and people had a need for philosophies that healed the soul.

We had the Epicureans, the Cynics and the Stoics. My favourite Cynic was Diogenes, who lived in a barrel – a notion I find curiously attractive in its simplicity – but he wasn’t the kind of guy you’d want to have round for a brew. The most famous of the Stoics would perhaps be Marcus Aurelius, who comes across in his writings as a remarkable chap, and worth delving into further, but that brings with it the history of the Roman Empire, and there are only so many tangents I can handle before I dissolve into my own nebulous entropy. Earlier Greek culture had offered an elaborate afterlife, a panoply of gods and a mythic, story-like structure to existence. But the Hellenistic philosophers weren’t much interested in gods, or what followed death, more in finding ways to be accepting of its finality. If you could do that, they said, you lived a better, happier life.

There’s much to be said for it. Too many of us bank on reward in the ever-after, and without actually getting going properly in the one life we’ve got. I don’t know for sure which camp I’m in. I suppose I’m guilty to a degree of constructing some kind of psychical escape capsule, where the summers are perfect, and the corn is always just ripe, and there are no wasps – a kind of dream-land I’ll linger in until I don’t care either way. It’s a comfort, and it’s probably wrong, and the Cynics and the Stoics are right. I get their point, but there’s no harm in hedging your bets.

Hard though. Philosophy. I suppose what I was getting at in that bit of opening doggerel is that my own student days were spent picking up technical subjects; mainly physics and engineering. I earned a living by it, but, now retired, it’s useless to me, most of it forgotten anyway and the rest obsolete. The arts, the humanities – I’ve dabbled in them outside of academia, and though they seem valuable now as an independent, economically self-sufficient – i.e. pensioned – citizen, it’s unlikely I can make much of a meaningful dent in them at this point in my life. A mature brain is not as plastic as a younger one, not as receptive to new stuff. A young brain can sit through a lecture and recall every word, while a mature brain drifts off after the first five minutes, and starts thinking about what the hell he should do about wasps.

The weather broke on Wednesday with thunderstorms, and it’s suddenly ten degrees cooler. Now we’re getting floods because the drains we have were made to handle the climate as it was thirty years ago. Anyway, I killed the wasps, dispersed them first with a shot of WD 40 under the eaves. That gave me a brief window of opportunity to get on the ladder and puff a great gasp of that noxious white wasp powder up the little hole. It did the job, but that’s not to say I feel good about it.

“Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself.” Marcus Aurelius AD 121 – 180

Rock on, Marcus.

Thanks for listening

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Not being a fan of horror movies, I’ve not spent much time thinking about zombies. But in this book the authors present a convincing argument that, in fact, the zombie genre is the underlying myth of our times.

The zombie first appears in western popular culture around 1920, and has seen an exponential rise ever since. Of the 600 zombie movies ever made, over half have been made in the last decade. The prevalence of the genre is hard to miss and crosses platforms easily from print to film to video games. But whatever the platform there are characteristics of the zombie that do not change, which suggests something deeper is at play – that the zombie is a symbolic representation, a thing of mythic importance, a monster rising from the depths of its creator – us -and saying something about the state of our collective psyche.

Zombies eat brains, but are themselves without mind. And no matter how many brains they eat, they gain no wisdom, yet continue mindlessly consuming. To kill a zombie you have to destroy its brain, or rather, in order to prevent the zombie eating your brain and rendering you mindless, you have to destroy its empty mindedness. So here’s a clue that what we’re talking about is ourselves; we are the zombies, we are the walking dead.

We zombies have no sense of home, no coherent language, we shuffle en-masse, but with no real aim. We are hideously ugly, a decaying parody of, and an insult to, the human forms we possess. Though we gather in large numbers, we have no community, no culture to nourish the spirit, no purpose other than to eat, to consume mindlessly. We do not co-operate with one another, we employ no particular strategy in the pursuit of our mindless aims. When faced with the very real danger of our own elimination, we take no evasive action. We simply haven’t the sense to care one way or the other.

