Skiddaw, Varnish Disaster and 2013 365 Challenge #43

Image courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Image courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Today is all about hiking. I can only do the hiking posts when I have the energy because I need to put in a lot more research. It is worth it though. I have done a bit of hiking in the UK including in the Lake District (in the days when I lived in Manchester and the Lakes weren’t so far away!). I haven’t done Skiddaw but my first ever hike was Striding Edge at Helvellen so I can appreciate some of what Claire might experience.

Can I just add, I love this photo of Skiddaw! It is so atmospheric, perfect for putting me in the right mood for Claire’s day-hike. I really appreciate sites like FreeFoto.com that let me look for images without worrying about copyright.

I need something to smile about today as I just lost 8 new abstract-art cards (meant for a commission with a deadline of this Thursday) because the varnish didn’t go down right. It happens sometimes but it still means four or five hours’ work lost and is always frustrating. Especially as I’m running out of time to start again as we get the kids in half an hour! 🙂 I try not to do painting in acrylic with little ones around…

Update: turns out Dettol Surface Cleaner doesn’t get varnish off acrylic paint but Vaseline (petroleum jelly) does. Which begs the question what does the stuff do to a little one’s bottom? At least the 7 out of 8 of the pictures were saved (one was scrubbed a bit too hard…) It does mean yet another nursery day has gone by without me getting ahead with Claire’s story. Child collection time and hiking research not yet started. Oops. Going to be a light post again today. Sigh.

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“How are the boots?”

“Better than the Helly Hansens although it pains me to admit it. It’s nice not to be wearing jeans too. I’m glad I stopped by Cotswolds before we left Carlisle.”

“Well done.”

Claire beamed at Josh as if she had passed a test by getting the right gear. Even though he hadn’t been on the Pennine Walk he had read the blog post and seen the pictures.

“I can’t imagine how you didn’t get frost bite or at least torn muscles hiking in the snow in jeans. Idiot.”

“Thanks.” Claire paused to catch her breath. “Let’s say I’m learning on the job.” She turned to take in the view of Derwentwater nestled below amidst hills and woodland. Even on a bitter winter day it was quite a sight. “It must be impressive in the summer with a blue sky and a bit more green.”

Josh turned and walked back to where she stood. He reached over and held his hand to her forehead. “Are you ill?”

“No I feel great, why?”

“You’re being complimentary about the scenery and the nearest city is miles away. Are you sure you’re not crook?”

“Ha bloody ha. I was brought up in the countryside. Just because I don’t choose to live there doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally think it’s pretty. I think Cath Kidston tea-towels are pretty but I wouldn’t give them houseroom.”

Josh smiled and gestured up the zig-zagging track. “Come on, there isn’t much daylight this far north at this time of year. If you want your precious picture for Carl we need to get to the summit before it gets dark.”

“Lead on, McDuff.”

“What?” Josh twisted round as he walked.

“Oh, nothing. It’s from Shakespeare. I think. Uncle Jim used to say it when we were younger. He probably had it wrong, he was always misquoting things.”

“You’ve never mentioned any of your family before.”

It was on Claire’s lips to say You haven’t either, but she didn’t want the smile to leave Josh’s face. Instead she forced out a low chuckle. “With my family there isn’t much to say. Uncle Jim was easily the best of them.”

“Was?”

“He died. Heart attack. Crazy really. Dad’s always been the one with the high-profile job, bad diet, too much wine. Uncle Jim loved sailing, spent half his life in the great outdoors. Much good it did him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I guess we all gotta go at some point.”

Silence fell between them and they followed the line of cairns that lead to Skiddaw.

“Brrrr.” Claire pulled her jacket in tighter and huddled against the wind as they reached the ridge. She looked around her in surprise, wondering when the sky had filled with ominous-looking clouds.

“Bugger, looks like it’s going to rain.”

“And some, I should think. Best pick up the pace. Right gear or not, it won’t be pleasant up on the ridge in a hail storm.”

The words were whisked from Josh’s mouth as a gust of wind tore through them. Claire stumbled and reached out instinctively for Josh’s arm.

