Saturday 19 January 2008

Things could be a lot worse

15st 1lb (which is not as bad as I feared, in the light of recent excesses); 8.0 alcohol units yesterday; 1,477; Forties (ah, the memories!)

My lovely aunt last night and the BBC this morning are completely agreed on one thing: today’s weather is going to be crap. So I am surprised to find myself looking out of the study window in the middle of the morning, thinking that it actually looks quite reasonable. I decide to put it to a practical test, and take the dog for an 8.5 mile walk up into the hills from Ingram. It’s not such wonderful walking weather as we enjoyed at this time last week, since the sunshine is much weaker and the air temperature correspondingly lower; while the ground temperature is far higher, so we do a lot of plodging (as we Geordies say) through improvised streams taking away the last few days’ rainfall, and occasional patches of viscous mud.

We don’t see a lot of other people, though we are puzzled by an immense racket in the distance as we near the top of Ewe Hill. It sounds like an approaching protest march by S&M fans whose speech is constrained by ill-fitting gimp masks. Eventually it resolves itself into a remarkably small group of mentally defective youths, honking and whooping as they lope through the rough grass and heather, some way ahead of their nominal carers. They are far noisier than the hunt we encountered last week, though regrettably somewhat less picturesque. Fortunately they are exercising their “right to roam” (Mr Blair’s equivalent of the John Major “cones hotline”) so cut diagonally across the public bridleway rather than joining it. Soon they have disappeared in the direction of a notorious peat bog. I cross my fingers, but would prefer not to disclose why.

We pass the remote farmhouse of Chesters, now supposedly a “Scouts Adventure Centre”, though I have been walking past it for 20 years and never seen a single scout. I can’t see the words “Scouts Adventure Centre” without giggling, ever since I read about an unfortunate court case in which a scoutmaster was convicted for bribing his charges with Mars bars to induce them to leap naked over a large log, during which it was his pleasure to capture them in mid-air action photographs. There is another “Scouts Adventure Centre” back on the main road which seems to be much better used. That one is within a short walk of a garage that is well stocked with Mars bars. But I draw no conclusions.

Chesters: where no-one can hear you squeal

The Cheviot and Hedgehope from Chesters hill fort

The dog and I sit on the top of Chesters hill fort, admiring the view of snow-flecked Cheviot. The dog and I have a pronounced difference of opinion about what constitutes a fair division of a sandwich. Then we walk along the red stone track to Prendwick, pausing as we always do at the gate above Thieves Rode plantation, where in one direction the view encompasses the fertile and civilized Whittingham Vale, while in the other lies all the bleak rugged grandeur of the Cheviots. It’s not been a bad day at all; and in the evening there will be dry trousers, a crackling log fire; a little comforting food; and the touching demise of Vera Duckworth to catch up with on DVD.

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