Another curious fact is the zombie is never named as such in the stories. Only we, the viewer, know its name. The human protagonists are prey to their own whims and inevitably fall foul of the contagion. One by one, they become zombified. They never say: oh, right, they’re zombies, here’s what we need to do.

To follow the genre’s usual mythic narrative, we, the non-zombies, seek refuge with others of our kind, in fortified surroundings, and from where we blast away at the brain-dead with whatever weapons come to hand. But, in spite of our best efforts at cooperation, there’s always a falling out into irreconcilable factions that work against one another. Then there’s a weakness in the defences, a door unlocked, a window left open that lets the zombies in. Significantly, say the authors, there is never a happy ending, no superhero, no super-technology, no God-sent zombie-killing virus to the rescue.

But here’s the thing: the zombie is not evil. It just does what it does, mindlessly, without malice. It’s not dead, but not entirely alive either, and to be touched by one is to become a zombie yourself. They are existentially terrifying. But more, the undead nature of the zombie, and its links to the apocalypse, say the authors, are a reference to our rejection and perversion of the Christian myth. As Nietzsche wrote towards the end of the nineteenth century, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him,” then a short time later, the zombies (us, denuded of something vital) appear in the culture.

This is a short book, scholarly in nature, but I found it deeply interesting, accessible and very readable. Since reading it, I am seeing zombies everywhere, in the news, on social media, on the street, infecting others with their mindlessness. While it is significant, the loss of any spiritual dimension to the culture, the breakdown of organised religions – i.e. traditional, institutional beliefs in a “God” archetype – are also considered culturally inevitable. Religious attendance in the west is inversely correlated with the rise of the zombie. But equally, our search for an alternative “secular” spirituality won’t work, those on offer being too small and fragmented. Attempts by the state to usurp the function of religion, by substituting political and social ideologies like Marxism and Fascism, it’s to be hoped are experiments we can avoid repeating.

Just as the zombie myth does not offer any hope of salvation, neither do the authors at this stage offer any solution to the crisis of meaninglessness in our times. However, it at least enables us to get a handle on the nature of the problem, perhaps with a view to an intelligent attack at some point in the future, and this will be the subject of a future book.

Speaking of John Vervaeke, for anyone working through his “Meaning Crisis” lecture series on Youtube – in my humble opinion, one of the best things on there at the moment – I’ve found “Zombies in Western Culture” a good introduction to his thinking.

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Hot day at the beach.
Blue sky and a hard sun,
softens now to haze of golden evening.
Skimpy girls twirl
in summer shimmerings,
and kiss-me colours,
while tanned boys
with sharp beards
point their chins in strutting play.
A medley of tongues,
and skins drift,
arm in arm, dreaming,
towards the pier’s westward end.
How beautiful we still are,
When our hearts transcend
the fear.

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The M65 was strewn with junk. It was mostly soft stuff – huge chunks of rock-wool insulation. Traffic was weaving about to avoid it, in case it hid anything more solid. The less cautious slammed into it and the junk exploded, fragmenting across the carriageways. Some of it stuck under axles, creating long writhing tails, which then launched surprise attacks on the vehicles behind. Plastic bottles rained in glittering storms, bounced off the Tarmac and rolled willy-nilly. I tracked a sudden burst of them, manoeuvred around the majority, caught one under the front offside tyre, heard it crack, then saw it go flying into the car beside me. There were papers, more rock-wool, more bottles, polystyrene cartons, strewn all the way from Colne to Blackburn.

I caught up with the culprit, gave him a wide berth and shot past as fast as I could. It was a flatbed truck with a skew-whiff skip on it, stacked precariously high, and slowly divesting itself of its contents as it motored along in sweet oblivion. The door of the truck was emblazoned with words to the effect of: “so-and-so’s waste services, a proud champion of the environment”. Sometimes the jokes write themselves.

The Wycoller atom

It was late afternoon, and I was driving home after a day in the hills above Colne. I’d met a friend at the Ball Grove country park, on the Keighley road, and from there we’d walked up through Trawden, across the high meadows, into the shadow of Boulsworth hill. It had been a hot day for a hike, and we’d baulked at the hill itself, plodded on instead to Foster’s Leap, and the much graffitied and vandalized atom, then down to the ever popular Wycoller village. The little café was closed, so we’d plodded back to Ball Grove park. There, we managed a brew and a piece of cake in congenial surroundings, by the old mill pond.

