Sunday 29 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Why I Never Became a Soldier
CREDITS: © Andrew Leaney/www.leaney.org MAP: Great Mell Fell
Unlike many sports enthusiasts, one of the goals of most fell walkers is to find the easiest way to do things. This probably makes it the most gentle of all the adventure sports. However, a stroll to an airy summit for luncheon is one of the most rewarding experiences available with a minimal risk to life, limb, or composure. If you look at the map link, you will see that Andrew Leaney used skill and cunning to approach the summit of Great Mell Fell from the south west, where the contour lines are widest spaced, and thus the slope more gentle. There is no shame in this strategy: quite the contrary, it is the art in the sport. Even inexperienced map readers will be able to deduce the corollary from the technical information given: tightly spaced contour lines mean a steep slope. It was the north east slope of Great Mell Fell that was the reason behind my decision that I was not cut out for military service.
When I was a young boy in the latter half of the last century, an imprecise date but sufficient to give you the general idea without any embarrassment to the writer, my family would take motor excursions into this area. My own entry into the fell walking sport was to climb nearby Carrock Fell when I was eight or nine years old. For this wonderful adventure my father, possibly because of some devious hidden agenda, chose the route up the convex southern slopes. This involves a steep initial ascent, followed by the deception that convex slopes play, with a constantly and interminably receding horizon. If you think "Are we there yet?" is wearying on a motor journey, imagine how it must have been that day. However, the experience did not put me off fell walking, and in later life it became something that gave me great joy. I was always unsure in which direction my father's devious hidden agenda was meant to work, if indeed it was a deliberate ploy.
There was one bit of information he gave me that influenced my future life. As we motored past Great Mell Fell's steep north eastern slope he told me that soldiers trained by running to the summit. The additional information that they also ran wearing full battle dress and carrying all their equipment was totally superfluous. I never afterwards considered becoming a soldier.
Andrew's picture reminds me very much of high summer in the English Lake District. That lush green bracken has a wonderfully fragrant smell of earth and roots, and retains moisture so that walking among it on a hot day is reminiscent of a journey through a tropical jungle environment. I have to say that the more common experience is walking among the dripping wet bracken on a cold rainy day when trousers and boots become icily soaked through in seconds.
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)