Breaking dawn on Lantern Pike

Confession: I never had much patience for depression suffers. Despite my father being a functioning manic depressive OCD alcoholic (no offence Dad), or maybe because of this, I always had a “pull your socks up” attitude towards it. I mean, I’d had blue days, who hadn’t? And some pretty dark grey to black days as a teenager as well that I’d prefer to forget about, and quite a few wobbles in my twenties and even in my thirties, but I’d always thought of such episodes as evidence of a character flaw, an intolerable admission of weakness to be swept away under the rug of British phlegm and pragmatism.

It follows that, having spent the first year of my forties dealing with an absolute shitstack bout of depression, I am considerably more tolerant (I hope).  However, that’s not what I particularly want to write about today; rather, I want to talk about the wonderful moment when the fog recedes, the night ends, the black dog recedes into his box of bonios and you suddenly think, for the first time in months and months: I feel normal; no, actually, I feel good.

I think I have been building up to this over the last few weeks, thanks to a change of anti-depressants and an excellent counsellor (maybe also return of Game of Thrones on a Monday evening?) but I really do suddenly feel OK. It’s a really good feeling and I don’t give two fucks if it’s chemically induced or not, it’s just good to find pleasure in being alive again.

I wanted to say something articulate about equating the feeling to the first feeling of spring  in the air after a long winter, and quote a poem that’s on the tip of my tongue about March winds being the morning yawn but I’ll be frank, I had a really strong campari & soda earlier and eloquence eludes me. So I’ll like to return instead to the subject of this blog post which is, you’ll be relieved to hear, nothing to do with parts one or two of the vampire-related cinematic monstrosity of the same name, but about a very pleasant walk  I had up to the local trig point on Lantern Pike early this morning.

I presume Lantern Pike must have once served as a beacon in pre-Whatsapp times, which provides a pleasing symmetry on a personal note, since as a child I was often dragged kicking and screaming up the local hill, Beacon Fell, for fitness and fun on a Sunday afternoon. My seven year old self would therefore have been horrified at the prospect of my forty year old self waking up at 5am on a Saturday morning and deciding to voluntarily tackle gravity (actually to be frank my forty year old self would normally feel a fairly strong aversion to both the hour and the exertion) but that’s what happened and it was great.

I’m really unfit, so it took me about ninety minutes, but it’s a pretty easy walk. I went up Swallow House lane and took the track at Higginbottom farm and then the short steepish path up to the trig point, back down the other side and then retraced my steps. You can combine this with the Sett Valley trail by cutting through back down to the reservoir, or with a longer gentler return via Little Hayfield and either the higher path through the woods, or the lower path through the fields.

I’m not saying it was the most exquisite morning ever, nor did my wheezing red-faced sweatiness make for the most romantic moment in the world when I reached the trig point, but I defy you to feel gloom and despair when walking with a friendly cocker spaniel and not a soul in sight, just sheep and birdsong and the morning sun on Manchester in the distance, and the mists rolling off Kinder Scout into the valley below.

Also, and while Lantern Pike is only a modest 1200 ft or something, carrying a piano up Ben Nevis or a washing machine up Snowdon or whatever has nothing on lugging a reluctant ten stone labrador to the summit when he would normally be lying flat on his back on the sofa at this hour, thus doubling my sense of achievement. That, and the smug satisfaction of knowing I achieved my Apple fitness goals by 7am, has enabled me to partake in the usual excessive weekend consumption of pasta, cheese and cheap red wine without the usual degree of maudlin self-loathing.

Here are some pics:


Hayfield and Kinder from Lantern Pike

Manchester from Lantern Pike summit

Manchester from Lantern Pike summit

Cocky cocker

Cocky cocker

Fat Larry

Fat Larry


Sett Valley




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Why Caitlin Moran should be the next Doctor Who

Forgive the recycling, but I’ll stand by this diatribe (oh and happy with Phoebe Waller-Bridge thanks)

Northern Likes

Caitlin Moran has blogged today about the Twitter walk-out she has proposed in response to the threats received by Criado-Perez and others is also on this Sunday. It’s a great article – I encourage you to read it.

In her article, Moran makes some persuasive comments about change, and resistance to it. I am now going to make an extremely tenuous literary leap that has nothing to do with the context in which Moran addressed this, and start talking about Doctor Who.

