The Roaring Lion of March: 2013 365 Challenge #71

One of the many blizzards today (photo doesn't do it justice)

One of many blizzards today (photo doesn’t do it justice)

March has truly been roaring today. If it is true that it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb we’re in for some cracking Easter Weekend weather. Here’s hoping!

I braved the minus-seven blizzard to walk the dog this afternoon and was inspired to write Claire’s post today about the weather. Not sure where she’s going to be hiking yet, still have to research that bit.

It is also inspired by my discovery of Christian Around Britain. Following an ex-soldier as he walks the entire 6500 miles of UK coastline without stopping, to highlight the plight of homeless exservicemen. Christian says:

“On the 8th of the 8th 2012 I am embarking on a journey which will either kill me or make me. I am going to walk the whole coastline of Britain non stop, which is approx a 6500 mile journey, equivalent to walking from John O Groats to Landsend seven and a half times, and will take between 18 months and 2 years to complete, I will be starting in Blackpool and finishing in Blackpool.”

On his Facebook support page they also add:

Christian has NO support team nor NO PR team, contrary to popular belief! This walk is off his own back and he walks independently to his OWN schedule. We are humbled by his monumentous efforts. He is not being paid by anyone for this task.

He sleeps rough to highlight the plight of homeless ex-service personnel. He will not accept a comfy bed in a house but garages, sheds or a safe garden would be looked at! If he does not accept your offer of shelter, please DO NOT be offended, he wants to maintain his independence and will only stop when he reaches his destination for the day (though breakfast, a cuppa or a pint is gratefully accepted!). We are so grateful though for all your offers and he will look at his point of rest on the day and look at the support map.

He has posted photos of the snowy weather down by Beachy Head where he has been today (on his birthday). My sister said (jokingly) on Facebook ‘a year or two spent walking sounds like fun to me’. After twenty minutes outside today, with full snow gear on top to toe, I was frozen to the core and desperate for a cuppa. I’m sure it’ll be fun in summer but not now. It certainly puts Claire’s little challenge to shame. Maybe I’ll have Claire hear about Christian or bump into him or something! 🙂

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The thrumming of the wind through the trees sounded like the roar of a jet engine. It made Claire think of her planned trip to the Maldives for the first time since dropping Josh at Manchester airport.

I’d give half my shoe collection to be walking across the tarmac headed for a plane right now.

The wind blew sideways, sneaking through a chink in her thinsulate armour. It froze her neck and sent shudders down inside her coat. She huddled in deeper and pulled at the fleece to protect her skin from the arctic blast.

Shivering Mountain is right. Maybe I should have checked the forecast before I left Castleton Hostel.

Claire tried to take in the view but it hurt too much to raise her head into the gale. A glittering light drew her gaze and she realised the sun was peeking through the cloud, taunting her like a holiday post card.

What are you trying to say Sun? Are you twinkling Look at me! In parts of the world I’m hot and inviting. I warm the sand and bronze the skin. Not here, though. Here I just highlight the puddles and make the wind-torn trees look like a mockery of spring.

Claire turned her back on the mocking sun and pushed on. She felt like one of those toddlers she saw out with their mummies: dressed in snowsuits, unable to walk or use their arms. Like mini-Michelin Men with only their red faces showing beneath brightly coloured bobble hats.

Dressed like a baby, pretending to be the sun. I think I’m losing it. Thanks Carl, your job is done.

 

After half an hour Claire tugged the fleece scarf away from her throat, desperate for air.

How can I be freezing and sweating like a racehorse at the same time? And where is that damn fort? The guide said it was a short and easy walk to the top of Mam Tor. In the summer maybe.

The roaring wind thrust piled-up clouds before it, until the sun was completely hidden and Claire’s visibility reduced to several metres of swirling snow. The flurries chased every which way like shoppers on the first day of the sales. Their hurried movement made her twitchy as if she really was fighting foot and elbow in Hobbs for the best bargains.

