I wake to rain. I wonder how many days of sunshine I have had on this trip. I know it is far outweighed by the days of rain. Ho hum. I get organised and knock on the door of the farmer to pay and no-one is home. It’s not the first time this has happened. I wonder how they ever make any money- apart from subsidies from the EU! I put a tenner in an envelope and post it through the door with a note, before driving off. It feels like a long way to Manchester in my head, but the reality is different and I am soon there. I park up in the Trafford centre to kill some time and it takes me exactly 50 minutes to walk it through and get the hell out of there. I just didn’t get the shopping gene and I have mooched for England lately and can do no more. It is just a giant mall after all and has only a few more different shops than I have at home, so that gets me thinking how well served Plymouth has become in terms of frock shops at least.
I park up in the car park of Chill Factor e and wait for Deb, who gets there later than proposed. I am so glad to see her and hand over her chocs and explain how long it took to choose and she opens them to share. I close the box and tell that they are not for sharing.
We enter the ski complex. From the outside it is a huge rectangular box sloping on a pillar. It’s pretty much that on the inside too. After eating a tex-mex meal in one of its restaurants we get our ski kit out of the vehicles and I realise I have forgotten my salapettes. No worries, It can’t be that cold on the artificial ice. Wrong!
I get my ski boots sorted out. I had forgotten how awkward they were to do up on one side and I asked a man to help me as my shoulders ain’t what they used to be. I get weighed for the skis and ignore what the print out states, not even looking at it. Picking up poles I enter the slope and slide onto the snow.
I am shaking with absolute fear. Since skiing last I have had a massive knee surgery and have no idea how my knee will hold up to this. I have put my fairly industrial knee brace on, but I know it is not man enough for this job and am very worried. I have no more chances with this knee and if I mess it up that’s it- forever. I swallow my fear and pray hard. As I climb onto the button lift I am deeply aware all of a sudden, of how much my future dreams involve skiing and snow, living in the mountains and living healthily. I hardly breath and when I get to the top I am as stiff as a board. Not a good place to start as being fluid on your skis is vital. I forget everything I know and start the descent in the most beginnerish way possible. I skii’d blackruns and danced around moguls in one of my last holidays, but I look as awkward as I feel. Half way down I stop, lean on my poles and the fear gets to me. I visibly shake from head to foot in an adrenalin overload and start to cry. I am so upset as in my heart I have so much riding on this. If I can’t do this I will have to take down the picture I have of a ski lodge from my vision board and redesign my life. I love the snow and being in the mountains is one of my most favourite things. Not being able to ski negates the dream as I’ll be damned if I live in the snow and can only watch.
I start going down again and am acutely aware of my knee complaining. I stand facing the wall at the bottom and let out the tears and don’t care who watches. I am so upset, I want this so much. Deb comes down after me and takes over, knowing only too well how I am feeling, being of the same mould. She does for me what I would do for another and I am grateful. She persuades me to do it again and points out what I am doing wrong. Suddenly it all comes back to me and I remember my lessons and remember that I was an ok intermediate and have a word with myself. I breathe deeply, get to the top and Deb talks me down reminding me of what to do. I love her for it and my confidence soars. My knee screams loudly and I am still crying at the bottom, but now I know what I must do if I want a life with skiing in it. My turns were ok and my legs were in my boots, but I need to build up the strength in my legs to compensate my knee and I need a serious man sized brace to more or less immobilise the joint from any twisting and I can do my dreamed two hours a day skiing where ever that may be. I can do this. I tell Deb to carry on skiing, but she insists that she only came to help me do this and leaves with me. I am deeply touched, what a true friend she has become.
We leave and drive to where she used to live next to a canal in Northwich and settle in for the night, both of us exhausted. A cup of tea followed by a large dose of medicinal alcohol and it’s lights out, but we lay in the dark chatting like teenagers on a sleepover until 1.30 am and finally say night to each other.
I am so grateful for my lovely mate's friendship and cannot believe my luck in finding it again after so many years.
Outside the Hobby is a canal that carries many long boats and they pass us all morning. We wave and I love it. Deb apparently spent many childhood holidays on them and of course never appreciated it then. The Hobby is a similar vehicle- long, narrow and loads of fun. One even had a Jack stood on the roof wagging his tail, just like Fin. We walk up to Debs old house, just up the road from the layby and got water for the Hobby and had a chat with her old neighbour Ewan. He is a nice man and he digs up some potatoes from his garden for me and encourages me to pick runner beans and then hands me some broad beans. How lovely. I accept gratefully visualising them on the plate. I’d topped up my water tanks from a hose pipe that Gerry had put near the greenhouse when he lived there with Deb. We are offered tea and Deb accepts a cup. I wait for coffee by the canal and watching barges.
When we walk back to the Hobby we have coffee and some lunch. Deb really must get off to her conference, but she is reluctant and I don’t do anything to chivvy her up. Eventually though she must go and I wave her off. Fin and I go for a walk along the toe path and admire some of the houses whose gardens slope down to the canal, benches set up to observe. As I walk over a bridge I walk down a long driveway lined with conker trees. I have noticed in the last few weeks how Autumn has arrived in the North and conkers are splashed all over the ground. I pick some up and put them in my pocket, playing with them in my hands. It is lovely and warm now, but when we woke this morning it was chilly. Hey, what happened to the summer?
I drive down to Ironbridge which isn’t far down the road. I take a wrong turn and end up getting a tour of the Shropshire countryside. I finally stop in a coach parking space in Much Wenlock but it feels wrong. I rely on my instincts in these circumstances and so I check out my internet and it finally kicks in. I had driven through Ironbridge earlier and saw a carpark along the river and wondered about it. The Wildcamping site states that it is a good spot to stop, so drive back there and park up in the near dark. I ‘feel’ better and settle in for the night. I had moved the Hobby stupidly without thinking earlier and not put the cooker lid down and it had dropped down onto the kettle and broke the handle. I was really fed up with myself and had a serious word. An argument ensued in my head about being tired and always having to do everything myself. Pointless, but it’s what we do right?
I get out some contact adhesive and try fix the handle, but I fear it’s beyond help. I cook some food and climb into bed, reading my latest book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now. My whole life is about living in the now and making the most of it. I look forward to it’s contents, wondering what I shall learn.