7 Oct 2017

7th October 2017. Keep on bailing!


Saturday 7th 48F, 9C, overcast, continuous rain. I knew I should have gone out yesterday. Tomorrow's forecast is for sunshine.

We really have had a run of very wet weather this year! It's been almost like a long, summer, camping holiday in the West Country of Gravely Blighted, back in my youth in the last century. One of those holidays where you return from a fortnight's holiday looking much paler and far more wrinkly than when you left! Falling asleep in the bath for an hour or two has similar, but milder, effects

It was much like one of my earlier rehearsals with the Cub Scouts. When I made an involuntary escape from the tender care of my parents. To be returned an eternity later and deposited at my own front door. Wearing only my damp underwear and a very soggy, navy blue, school gaberdine! The stuff of endless re-tellings of such legends at later, family get-togethers. I can only assume my misery was all too evidently visible at first glance.

The large, Wolf Cub campsite had been situated in the sump of a Lake District valley beside a rushing, brown river. A geographic and topographic calamity, on the Richter scale, just waiting to happen. Which meant that the overnight torrents had run quite literally down the steep hillside, through the heavy tents and over the loose canvas ground sheets. Where we innocents had lain like sleepless lambs to the slaughter under our coarse army blankets. There no lights back then because we were all victims of post war, Ever Ready batteries and torches.

Only one, fellow Wolf Cub, had escaped the deluge by deliberately injuring himself with an axe. Which had required his being rushed to hospital. A lucky escape, in my expert opinion, compared with our own, cruelly extended water torture!

The following morning was just like watching an endless replay of the much later, zombie movies. As a hundred, or so, utterly exhausted young lads staggered about in a living nightmare of sleep deprivation, saturated clothes, squelchy shoes and even more, wet weather to be enjoyed on what was previously, long, wet grass. Though it soon turned to a universal quagmire. So that many a poor young soul found they had lost a shoe on their way to the latrine trench. Unfortunately, expensive trainers had yet to be invented so the loss of one's only school shoes was like losing a limb. Or might well lead to the loss of limbs if one returned home without them. This was, of course, long before corporal punishment was reserved only for the upper classes.

Alas, the "Annual Camp" had to be abandoned before mass exposure really set in. The national 'papers might have got wind of our collective misery and torture at the hands of so many cheerful and willing, adult volunteers! The antique motor-coach was recalled and we gratefully escaped "a fate worse than death." They made me Chief Sixer after that but it was inadequate compensation for my stoicism during my suffering. I resigned my commission shortly thereafter and left the Wolf Cubs to to become just another, shiftless, civilian youth. The term "teenager" had yet to be dropped from a single, downy lip.

Later, family holidays inevitably involved sheeting rain and even frequent storms! By which time I was an acknowledged expert in tensioning storm guys, placing crossed tent pegs and setting flysheets. We spent many a holiday almost alone on a bare camping field listening to the roar of torrential rain on the tent roof as it kept redoubling its efforts. We were still there, often long after everybody sensible had up stakes and gone home to begin their dehydration therapy.

At least I had learned by then that the top of the field was arguably safest. Provided, of course, there was some shelter from the vicious sou-westerly gusts! If heaven is reserved for the good, then eternal camping is almost certainly where the really bad ones go. What it says about me, and my repeated living hell, is open to conjecture.

Don't even get me started on my winter camping trips to Snowdonia! Where a level of abject misery was achieved which [almost] eclipsed all previous drenchings.

Imagine, if you will,  the combination of an all-cotton, two man, mountain tent with A-poles, ridge pole, cotton flysheet and days of heavy, continuous rain. The whole lot to be carried by our hero, alone. To be enjoyed long after all hope was lost of a single dry hour. Let alone a whole day of kindly, leaden overcast and occasional, heavy showers.

Even proofed, Egyptian cotton gains weight which puts a terminal McLardy's victim to shame. The weight of my mountainous rucksack was probably against international human conventions for fit young marines, the SAS and special forces. While my personal hero was always on the back of a long queue of skinny runts of the litter. I was once described by the local Job Center as too under-muscled for serious work. They had left my file open on the public desk while they went for a fag break. They weren't half cross when they returned. To find me reading their glowing report of my failure to fully emulate Arnie. In my case I had, quite inadvertently, invented near invisibility merely by standing sideways on to the confused observer.

What did they know? I had just previously been carrying endless 1cwt sacks of cement for 50 yards each time, for a vast, indoor tiling job at a local meat factory as a builder's labourer. In between ferrying bags of cement I was swinging a sledge hammer or a navvy's pick for hours on end to break up old concrete floors. That was so long ago my thrice bankrupt employer hadn't heard of wheelbarrows or even sack trucks by then. Though he had heard of pneumatic drills and had me use one of those for a while. Of those who expressed a preference I'd always vote for the sledge hammer. It was quieter for those born without natural ear plugs! Pardon?  

Meanwhile, back in inclement Snowdonia: I called in at a Youth Hostel and desperately requested shelter and warmth. To be told they were closed for the winter. Well, of course they were! Who would be daft enough to wander the roads of North Wales, carrying twice his own body weight in saturated clothing and camping gear, during the year-long, winter monsoon season?

Sunday 8th 40-50?F, 4-10?C, and now for something different: Clear skies and calm with all day sunshine promised. I wonder if I'll be allowed out on my trike? Nope. Too busy. Though I did enjoy a slightly chilly walk supervised by a low, gibbous moon in the east. The first gunfire of the hunting season erupted later.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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