Monday, 27 August 2018

Roman Holiday Day 5: Home Run

The problem with having fun is that time flies - the past few days have absolutely whizzed past. We've covered a lot of miles, had a lot of cake and a LOT of laughs - even when we were caught in a hailstorm on top of High Street and Steve was cracking Hail Caesar gags!

Today all we had to do was toddle from Eskdale down to Ravenglass and the train home.

Distance: 8.5 miles (I was only a little bit tempted to hop on La'al Ratty...)

Weather: Grey but at least it didn't rain. Much.

Terrain: Tarmac, woodland, occasional bog.

Accommodation: Eskdale YHA was properly cosy - loved my little nook!

Wildlife: A red squirrel - I swear it's a red squirrel.

Post yomp treat: A long hot bath - maybe not here though...

Roman Bath House - Ravenglass
Glad it's all over? Will be glad of a rest but have loved every second. 

Challenging as it was  the hike was the easy part, now we have to research it and write it all up. It's part of a bigger book project and it will be out next year.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Roman Holiday Day 4: Highs and Blows

We'd been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for Sunday since we set off but it didn't matter which site we looked at, they all agreed it would be foul.  I thought it would help us empathise with the Romans who had to walk it in all conditions. Steve wasn't so sure...

Distance: 13.3 miles, but it felt a lot further...

Weather: Steady drizzle with occasional rainy interludes.

Terrain: Surprisingly inspirational tarmac...

Food: Beautiful Eggs Bennedict at Rothay Manor & perfect plate of home made chilli followed by divine gooey brownie at Eskdale YHA. Calories: Gazillions. Regrets: Zero.

Downside: Nearly getting mown over several times.

Upside: Beautiful waterfalls.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Roman Holiday Day 3: Sunny Interval

Today was our scheduled rest day and we were both very glad of it - all we had to do was toddle over to Ambleside on the one sunny day wedged between two dismal downpours. There's a lot to be said for dawdling and spotting things you'd otherwise miss - today we found a lovely new footpath, a historic farmhouse and a Roman camp.

In fact the hike was almost too perfect...

Distance: 4.44 miles, mostly downhill & lots of rests.

Weather: Practically perfect in every way.

Terrain: Mile after mile of glorious footpath.

Food: Frankly disappointing breakfast (call me picky but when a hotel hikes its prices from £60 per night to £144 per night for the *exact same room* simply because it's a bank holiday, and still has the nerve to tell you that a hot breakfast is another £5 extra, I'm going to stick to the free toast & cereal. And never, EVER, return.)

State of mind: Two stiles short of a full hike...

Upside of the adventure: I suppose I should say the stunning views, the history and spending time with Steve but honestly it's snarfing a whole tub of guacamole and a huge bag of crisps knowing I'll burn it all off tomorrow.

Downside of the adventure: A full day or persistent torrential rain forecast for tomorrow. I even treated myself to some new waterproof trousers in readiness seeing as my old ones had patches on the patches...

Friday, 24 August 2018

Roman Holiday Day 2: Hail Caesar!

Steve thinks it went something like this. The
Romans in Cumbria received a message from their leader:

What's the weather like over there? 
                                  Regards Caesar.

In a hurry a telegram was sent back: "Hail, Caesar" 😁

Today was our biggest hike, Pooley Bridge to Troutbeck via High Street. Fair to say it was a challenge.

Distance: 15.1 miles and none of them were flat...
Weather: Malevolent (This was before it got *really* bad. High speed hail hurts!)

Terrain: Soupy

Wildlife: Wheatears, Goldfinches, Skylarks, some evil bug that ate half my knee and a gorgeous Herdy.

Food: Epic breakfast at Ullswater Guesthouse, 3 soggy oatcakes & a Nakd bar between hailstorms.

State of mind when finally arriving at B&B: Mildly derranged. Possible goose hallucinations...

Was it worth it?: You decide...

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Roman Holiday Day 1: It'll blow over

We're walking the old Roman road from Penrith to Ravenglass for one of our books - it'll be out next year and it's a great excuse to get out on the fells.

