As regular readers know, I am a man fond of an occasional stroll in the hills. I don’t do this out of any great love for the hills, it’s more an opportunity to get away from my wife and child for a day – though I would never say this in public as it might make me appear heartless and uncaring.
I headed to the Lakes on Sunday. It was a beautiful day and I felt the satisfaction and carefree spirit of a man who knows he’s about to wear a fleece in public and not feel any shame.
Normally these walking days pass without incident but this one, I’m ashamed to say, involved me getting into a bit of a spat. I say spat, more a slight exchange of words, though spat sounds more exciting so I’ll stick with that.
I was with my friend, a friend I go walking with not because we have a good relationship but because he can read a map, whereas I have no idea what all the squiggly lines mean and tend to wander whichever way feels most likely to be correct.
While my mate is an excellent navigator, he is incredibly annoying for instead of simply telling me which is the right way to go, he feels the need to share every detail.
So, for example, as we are approaching a fork I will say ‘is it left or right?’ All I require is a simple one-word answer but instead he’ll say the dreaded words, ‘would you like to see where we are on the map?’ My instinct is to say ‘no, I couldn’t care a less’, but of course I have to instead reply, with fixed smile and an extremely heavy heart, ‘okay then’.
He will then spend the next six minutes pointing at lines on the map so faint it would take a NASA telescope to properly see them, ‘so, you can clearly see that we’re just here, between Stiff Crag and Wet Girdle. If we were to go right, do you see what would happen? We’d end up by Cucumber Pike, just by Slapper Point.’
By this point my eyes have glazed over and I have to fight hard to resist the urge to sprint to the mountain edge and throw myself off, while screaming ‘have mercy, no more’.
Anyway, we were having a very pleasant walk and I was in particularly high spirits for I was wearing new hiking boots. Some people get excited by a holiday abroad, some a meal in a fancy hotel – I get my kicks from extra durable lining.
On stumbling across a nice vantage point, we sat to eat our lunch when a group of six older men lumbered into view and stopped next to us.
They were wearing matching jackets with the same logo, so were either members of a rambling club or had been incredibly unfortunate when selecting their outfits in the morning.
They all had beards and were having an animated conversation about whether it was best to take the A591 to Windermere or go a back route via Crook.
After a couple of minutes my friend and I stood up and began to walk off when I heard a voice behind me say, ‘you are taking that with you, aren’t you?’
I turned to see him pointing at a crisp packet that must have fallen out of my rucksack as I’d stood up. ‘Oh sorry about that,’ I said, ‘yes, of course I am.’
In very pompous tone, he then remarked, ‘good because I would’ve reported you for that.’
I examined him closely to see if this was a joke. It wasn’t.
‘Well clearly I didn’t deliberately leave it there, it must have fallen from my rucksack,’ I said, slightly narked.
‘That’s what they all say’, he remarked.
Now I must admit I slightly lost my rag at this point and said sternly, ‘listen, it was obviously not deliberate and what’s more I really don’t care for your obnoxious patronising tone.’
Everyone fell silent and then, suddenly feeling slightly embarrassed to have caused a scene on a beautiful remote hillside, I stuffed the crisp packet in my rucksack in quite dramatic fashion and flounced off without looking back.