Claire raised her head, squinting through the pellets of ice stinging her eyes. The path, that had been clear in front of her a heartbeat ago, had vanished beneath a swirling curtain of white.

Bugger. I knew I should have brought a map. Not that it would help me much now. Pulling off one glove with her teeth, Claire reached into her pocket for her iPhone. Her numb hands dropped it and it bounced once before landing in the gathering snow.

Double bugger.

She dropped to her knees and gathered up her phone as she might a child who had fallen from a tree. Please be okay, please be okay. She pressed the on button and prayed for life. The screen lit up in the gloom and Claire felt her heartbeat slow to its normal tread.

The snow continued to fall, creeping down her neck and soaking her clothes as she squatted on the floor and shielded the screen with her body. With one senseless hand she typed her location into the Maps program. The signal was weak and it took an age for the screen to load. At last a map appeared with a dot showing her position on Mam Tor. She zoomed in and her heart jolted as she saw the crumbling cliff inches from her current location.

It can’t be that close, I would have noticed it before the weather closed in. Despite her confidence she didn’t fancy trying to walk any further until the snow stopped. A quick glance informed her there was no shelter so she hunkered down and hoped the vicious wind would come to her rescue and blast the cloud away. Come back taunting sun, all is forgiven.

Her hand hovered over the call button as she felt a biting need to talk to another human being. No one even knows I’m up here. Damn you Carl for your stupid goading and damn me too for reacting to it.

Her mouth held the words “Call Michael”, knowing the phone would respond and dial up a number she had yet to delete. She swallowed hard and turned her back to the wind.

***

 

‘The Extincts’: Resurrecting my Love of Reading: 2013 365 Challenge #69

Roelant Savery [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Roelant Savery via Wikimedia Commons

I was lucky enough to grab a free copy of a children’s book (MG I would guess) from our local book shop today, while taking the kids in to spend their World Book Day vouchers.

I always find it odd taking a free book and my daughter exclaimed in horror when I didn’t pay for it. Funny because I happily give my own books away for free. Maybe that says something about how I rate my writing or how I perceive the difference between an ebook and a paper copy.

The book, an uncorrected proof, is called The Extincts  and is by Veronica Cossanteli. The proof copy says it will be published in May 2013. When I got home I found it on Amazon here.Looks great.

I read some of the book this afternoon while Daddy took the kids to buy me a mother’s day gift (and after I’d ordered my mum a spa day and printed and laminated the voucher). I was hooked, as much as I have been by any book recently. I have three half-finished novels under my bed – Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, The Real Thing by Catherine Alliott and Rowling’s Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets which I’m reading because I’m finding the others too much at bedtime. I never used to leave books half-read and couldn’t understand how my husband would have three or four on the go but these days I have to be in the right frame of mind. When I’m not I re-read something that’s so familiar I can open it at any page. I feel I can happily read this book, The Extincts, to the end not just becuase it’s great but because it isn’t emotionally taxing.

My eclectic half-read pile of books

My eclectic half-read pile of books

Veronica Cossanteli’s book has the strongest opening and voice of anything I’ve read in ages. There are bits that don’t flow but partly that’s shifting pace to Middle Grade fiction after reading YA and Women’s lit. The pace, the language, the imagery and the plot concept are all great. It has reminded me how much I love Middle Grade fiction (probably one reason it is Harry Potter I turn to in times of trial.). MG fiction tends to be entertaining without being too close to home emotionally (like the Catherine Alliott book) or too challenging in subject matter (like the Blackman book).

It’s like the TV my husband and I watch these days: it has to be safe, preferably funny, definitely non-emotional and (for me) non-violent. We have enough struggle in the real world, our entertainment is a time to escape. We couldn’t even watch the nature programme on penguins recently because the chicks were being attacked by cormorants.

I was drawn to the Cossanteli proof because the publisher is Chicken House, who ran a competition I wanted to enter last year. Funny how life can throw you random choices that have significant results. The book has entertained me, broken my dry-spell of reading and reminded me that reading can be fun as well as challenging and stretching. It brought to mind a quote I read on Twitter the other day:

“One must own that there are certain books which can be read without the mind and without the heart, but still with considerable enjoyment.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

It’s also reminded me that I would love to write Middle Grade fiction if only I had the imagination for it. Maybe one day.

