9 October 2008

Onwards and Upwards

There I was sitting with my cup of coffee at about 8.30 a.m., wondering what job I would start with. Should I try and repair my car which has a rather serious water leak from the heater and which is making my Alfa smell like Guy’s dirty clothes basket or should I plant those plants I’ve had sitting in pots for about 6 weeks and which are starting to head for the border of their own accord? Should I fit next door’s security lights and make the drive look like Wembley or blast some more aliens on the X-Box? Decisions. Decisions. I asked Shadow’s advice but he just rolled over and luxuriated in the off-white shagpile which must be like lying on a dead sheep…..without all the disadvantages of the smell. Bliss – at least for Shadow. 

Then I was shaken out of my deliberations by J asking me to go for a walk with her. Sorry – did she say a walk? A walk? Where to? How far? When she explained where she wanted to go I realised that it was actually a climb. You’d have thought she’d have learned her lesson ten days ago when she had two doctors asking her to take her clothes off within 18 ours to check her sprained ankle. And here she is, still with a strapping on wanting to make the climb up to the Chapel St Raphäel, on the mountainside above our village. 

I thought about this for a moment or two. If she went on her own, there was a bloody good chance that whatever I decided to do would be interrupted at precisely the wrong moment when she phoned me to say she’d had a ‘tumble’ and could I go and rescue her. It was better for me to get my Bass walking shoes on (ten years old and used twice) and accompany her.  And so off we set. 

We took the Honda up to the base camp, parked, got our sticks (some old bits of tree) and ropes (a couple of stretchie spider things) and set off up the treacherous path in the direction of St Raphäel. A sherpa called Shadow went ahead but he kept stopping at every horse dropping and rabbit hole and started to slow us down. At 10.00am, 20 minutes after leaving base camp we’d only made about 100 yards progress when we realised that the lead climber (me) had taken the wrong turn. All we had to do was follow the yellow markers but it’s difficult to see them when they are at eye level when you’re climbing with your head down. We retraced our steps and set off again, hopefully, this time in the right direction. The new route was even steeper! 

Progress was slow as J stopped and had a latte (coffee) from her flask every 100 metres or so. I forged ahead but conscious that she could plunge off the side of the mountain at any second and I wouldn’t see it, I slowed and waited  for her to come into view. About the same time, our sherpa had heard the sounds of hunters with their dogs and he lay down on the mountainside with his paws over his ears trying to drown out the sounds of wild boar being torn to bits by the savage dogs. 

Onwards and upwards. J was now having to stop and take oxygen every 100 metres or so as she was becoming confused – she hadn’t seen a shop since base camp. She was becoming delirious, talking to trees and plants. She looked at her toes which had turned black and decided she’d got frostbite but I reminded her that she hadn’t had a shower this morning. Onwards and upwards. We were in sight of the summit. It was only a few thousand feet more but then we stopped in our tracks as a familiar sound echoed round the mountainside. It was J’s mobile phone – Angie was calling to ask her to pop round for a glass of rosé this afternoon. And so – in the proximity of the snow capped summit where the Chapel St Raphael and the ruins of the Chateau St Jeanne dominate the skyline, we lay down on the grass and had a picnic and decided we’d gone far enough for one day. 

The photo is the chateau St Jeanne which we reached on a previous occasion. 


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