View from inside the Wycoller Atom

I had sweated in a new pair of walking trousers. I’ve always skimped on them, but had decided to finally push the boat out on a well-known branded pair, made from recycled bottles, though obviously not the ones I would be later dodging on the motorway. The blurb had claimed they were waterproof, and breathable. I was dubious, but prepared to take a gambol, since I could leave the weight of additional over-trousers behind. However, though of a seemingly thin, summery material, they had proved warm and sticky on the legs – not at all comfortable.

Wycoller – Pendle in the distance

The trousers weren’t the only bit of kit to perform poorly. The camera was iffy too, but that turned out to be my fault. It was a cracking day for photography among the hills and dales of this beautiful part of Lancashire. I set the shots up as I usually do, but most of them came out grainy and – well – just weird. I’d been fiddling with it the night before, and forgotten to set it back to optimal, so I’d shot the day at low resolution, and 800 ASA. I’m reaching that stage when, if I’ve lost my car-keys, I check the fridge first. I should just stick the camera on auto and leave it there. It probably knows better than me.

So we didn’t do the summit, and I regret that now, but the day was long enough at nearly ten miles in the heat. I remember it was1986, or thereabouts, when I was last on Boulsworth hill – the actual summit being known as Lad Law. A friend of mine was planning an epic book called The Hills of Lancashire, and had asked me to illustrate the bigger summits with pen and ink drawings. I remember Boulsworth was a difficult one to illustrate – it having no characteristic shape to it, and the summit was like any other, with a few grit-stone rocks and a trig point. It was memorable mainly for the walk from Wycoller, which is a fine one indeed, and much recommended. It was memorable also for the views east over a wilderness of undulating moor, all the way to Yorkshire.

For the picture of Boulsworth, I tried to add interest by drawing the summit with a chap stood at the trig point. It’s probably me, looking windswept and moody. I came across those drawings recently, the memory of them seeming fresh, yet so long ago now. Thus, my sixty-year-old self presents here a couple of sketches on a medium that was undreamed of, when I drew them in my twenties. The book never came off, and my friend is gone now. I clearly fancied myself as a bit of an illustrator back then, as well as a best-selling novelist. Neither worked out. I was wise to stick at the day-job.

I don’t know how it is with women, but until the legs actually fail on a man, there’s something in us that does not age, and probably not even then. We’d met this trio of guys at the Ball Grove café. We’d seen them earlier on the hill. They had a dry, north-country sense of humour that was quick to surface, and we responded in kind. They looked to be in their late seventies but, during our brief exchange, I saw that crusty trio transform into boys again, as did my friend and I.

But then I look at the young chap I drew on the windy summit, back in ’86, and I remember something of the moodiness of those years, also the striving for a thing I didn’t know the shape of then, and I still don’t. I suppose the difference is learning to let it go, and in that sense at least I’m a lot younger now, than I was that day I first stood on Boulsworth hill.

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Dear George,

In answer to your query, when we write long-form fiction, interesting things emerge. Whether the story ever sees the light of day or not, it is an exploration of ideas, of events salient to our attention, and to our sense of being, at least at the time of writing. It clarifies what it is we think, also what we think we think, but in fact do not. Thus, it points the finger at our bullshit, and our vulnerability to the subversion of our thinking by invasive memes.

Memes sweep the culture, inculcate it, shape it. They cling to our coat-tails like briars, and we must be careful of them. Are these the things we really think? Or are they infections we have picked up and would be better seeking a cure for them? And is there really any difference?

In our current work in progress we have picked up a few threads familiar from previous writings: the secret state, neo-pagan spirituality, depth psychology, the politics of inequality. This is normal, a kind of narrative continuity. But you are right to point out a meme I have missed, and which might be harmful to us both.

