Archives for category: The Big List

Home from a challenging trip to Iceland, I’m feeling adventurous and idly toss around alternative ideas for our Whitsun Break. For the last few years, we’ve joined my sister at the Hay Literary Festival and enjoyed camping on the fringe of the town. But now, my head is buzzing and I’m thinking of a slightly different type of break… more an expedition. ‘Why don’t we climb Ben Nevis?’ I hear the words drift over the rustle of the Sunday newspaper (yes, we still buy hardcopy) and crunch of wholemeal toast. ‘Well,’ replied His Nibbs, a little startled, ‘It’s quite a challenge, but you feel a tremendous sense of achievement when you get to the top.’

His Nibbs has done the trek twice, so knows what he’s talking about. And there’ll be more about how this might turn into an item on the list in a later posting. Meanwhile, feeling fired up and enthusiastic, I suggest we take a gentle Sunday stroll to the top of one of our local ‘hills’, The Skirrid. It’s something I’ve never done and definitely one to goThe Skirrid on my list. The subject of Owen Sheers’ poetry, it spreads above the town of Abergavenny, dominating the landscape. Nearly everyone I know has walked up The Skirrid, except me. And if everyone else can do it, then I can too.

Clad in our new ‘Icelandic Weather Wear’ we park in the National Trust carpark at the foot of the landmark. It’s rather satisfying to use our membership cards to get free parking – given that we’ve spent £250 on membership in the last two years and not visited a single National Trust property. There’s a simple map at the start of the footpath and we decide to take the gentle option to the top.

Mistake No.1. don’t attempt to walk briskly and eat at the same time. Feeling peckish, I start to munch an apple, just as the path begins to climb. I’m soon breathless and fall behind before we’ve even reached the first gate. This does not bode well, but I conceal my concern, ditch the apple and follow His Nibbs down a track to the left, towards woodland. Within minutes we’re in splendid isolation. A hawk flies overhead and the market town of Abergavenny unfolds before us. It’s wonderful. I’m lost in the stark skeletons of the silver birches, the vibrant moss and lichen and the shadow of the clouds on the valley floor.

And then we hit the mud.

I mean serious mud. Thick, slurry-like and ankle deep. I’m wearing walking boots, but His Nibbs is wearing wellies – a debate on the merits of each we had before leaving home. Now, I’m envying his choice of footwear because the mud gets worse. We trudge on, eyes now more focused on footholds rather than the view; slipping and skidding along the track. Now the wellies have no grip and the boots try to bury themselves in the mud, tugging at my ankles, reluctant to release themselves from the brown, peaty sludge. It’s like the Somme without duckboards, but we’ve reached the point of no return, so we venture on, hoping that we’ll find higher, drier ground. We don’t. The challenge goes on, and on. We pass a few hardy souls, coming from the opposite direction, who warn of the terrible condition of the track ahead, but we’ve no choice now, but to complete our circuit towards the summit. We are now both agreed that the wellies were a bad choice. His Nibbs slips and slides like Bambi on the ice until the inevitable happens and he finally ends up on his arse in the mud. This was the moment of defeat. I know we’re not going to make the summit today. We’re both exhausted by the effort of wading through the mud. The sun is setting in our eyes and blinded, we stumble on towards our new goal… the carpark.

Stripping off at the car, I nervously mentioned Ben Nevis. ‘It doesn’t bode well, if we can’t get to the top of The Skirrid’, I venture. But His Nibbs, humour restored by a chocolate rice cake, is reassuring. ‘The thing with Ben Nevis, is,’ he says encouragingly, ‘there’s no f****** mud!’

So climbing The Skirrid is still on the list of things to do this year – hopefully before we attempt Ben Nevis. I think we’ll save it for a drier day.

 

The start of a new year and I’m not the kind of person who makes resolutions or new plans, but this morning, after a pleasant evening celebrating the turn of the year, I’m taken aback at a new, unwelcome feeling that has enveloped me. This is 2020 and the year in which I’m due to celebrate a milestone birthday. A biggie… the big six-oh.

It’s not like this is a surprise – several of my friends and family in the last couple of months  have casually asked how I’m going to celebrate. So far, I’ve managed to duck out of answering. In truth, I’m not going to be sixty… sixty is old and in my head and heart, I’m still 45 years old. So I don’t want it to happen. I refuse to accept my fate and I refuse to accept the depression that has been loitering with intent since I woke on this first day of 2020.

Helping to tidy the debris of last night’s celebrations, I asked My Lovely Friend how she had coped with reaching this milestone age, just last month. She’d celebrated the event with a week of parties and special events and didn’t seem especially fazed. What was her view? ‘Well’, she responded, lifting her yellow marigolds from the sink of dirty champagne flutes, ‘you have to think about the alternative… which is not reaching sixty. And we don’t want that, do we, darling?’

So I’m raging… raging against the injustice of time which inexorably moves forward. And I’m looking for a box in which to bury this rage – a big box with a tight lid. In the end, I’ve come up with a plan to help seize control of my life, which is being snatched away by age. I’m going to create a list of sixty things to do in my sixtieth year. Things I’ve always promised myself I’d do at some point in my life. I’m not sure what the list will contain just yet, but I’ve got a few ideas floating around, and I’m going to write about the progress I make.

The first is 1#. Learn to Yodel. Quite how I’m going to achieve this, or any of the other things on the list has not yet been factored into my thinking. But it’s going to be a challenge and I reckon it will keep me distracted and keep that rage in it’s box. Watch this space!

1#. Learn to Yodel

2#. Climb Pen-Y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons

3#. Swim Naked in a Warm Sea

4#. Swap my Car for a Convertible

5#. Publish an Anthology of Poetry

6#. Visit my Gourmet Girlfriends in South America

7#. Explore the Scottish Highlands

8#. Complete my First Novel

9#. Re-learn how to Play the Cello

10#. ?

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