Thursday, 6 August 2020

Touching the Gin

A blog inspired by Joe Simpson's book, but with less blood and more gin.

As pretty much all of you will be aware, I am currently off the fells and nursing a broken foot.  I don't even have a god story to go with it - I was spring cleaning and fell downstairs when I was looking for the feather duster.  The best part is, it turns out the feather duster was upstairs all along.  Anyhoo...

Being incapacitated for a couple of weeks and now being mobile but slow and wobbly has given me time to reflect on all the teeny tiny things about hiking that I have been taking for granted but can now no longer do.  I like to think of myself as someone who has always pondered the smaller details, but there's a lot I have missed.

Also, although this is a light and cheery blog, these events have totally driven home to me issues around access to the outdoors that I had not previously considered.  That's a topic I am not even remotely qualified to tackle, but if you're interested in learning more about that then follow Debbie North, she's the accessibility champion for Julia Bradbury's The Outdoor Guide.

Right, back to the list of things I have missed...

1. Carrying things - for the first two weeks I was totally reliant on my crutches and couldn't even carry a cup of tea.  I repurposed my rucksack for a lot of the carrying and using flasks for hot drinks, but a G&T simply does not taste the same out of a flask.

2.  Pulling on a fresh pair of walking socks - who knew socks were so complicated?  I can just about do them on my own now - on the plus side I had to invest in some very snazzy long socks to go under my aircast.  Whaddya think?

3. The comforting feeling of a good pair of walking boots - I *love* my boots but it's going to be a good 6 weeks or so before I can wear them again.  Or at least wear both of them.  I love the safe and secure feeling of lacing them up and knowing I'm good to go!

4.  Walking without pain - a small thing but worth mentioning.  Walking has always been my 'thing' - not just on the fells but everywhere.  I have walked through towns and cities whenever I can - you always learn so much more about a place that way.  Now that every single step is at best uncomfortable (when I walk in the house) and at worst really painful (after 100 yards or so) I truly miss the ease with which I walked everywhere without giving it a second thought.

5. The sound of grass on my boots.  I *love* this sound.  I posted this short video on my FB page a month or so ago but hardly anyone paid it any attention so I assume it's just me.  There's a very specific sound long grass makes when it bounces off my boots and I love it!

(I *always* get my boots from the fab folks at Keswick Boot Company)

6.  Stiles.  Oh how I have bitched and moaned about stiles at the end of a long hike when all I want is a gate, but no more!  I realise a) how lucky I am to be able to hop over a stile and b) how utterly prohibitive they are if you are less mobile.

7.  Going out alone.  This whole 'new normal' has taken a bit of getting used to for me.  In the past my job saw me travelling the length and breadth of the country and now I never need to leave the house for work.  To restore some sanity I had created a 'fake commute' where each morning and evening I would go for a walk to top and tail my working day - it truly was a sanity saver.  Thing is, for now, I am not allowed out on my own.  I voluntarily handed in my crutches at the earliest opportunity so as not to get overly reliant on them and to get my foot moving again as soon as possible (Doc said he was OK with it if I was), but it's still early days and I need a walking pole on one arm and a bloke on the other.  Don't get me wrong, Steve is indeed a wonderful man, but I do miss going out on my own.

8.  The people I meet - during my fake commute I've chatted to plenty of people and really enjoyed getting to know a few 'regulars' that I'd bump into most mornings. Obviously I've no way of letting them know I'm out of action, and I wonder if they have even noticed I've vanished, but I do miss the quick chats and making friends with assorted dogs.

9.  Being invisible - this one was a big shock to me.  I've often heard people say that they feel invisible in wheelchairs but, for me, it has been the exact opposite.  In order to cover a reasonable distance at a reasonable speed, we gratefully accepted the loan of a wheelchair from a lovely friend.  This enabled us to get all the way from Hest Bank to Morecambe Jetty and back over the weekend.  Never have I been so stared at!  We made the journey with a combo of me walking a little then Steve pushing me in the chair.  When I was in the chair I was constantly stared at and was quite taken aback that no-one thought it a particularly rude thing to do.  Mind you, Steve wasn't to be entirely trusted with wheelchair duty...

10.  Chocolate biscuits!  Honestly - you thought lockdown was bad! I'm barely burning any calories at the moment so am on a strict 'no snacks' diet.  Oh how I miss a long day yomping over the fells with a rucksack full of sarnies and chocolate, and coming home to a huge pizza or plate of pasta, knowing that I have burned it all off during the day.  I've replaced my favourite chocolate digestive with raw carrots, which I quite enjoy, but it's not the same.  Thanks to the lovely folks at Shed 1, who sent me this as a get well pressie, I can still enjoy my gin ration in the evenings!  Cheers!

And if gin is your thing - check out our Gin, Cake and Rucksacks book where I explore the gin distilleries of Cumbria with a complete stranger.  I'm amazed we didn't break anything then, to be honest!
Click here to order