As near as I can tell, it is the meme that says the man’s too big – the man being any authority we labour under, or against. The man deploys his authoritarian tool-box to crush dissent, he twists every instrument of the law to protect himself, he is made of Teflon, nothing sticks, and no lie is too big. Indeed, lies are no longer lies in contemporary political parlance; they have become tactical deceits. As for that most urgent issue of global warming, it’s too late to alter the course of it, and since we’re all doomed anyway, why bother even talking about it?

My last hero, Rick, turned his back on climate activism and politics, and went to live with a magical woman in the equivalent of a walled, Edenic garden. I wasn’t happy with him for doing that, but given the nature of the woman, I couldn’t entirely blame him. But it was also a return to the womb, which is hardly a healthy state of affairs. The world is where we live, not the womb. That we are born at all means we have a responsibility to shape the Zeitgeist. Heaven or Hell? The choice, as you say George, is ours.

In my defence, I might argue I wanted others to be angry with Rick as well, for who else can we rely upon to put the world to rights if not our heroes? And when the heroes quit the field in despair at our apathy, it should be a wake-up call for the rest of us that something is seriously wrong. It was, then, a small gesture, rooted in reverse psychology, and probably futile. But, you ask, is there not also a danger I have fallen for my own meme, and begun to believe in it? The man’s too big, the man’s too strong. Go contemplate your navel.

In “a lone tree falls” Rick is reborn as you, George. You are a former intelligence officer, a man of middling rank, intimate with international affairs, familiar with facts that are kept from the rest of us for reasons both fair and foul, familiar too with facts that have been spun to the inverse of their original meaning. But now you too find yourself in the path of the bulldozer, and the big man bearing down. Like Rick, the solution I am suggesting for you is defeatist. You’re knocking on in years, you see the future of the UK as a kleptocratic failed state, buffeted by an increasingly violent climate, spiralling levels of poverty, and an infrastructure always on the verge of collapse. But since – forgive me George – you’ll be dead before the worst of it hits, why worry? Keep your head down. Pour yourself another G+T and salute the sunset.

However, I note your objection, and agree all of this is convenient for the kleptocrats. One wonders if such “resistance is futile” memes can be seeded in the mire of social media to purposely sprout invasive blooms of defeatist nihilism. I also note that to be accepting of what we cannot change is also touted, in the emerging self-help literature, as being psychologically mature – this particular meme coming out of the man’s misappropriation of Buddhist mindfulness techniques. We are taught now to move on from contentious issues as a form of self-preservation. We should not interfere to change the madness, says the man, but employ age-old psycho-technologies to merely cope with it, and therefore remain obligingly docile and economically productive, as we spiral down the vortex of heat-death.

Why do I suggest that you, dear George, escape your responsibilities by making off with a muse half your age, disappear on a canal boat into the sub-cultural wonderland of England’s inland waterways? Is this not another metaphor of the womb, like Rick’s Edenic garden? Have I not worked out yet that the man holds the plug, and can drain any medium of true flight? There is no escaping responsibility.

But what, exactly, are our responsibilities to the world, and to the species? To whom, or to what are we held responsible, and to what standard? I hear your complaint, George, that, though we men of senior years feel no longer capable of action ourselves, we should at the very least take care we do not infect the young, for there is nothing worse for a young person’s confidence than seeing a defeated old man preaching the nihilist memes he learned at the knee of his masters and economic betters. Who then can blame the young for retreating into the virtual worlds of their computer games, drawing their curtains against the light, and subverting intelligent activism into vile shouting matches on Twitter?

Do not be defeatist, be determined? Do not be bitter, be better? Do not resign, be resilient? I hear you, George. My powers are limited, but I’ll see what I can do to preserve your honour and dignity.

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The new Dinkley Bridge, Hurst Green, Lancashire

July swells to a deeper green.
Riot of wildflower,
pointillistic specks
of yellow and blue,
in meadows left unmown.
Lazy smudge of ancient trod
under the steam heat of a
sunless afternoon,
while balsam and nettle,
and long, drooping grasses,
cross their sleepy arms
over seldom walked ways.

