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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Two Local Walks

RHB and Skarra en route to Whitby, home of Goths.

Ridge looking NOrth from Moel Famau.

The recent weeks have been consumed with renovations and cutting our CO2 emissions. If I were writing in the Guardian, one of England's national broadsheets, I could expect at this stage for the comments section below this post to be filled with hundreds of outraged posts, as Climate Change is one of the two issues guaranteed to provoke furious reactions in this country. The other subject guaranteed a return is, incidentally, atheism. One would think that atheism is a subject requiring no further discussion: it is, after all a non-doctrine, but if the paper wants to generate news, it simply gets a lower league hack to write a short piece attacking religion, and voila ! - pages of semi-literate prose flows as surely as God didnt make the ocean. The whole process is an exercise in pointlessness, unless, of course, you take the view that the newspaper industry is an unnecessary evil, a money driven, cynical manipulator of people's fears and desires. As this entirely corresponds with the descriptions that Climate Change cynics give to eco-warriors and atheists give to religion, the whole process of web-based comments sections has a neat cirularity to it, but arguments are never advanced.

Cliffs north of Robin Hoods Bay. Yorkshire.

For us, the argument on Climate Change is done, and it is simple: heat costs us money. Our own environmentalism, now and for the future, is rooted in this simple philosophy. The addition that fixing up this tumbling wreck is fun, is a bonus. The result of this, at least in respect of this article, is that if, by chance, a Climate Change denier stumbles upon this blog, and, after a mornings' deliberation, posts an angry, but carefully worded, destruction of the theories of Climate Change, citing that the planet has actually cooled in the last ten years, and quoting the extensive reports from 'scientists' on how the evidence shows the climate is actually cooling:

or quoting from one of the many sceptic websites:

asking me how dare I inflict my views on the whole world, and challenging me to 'prove' my theories in a triumphantly provocative way, I'm afraid my response will be completely unscientifc, something along the lines of "Bog Off, Numbnuts, I'm playing in my own backyard". I may add the riposte "Show us yer fuel bills, stupid!" , but only if he, the challenger (and they are ALWAYS male), calls me an eco-warrior.

Skarra and Mazzer Above Robin Hoods BAy at the end of our hike.

In short, our house continues unheated, while all around us, the familiar (but soon not to be) plumes of exhaust from gas central heating rises from our neighbour's vents. I happiliy mince round the house in my sarong after a shower, and in the evening, frequently throw the bedsheets, and assemblage of cats, off the bed, as I try to combat the enervating effects of over-heating. RHB, as is typically contrary, gathers cats, duvets and blankets about her, even in the fiercest heat, and almost never wears a sarong. She definitely never minces. She does however, admit that the house is warm.
RHB and Skarra end of Hike . Robin Hoods Bay. Yorkshire.

Still, heating-related perversions are not the only activity in and around Large Mansions. The last two weeks have witnessed our further attempts at longer hikes than normal. The first was two weeks ago, when, after a disaster of planning, I met up

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with my little brother at Moel Famau in Wales for a quick day hike across it, and the associated ridges. In many ways the journey across the country was as interesting as the hike. You may, if you investigate the maps further, be apprised of the fact that the mountain is only 151 miles away. INdeed, Google maps gives a travel time of about two hours forty minutes. This seems, at first glance, do-able in a day, either by car, or by public transport (my preferred method). It was at the planning stage of this trip, upon viewing these statistics, that I paused, and, puffing myself up fully with pride at the fact that I am an evolved human with learning ability, abandoned all plans to try to make the journey in a day. Experience had taught me that travel times here mean nothing. Consequently, I resolved to travel, the previous day, as inexpensively as possible. It is at this point that I draw your attention to the following link, a link that shows the bus timetable to Bangor, a place from which I could, theoretically obtain onward transport:

I should explain that I checked this travel time at least twice, and it is fairly consistent. I should also add, for those unfamiliar with the UK, that Bangor does have a faily major University, is located at the heart of the North Wales tourist areas, does have metalled roads and that the rule of law does pervade the place. It is not, in other words, Helmand province, half a planet away. I then decide to go by rail. The results were better:


but the average speed obtained is still only about 30 mph and the cost is about £2.00 per mile.
Heather in the Hills around Meol Famau.

