9 January 2019

Fading Fast


I was delighted that my story 'Fading Fast' has won a Flash Fiction competition run by The Craft House at Saltaire and judged by Alyson Faye, an author whose work I enjoy very much. Here it is - enjoy!

 Image result for courgette
 
The first thing Kate gave up was carbs. She swapped spaghetti for courgetti and tried unsuccessfully to make pizza without dough. When her daughter made muffins at school Kate showed her The Truth About Sugar on YouTube then chucked them in the bin.  

Meat came next. Sunday dinners became a thing of the past and the mere suggestion of a burger provoked a shudder of disgust from Kate. Her husband started taking the children for walks after tea and Big Frank at the chip shop was happy to oblige, double wrapping cod suppers for them to eat in the park.

Dumping lattes for ‘Americano, no milk’ signalled the end of dairy and the fridge was purged of eggs. The kids rebelled and refused to eat the crispy kale that was no substitute for Walkers cheese and onion and made them both targets of ridicule at school.

Alcohol was the last to go. Kate struggled to accept that anything as reviving as her evening pinot grigio could be seriously bad for her.

‘You’ll fade away,’ said her mother, secretly wondering if a change of diet might do the same for her cheekbones as it had for Kate’s. Her reluctance to attempt to pronounce ‘quinoa’ in Aldi and her love of millionaire’s shortbread soon put paid to that.

By Easter (no chocolate, the children got grapes) Kate was colour coding her food. A traffic light diet of plant based, guilt free, clean-eating meals.

Green for breakfast, a smoothie of cucumber, spinach and kale. It tasted disgusting, a sure sign thought Kate it was doing her good. Amber at lunch time; pumpkin soup and carrot sticks and mango lassi made with almond milk and turmeric. And red in the evening for suppers consisting of cranberries, tomatoes and plums. Her husband took the children and moved in with his mother.

As her flesh melted away Kate experienced a lightness of body and mind she had never previously known. She rejoiced as the outline of her skeleton became clearly visible through her increasingly translucent skin, no longer muffled by pillows of muscle and fat.

She stopped going to work; shopping and juicing took up most of her time. She barely noticed her children were gone.

Before long her bones took on a crystalline quality. Still solid, but see though and shimmering. Passing the hall mirror one morning she was amazed to see the reflection of the coat rack that hung on the wall behind her quite clearly through the reflection of her own face.

Delighted, Kate reconfigured her menu to include only clear foods; ice cubes and cabbage water, ginger tea and lemon jelly set with agar-agar. She considered adding vodka but decided against it.

When her mother called round she was sure Kate was out. She was about to leave when she felt a draught, a stirring of the air in the apparently empty room.

‘Hi mum’, she heard Kate’s voice. ‘You’ll stay for a glass of water?’

22 November 2018

A Dales High Way - the slow way.


Most people think of a long distance trail as a multi-day walk, a week or longer spent on a coastal path or trekking from coast to coast making steady progress as they go. But being away from home and walking every day doesn’t suit everyone. 


To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the route we, the Friends of A Dales High Way, decided to walk all 90 miles, from Saltaire to Appleby-in-Westmorland, as a series of day walks using public transport.


We wanted to show that the trail can be walked in stages without a car. We used the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line for most of our train travel with additional bus journeys on days 3, 4, 7 and 8. On days 8 and 9 we used a local taxi firm who took us by minibus to and from Kirkby Stephen station. Mainly we walked on Saturdays although it was only essential for days 7 and 8 when we used the Western Dales bus. Here’s how we did it.


Day 1. Saltaire to Ilkley. 7.5 miles / 12.1km
Crossing Bingley Moor through heather and cottongrass - 19May2018
Crossing Rombalds Moor

We left Saltaire at 10.30 am, walking through the village to join the towpath along the Leeds Liverpool canal for a short way before climbing through Trench Wood to Shipley Glen. We headed onto Baildon Moor, then crossed Bingley Moor, Burley Moor and Ilkley Moor before descending steeply to the spa town of Ilkley from where buses and trains to Shipley, Skipton or Leeds are regular. 
  
