What a weekend! I am shattered (and a little sunburnt) but in a satisfied ‘I really lived that weekend’ kind of way.
Britain is wonderful when the sun shines and I was so lucky to have been in the stunning Lake District for three days.
I went for the Keswick Mountain Festival. A long weekend of celebrating the great outdoors. And how could you not celebrate when surrounded by the colours and landscapes of the lakes?
My friend and I were determined to experience as much as we could of what the festival had to offer. We arrived at the festival campsite with our festival wristbands firmly in place (we would hate for people to miss our ‘we’re here for the whole sheebang’ green wristbands!) and fairly effectively pitched our tent before dashing off for Moonlit Canoeing.
We met our guides from Quest 4 Adventure on the shore of Derwent Water and headed out in our two man canoes. Now, I am not a proficient paddler and by that I mean that zig-zags and circles are generally the only possible progress I can make. This trip was so relaxed however that we managed to go in a wavy line instead of a wildly zig-zagged one; we never felt under pressure and even managed to stay nearer the front of the paddling pack than the back of it! The views as the sun went down behind the mountains were eye-achingly, chest-bubblingly beautiful. The entusiasm of our guides for the history and sights of Derwent Water was infectious…a bat monitor…for kids…only £12.99…on EBay! Book an outdoor adventure with the guys and I’m sure they’ll explain that one.
Having spent a small amount of time at the Dog and Gun we retreated to our canvas abode to ready ourselves for our organised walk the next day. I have done a lot of walking and trekking before but would normally just plan it all myself (barring the crazy 47 mile charity walk I did with my sister a couple of years ago!) so this was a new experience for me. But, again, it was a real joy. We were taken from Grasmere to Easedale Tarn and Blea Rigg (my first Wainwright, yay!!!) by Cathy and her wonderful Border Collie, Sky.
Again, we were treated to the full local knowledge of the area and it was a joy to walk with strangers. Suddenly we were meeting people we would never have met had we walked alone and I really feel it enhanced the experience. Over the hours that you get to know each other you become a team. You quickly pick up on ecah others knowledge, strengths amd weaknesses and form a group around them.
Something I have noticed a lot more recently and particularly in Keswick is how many more people I do talk to now.
I will talk nineteen to the dozen once you know me but I find it hard to get the conversation started. I always had a thought that I am not that interesting – that people probably didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Bob was wonderful at engaging people. He just seemed to have the natural art of an opening question and then drew you in to the flow of a conversation. He was an exciting and enthusiastic person to listen to, there was nothing he hadn’t done; mountaineering, skiing, flying, powerboat racing, barefoot water-skiing – the list really was endless.
Now I do not have him to hide behond (and I was guilty of that a little) I need to take the lead. If I want to get to know people I have to be more open, less defensive and concerned about what others think. I am starting to realise that people appreciate a chat. They like when someone else asks a question and engages. And I’ve realised that I have done a huge amount too; Everest Base Camp, canyoning, white water rafting and tubing, via ferrata – the list really is endless!
Many of these activities I did with or because of Bob but this recent journey of discovery has made me see that many were my ideas too. I chose to do them and I can be interesting in my own right. So when entering rides on my own I am enjoying chatting to fellow riders. When in the pub with friends I find it wonderful to hear the stories of strangers and share mine with them. Of course you will always meet the odd London banker whose conversations; ‘You’re too well dressed to be an outdoors girl.’, ‘Who put your tent up for you?’ and ‘Did you bring lots of drugs to the mountain festival?’ leave you cold. But it’s all part of the experience and generally everyone has at least one interesting thing to tell you. We all have a story to tell.
I missed out on these stories when I was part of a couple and I hope that when I become part of one again I won’t let the listening and sharing slip.
That’s not to say I don’t miss that coupledom as well. I have not been single for more than a couple of months since I was twenty one and it is a huge adjustment. I love sharing my life with someone. Having a person who knows all my hopes, fears and ambitions. Someone who holds me dear in their heart and who I can return the favour to. I’m sure that someone special will come back into my life at some point but I do fear that I am now damaged goods. That and the term ‘excess baggage’ spring into my head. But maybe more on that another day!
For now let us return to the festival and the mountains. The sight of those mountains did cause me to falter slightly during the walk. I used to see a mountain and only see beauty and strength. Now I do see loss and sadness and at one point it got too much. The rush of emotion came like a panic attack and I could not control the tears; all I could do was try to hide my face from the group until I could bring things back under control and carry on.
And I did carry on and we did enjoy the rest of the weekend. I was starstruck by seeing Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Doug Scott, Lindsay Griffin and Peter Habeler in a Q&A session on Friday night. And I was delighted to discover the wonderful characters of Mark Gilligan and David Powell-Thompson at their ‘So You Want To Make A Book’ talk on Saturday. For good entertainment value and excellent knowledge of the Lakes do find out more about these two guys, their books and their other work.
To round the weekend off I thought it would be a grand idea to enter the ‘Back o’ Skiddaw’ Sportive bike ride on Sunday. Just a little 70km peddle and the briefing swore it was only hilly at the start! Now do remember that I am from Nottinghamshire and our definition of hilly is slightly different than the Lake District one.
Having spent a little more time in the Dog and Gun the night before and been kept awake by vampire moths and howling winds threatening to invade the tent I awoke a little tired on the Sunday. However I threw myself from the tent and after a rousing breakfast of tea and cold rice pudding I headed to the ride start.
I regret that move. I should maybe have stayed in bed and let the moths eat me. It was a bad ride. I had taken the bike out the day before for a leg stretch and done more climbing than intended. This combined with the other factors meant I was weak. The hills were tough, the wind was still blowing hard and IT HAPPENED…the dreaded puncture! Those of you who have read earlier posts will know my fear of this occurring. But I after my initial ‘panic and throw everything everywhere’ moment the inner tube got changed. The story is, of course, longer than that but twenty minutes later I was back on the bike and limping the last third of the ride home.
Again I was glad of the art of conversation as I fell in with two charming gentlemen who I was able to spend the rest of the ride with. I honestly don’t know if I would have finished without their company’s do wish I could thank them more.
So the weekend came to an end. So many lessons learnt, so many activities done and people met. Oh yes, I may have boosted the retail economy in Keswick with my shopping skills too!
A long blog post for a sporty sunkissed weekend with a great friend in the Lakes. I hope more of us can go along next year.
Be more relentless.
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