A final, and fun compromise was reached. I decided to get a 6.oopm train from Hull to Chester, a conecting train to a place called Hooton, a small village in Cheshire, then ride to my brother's house. We would have a nice sleep, get up at dawn, drive to Moel Famau, do our hike, then I would return immediately to Hull via train.

The six o'clock train from Hull was the drunkest train I have ever been on. This is because it was the train taking football fans, fresh from a defeat at Hull, back to Bolton, a town near Manchester. I realised, swathed in thick lycra, that boarding the thing was a mistake shortly after the first football fan provocatively offered me a beer.

"No thanks" I said, pretending to mess with the straps securingg the Crosstowner to its bracket.

The fan looked at me, puzzled and cross -eyed. He looked exactly as Toshck does when the frog he is 'playing' with squeaks loudly at him.

"Wasammarrar? Have a f***in drink. Ine only being frenly."

He suddenly burst loudly ino song "Going down, going down, going down", stopped singing just as suddenly and returned his attention to the Crosstowner. The rest of the journey continued in a similar vein, a tale which will be as yawningly familiar to regular readers (from my commutations to Leeds) as they were to me. The fan wanted to know what I was doing with my bike, why I would'nt drink with him, could he have a 'little go' on my bike 'for a laugh', why I didnt want to have 'a laugh' and so on and so forth.

Then, just before Manchester, Cher got on the train. At least six foot two in the high heels that British newspapers admiringly describe as 'killer' , and in a skin tight lace minidress, Cher and 'her' friends were already drunk and were off for a night out in Manchester. Possibly female, 'she' was covered in thick layers of more earth-derived substances than the average archaeologist digs in a lifetime, so without carbon dating, her age was difficult to tell. Needless to say, the Crosstowner, which by this stage was very scared, was endlessly fascinating to her. She demanded a 'takey' (traditional British sport in which females get carried on the crossbar of bicycle by chivalrous boyfriend) and attempted to climb on the bike. Eventually (ie after about four hours of subjective time, and probably ten minutes of 'real' time) she got bored, and spent the rest of her twenty minute journey playing with the automatic door of the carriage's toilet, pressing the 'open' button just as the door closed and howling with anticipated glee at the dismay of evry user. One of Cher's friends, sporting another of this season's 'must haves', the maxi dress, leant casually against the Crosstowner, laughing at her friend's inventiveness. I spent the last ten minutes of the journey hoping none of them would notice the massive smear of oil across the back of Cher's friend's dress.

The hike the next day was great. Five minutes out of the car park, people disappeared. My brother however, has a question:

"Why do you say 'Hi' to everyone we meet?"

The tradition British salutation on hikes is of course a gruffly mumbled "H'lo". One does meet people who will converse in the hills, but infrequently, and often the conversation starts brightly and descends into embarrassment as both parties wonder why they bothered to stop for a chat. Sooner, rather than later, one party will say brightly "Well, got to get on" and, relieved, both groups stride off in opposite directions. I try to explain to little brother that I am Canadian, but having been born in the same household, he foinds this explanation difficult to accept. It is then necessary to bore him at great length on my cultural theories, especially in respect of ideas about how we choose our culture. And, personalising this whole notion, while I may espouse a socialistic, non-judgemental, post-Modernistic, equality-driven set of political beliefs, the cultures I have chosen emotionally, dictate more how I relate to people than my rationalistic theoretical framework. In my world, hikers, bikers, tree-huggers, vintage car-rallyists, amateur pilots and musicians - in other words enthusiasts, are great. On the other hand, fashion-victims, cynics, drunks and ostriches stink.
RHB playing with cats before hike to Robin Hoods Bay. Co-incidentally, RHB is also an abbreviation I considered for our hike.

THe next weekend we went on a hike from Robin Hoods Bay to Whitby via a disused railway line (the map shows the road route, but the railway runs parallel to the sea, between it and the road across the fields), and back again via the cliffs. It took us three hours (because of traffic) to car-share the 60 mile journey with a friend. It was brilliant.

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