I saw a rainbow from the cliff tops today. A big, full arc of intense colour. One end was out at sea and the other dropped down in front of St Agnes Beacon, disappearing into the undergrowth. Why do we say there’ll be a pot of gold at the end? Surely it’s obvious the rainbow itself is the treasure?
Katie and I stood transfixed. “Like a child’s drawing”, she said.
I was a teenager when I came to the realisation that if I wanted to do something badly enough I’d better get used to doing it on my own: not everybody likes what I like and people don’t always want to join you if they do. It’s hard when you’re painfully shy as I was to put yourself out there, but I figured if I didn’t I’d have no fun at all. And no one to blame but myself. So I’ve ended up doing a lot of things on my own over the years; going to the cinema or the theatre, going for a meal, joining a class, or my running club…
Please don’t talk to me when I’ve just woken up. Actually, probably best to leave it for an hour and a half. Do not request a hair cut, even if it is “just a quick one”; don’t ask “have you got 80p in your bank account? There’s this Sonic the Hedgehog app I’d like”; please don’t request my help to decide how you can best waste £50 to make your new xbox controller work on your pc; in fact, just stop asking me anything. All I can hear is noise, and I really don’t like noise when I’ve just woken up.
“Why are you still in your pyjamas? I was planning on a long walk today, how am I going to do that now, if you’re not ready to leave? You were supposed to be meeting your friends at 11, it’s almost midday.” “What time do you want picking up? 4 o’clock? Well, that’s not gonna happen, I’m going to the Roseland for a walk, I told you.” And so it goes on…
I pull into the lay-by at Wrinkling Lane (don’t you love that name?) near Trelissick
I’ve been walking a fair bit of late, around 30 miles a week or so over 4 or 5 days; I keep asking myself why I’m doing it. I feel like I’m looking for something but I don’t know what. Answers maybe? But to what questions. I know that for me walking’s a time to notice things, like today as I was walking down a steep grassy hill in the finest mizzle. I was looking at my feet, transfixed as the water saturating the grass flung from my shoes in a silvery spray with each forward step. It seemed like something and nothing
I’m on one at the moment. As in right now, this very moment. I could talk shit for England. An hour ago I could have cut my arms in despairing loneliness and hopelessness. An hour before that I was on a massive high after a short trail run. Then it just hit me, a punch in the stomach to remind me and bring me down to the floor where I belong. I feel a painful absence, a strong sense of someone missing, like I’ve been cut loose but I don’t know why. I ask myself what I did, or do wrong and I can’t find the answer.
I can’t sleep, even though I know I should try. What’s the point, I’ll just lie here fidgeting, sighing, face wet with tears staring at the ceiling. Actually, fidgeting doesn’t really describe it. Throwing myself around in deep frustration is more like it. So here I am, thinking about crap and letting it flow through my fingertips. I’m trying to ‘censor’ myself, tidy up my thoughts by writing; but there’s a lot of shit in my head tonight that no-one wants to hear about – forgive me if I don’t make sense. I’m sure I don’t. I hardly know myself what I’m on about. I’ll change the subject.
I’m reading books about walking at the moment. Well they’re not really about walking in the usual sense, more like walking as a vehicle for something else. Long distance walking. They thread stories of who we are through the landscape, connect us with the past through geology and archaeology. With each step the walker seems to find a connection, a root growing from the past to the present. It’s interesting to see where that root comes up to the surface. Every one comes up somewhere different. I’m not just enjoying these books, I’m learning. I think that’s the interesting part. I know so little about the archaeological features that shape the landscape I feel like I’m missing out. I look at rock formations and I think about how I could use them as metaphor – but I don’t know anything about the geology that caused them. I look around me with the eyes of an artist, and not a landscape artist at that. My work has always been about relationships at the root: I look at the landscape as a way to understand relationships. Sounds weird, and like something that needs some unravelling. Or investigation. Or is one the same as the other?
I have a new project brewing, but I want to write something rather than make something visual. Well at the moment. And there, I’ve said it, it’s out in the open. I want to write. And not crap like this.
The wind’s getting up. I feel a little calmer. Sleepy. Maybe I’ll fidget less if I try to sleep now. I’ve got to be awake again in 5 hours. I wonder what it would feel like to sleep with someone curled round me for 5 hours. I used to love that feeling of security, touch, warmth. I just listen to the wind now. Goodnight.
