Note to readers : this is a smaller fragment of a longer story that is buried in my blog, what iv’e done with it is to change it’s name and cut it down such that it’s more a story about a young and naive hiker and less about the original subject which was the 3 faces of the female archetype so….
Many years ago, more than even i care to admit, a young girl called Julie walked up to a little boy (me) and said, and i quote “i’ll show you mine if you show me yours”. Can i just say, before anyone starts getting hot under the collar that we were both 10 at the time and still at junior school and i had accidentally seen Julie’s bottom….she managed to get a splinter in her bum one day from the wooden floor of the school building we used for everything from assembly, through music and drama classes to indoor PE : the teacher had Julie’s knickers down in a flash and dealt with said splinter right there and then. Ok, so things were a bit different in the 1960’s, now of course the teacher (female) would have been struck off, young Julie would have been carted off to hospital and the school would have been fined by the parents !.
The incident that i’m referring to here though happened in the playground a few months later when it was generally known that Julie and me were ‘sweet’ on each other. What happened is that a whole bunch of her ‘friends’ cornered me one day when i was sat at the side of the playground and pushed her forward : she, blushing like a red thing had obviously been set up in a schoolgirl prank to utter the lines as above “i’ll show you mine…..etc etc.
To say that i was a bit slow on the uptake would be an under statement ; i always seemed to take people at their word at that stage in life and it was always getting into trouble for it. So, what could a young boy do ?. As quick as a flash i put my hand in my trousers pocket and whipped out my pride and joy…..a small die-cast model of a Centurion tank, a mark 5 if i remember this correctly. i always carried my ‘Cent’ with me at that time because the actual highlight of my life had only just happened that year and that was when a for real Centurion tank came through the town on the back of a tank transporter and i was suitably awestruck. I have to say at this stage that i was beyond being a tank enthusiast , i’d already been to the holy shrine of the Bovington tank museum where i told off my parents for calling a Jagdpanther a ‘Tiger’ tank….muppets !…
Cute blond Julie looked a bit disappointed….her ‘friends’ giggled a bit and they all walked off in a that scornful pre-teen kind of way that only girls can do .
The Hiker and his mate ‘Dave’
At 16 i left school and in the same year i became the youngest member of the Peterborough mountaineering club, and yes, the flattest and most boring city in the UK really did have an MC. The club had then, and probably still now has, a hut and barn somewhere up in the Ogwen valley above Bethesda and in those days we made the long drive up the old A5 on a Friday night to get there.
My regular walking and climbing partner was a bloke called ‘Dave’ and he had a very old left hand drive VW Beetle that we went everywhere in. Our man Dave had to rely on my judgement about when to attempt an overtake : what with me being a biker and the car needing several weeks written notice to even begin to accelerate things could get a little ‘tense’ at times. Our usual routine was to get through the midlands and then have a stop for fish and chips at pub closing time in either Shrewsbury or over the border in Llangollen , there used to be a very good chippie right on the main drag there : anyway on the night i’m thinking about we must have been running a bit late and Dave needed a pee so we pulled up near the loo in the town centre at Shrewsbury.
As we emerged from the public loo a ‘young lady’ who just happened to be standing there looked at the pair of us and said, and once again i quote “any plans for the weekend boys” and that was said in a lovely lilting Welsh accent. For some reason Dave muttered something and walked off, i being polite and not being used to questions from young and quite attractive ladies immediately responded with an over-long description of the route we had planned on Snowdon for the next day. Now, i could tell that the young lady wasn’t that interested and it was a cold night, and what’s more my haddock and chips were getting cold, i said a pleasant goodnight and followed ‘Dave’ back to the car. When i got there i found Dave almost crying with laughter and it took a while for him to get it together enough to explain to me what had just happened : that i’d just been propositioned rather nicely by a lady of the night and instead of fish and chips that night i could have had an eye opening, non climbing experience !. That i’m sure was my first experience of ‘ladies of the night’ but it certainly wasn’t my last : i became a sailor and visited many of the world’s rougher ports, Rio de Janeiro for example where many of the ‘ladies’ aren’t actually ‘ladies’ at all…..apparently it’s wise to check beforehand as it were.
Several years later and iv’e qualified as a nurse, the only man in a class of 30, so i rapidly learned a lot about the lives and loves of women. After that i went to sea as a professional sailing seaman and learnt about the world from the rougher perspective of many of the more ‘interesting’ sea-ports : from Southampton to Rio, Cape Town to Ushaia , Sydney, Hamburg and so on. After 5 years of that i temporarily turned my back on the sea and returned to my little ground floor flat almost in Sheffield’s city centre and that’s about as far from the sea, physically and emotionally as it’s possible to be in the UK.
Within the first week of being ‘back home’….i couldn’t sleep because of the lack of movement and the sound of waves washing past the hull a few inches from my head…i took to exploring the city by night : i became an urban hiker and explorer. In that first week i was propositioned by ‘ladies of the night’, not once but three different times. The first one was a much older, tougher and streetwise woman who just said ‘business ?’ as i walked past. I don’t remember my reply but i do remember that we stopped and talked for a few moments on a cold night outside the big church near the old Hallamshire hospital. Even sadder was the next ‘hit’ ; a girl who can only have been 15 at best probably working her first patch in a shop doorway.
I say that i came back from the sea, except that a part of me is still ‘out there’ somewhere deep in the Southern ocean giving back ‘shout for shout’ to a westerly gale : in the same way many of us are still ‘out there’ on the mountain or trail, small parts of us left behind in our best and worst moments, and equally those moments are still with us and are the stories that now tell.
The hag (removed)
So, and ‘so what’ as someone recently said to me, why should my stories have any use or any value and the short answer is none : except that one persons tall tale might be another persons inspiration.
Well, it’s this.
We are, as Dr Peterson says, profoundly and deeply storytelling creatures, maybe just evolved monkeys that huddle around the fire against the terrors outside the cave, and i for one don’t know a good sailor, climber or wind-walker who hasn’t been out there and come back with a great story to tell around the fire. I have this small facility to tell stories ; hell, some of them might even be ‘true’. In this strange time i can maybe use that small modicum of skill…..more enthusiasm and desire rather than skill….to engage and maybe inspire just a little, to lift your mood just a little and make your day just that little bit better.
Tell me your stories……as young Julie once said “you show me yours.….etc”
On Cloud’s rest, High Sierra above Yosemite valley.*