Part 1 and Part 2 of this story were published yesterday and the day before. If you haven’t read them, briefly, in the spirit of trying out new things I have gone to a football match with @ian_bec in 2006 and now it is his turn.
Although Ian was unversed in such matters, I had presented him with a choice of itineraries around Scotland. Sensibly, perhaps, he turned down the options which included An Teallach and the Black Cuillins of Skye, pointing out that the page at the link for the latter described them as, “peaks of which dreams are made – and nightmares!” We settled on a plan of action, which involved a mixture of mountains more suitable to a newbie mountaineer. Before we set off I gave him a kit list of things he had to buy. Unsure if he was going to take up this ‘sport’ properly, he baulked at the cost the whole caboodle. I insisted that he buy decent boots, with Vibram soles. Luckily, he managed to get one of the last pairs of KSBs, before the company lost command of its quality control. My parents, who are experienced mountaineers and arctic explorers agreed to lend him much of the rest.
Since Ian lives in Cardiff and I in Brighton, we had to rendezvous in London. Ian spent the night before with Jim, his brother. They stayed up late into the night, playing fantasy league football, I think, and mucking about as boys and grown men like to do. The following day was April Fool’s Day 2007. I met Ian, a little worse for wear, in some anonymous car park in North London. Being unsafe behind the wheel myself, he was about to do all the driving. Luckily, he is a first class driver. He’s one of those people who genuinely relaxes behind the wheel! He wasn’t quite ready to set off, first he needed some breakfast, which came in the shape of a cheese sandwich from a nearby petrol station. Nice. As Ian was to later quote, “We don’t do these things because they are easy, we do them because they are hard.” I recorded the moment for posterity.
Later on we found an angel. Much photographed though this Northern spirit is, for Ian and I it had special significance. Besides Ian had never seen it before. We stood beneath its wings because it was too awkward to climb up.
We lingered a while, as if this tribute to industrial greatness represented the last vestiges of English culture. I knew there was more to come but Ian had already driven a very long way and I knew that what came next was a journey into the unknown for him – he hadn’t been this far North before!
I’m being unfair, this statue is extremely impressive. On this particularly warm evening it ran the local ice-cream van a close second in the attention stakes.
We travelled on, a little later than planned. The sun was getting very low in the sky but as we were getting close to Lindisfarne, I explained what that was. I suggested we could go there, if the tide was right. Ian thought that we didn’t have time. He said he would come back to see it another time.
Pleased that before our mountaineering had begun, he was already contemplating a second trip, I let slip that my Dad has often compared my ascetic drive to be similar in motivation to Saint Cuthbert, who had spent a considerable period of time living in a rock which barely poked above sea level, just off Lindisfarne. The great man was a political hero of his age. On the spiritual front, he berated himself for being unable to live without at least one sensual pleasure – the open cleft of his tiny cave, from which he could see the sky above the North Sea! “I’ve got to see this place!“, said Ian and took the next turning on the right rather unexpectedly.
The other signs to Lindisfarne had pointed to every turning on the right. This particular turning had no such sign. Our car rattled along a heavily pot-holed farm track, through a farm yard, past some startled locals and onto the beginning of a beach. We turned around and drove back, past the laughing locals.
The next turning took us to Lindisfarne. We got there with very little time before the tide would cut us off. The sun was setting and dead opposite it, a full moon was rising. Of course, everything on the island was closed. We got out and walked to the end to look at St Cuthbert’s rocks. Ian went very quiet. He must have been terribly tired. We didn’t linger, we had to keep going.
At the end of the day, after dark, we reached Berwick-Upon-Tweed, where I had booked rooms in a Bed & Breakfast. The landlady was relieved to see us turn up. By way of gratitude I had kept a surprise for Ian. I had taken an ordinary room but had booked him into one with a magnificent four poster bed and bath tub in the room. He looked completely overjoyed at the prospect. We wandered into town, walked around the castle grounds above it and read from Wikipedia about its history. These days it is in England but it the border with Scotland has danced about its walls. Later on we found a local pub, which was rather glitzy, so we abandoned that and strolled further into town to find a hard man’s pub, were we felt more at home. Ian was especially pleased because it was illegally showing a foreign satellite feed with a big footmatch on it. We supped a couple of pints of the local heavy and sank back into our chairs.