Day 2. Ilkley to Skipton.  11.5 miles / 18.5 km
 The group met at Ilkley railway station, again at 10.30 am and climbed quickly back up to rejoin the trail on Ilkley Moor, continuing a long ridge walk onto Addingham High Moor before dropping steeply to the northern edge of the town of Addingham. We then crossed Skipton Moor along the line of the Roman Road before dropping steeply into Skipton. Walkers returning to Ilkley caught the bus while others took the train. This section could be shortened by finishing in Addingham, a village well served by buses.

Day 3. Skipton to Hetton 6.8 miles /10.9 km
 

We met at Skipton railway station at 11.00 am and climbed up to Tarn Moor and into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A steady climb over Skyrakes led to the modest summit of Sharp Haw, with great panoramic views. We crossed Flasby Fell to the tiny farming hamlet of Flasby, before an easy beckside ramble to Hetton - Calender Girls country. At Hetton we caught the bus back to Skipton railway station. This was a deliberately short section so we could use the bus between Skipton and Hetton and avoid going into Malham village which has fewer transport links.


Day 4. Hetton to Settle 12.0 miles /19.3 km 


We met outside Skipton railway station, to catch the 9.40 a.m. bus to Hetton. The walk started in Hetton, heading up Moor Lane and around the end of Winterburn Reservoir, before a long steady moorland climb to the heights of Weets Top. Then we were into limestone country, dropping to Goredale Bridge and on to the top of magnificent Malham Cove. We followed the Dry Valley to Langscar Gate, continuing to climb up to Nappa Gate and Kirkby Fell. The trail descended to Stockdale Lane, then alongside the stunning crags of Attermire Scar and Warrendale Knotts, before the final steep descent to Settle where we caught the train on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line.
Above Malham Cove
Lunch above Malham Cove
This section can be shortened by walking into Malham to catch the bus back to Skipton.

Day 5. Settle to Horton 11.5 miles / 18.5 km


Another 10.30 am start, this time from Settle railway station. We headed north, following the river Ribble to Little Stainforth and Stainforth Force, then climb up alongside Smearset Scar and down to Feizor, with a short stop at Elaine's cafe. After passing Wharfe woods we headed down to the tiny hamlet of Wharfe, with Ingleborough dominating the view ahead. A fine walled track led us into Crummackdale, for a lunch stop at the lovely Wash Dub field.  A final climb above Crummack heads towards Ingleborough but that’s for another day. Instead we followed the trail from Sulber Nick down into Horton-in-Ribblesdale, another stop on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line.


Day 6. Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Ribblehead 10.5 miles / 16.9 km 


We left Horton station at 9am to retrace our steps towards Ingleborough, picking up A Dales High Way again at Sulber Nick, before the steady climb to the summit of Ingleborough. We descended to the foot of Swine Tail then down the very steep, rocky path to Humphrey Bottom. At Souther Scale we cut down to Chapel-le-dale for a short break at St Leonard's Church. A gentle climb through the wooded Ellerbeck Gill led to a long traverse along the lower south-eastern flank of Whernside, with superb views of Ingleborough and Ribblehead Viaduct. Finally we left the trail by the viaduct for the Station Inn and Ribblehead station.


Day 7. Ribblehead to Sedbergh 12.8 miles/20.6 km


This was a fine long day’s walk in two halves. Leaving Ribblehead station at 9.06 am we retraced our steps alongside Ribblehead viaduct to rejoin the trail, climbing around the north-eastern flank of Whernside to Boot of the Wold, with spectacular views over Dentdale. A steep descent led us down to join the Dales Way alongside the river Dee into the lovely village of Dent - and lunch (there was an option to break the walk here). 
Dropping into Dentdale
Heading down into Dentdale
Then there was another stiff climb over Frostrow Fell, with stunning views of the Howgill Fells ahead. A steady descent brought us into the attractive market town of Sedbergh to finish at the Dalesman Inn where we caught the Western Dales bus back to Dent station, a journey only possible on a Saturday.