Today we walked from Penrith station to Pooley Bridge and it went a bit like this:

Distance - 7.6 miles

If this is a milemarker we're going
to need more flapjack

Weather - thinks it's funny but it isn't

Terrain - too much tarmac followed by hard track with occasional soggy spells

Wildlife - several dozen startled sheep, 2 goldfinches and an annoying dog on the train ride

Food - a schoolgirl error in the sandwich making department resulted in one large soggy squished ball of bread. NEVER put sliced tomatoes on a rucksack sarnie

Accommodation - the very lovely Ullswater Guesthouse which is a) very friendly and b) next door to the wonderfully wellstocked Chestnut House

Chestnut House I might be here a while...
Outlook for tomorrow - possibly slow start...

Sunday, 19 August 2018

10 Relationship tips from the great outdoors

On August 16th we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and, as I scrolled back through my "on this day in history" photos, I realised how much of our life we've spent outdoors.  Ours is a tiny milestone (I've warned Steve that he's got at least another 40 or so years with me!) but inevitably, when folks reach magnificent marriage milestones they are asked what the secrets to a long and happy marriage are.  As I pondered this I realised just how much of the advice given for life in the great outdoors applies equally well to relationships.  Things like...

1.  Be properly prepared

Make sure you are prepared for all eventualities.  Conditions in life can change just as rapidly as the weather on the fells tops.  Just because you start out in the sunshine don't expect it to be sunny for the entire journey; make sure you're ready to face the tricky stuff as well as the easy stuff.

2.  Beware of baggage

While it's important to ensure you have everything you need, don't over-encumber yourself.  We've all got baggage but, like a long hike with a large backpack, that baggage will wear you down if you insist on carrying it everywhere with you.  Only keep with you what you really need and leave the rest behind.

3.  Remember to get back to where you started

Burnham Beeches - one of our first dates
All good circular walks require you to get back to where your started.  You may start out bright-eyed and bushy tailed but, by the end of a long hike, you're probably grubby, exhausted, hungry and very glad to get back to where it all began.  It's the same with relationships; when you're worn out and questioning your sanity go back to where it all started and remember why you embarked on this journey in the first place.

4.  Eat well

Stunning food from the Burlington Restaurant
On the fells you need to have plenty of food with you to give you the energy you need throughout the day so load up on chocolate, nuts and bananas. We also need to eat together properly the rest of the time too so swap the occasional TV dinner for dinner at the table or head out for a meal.  We enjoyed a gloriously sumptuous meal at the Burlington Restaurant in the Beech Hill hotel for our wedding anniversary and were thoroughly spoiled - the blueberry souffle was utterly perfect - and the time spent together was just as wonderful as the food.  When you work together it can be doubly difficult spending "non-working" time together talking about other stuff but a stroll around the hotel grounds and a good old natter over dinner did us the world of good.

5.  Make sure you're properly dressed

Layers are the key to life on the fells, lots of layers.  Add them as you get cold and remove them as you warm up again.  Hats are also important - nice warm woolly ones for the winter and baseball caps or something with a peak for the summer.  When it comes to your beloved, don't forget to make the effort occasionally - remember the time and trouble you went to making sure you looked perfect for your first dates?  You don't need to do that every day but now and again is nice.  And as for other clothing you may choose to wear to spice things up - just remember that it's unlikely to be suitable for hill walking...

6.  Stick close together in bad weather

If you're on top of a hill when the weather closes in, keep close together to make sure you don't lose each other.  Sometimes it can only take a moment and someone who is just 10 feet away from you can disappear completely, so keep close.  And when life throws crap at you and things get stormy keep sight of each other, hang on to each other if necessary, but remember you'll have more chance getting through it together than alone.

7.  Close the gate

Probably one of the first things I learned when walking in the outdoors was to always close the gate behind me - it was that and "never drop litter".  Keeping the gate closed keeps the livestock where it needs to be and stops the sheep getting at the crops and scoffing the lot.  In relationships we need to close the gate on past arguments and disagreements - if you leave the gate open stuff is likely to escape and other things will get ruined.  Close the gate and move on.

