Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Malverns - a reverie

I hadn’t been up there for a while so I thought If give it a go. I had suddenly recalled spate of several summers in succession in which I walked the entire length of the hills as part of the St George’s Square Venture Club (anyone remember that?) so I thought Id take up where previously Id left off in the nineties and give it a crack.

Now, I have been to Malvern since, often several times a year, but on such occasions, my ambitions have been limited to a quick jaunt up Herefordshire Beacon and back. The venture Club used to start at Ledbury at around 8am and finish off ten hours later the other side of Malvern with barely five minutes rest. Hardly Sir Ranulph Fiennes, but at the same time no mean feat under a blazing sun and up and down steep inclines.

You’ll imagine my deep distress therefore, when I encountered my first bout of stitch a mere five minutes into my attempt. Okay, so this was the first exercise I had embarked upon in some time, but I should point out that I had barely left the level plain of the car park with the only physical exertion having been in the form of opening and shutting the car boot. My morale began to sink lower still when I was then overtaken by a couple of elderly ramblers who looked as if they had been presented with far greater challenges from their daily jigsaw puzzles.

However, I am rarely beaten and with English stoicism and French flair I ploughed on up and down four peaks until I perched myself upon a rock atop Worcestershire Beacon, content to survey the three counties beneath as a worthy sign of my initial achievement. Then came the first major challenge – the need for the toilet. Drinking so much water always brings about the inevitable, but where is one to go when stranded upon a rocky peak? There are no gents to be seen. Nor, for that matter, are there any convenient caves, trees, bushes or shrubs of an abound note. In fact, as I began to scour the landscape frantically, I could hardly make out a tall weed behind which to hide. After fifteen minutes of fruitless visual pursuit, I decided my only hope was to wait for a lull in the “hill traffic” and take a "speed wee."

Seizing my chance as a group of hill walkers descended the slope away from me, I turned to face Gloucestershire (quite a therapeutic landscape for a makeshift bathroom) and did what I had to do, which was a blessed relief. So much so that I managed to utter the phrase “Aha that’s better,” so loud that I swear I heard in echo around the town beneath my feet. I needn’t have concerned myself as to the decibel level of my output, however, as it was clearly audible enough for the Chinese couple who appeared directly in front of me as I finished up. Sometimes there is just no point in pretending. Raising my shoulders triumphantly, I simply nodded pleasantly at them.

“Morning,” I announced cheerfully.

The walk progressed, reaching the fifth and sixth peaks before I broke for a rest, the sun finally breaking and offering a chance to lie down in its warm rays. I was tired and weary and rather like a cat, the heat caused my eyes to close with contentment. You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for being somewhat unprepared for the violent outburst that followed…

“Aargh”” the voice screamed. “I’m a massive giant and I’m going to eat you alive!”

It was just as well that I had emptied my bladder as, had I failed to do so I’m sure it would have done so on its own accord as I leapt twenty feet into the air and landed painfully upon a sharp rock.

“I said I’m a massive giant” the voice boomed, just as menacingly as before.

My eyes took a short while to adjust for, rather than to settle upon the grotesque sight of some sort of mythical Norse beast, it soon became clear that (much to my astonishment) the voice belonged to a little girl.

“I think you’re disturbing people’s peace and tranquillity,” came the welcome voice of her father.

“Good man,” I thought.
“No, no,” her mother announced, haughtily. “I told Clarissa she could shout as loud as she likes when she reached the top. It doesn’t matter up here.”
“Is that right…” I mumbled, irritably.

She turned to face me and, despite the fact that I was perched as least ten feet above where she was stood, her nose still managed to position itself at an angle vertical to my own. Clearly disgusted by my visible tattoo and the audacity I had demonstrated in daring to speak in her lofty presence, she sneered at me for a moment before turning back to Clarissa.

“What does the giant say?”

“Rah!” Clarissa yelled.

“No Clarissa. That won’t do. Louder.”

It was time for me to move again, lest the family have me tasared for not having thrown myself out of their way in shame. After another few hours of relentless pursuit, I finally managed to complete the main length of the hills and I retreated gingerly back to the car park. I felt content - tired, aching and bruised yes – but having achieved what I used to do all the time. Just as I pulled the keys from my pocket and unlocked the boot ready to throw my walking boots in the back, I noticed the same elderly couple march back past me.

They had just finished their walk. They had walked, more quickly than me and for longer. And not only that. Their t-shirts. I couldn’t believe it:

“New York, London & Paris Marathons 2009”

They’d done the lot

“Bollocks to this,” I thought. “I’m going home for a cold lager.”

And I did.

Monday, 5 July 2010


I’ve never really liked Wimbledon. I’ve no desire to camp out to get tickets. I can’t stand it. Everything about it. I don’t like Pimms (tastes like fruity Benylin), I don’t like Sue Barker, I don’t like Cliff Richard. I don’t like feeble failed ex-tennis players giving weak opinions on the non-existent chances of British players. I didn’t particularly like Tim Henman, I thought Jeremy Bates was lame, whilst I can’t stand Andy Murray at all. I don’t even like London. Go to London – take the train to London, stopping at Rejection, Disappointment, Backstabbing Central and Shattered Dreams Parkway…

I didn’t like Boris Becker, I didn’t like Steffan Edberg or Michael Stich. I hated Pete Sampras and don’t like Roger Federer. All boring. I don’t like serve and volley tennis – dull, rubbish. A total lack of imagination. I like baseline tennis. Id happily go to the French or US Open. I did like Agassi and I like Nadal and I’m glad he’s won.

But I’m glad it’s over.