“Sorry, caught me by surprise.”

“No worries. Come on, let’s do this, now we’re here.” He linked his arm through Claire’s and they strode on towards the top of Skiddaw, determined not to be beaten by the weather.

“Ow.” A lump of ice hit Claire on the shoulder, followed swiftly by another. “Damn, that hurt.”

“Sook. It was just a bit of hail. Here, pass me your phone, let’s get this photo taken while you’ll still be distinguishable in it.”

Claire plastered her best approximation of a smile on her face as Josh pointed the iPhone in her direction. She snatched the phone as soon as he indicated the picture was taken and turned back the way they had come.

“Aren’t you going to come to the top? We’re so close.”

“What for? I did what I came to do. I want a hot shower and a mug of Earl Grey.”

“Come on. You can’t chicken out now. Come bag a munro or whatever the English equivalent is.”

“Bag a what?” Claire glared at Josh and then looked back down the path. Even though it was clearly marked she wasn’t happy hiking solo. With a heavy sigh that was swept away before it could reach Josh she turned and followed him up the hill.

“Whose stupid idea was this?”

“Yours.”

“Bugger, it was, you’re right. Well, that’s it. The next extreme sport I’m doing is extreme cocktail drinking followed by extreme shopping.”

“Well on that adventure you’re on your own. I told you, cities give me soul-ache.” Josh’s shouted words were said without emphasis but Claire could hear the goodbye in them. The thought caused a stab of pain under her ribs. Having been fine to start the adventure on her own it now seemed impossibly hard to travel on without someone beside her.

“Where will you go?”

They had reached the top and peered through the sleet to try and see Bassenthwaite. Claire thought she could just about distinguish the lake in the distance although everything was blending into matching hues of grey so it was hard to be sure.

“I’ll stay in Keswick. Seems a bonzer place. Might try for some work.”

“I thought you wanted to head south. The city was your idea.”

“I did what I needed to do yesterday in Carlisle, she’s sweet.”

There didn’t seem to be any more words so they turned and walked together back down the hill.

***

NCT Friends and Indoor Football – 2013 365 Challenge #42

The football goal also doubles up as a playden

The football goal also doubles up as a playden

Today we caught up with our NCT baby group, four years on. We see members from time to time and we try and catch up with everyone once a year. This was the first time in two years that (nearly) everyone was there. I think we were missing two daddies and one sibling. There were 8 couples in our baby group all on their first bump in 2008 and there are now 13 children with another on the way.

We met up in a small indoor play area that I go to quite often. It wasn’t open when we arrived – I don’t think they were expecting 12 kids and the same amount of adults to turn up at 10.30am on a Sunday. It was great to watch the kids running around and to see how much they’ve changed and how much they haven’t. It’s a nice way to keep us grounded with the passing of time.

As husband and I are both still poorly (my cold hopefully going, his just arriving) it was survival for the rest of the day. Rugby on the television with mummy giving commentary to keep the kids interested: “Ooh look now he’s got the ball, watch they’re all going to squish him. Look he’s saying, ‘my ball by ball’, ooh do you think he can kick it between those tall sticks?” Which, to be fair, is about my knowledge of rugby anyway, despite being an avid fan of the game. I can tell you most of the rules of football and cricket including the off-side rule and when it is and isn’t LBW. But rugby, well. I know about tries, line-outs and the fact the ball goes above the bar not below, but the rest is all a bit hazy.

Playdough animals

Playdough animals

We also did playdough and indoor footie. I kept getting told off by my son for responding to comments on twitter and taking pictures of the kids to use on the blog. I do feel bad when he reprimands me for combining work with play but I also remind myself they only go to nursery 2 days a week. We bumped into a friend of Aaron’s at the play centre (hurrah! – they chased each other for half an hour. Genius) and he goes to nursery five days a week. We’re all lucky that Mummy doesn’t have to, although if Daddy doesn’t get a job soon that might change. Having seen how weary my husband is getting of his extended childcare duties I suspect that’s a fate worse than unemployment for him. He freely admits he couldn’t be a stay-at-home dad on a permanent basis.