A short run out today, Hurst Green, Ribble Valley, a walk down to the new Dinkley foot-bridge on the river and a visit to Marles Wood. This is not a seldom walked way, indeed this attractive stretch of the Ribble is understandably very popular, but for some reason those lines came to me while I was walking it, as if I was the last man on earth.

I park the car at the village hall in Hurst Green – suggested fee £2.00, but I’m 20p short. It’s an honesty box and no one’s counting, so I don’t suppose they’ll know, or mind. It’s a stubbornly overcast day, with a steamy heat that saps the energy from one’s bones. I’m not really in the mood for walking far – just looking for a change of scene, and a run out to somewhere pretty. There’s a good circuit you can do on foot, down the river to Ribchester from here, then back up the Ribble Way, on the other bank, but something about the day has me spurning all ambition.

I find the bridge and cross it, then sit on the riverbank for lunch, while watching herons wading in the shallows, fishing for theirs. Big camera today, but not much to point it at yet, other than the herons. I never saw the original Dinkley bridge, a suspension type, built in 1951. It lasted until the floods in 2015, when it was finally damaged beyond repair. Work on a replacement was completed in 2019. This is a wider structure, firm under foot. The original had a reputation for being a bit wobbly.

The Ribble is a fine river, but very little of it is accessible to the public. I have traced my finger along it on the map from source to sea, always disappointed by how seldom the green pecked ways are able to hug its banks. Indeed, I read only 2% of England’s rivers are accessible to the curious pedestrian. This is irrespective of the so-called right to roam negotiated as part of the countryside and rights of way act. That adds up to over 40,000 miles of river we politely defer for private use. Yet rivers are such relaxing places to walk by, I wonder people are not more angry about being excluded from them.

Anyway, lunch done, we follow the path downstream. It dips in and out of company with the river. Photographic opportunities are few, not helped by the flat light. Just before we enter the gloom of Marles Wood, I chance upon a likely spot, only to find the view is occupied, and I should say significantly improved upon, by a couple of young ladies enjoying a spot of wild swimming. I defer the shot, not wishing to intrude upon their privacy.

After a mile or so, the path parts company with the river, and leads up to the Marles Wood car park. From here the way suggests a narrow stretch of road, by Salesbury Hall, along which the traffic seems to be moving too fast. Alternatively, the OS shows a network of paths that would provide a safer and more pleasant passage to Ribchester, but by now the sweat is dripping from my hat, so I decide to leave that adventure for another day. We turn around and retrace our steps, take in the views we’ve thus far had our back to.

Near Salesbury Hall, the river takes a sudden 90 degree bend, westwards. There is a fine view of it by a clutch of tree shaded rocks. I rest a while, reeling off shots, none of which do justice to the beauty of it. Here, in the mud, I spy a shiny 20p coin. It bodes good fortune.

We’ll take it back, for the car park.

River Ribble, from the Dinkley Bridge

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Fair Snape Fell and Paddy’s Pole

It seems incredible, the last time I was in Chipping was December 2008. I arrived at first light and drove home in the dark, after following pretty much the route I’ll be following today. Chipping hasn’t changed much. It’s still as elusive a place as ever, to non-locals, though quite a substantial and indeed a very pretty village when you do manage to find it. The roads that morning were icy, and the tops were snowy. Today is forecast for eighteen degrees, but warming already to considerably more than that. I was sad to note in passing the demise of the little Cobbled Corner café, so beloved of cyclists and walkers. We arrive to find the car-park is empty, but then this is a mid-week morning.

I have a chair that was made in Chipping. The H J Berry factory, famous for furniture making since 1840, closed in 2010, finally crushed by the financial collapse. The site is still being cleared this morning. I guess it’ll go for houses. My dining table was made by William Lawrence of Nottingham. That place closed in 2000. I can just about grasp the scale of the loss in terms of skills and livelihoods, but I need a very flexible view of economics to understand why it makes better sense now, if I want something so basic as a chair or a table, to have it made in China, and shipped halfway round the world, regardless of the carbon footprint that implies. The likes of H J Berry and William Lawrence are not coming back. Maybe other, more modern manufactories will replace them in the post BREXIT world. I don’t know. All I know is the shape of the future Global Britain remains, as ever, a mystery.