8.  Work together when overcoming obstacles

It's honestly a bit rich for me to be writing this part as I am the worst person for this and need to be reminded of it regularly - we're in this together so we need to work as a team.  In the same way that climbers rope themselves together and work as a team to reach the highest peaks, so I need to remember that I don't have to fix everything on my own.  Maybe when you're out hiking one of you is better at map-reading and the other is better at making the packed lunches.  Play to your strengths, work together, and everything will be a lot easier.

9.  Know who to call in an emergency

If we get lost on the mountains, or things go wrong, we can always call Mountain Rescue and they'll either come out and get us or talk us down to a place of safety.  Sometimes even the best of relationships go through bad days, weeks and occasionally months when things just don't seem to click in the same way they used to.  Hang in there, talk to people who can help you get a fresh perspective and hopefully you'll be back on the right path again soon.

10.  Enjoy the adventure

Hiking shouldn't just be about ticking off the miles walked or the summits claimed, it should also be about having fun and enjoying the outdoors.  A life long relationship is a huge (and occasionally scary!) adventure, so enjoy it.  It's not all about paying bills and making sure the car gets MOTd in time (I'm looking at you Steve! πŸ˜‰πŸ’) it's also about enjoying the journey and seeing new stuff along the way.  You're on this crazy roller-coaster together, you may as well enjoy the ride!

PRETTY PLEASE - BEFORE YOU GO!  Did you notice that this blog isn't swamped with adverts or pop-ups pestering you to sign up for a newsletter?  That's because we hate that sort of thing BUT we still need to earn a living!  We are lucky enough to make part of our living from writing books - the fun part is writing them and the hard part is selling them. Yes, you can get them all on Amazon too, but we make next to nothing that way - plus if you buy from us we'll be happy to sign them for you.  Just click the pictures below to find out more.  Cheers! πŸ˜€

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Everyone's a winner

As Monty Python would say "And now for something completely different!" I am a firm believer in continually stretching myself so, not content with being up to our necks in book writing projects (with another new idea bubbling away for whenever the good lord sees fit to add an extra couple of days to the week!) I thought I'd try my hand at fiction.

This story was inspired by a real life discovery that I made in a ladies loo (see photo at the end) - when I saw the items I just knew there had to be a story behind them and as there's no chance I'll ever discover the real sequence of events which led to them being there, I thought I'd make up my own.  Hope you like it.

Everyone's a Winner

Laura licked the doughnut sugar from the corner of her mouth as a small blob of jam crept down her chin.

“You missed a bit” laughed Emily, pointing to her own chin to show where it was.

Laura picked up the napkin from the table and wiped her chin.

“Other side”

Laura tried again, this time clearing the offending jammy blob. “That’ll teach me, I really shouldn’t have had that.  Heaven knows how many Slimming World Syns there were in it!”

“Who cares?” said Emily, poring over the map “We’ve got another 2 miles ahead of us and that’s on top of the 8 we’ve already done” She fiddled around with the string on the top of her well packed rucksack, gently pressing her neatly folded top down inside so it didn’t catch on the toggle.  She leaned the rucksack against the table leg then tidied their plates away onto the empty tray and wiped the crumbs off the table with her napkin.

Laura peered out through the steamed up windows of the cafe into the slow drizzle of the late afternoon, the mist from the windows indistinguishable from the clouds beyond.  She pulled her chair in to let someone squeeze past “Why do they always cram the tables so close together?” she muttered “I’ve barely got room to breathe here!”

Emily smirked. “You putting your waterproofs back on?”

“Nah, too hot.  Well, maybe the top, but not the legs.  How hilly is the next section?”

“All flat” replied Emily.

Laura sighed, screwing up her nose as she peered out of the window again.  “How about we just give it 5 more minutes to see if it clears up?”

Emily clenched her jaw with irritation and wondered why Laura had agreed to come on the hike when all she’d done was complain about the weather.  She’d been in an odd mood all morning.  She watched as Laura tipped half the contents of her rucksack onto the floor of the cafe and rummaged through them looking for a hair band.  Locating one she slipped it on, pushing her loose blonde hair back off her face.  “That’s better” she smiled, haphazardly stuffing the contents back in and pulling the lid down tight.  “Damn!  Forgot my hat!” she muttered before repeating the entire process again.

