As regular readers know, I am a man fond of an occasional stroll in the hills.
I don’t do this out of any great love for the hills, it’s more an opportunity to get away from my wife and child for a day – though I would never say this in public as it might make me appear heartless and uncaring.
I headed to the Lakes on Sunday. It was a beautiful day and I felt the satisfaction and carefree spirit of a man who knows he’s about to wear a fleece in public and not feel any shame.
Normally these walking days pass without incident but this one, I’m ashamed to say, involved me getting into a bit of a spat. Well, I say spat, more a slight exchange of words, though spat sounds more exciting so I’ll stick with that.
I was with my friend, a friend I go walking with not because we have a good relationship - if truth be told I’ve never been keen on him; he and his wife have a collection of tea towels depicting English seaside resorts, need I say more? - but because he can read a map, whereas I have no idea what all the squiggly lines mean and tend to wander whichever way feels most likely to be correct (though this isn’t something, as I’ve discovered in the past, looked on kindly by the Lake District mountain rescue team).
While my mate is an excellent navigator, he is incredibly annoying for instead of simply telling me which is the right way to go, he feels the need to share every detail.
So, for example, as we are approaching a fork I will say ‘is it left or right?’ All I require is a simple one-word answer but instead he’ll say the dreaded words, ‘would you like to see where we are on the map?’ My instinct is to say ‘no, I couldn’t care a less’, but of course I have to instead reply, with fixed smile and an extremely heavy heart, ‘ok then’.
He will then spend the next six minutes pointing at lines on the map so faint it would take a NASA telescope to properly see the, “so, you can clearly see that we’re just here, between Stiff Crag and Wet Girdle. If we were to go right, do you see what would happen? We’d end up by Cucumber Pike, just by Sapper Point. Then we be in trouble wouldn’t we? So we turn left here, on to Moist Brow and then head east to Rotters Tarn’.
By this point my eyes have glazed over and I have to fight hard to resist the urge to sprint to the mountain edge and throw myself off, while screaming ‘have mercy, no more’.
Anyway, we were having a very pleasant walk and I was in particularly high spirits for I was wearing new hiking boots (Craghoppers’ CX418 with extra durable Goretex inner lining). Some people get excited by a holiday abroad, some a meal in a fancy hotel – me, I get my kicks from extra durable lining. Mrs Canavan is a lucky woman.
On stumbling across a nice vantage point, we sat to eat our lunch when a group of six older men lumbered into view and stopped next to us.
They were wearing matching jackets with the same logo, so were either members of a rambling club or had been incredibly unfortunate when selecting their outfits in the morning. They all had beards and were having an animated conversation about whether it was best to take the A591 to Windermere or go a back route via Crook. (‘But if you take the A-road, Terry, I guarantee you’ll get stuck,’ said one, waving his hands in exasperation, ‘you’re much better hitting Crook and dropping down into Bowness, you’ll knock a full two minutes off your journey’ – it was racy stuff).
After a couple of minutes my friend and I stood up and began to walk off when I heard a voice behind me say, ‘you are taking that with you, aren’t you?’
I turned to see him pointing at a crisp packet that must have fallen out of my rucksack as I’d stood. “Oh sorry about that,” I said, “yes, of course I am.”
In very pompous tone, he then remarked, ‘good because I would’ve reported you for that.’
I examined him closely to see if this was a joke. It wasn’t.
“Well clearly I didn’t deliberately leave it there, it must have fallen from my rucksack,” I said, slightly narked.
‘That’s what they all say’, he remarked.
Now I must admit I slightly lost my rag at this point and said sternly, “listen, it was obviously not deliberate and what’s more I really don’t care for your obnoxious patronising tone.”
Everyone fell silent and then, suddenly feeling slightly embarrassed to have caused a scene on a beautiful remote hillside, I stuffed the crisp packet in my rucksack in quite dramatic fashion and flounced off without looking back.
America wanted to nuke moon...
I mentioned last week that I’m midway through a book about the Cold War (in the bookshop I couldn’t decide whether to plump for that or Fifty Shades of Grey but I just felt the Cold War would be more titillating).
Although it isn’t quite as arousing as I’d hoped – although Khrushchev is a very attractive man – it contains some belting tales, including one about how the Americans once made plans to blow up the moon. Seriously. And this was before Trump was involved in decision-making.
The sexily-titled Project A119 was a top secret project in the late 50s to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon’s surface – an explosion that would have been visible from earth, though probably not from northern England where it would most likely have been cloudy and raining.
It was intended to be a show of force to the Soviet Union, who had moved ahead in the Space Race in 1957 by launching Sputnik 1 (the first satellite to orbit the Earth).
A 10-strong team worked on the plan plans but months before it was due to happen, in 1959, the project was cancelled, due to the fear of a negative public reaction (you’re not kidding) and because the Americans had hit on a new idea – a moon landing … which would kind of be tricky to do had it been blown to smithereens.
Scary how bonkers humankind can be.