Change is a crucial aspect of Doctor Who (viz. the whole regeneration thing). Fans will know that the current incumbent of the role, Matt Smith, is due to leave at the end of the year. His replacement will be announced on Sunday at 7pm. I’d like to be cool, and pretend that this news doesn’t have me wild with excitement, but the reality is I’m an incorrigible geek…

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A Pox On Both Your Houses

There are times, occasionally, when I wistfully wish I didn’t have to work for a living. I don’t mean the idle, speculative lottery-winning fantasies (I have those far more often), but rather I think enviously of my mother, giving up her career as soon as she had my elder brother, and dedicating herself to the nurture and care of her home, her husband and her children for the next couple of decades.

Does she regret it? No, I honestly don’t think she does. I mean, for starters, she sent us all away to boarding school so it was a frigging picnic right but, also, she went back to work in her later years and then held a very respectable magesterial office (sp? magisterial? I mean she was a magistrate, not entirely sure why I couldn’t just say that) for some years which now allows her to hold forth in strident tones on all manner of subjects of which she has no actual knowledge, most particularly my pathetic attempts to combine a professional career with rearing a small lunatic. She and my father live very comfortably and take many holidays and generally enjoy a lifestyle that I couldn’t begin to aspire to despite both H and I holding down effectively full time jobs.

Far wiser people than me have said far wiser things on this subject of deep and divisive controversy but I think what I want to say but can’t be bothered to set out a properly reasoned argument for is this: out of my mother and I, who had more choice? who had more freedom? who was happier? And the answer is: I have no idea but I am slightly concerned by the direction of this ramble that I am turning into a right wing fundamentalist.

What I really want to say is that, whilst having the Nipper has in many ways made me more insanely and deliriously happy than I could ever imagine being, and whilst I love him from the top of his curly head right down to his frankly quite odd looking toes, and whilst I couldn’t live a day without him, I do feel that I have suffered from a post-natal crisis of confidence, in that I feel I am utterly shit both in my job and domestically. The domestic thing doesn’t really bother me, I’ve always been an utter slattern, and I don’t actually think I’m a terrible Mum, even when I’m feeding the Nipper cheerios with chocolate sauce just in the hope that he will actually eat something, but the incompetence is more striking now that there is a whole tiny human who needs looking after and, man, I have become so useless and indecisive and ineffective at work that sometimes I don’t even know why they pay me. And, more, a lot is talked about equality but very little is actually done. I work in an industry that sells services on a time-based model (no, I am not a prostitute, not in a literal sense). By virtue of being a working mother, I have less time than my male colleagues. Consequently, my male colleagues outstrip me unless I am prepared to put in extra time and work to overcompensate for my audacity in having a child, i.e. by working for free on my “non-working” day; being constantly on call at any hour, and constantly feeling guilty, guilty, guilty about everything. How am I equal to my male, childless peer, who gets into work at 7.30 a.m. five days a week and leaves at 5pm, but is always one step ahead? Or my male boss, who has children… and a stay at home wife. I am not, I cannot be, so why do we all insist on pretending that I am?

Maybe I’m just tired. I mean, I am really, really tired. And it’s not like oh I had a bad night last night and now I’m tired, it’s like I’ve had a bad night every night for the past 4 years if not longer and now I just feel about ninety and that’s why I like to sit in my armchair and drink red wine whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this is that the Nipper has chicken pox and I therefore find myself taking an expectedly week’s “holiday”, by which I mean I still have to do my work, because it’s nearly year end and god forbid I should have an actual break, but I have the privilege of doing it at night instead of the day and of using up my holiday allowance as well so as to tend for a very spotty and very grumpy small person.

Here’s what I planned to achieve:

  • Full day’s work before 8am
  • Revamping wardrobe
  • Manicure and deep conditioning treatment
  • Cooking healthy, nutritious light meals which Nipper will love
  • Playing in the garden
  • Spring cleaning and decluttering entire house
  • Working on novel
  • Become an expert in Italian cookery and having 3 course meal on table for H every evening
  • Conquering Laundry Mountain
  • Generally being a domestic goddess and bonding with my son

Highlights of my first day as a “SAHM” have so far included:

