Christmas Day and Boxing Day are, obviously, two of the best days of the year. They are filled with love, family and warmth.
But with every high there has to be a low and the days between Christmas and New Year are the best example I can give of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’. After all of the build up and excitement, everything feels dull and flat. You eat terribly, you sleep badly and all sense of routine has gone. All of these play havoc with your mental health.
Even in the best of years, this is something that I remember being a part of the Christmas break and I think it is fair to day that not many people are logging 2020 as the best of years!
With lockdown still being in place, you couldn’t do the ‘normal’ things that make this tricky patch more bearable. Catch up with friends that may be back home for the season, take in the sales and return some of the unwanted gifts. Even getting out for the day to watch football was off the cards.
I fully understand, accept and follow all of the social distance and lockdown rules, but they amplified what was already a tricky time of the year for me. It made the house feel like a prison and I needed to do something about it.
I got in touch with ‘the lads’ and we organised a walk in the wild. Hiking isn’t something that I do very often, but when I do, I love it. I always feel that I am battling against myself and the elements and testing how far I can go and push myself. The best part for me is that I haven’t broken myself yet, and so it helps me to believe in myself and what I am capable of.
The three of us, plus a dog, headed out to Walltown Quarry. It is a few miles to the west of Haltwhistle, very close to the border with Cumbria, but just on the Northumberland side of the boundary.
We were promised by the guide book that it was a walk with stunning views and rich with history as it followed the most rugged and best preserved sections of the Roman Wall. Unfortunately for us we had already passed through about 5 different seasons worth of weather on the journey up there and it had, sadly, ended up on winter.
You could see no more than about 30 meters in front of you and the air was thick with a frozen fog. There was no snow, but the floor was crisp with ice and the long grass was crispy with frost.
As we walked we chatted. The main topic of conversation was how different the conversations that we were having were to this that our female partners would have been having. We were cruel to each other, we laughed at each other, we couldn’t wait for each other to fall over and to fail. But we knew that the very fact that we had made the effort to be there for each other was all the love we needed, we were there for each other. It made you feel human again.
Amazingly, as we stopped for lunch, the sun burnt through and let us get a feel for where we were and what we were missing out on. The lush green grass, the huge blue sky and the rugged Roman wall jutting out of the thin soil. My god, those sheep are hardy souls up there!
We walked, we chatted, we stumbled along and we loved every step of the way. We stamped on frozen puddles, we told some great terrible jokes and we took in some of the most amazing sights Northumberland could show us. You would look up, take in the view then look down as you picked your day through the ice and the mud and then, just moments later, you would look up and the light and cloud had changed so that each view was more beautiful than the last.
After nine miles we were back to the car park and firing up the gas stove to make a well earned brew before heading home. It was the perfect end to the perfect pick me up of a day.
It actually inspired Titchy and I to talk a walk a few days later to watch the sun come up over Whitley Bay. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s grim up North.
Nine pictures, pretty much from the same spot but over about 20 minutes and each one subtly and beautifully brilliant.