Sunday, 18 January 2015

By the book.

Since starting this blog I've probably written thousands of words, but now I'm required to string 20,000 of them together for a book I'm starting to panic, but only a little.  I've often wondered what goes into writing a book, well now I know - blood, sweat, tears and a few snowy hikes.  I'm guessing the snowy hikes weren't part of J K Rowling's requirements, but they're a part of ours.

Over the past few months we've been doing a LOT of research and since the start of January I've been putting pen to paper, eyes to books and feet to fells.  Luckily we've been very curious about our surroundings since we first arrived, but now we're wading through the research, we're realising how little we actually know.  The book will cover the natural, ancient and recent history of 10 sites in Cumbria - which is really exciting as it means we can tell the world about the whole county - don't get me wrong, we LOVE the Lake District, but there is so much more to see and explore in Cumbria, places like...



 and here.
But it's not all about running around the hills - sometimes I have my nose, and entire desk, buried in books.  Hell - absolute hell I tell ya.

Original sketch of GImmer Crag from 1934

Fantastic access to the resources of Mountain Heritage Trust

We're incredibly lucky to have the support of people like the RSPB, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Mountain Heritage Trust and assorted local history groups - all of whom are taking the time to meet with us, tell us a few inside stories and allow us access to materials, some of which have never been in print before.  Along the way we've already dug out some fabulous facts, gripping stories and fascinating people.

Seeing as the book will be an equal balance of Steve's fab photos and my inane ramblings we're trying to take advantage of any breaks in the weather and as today promised blue skies and snowy summits we headed for the Langdale Valley (one of the few sites we're looking at within the National Park).  Our plan was to get to the top of The Band to get some shots but around 3/4 of the way to the top it felt as if we'd stepped directly into the Jet Stream so, discretion being by far the better part of valour, we turned and headed down.

Getting blown away in every sense of the word.

The luscious Langdales

I've seen many films and documentaries where explorers are caught in similar situations with wind and snow whipping all around them and it always looked rather exhilarating - but the reality is it's more akin to standing in a freezer, in a force 9 gale while someone pelts you with boiling hot needles.  On the plus side I've had a full facial exfoliation and probably now look 10 years younger - take that Oil of Olay.

So having had an extraordinarily healthy day full of hiking, fresh air and facials, there's only one thing for it - feet up in front of the fire, a bottle of red and my body weight in peanut M&Ms - I'm counting the orange ones as one of my 5 a day.  I have this healthy living malarkey sussed!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Avoiding the crowds at the gym

The route to my "gym"
It's January and gyms everywhere are packed to the rafters with new years resolutioners full of the very best intentions.  Many years ago I was a member of a local gym - back in those days I used to compete in triathlons and gyms were the best way to get through some of the strengths exercise and ensure a little clear space in the pool for endless plodding up and down - and come January there wasn't a space to be found on the equipment.  Queues formed at the rowing machines, the stair master and the cross trainer - most probably known as that due to the grumpy nature of many of those queuing to use it, ironic really as one of the side benefits of going to the gym was a chance to let off steam and exorcise the stress demons.

My gym days are thankfully long behind me but my stress isn't.  Over the Christmas hols someone told me they were thinking of leaving their job, sticking it to "the man" and starting a new life with no stress.  I suggested that if they found a life with no stress I'd like to be the first to know about it.  Although I love our new life in every way shape and form (it's been 4 years now - 4 years - just doesn't seem possible!), it is far from stress free and anyone doing what we've done and expecting zero stress is going to be sadly disappointed.  The stresses are very different but they are still there.

For example - office life bought me the following stresses:
List of "gym equipment"

*  Being stuck in an office when it was sunny outside.
*  Not being able to take random days to be with the family when it was a birthday etc.
*  Internal politics - aaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhh - still get the heebeegeebees just remembering it.
*  Only 25 days off each year.
*  Having to fight for Christmas off.
*  Finishing my work by 4pm but having to stay at my desk till 5:30pm just because.

Whereas our new life brings me these stresses

*  Realising that every day not worked means no money coming in.
*  The temptation to work 7 days a week.
*  The temptation to work until 10pm at night.
*  Paying the mortgage every month because although I'm willing to barter my services with other local businesses for our mutual benefit, Santander refuse to play ball and insist they want their mortgage paid in money.  Spoilsports.
*  Not being able to be sick and lie under a duvet all day knowing that the sick pay will cover you
*  Being glad when you're busy but still worrying that you need to keep on marketing if you want to be busy next month too.

Thankfully, our new life came with a free gymnasium and mental health clinic right across the road - more commonly known as Hampsfell.  It may have been blowing a hoolie outside but after a busy and stressful week it was the perfect place to, quite literally today, blow the cobwebs away.

The Hospice

Morecambe Bay


The Hospice
It was the windiest I've ever known it up there, I could feel my rucksack being lifted from my back (thankfully there was a HUGE flask of tea in there) and several times I was nearly blown over while taking photos.  As I was stood on the top of the hospice, snug and warm inside my many layers and being blown sideways by the wind I could almost feel my worries one by one blowing away, out over Morecambe Bay - I just hope they didn't land on someone over the other side.

It was pretty quiet people wise up there, although I did see 3 joggers on the top of the fell.  Well maybe it was 2 - one of them might have blown past me twice.

DUCK!  Incoming worries!  :-)
After finishing half my flask I wandered down into the village for essential supplies (more milk for tomorrow's flasks) and decided on an impromptu picnic on the prom - much to the amusement of the few brave dog walkers/ canine kite flyers who were passing.

En route to the village

Perfect picnic spot
It may not boast a personal trainer or an enormous flat screen TV to amuse me while I exercise, but it's free, it's stunning and best of all there's plenty of room for everyone - it's almost worth getting stressed for.