Day 8  Sedbergh to Newbiggin-on-Lune 11.0 mile/ 17.7 km 


We caught the train to Dent station, arriving at 09.15 am then waited for the 09.35 Western Dales bus to Sedbergh.


Leaving Sedbergh, we climbed up onto the Howgill Fells via Settlebeck Gill, along the ridge to climb again onto Calders, and finally up to the summit at the Calf. The six-mile ridge route continues north above Bowderdale, crossing Hazelgill Knott and West Fell, with superb views north across the Orton Fells. Finally we descended to Bowderdale and along a quiet lane to Newbiggin-on-Lune where we waited for our taxi to Kirkby Stephen station at Brownber Hall. We had booked an 8-seater taxi in advance and were delighted that it took less than 10 minutes and cost only £2 per person.


Day 9 Newbiggin-on-Lune to Appleby 12.7 miles / 20.4 km

We were met at 10.53 outside Kirkby Stephen railway station by the taxi which took us to Newbiggin-on-Lune.


From Newbiggin-on-Lune we crossed wild Ravenstonedale Moor to the secluded splendour of Sunbiggin Tarn, before climbing beside Great Kinmond across the spectacular limestone scars of the Orton Fells. We dropped into the Eden Valley at Great Asby, before enjoying a beckside ramble alongside Hoff Beck via Rutter Force and Hoff to finish at the delightful former county town of Appleby-in-Westmorland where again we caught the train back on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line.
End of the trail - Appleby 9 Sept 2018
We did it! Friends of A Dales High Way at the end of the trail.


You can see the details of the trains and buses we used by following this link:
  
These were correct for summer 2018 but should not be relied upon if you are planning your own walk. Please check up to date information at: 

https://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/ for info about the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line


http://www.dalesbus.org/ for bus information

http://primataxis.co.uk/ This is the taxi firm we used

www.daleshighway.co.uk  for everything you need to know about A Dales High Way

8 September 2018

How do you like your eggs in the morning...?

I've never been a great fan of Bed and Breakfast. Spending the night in a stranger's back bedroom and chatting to them over breakfast is not something I'd choose but as long distance walkers we have to take our accommodation where we find it. A five mile detour is nothing if you're travelling by car but a different matter at the end of a long day on the trail so we stay where we can and over the years that has included B&Bs. Like the time we came down to breakfast to find two bowls of cornflakes and a bottle of milk on the kitchen table with a note from the landlady saying 'Gone to work. Let yourselves out.' Or the landlord who cried for an hour as he explained that his wife had just left him and could I show him how to wash sheets. Or the woman who met us at the front door saying 'You're soaking. You can't come in here like that.' and made us strip in the porch before setting foot on her cream carpet.

No, I enjoy a bit more independance. Whether it's fending for myself in a bunkbarn or hostel or enjoying a night in a pub or hotel I like to feel like a customer rather than a guest in someone's home. Times are changing though and a new sort of accommodation is emerging. Something more akin to a holiday cottage or a motel. A place to stay for a single night on a walking holiday with a bedroom and bathroom and some sort of kitchen facilities. 

We stayed at such a place recently. Braeside Studios in Burneside on the route of the Dales Way. Two studio apartments have been created in a building to the side of the landlady's house. They each have seperate entrances, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette and table and chairs. Trish, the owner was just a step away across the yard if we needed anything but left us alone to enjoy our little cottage holiday.

We ordered in a takeaway in the evening (phone numbers and menus provided) and ate it with a bottle of wine from the village shop and made our own breakfast from the fruit, cereal, bread and spreads that were left for us. There was even a note saying 'Don't wash up, I'll do it.' Now that's my idea of a B&B.
Homemade cake. That's what I call a welcome!

13 August 2018

Raindrops on kittens

It's all very well deciding to do more things for fun, just for the sheer joy of doing, the pleasure in being. But what are they, those moments in a busy life that make me happy, make me smile? 
I'm ok on the big stuff; family, friends, reaching the top of the mountain but what about the little things?