I spent today also trying to write a press release for the blog/free ebook, seeing it as a dry run for when there’s a proper novel out there that needs promoting. I used to work in Marketing but it’s a different beast when it’s your own stuff you’re selling. My first draft came in at two pages of mostly waffle. I’m always reminded of the quote “sorry for the long letter I didn’t have time to write a short one.” I do tend to the verbose (had you noticed? :D)

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Claire settled into the squeaky seat and wrapped her hands around the solid white cup. Her smile spread wide as she raised the drink to her lips and sipped at the froth, glad Josh wasn’t there to see her milk moustache. She felt the air exhale from her lungs in a contented sigh. It wasn’t the biggest Starbucks or the most up to date. But the coffee always tasted the same. The caffeine zinged through her body, carried to the furthest tips of her fingers by her grateful blood.

She glanced up through the window for the eighth time. Stop looking. It’s no concern of yours where he’s gone. Another voice in her mind said no concern but still intriguing. We’d barely parked when he said See ya later and legged it.

Claire took another long slurp of her latte, letting the sensation of civilisation wash through her, warming her right to the centre. With a sigh she placed the cup back on the table and took out her Lonely Planet guide. If I’m only going to be in the Lakes for a day or so I’d better find something noteworthy to do. I don’t want Carl making me come straight back. I intend to spend at least a week in the next city we come to, even if it is Liverpool.

She flicked idly through the pages around Keswick and came across a picture of a snowy ridge of mountains with the title Skiddaw. That looks the ticket. A picture of me up there should shut Carl up for a while. I wonder if I can climb up for a photograph without having to walk along it. It’s not far from the hostel, maybe it’s not a bad thing that Cockermouth wasn’t available.

There was a tap on the window and Claire looked up automatically. A gentleman in shirt and tie was peering through the glass searching the interior of the coffee shop. As his gaze locked with Claire’s the clean-shaven face broke into a smile. Claire automatically smiled back although she had no idea who the man was. He does look familiar. God I hope it’s not another client. She hadn’t bumped into anyone she knew since the services on the way to Berwick and definitely wanted to keep it that way.

As if in response to her smile the man raised his hand in a wave and headed for the door to the café. Bugger, he’s coming in. She plastered her best client-facing expression on her face and sat up straighter in her chair, sliding the Lonely Planet guide off the table into her lap.

“Hey Claire, still here? How many coffees have you had? Am I going to have to tie your arse to the seat so you can drive us to the hostel?”

The words, as much as the Aussie twang, confirmed to Claire what her eyes could not credit.

“Josh?”

“Of course it’s me, dingbat.” He slid into the seat opposite, a faint blush of colour peeping through his brown cheeks. His eyes slid away from hers and he made a show of looking round the room as if taking in the scene.

“So this is what we drove all the way here for? It’s nothing special.”

“It’s not the décor it’s the drink.” She wrapped her hands protectively around the coffee mug and drank the tepid dregs.

“Now I’ve heard that said about a bar but never about a coffee shop. You’re one strange girl.”

“I’m strange?” Claire’s voice rose in indignation. “I haven’t suddenly reappeared with a spanking haircut, shave, and shirt and tie still with the shop-bought creases in. What gives?” The words were out before she could stop them, despite vowing to herself that she wouldn’t question him. Sure enough a veil dropped across Josh’s face and his eyes lost their sharp focus.

“I had to Skype the folks. Mum likes me to look smart.” They both looked down at his hands where they twisted like coiled snakes on the table-top. “Anyway are you going to buy me one of these famous coffees or shall we head back to civilisation? Cities cramp my soul.”

As the words settled softly in Claire’s mind like fresh snow she was aware of a sense of loss. Whose loss she couldn’t say, or even why she had the feeling. It seemed like Josh was floating away on an iceberg in a choppy sea. She shook off the strange sensation and gave him her widest smile.

“Sure, let’s head to Keswick. I’m thinking of hiking Skiddaw tomorrow.”

The effect was instant, like changing the batteries in a run-down appliance. Josh sat up, his face beaming. The air of ancient injury dropped away and he became young again.

“Sweet.”

***