Anyway, it’s a hot morning, with something of a haze about it, which bodes ill for photography, but we’ll see what comes out. We wend our way out of the village, and pick up the track that takes us to Saddle End Farm, then we strike up Saddle Fell. This is the first leg of a fine horseshoe walk that’ll take in Fair Snape (1706 ft) and end with Parlick (1417 ft). That morning in 2008, I remember an inversion which obscured the tops, but which we came out of on the climb up Saddle Fell, to reveal a cloudless blue, and snow clad hills afloat on a sea of mist. It’s a scene I put in my last novel Winter on the Hill.

Parlick, from Saddle Fell

I must have been much fitter then, as I don’t remember as many of the ups and downs along the way that strike me today, in this heat. I remember tackling the fell without much difficulty, but then memory can be selective. Today I’m flagging, sweating, swigging water every five minutes. The horse-flies are taking lumps out of me, and I’m salving their bites with the now ubiquitous hand sanitizing gel. It seems to work too, and keeps the buggers off.

Although hazy, we still have a sufficiently awesome view across the vale to Longridge Fell. Our later objectives – Fair Snape and Parlick, rising above Wolf Fell, are starting to preen themselves in the light, as the morning matures, and are looking a lot bigger than I remember. These are substantial hills, Fair Snape only a little lower than the grand old lady Pendle herself.

It’s cooler as we crest the ridge and come onto the moor-top, but only because the air is moving a little. I remember skittering about on ice up here last time – the bogs all frozen deep. Today the moor is dry and dusty, the meandering trail leading us across to Paddy’s Pole on Fair Snape. There’s litter here, and the remains of past lunches. Paddy’s pole is – well – a pole sticking out of a substantial cairn. Nearby is a well constructed wind-shelter of dry-stone walling, comprising several stalls. Way south is Parlick, with its ever present coterie of paragliders. They were aloft that winter too. It was minus five on the summit then. Heaven knows what it was up around the paraglider man’s toes.

We have quite a drop in altitude, before the final pull to the stately dome of Parlick (1417ft). By now the hips are aching. I’m hoping this is just a bit of stiffness and not a sign of wear and tear. My mother’s hips began their decline around my age, rendering the last decade of her life one of severe immobility and frustration, even with an eventual replacement in her early eighties which she never really got the use of. We keep our fingers crossed, make hay while the sun shines and soldier on – to seriously mix our metaphors.

Fair Snape summit, looking back from the ascent of Parlick

The descent from Parlick is a steep one. We meet the paraglider men coming up with their huge packs, and pity them, though they look happy enough, and why not? Not all humans are destined to fly as they are. There is a hang-glider coming up too, rolled into a long and impossibly ungainly package, which the guy carries over his shoulder. He makes painfully slow progress, his brow dripping in the heat, and humidity. There is something messianic in his plodding torment. One hopes he manages to stay aloft long enough to make this purgatorial journey worth his while.

The thermals that will power his flight are in evidence around Fell Foot. They are like earth-scented blasts from an open furnace, and seeming strong enough even to lift my arms, though I obviously imagine it. Gaining the lower ground now, and slightly giddy in the heat, one is tempted to think the walk is over, but we’ve still a way to go and the navigation not so straight forward. Not all the paths are well-marked, and we’re outside the access area, so we must be careful. I’m trying to stay off the roads, but I lose the path around a place called Fish House, which is undergoing extensive rebuilding work, where neither signage nor evidence of gates or stiles exist any more so, in spite of our best efforts searching for a way through, we end up finishing the last mile into Chipping by tarmac.

There’s water in the car, which replenishes the shrivelled extremities, then a large Mocha from the farm shop does the rest. Here, I learn the Cobbled Corner Café is not gone forever, that it may reopen soon, which I’m sure is good news to many.

A fair day on Fair Snape, then, about eight and a half miles, sixteen hundred feet of ascent, four hours round. At this rate, we may even be fit enough to heave our bones up a mountain, before the year is out.

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