I've been having a think and here's my Julie Andrews list:
  • Going to the pictures in the afternoon
  • Sherry. Not the trendy dry stuff but good old Harvey's Bristol Cream
  • Leftovers for breakfast, especially bendy chappattis from last night's curry
  • Katharine Hepburn or more accurately the feisty women she played in films like The African Queen
  • Just William stories, read by Martin Jarvis on Radio 4 on a wet afternoon
  • Daffs. I'll take a bunch of spring flowers in a blue vase on the kitchen table over the smartest of handtied bouquets any day 
These are a few of my favourite things. What are yours?



5 August 2018

Many More Mountains to Climb

When two of my loves come together - textiles and the fells - in a picture I've made for a very dear friend, and called Many More Mountains to Climb.
 

25 March 2018

Onwards and Upwards

I've been on a bit of a learning curve recently. Last week I learnt it was ok to take pleasure, pride even, in enjoying things for their own sake AND I learnt it was ok to share that vulnerability. Not just to present a polished version of myself to the world but to go for it warts and all. Yesterday I climbed a bit further up the parabola and realised how comforting and reassuring the familiar is.
Occasionally I go out to groups to give a talk about our long distance walk, A Dales High Way. I chat a bit about growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and the gulf that existed between us, the farm kids who treated the fells as our back yard, and the hikers who came searching for the countryside that we took for granted. 
I confess to my own damascene conversion when I realised that fell walking was the way back from my adult life as a townie to the landscape that I love so much. And finally I take the audience on a whistle stop tour of A Dales High Way itself, 90 miles in about 19 minutes, a slide show of the best views of the walk. 
Normally I look forward to these events. I enjoy them very much. But yesterday nerves got the better of me. I spent several sleepless nights convincing myself that I had nothing to say, no pictures to show, that my audience wouldn't have heard or seen before. That they would know far more than me and at best they'd be bored and at the very worst they'd think I was a jumped up imposter who had no business being there. 
And I was right in a way. Yesterday's audience were very well informed, very experienced. They were people who had walked or farmed or lived in the Dales for decades. They did know more than I ever would but when I looked out at their faces all I saw were smiles of recognition and nods of agreement and I realised that we don't always want to be entertained by the novel or the new. Sometimes we get great pleasure from the comfort of the familiar.  
Onwards and upwards Chris. Onwards and upwards.

22 March 2018

If something's worth doing it's worth doing badly

'If a thing's worth doing it's worth doing well.' Do you remember that? 
It was the mantra of my childhood. A worthy sentiment designed I imagine to urge small children to try our hardest, to do our best and give it our all. But it had a dark side. A hidden message that it's not ok to do things badly; to bumble along cheefully singing bum notes and coming last in cross country and that has had an impact. A lifetime of avoiding the community of choirs and missing out on the joys of fell running, of saying, 'No, I can't' when I should have been shouting 'Yes, I'll try.' Of trying and failing and loving it anyway.

I'm a writer. I write short stories and poems and this blog. Once in a while I share something that I've written with my writing group and occasionally
with the outside world. But only if I think it's good enough. Everything else gets binned. I have no middle ground. No sense of 'just ok' or 'it'll do' or even 'it's a work in progress' and I think that stems from the long held belief that if I'm not doing it well I shouldn't be doing it at all. 

So I've taken up sewing. Stitching little patchworks and embroidering pictures that I can do in front of the telly just for the fun of it. 

There, I said it - JUST FOR FUN. The results aren't great. I'm fighting the impulse to pull out the wonky stiches and abandon the failures. It's not the end result that matters and it doesn't need to be perfect. 
What matters is that the selection of coloured thread and the piecing together of fabric is a tiny burst of joy. That the in and out of the needle is calm and soothing and that the concentration needed is just enough to allow me to watch Master Chef at the same time. 

Finally, I'm learning that if something's worth doing it's worth doing. Full stop. Not well or badly - just doing - so I'm going to stop being so hard on myself and fish some of those poems out of the bin. Look out Shipley Writers' Group!

After The Snow (one from the bin)
Back to work to a flurry of photos, a swirling of stories, a whiteout of words
Drifts of dramas and igloos of images
Banks of boasting and graupels of groaning
Anecdotes in avalanches slipping and sliding
An endless blizzard of snow, snow, snow.....