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Claire dumped her rucksack on a bottom bunk and went to stand at the bay window. There were bars in front of the glass, presumably to stop small children falling out. Claire opened the window wide and leaned out as far as she could. She was in the turret at the front of the hostel and the hillside dropped away, falling down to Eyam village. Weak rays of sun prodded through the heavy cloud and highlighted buildings beneath her. She turned and looked at the bunk where her rucksack lay, conscious of an urge to lie down and close her drooping eyelids. She’d barely slept after her frantic evening ringing hostels trying to arrange her two weeks with Sky.

The door opened and the hostel warden poked her head round. “Not really meant to let you stay, love. Checking in isn’t really til five.” She smiled apologetically.

“That’s okay. Thank you for letting me in to leave my bag. I’m trying to decide whether to walk into Eyam village or drive to Chatsworth house.”

Eem Miss.”

“Sorry?”

“It’s pronounced ‘Eem’ not E-yam’. E-yam sounds like a cheese.”

Claire flushed. “Oh. Sorry.”

“That’s alright. Southerners never get it. Walk into the village, it’ll be pretty when the sun breaks through. There’s a nice bakery and a tea room.”

Claire thought privately that it was a bit early in the day for tea and cake. She didn’t want to offend the woman so she merely nodded and went to get her things from the rucksack.

“If you’re wanting to walk into the village take the path rather than the road. It’s real pretty, winding past a llama farm. Comes out behind the church.” The lady shone a bright grin then ducked back out, closing the door behind her.

Eem it is then,” Claire said to the empty room. She let herself out and followed the signs for the footpath.

Halfway down the hill Claire regretted her decision to walk. Down is fine but I don’t fancy the climb back up.  The sun’s attempts to break through looked like they might be scuppered by the surly clouds and Claire could feel moisture gathering on her hair.

By the time she reached the village Claire was sweaty and irritated, knowing she had the return climb to contend with after whatever delights Eyam had to offer. The footpath took her into the village past the church. She turned right and stopped at a sign proclaiming the ‘Plague Cottages’. I thought the whole village suffered from the plague, not just a few cottages?

A dark green sign promised illumination and Claire stopped to scan it. The notice told of Mary Hadfield, who lost her sons, aged 4 and 12, early on in the plague and her husband nearly a year later. Just when she must have thought the worst was over. I can’t believe she lost thirteen relatives in total. Claire felt the grey of the day seeping into her soul.

I don’t think I even have thirteen relatives, never mind that many all living within the same clutch of houses. She tried to imagine living that close to her parents and Robert. I don’t know what’s more depressing: that she had them or that she lost them.

Claire took a quick snap with her phone then walked on towards an impressive high stone wall and black cast iron gate on her right. The board said it was Eyam Hall, Historic House and Craft Centre. Whatever it is, it’s closed. Clearly they don’t expect many visitors in March. Can’t imagine why.

She wandered on past a Post Office and some more cottages, following signs for the museum. May as well get some facts for the blog, then I can get out of here and go somewhere less depressing. Like maybe a morgue.

The museum looked like a school house or a village hall, hulking opposite the car park and public toilets. When she got closer she could tell it, too, was closed.

Seriously? No wonder they had no problem separating themselves off from the world. Who the hell would want to come here? It’s dark and dreary and half of it isn’t even open.

Claire spotted a map urging her to ‘Discover Eyam at a Glance.’ I think I’ve done that. It wouldn’t take more than a quick peek. Having located the YHA hostel on the map Claire realised it was a short walk up the road from the museum. For a second she contemplated heading into the village for an early lunch and a better look around. Or I could walk back to the hostel and drive to Chatsworth for some civilisation. Her eyes scanned the featureless museum building staring blankly at her and decided on Chatsworth House.

That’s assuming it’s open.

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