A Walrus Speaks

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings

Sorry, the kids have been watching ‘The Sound of Music’. And prompted me to think about the Joy of Lists. Particularly those with heterogeneous elements…

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Which brings me, in a round about way to this…

A good day on the hoof should include: (1) a section of river or canal, (2) a Formica-table breakfast, (3) a motorway bridge, (4) a discontinued madhouse, (5) a pub, (6) a mound, (7) a wrap of London weather (monochrome to sunburst), (8) one major surprise.

I’ve been fighting an unequal battle with Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, but at least before I was routed from our latest skirmish, I found this coherent sentence to take away as booty. And muse on. What are my criterion for a ‘good day on the hoof’?

Actually, I’d been thinking about this for a while anyway. When we stopped at Ninebanks, just before Christmas, and I climbed to Greenleycleugh Crags with my friend the Adopted Yorkshirewoman,  I found myself trying to explain why I felt that 2010 had been something of an Annus mirabilis for me, at least in terms of walking. But why? Because I got out more? Partly yes. Because I felt fitter and climbed more hills? Yes – again, but that’s not all there is to it. Truth to tell – I couldn’t really articulate the enormous privilege I felt at times last year, and I found myself enumerating a list of highlights:

an invasion of redwings and fieldfares; ice-floes in the Kent; a hunger emboldened robin following me on Arnside Knott; a lizard on Meall nan Tarmachan; a slowworm above Cockley Beck; frogs and eels and nests and red deer and maybe, almost an otter at Leighton Moss; sundogs; a supernumerary rainbow; the cloud lifting of Watson’s Dodd; a sabre wasp; a scorpion fly; clouds of goldfinches on Warton Crag; the shiny multi-coloured Chrysolina Menthastri on the day when a buzzard dive-bombed me; the broad-bodied chaser near Haweswater….

Major surprises.

So – I realise that I like number 8 in Sinclair’s list. Last weekend’s walk included ‘(1) a section of canal’ and, unusually, (3) a motorway bridge. There is ‘(6) a mound’ on Summer House Hill – what’s left of the summerhouse itself – although we didn’t visit it. The weather conditions changed through the day too.

I’ve been trying to devise a list of my own. So far I’ve got (in no particular order):

(1) A hill or viewpoint.

(2) A stretch of water – river, lake, tarn, stream, mere, pond, sea.

(3) Good company (could be my own company).

(4) Plenty of stops. (For tea, or breathers, or photos or all of the above)

(5) Woods.

(6) Plenty to see – doesn’t have to be major surprises: could be a sunset, a cloudscape, a starling roost, red deer on The Nab, a rook playing catch above Allen Crags, grass of parnassus flowers catching the sun, a running fox or a barking roe deer in Gait Barrows, lady’s slippers….but there I go again with my lists!

So – a challenge: what are the elements which combine to make your idea of ‘a good day on the hoof’?

PS – you might also think about signing the petition here, to protest about the proposed (scandalous) sell-off of Forestry Commission land.

A Walrus Speaks

4 thoughts on “A Walrus Speaks

  1. Your list is almost perfect – I would add

    – Things to hear
    – Things to smell – pine, spruce, saltwater, wild roses, skunk cabbage (haven’t made that one yet)
    – Things to taste – huckleberries, teaberry leaves, something tasty from a cafe if necessary
    – Things to feel – sunshine, breezes, velvety leaves, and of course “Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes”

    – an artifact of any size from any era before the present

    and as you said and didn’t specifically list – a surprise

  2. a challenge: what are the elements which combine to make your idea of ‘a good day on the hoof’?

    packing the haversack the night before
    waking to the sun just burning off the mist
    the spontaneity of just setting off
    deciding on route where your going to explore
    north, south, east or west.
    finding a place to park that won’t upset anyone
    just wandering through the landscape as an observer
    observing something that makes you smile involuntary
    finding a sheltered, secluded spot for a brew
    recognising a glacial erratic
    thinking I’ll come back, and explore some more
    thanks for the challenge Danny

  3. beatingthebounds says:

    Lisa, Danny,
    What fabulous responses! I realised now that I’ve barely scratched the surface – what you had to say sparked many thoughts of my own and (if I only had the time) I can see that this could be the first post of many. The anticipation, the schemeing, the recollection, spontanaiety, the smells and tastes…
    Probably all deserve a post of their own.
    Thanks – you both really got me thinking, in a most enjoyable way!

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