  • Failing to wash or dress child or self
  • Trying to write a long and overdue report in 5 minute bursts, 4 minutes of which are spent trying to recall where I was up to
  • Trying to give illusion to work of being absolutely on top of my game (i.e. by replying to emails within 9 seconds, even if response is gobshite)
  • Cheerios and chocolate sauce for breakfast (see above)
  • Phonecall with boss re: important project whilst Nipper runs around naked waving aloft a potty shouting MUMMY I’VE DONE A BIG POO and dog walker chooses this moment to let self in and collect dogs who go mental
  • Allowing Nipper to get arm stuck in roll of kitchen roll (how? I mean how?)
  • Slicing 3 million grapes in half, of which Nipper consumes not one
  • Making an exquisitely decorated badge for Nipper (CRAFT FUN)
  • Watching Nipper throw said badge on floor in disgust
  • Turning Optimus Primal into a robot… into a dinosaur… into a robot…into a dinosaur…into a robot…
  • Starting to declutter wardrobe. Piling 85 garments on bed and then throwing them randomly into either bin bag or floor of wardrobe
  • TV
  • Unloaded and reloaded dishwasher (BOOM)
  • Doing online supermarket shop in about 3 minutes and ordering mostly wine
  • Greeting H with a badge that says DAD and telling him to make supper
  • Going upstairs to do work and instead writing this ramble

Sort of like a mini-maternity leave secondment, really. It made me quite nostalgic and quite keen to return to work at the earliest possibly opportunity



February Fun

So, obviously I’ve been away for a while, but as the murky fogs of post-IVF depression are starting to recede, H and I and the increasingly nippy Nipper have made it our mission to get out and about at the weekend instead of just loafing around drinking rioja and watching Netflix. (Fair dos, I am drinking a glass as we speak and watching Gilmore girls in the background but don’t judge me. Actually do, I deserve it.)

Anyroad, having had my eyelids prised open at the crack of dawn by the Nipper and tried to deflect the inevitability of having to get up by any means possible (Transformers, Power Rangers, Coco Pops, you name it), this morning we finally dusted off the walking boots, packed up the dogs, and piled into the car for a day of Peak District fun. Sorry, no photos as phone packed in, so use your imaginations.

First treat was a lovely drive past Mam Tor down Winnats Pass to Castleton (do a Google images search and you’ll see what I’m on about) to Speedwell Cavern, which we have passed many a time but have never braved. This was a peculiar but not unpleasant experience involving donning a hard hat, descending 106 steps with a slippery toddler down to an underground canal and boarding a boat which our dour but entertaining guide proceeded to navigate down a long waterway in a, let’s be frank, relatively confined tunnel, to a cavern, which we looked at, before resuming said boat, canal and 106 steps up with a slippery toddler, before removing said hard hat. Was it the most amazing experience of my life? Honestly, no. It was interesting though, heightened by the slight edge of claustrophobic panic, and the Nipper seemed to almost enjoy it, which is about as much as you can expect of three year old who’d rather be watching Fireman Sam.

Attempted to park up at Castleton; failed. It’s a nice town if you’re ever passing that way. Set off to Hathersage, which I also recommend, especially for its lido, but got distracted and ended up in Tideswell. I have literally no idea of the name of the pub we ate in, which is embarrassing, and I can’t work it out from t’internet, but it’s the big one next to the church with the car park. It was fine. Nice standard pub fare, very reasonable. Very jealous of Nipper’s child meal deal which included huge bowl of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce which he refused to share (and I intend to recreate at home this evening when he is asleep).

Had a mooch round Tideswell, and then an easy but very pleasant walk at Tideswell Dale. Lovely walk along a flat path next to a stream, perfect for Nipper to run along, and fairly quiet as well which is always a plus with a noisy child and two ill behaved dogs. Felt the sap rising and the land awakening momentarily, until Nipper insisted I engage in races for 90% of the walk. If you’re looking for a new fitness challenge, I heartily recommend having to trot like a horse whilst an insane toddler whips you with a branch and then insists you give him a shoulder ride all the way back to the car because he’s got a speck of mud on his shoe.

From Tideswell, to Brierlow Bar bookstore, apparently the largest independent bookstore in the country (and the highest – can this really be true?) where we spent a pleasant 33 seconds before the Nipper had an enormous tantrum and had to be removed. Purchased, in haste: book of Sudoku puzzles; book about coastal wild swimming; fuzzy felt; and the tale of Little Rabbit Foo Foo, which I do recommend you listen to on youtube if you would like to have an ear worm which will delight you night and day for weeks at a time until you lose your mind.

Detour via the shops and an unexpected road closure in Buxton, and then home for rioja and Netflix.

All in all, an enjoyable day. Next mission is to get camping again. With an inadequate tent, demanding 3 year old, ancient decrepit labrador, demented cocker spaniel puppy and no roof box, what could possibly go wrong?




Source: onwards

HPT hell

Source: HPT hell

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T day

Source: T day

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Source: T-1


Source: T-7

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