I think of my footsteps in yours sinking in the sands one becoming another
We’re on to a new map, but my map of the area is holed and creased with the ink thumbed away to nothing in places. It’s been just a few weeks since I was last here, a beach stomp at Godrevy before the storms. It didn’t have the purpose of this walk and the further west we get on this particular mission the more excited I become. I’ve lived here 30 years, it goes to say I’ve walked significant parts of the coastline in that time
Sea water and rain pool on the rocks like spilt milk, reflecting the white misty glaze that washes the sky. Miles of sand floats on beyond the horizon, the clear edge of the land invisible, caught under thick, tumbling clouds. We watch the sunlight break through in silence. It creates a shifting tracery across the sand reminding me of light falling through high stained-glass windows onto the stone floor of a mediaeval cathedral.
When it’s as long as a piece of string?! I’m finding the definition a bit blurry.
In the US ‘hike’ seems to be a more common term, whereas here in the UK we just seem to walk everywhere, although I think I recognise some finer distinctions, for example:
Rambling is what ‘old’ people do in largish organised groups. They have walking poles on level ground, binoculars around their necks, obligatory ‘stout walking boots’ and drab green coats, probably with a National Trust emblem on them somewhere. They are slow. And talk too much.
Hill walking (also called fell walking) is a much more vigorous form of walking in mountains, or close to mountainous terrain. You’re probably Scottish or Northern, whippet thin and hard as nails. It’s also possible you could be Welsh. Hill walkers walk for hours on end, in all weathers, and might even camp out. I imagine them as solitary figures, or in groups of no more than four.
Dog walking just involves taking the dog around the block because you’re fed up with his pleading eyes boring guilt into your soul; you don’t really like walking at all. And probably shouldn’t have a dog.
Strolling is a sort of aimless meander in the countryside at the pace of a snail: something your grandparents do as a couple.
Challenge Walking appears to be a new breed. You’re probably youngish and have joined an organised challenge to walk excessive distances in difficult terrain in a limited amount of time. You’ll be walking as part of a team, your team, one amongst hundreds. You’ll receive inspirational emails from a charity that you’ve agreed to raise rather a lot of money for. In the end you’ll probably think it was easier to make a donation to charity and forget the walking. Ah, but the challenge and camaraderie were amazing, so perhaps not. (I have participated in one of these, about 9 years ago).
Trekking We can’t go trekking in the UK. It is obligatory to go abroad to do it. You go to far flung places like India, Nepal or South America. And you walk for days, preferably weeks. You can trek with an organised group (a holiday or charity) but you get more kudos if you go off on your own and get lost for several months. It is something you aspire to do in your gap year, and regret if you don’t. You arrive back in the UK a changed person. (I have also participated in an organised one of these, about 10 years ago. I didn’t have a gap year).
Hiking? What exactly is this? Is it just very vigorous walking over longish distances, sometimes in harsh conditions or rough terrain? Or is it ‘real walking’ where you have to be able to use a compass? And a map. Or does hiking have to involve a large rucksack and a tent? Do you quantify a hike in terms of the miles clocked up or the hours on your feet, I mean you could walk for 10 miles in 3 hours on undulating terrain or 6 miles in 3 hours in very hilly terrain. I’m confused.
Where do you cut this piece of walking string and call it a hike?
I’m interested in this definition, all of a sudden, because I want to step some of my walks up a gear and be able to distinguish them from each other. For example, for some walks I want to up my speed and heart rate significantly. Apparently the average walking speed is 3mph, 1 mile in 20 minutes (impressive maths there!), my average walking speed on undulating terrain is about a mile in 17 minutes. Now I want to aim for a mile in 15 minutes. And sustain it for at least an hour to begin with. It feels like a pace of walking where to go any faster will be to break into a jog. This is a deliberate ploy on my part…because, basically, I just want to run! My theory is that if I can walk fast, when my achilles is healed (oh god, when, when, when?!) I should be able to start running at a jogging pace for a reasonable time/distance. Also, of course, the significantly increased heart rate and sweating will make me feel virtuous and get me properly fit!
But am I off on a hike when I go out to do this, or do I have to walk 10+ miles, with maybe some of it at an elevated rate, or do I have to be out all day on Bodmin Moor for a walk to be called a hike? I don’t know, what do you think? My feeling is that a hike probably has to be at least 10 miles or more, probably on hills or a windswept moor, because a ‘hike’ surely has to be more effort than a ‘walk’! But then again, walking ‘hard’ is probably not what the average person means when they say they’re going for a walk.
It’s pitch black. I’m struggling to see anything at the back of the car as I tussle my bike off the rack. There’s an eery quiet, nothing but the sound of the ocean. The waves sound big and much closer than I expected. I lock the car and wonder, vaguely, if it’ll still be there tomorrow when I come back to find it. I cycle off anxiously leaving it isolated and vulnerable, probably to vandalism rather than being washed away on another spring tide. There isn’t much at Godrevy, except the lighthouse