Emily thought back to the networking event where they’d met just 2 weeks earlier.  They’d really clicked and had kept in touch with texts and messages since then.  Their shared love of hiking led Emily to suggest a 10 mile yomp around Derwent Water; it had been glorious weather when they planned it but today was the first dismal day in ages.

Glancing at the floor she noticed a small box half under Laura’s chair.  “You missed something” she said, using her foot to slide it closer before bending to pick it up.  She handed it over to Laura. Clear Blue Pregnancy Testing Kit.  “Anything you want to tell me?” asked Emily, smiling.

Laura’s face flushed.  They’d only known each other such a short time.  Emily reached over and put her hand on Laura’s arm.  “Honestly, just blurt it out, I promise you can trust me.”

Laura hesitated, biting her lower lip and searching Emily’s face for some sign of reassurance.

“Well, it’s like this” she finally began.  “We’ve been trying for kids for a little while and I think I may actually be pregnant, except now it’s finally real I am absolutely terrified.  I haven’t even told Pete.  I bought the test before I met you in Keswick earlier, but I’m too scared to use it.  I’m scared I might be pregnant and equally scared that I might not be; does that make any sense at all?”

“Sort of a SchrΓΆdinger’s baby scenario?” said Emily. 

Laura laughed “Exactly; if I don’t take the test then I am both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time.”

“What are you scared of?” asked Emily, her hand still resting on Laura’s arm and her hazel eyes never leaving her face.

“Everything” blurted Laura “I just don’t feel grown up enough to look after a baby.  I’ve killed every houseplant I’ve ever owned!”

“Babies are different” said Emily reassuringly “For a start you can’t leave them on windowsills unattended and I’m pretty sure you need to water them more than once a week.”

They both laughed.

“Seriously though” she continued “You can do this; millions of women have done it before you and there will be loads of people around to support you – Pete, your family, the nurses, your friends, me.”

“I know, I’m being silly”

“Not silly at all, this is the biggest change you’ll ever make in your life.  Of course you’ll be nervous, but you’ve got this; whatever the result of that test you’ll cope just fine.”

Laura smiled and put her hand on top of Emily’s.  “Thank you.  I just need to take a deep breath and pull myself together.”

“Tell you what” said Emily “When we get back to Keswick we’ll nip to the public loos in Booth’s and do it.  I’ll be right outside the whole time.”


As they trudged their way back into Keswick they talked about a million different things and none of them were baby related.  Crossing the bridge back into town Laura stopped again.

“I can’t do this.  I am so scared!”

“Wait there 2 minutes” said Emily, disappearing off into the nearby CoOp.  She emerged soon after clutching a small bottle of Shiraz and a scratch card.

“This is for Dutch courage” she said, waving the wine bottle “and this” waving the scratch card “is to give me something to do while you’re in there.”

Giggling like naughty school children they drank the wine straight from the bottle and raced to Booth’s before Laura changed her mind again.

“Right” said Emily “In you go.  I’ll wait out here and see how many millions I’ve won.”

Laura disappeared into the cubicle while Emily dug 2p out of her purse and started on her scratch card.

“You ok?”she called through

“Yup, just got to wait 2 minutes now”

“Can you remember the Countdown music?”  They both began giggling and humming together, finishing with a flourishing “did-di, did-di, diddly bum!”

“Well?” asked Emily

“Negative” said Laura, opening the cubicle door

“Same here; it would seem that we are neither pregnant nor millionaires.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m OK actually” said Laura, her voice muffled in Emily’s shoulder as she gave her a big hug.  “Thanks for being there.”

“No worries” smiled Emily “What shall I do with these?”  They looked around for a bin, but there was none.

“There’s a sanitary bin next to the loo” said Laura “It’s not perfect but we may as well just leave them there.”

“Fair enough” said Emily, placing the lottery ticket, the empty wine bottle and the pregnancy test on top of the bin next to the toilet.

“I think after all that we deserve a larger glass of wine; the Dog and Gun do great food too – you in?”

“Definitely” smiled Laura as they made their way outside and the first rays of weak sunshine finally broke through the clouds.