BEANS MEANZ NO SANDWICHES

Ever walked up or climbed a mountain?

Say like Scafell Pike in the English Lake District. There is nothing better I imagine than using the protection of a suitable cairn or trig point, opening up the sandwich boxes and the thermos and having a relaxing bite to eat before heading back down to valley floor and the car home.

I imagine there’s nothing better anyway because I’ve never had the experience. Let me explain.

My Dad was a skilled and committed climber back in the day. He had trekked and climbed in Scotland, Wales, The Peak District as well as Norway and the Alps but he always came back to his beloved Lake District.

My Dad (On right)

My Dad (On right)

He knows every inch of it, and was so compelled to have his regular fix of it that when my brothers were small often on a Sunday he would wake me up at the crack of dawn and we would kit ourselves up, get in the car and go to The Lakes for a fell walk. Or a quick couple of routes if it was climbing weather. My Dad would make sure we always had the right gear: Sturdy boots, waterproofs , ropes, compass , map, whistle. We went prepared for anything. Except eating. He was so eager to get onto the fells that on the way out he would just grab anything that he thought might sustain us by way of provisions. Food was a very low priority. Besides my Dad was notorious for going the whole day with just 20 Embassy to fortify him.

I remember one occasion stopping for lunch on the summit of I forget where, for my Dad to open his rucksack and produce a tin of pilchards in tomato sauce! Pilchards! Ugh! We ate them out of the tin with our hands.

Pilchards!

Pilchards!

But the best example of this cavalier attitude to food was on Crinkle Crags. And thereby hangs a tale of survival and derring-do.

We’d headed for some snow, hopefully to try out some new skis. But instead found ourselves on the top of Crinkle Crags in white-out conditions. Snow being blown horizontally. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was so cold and windy, ice was crystalizing on the front of my jacket. We found a bit of protection in the lee of an outcrop of rock. My Dad had a primus stove and two eggs he planned to boil. Fat chance of that!  It was simply too windy to light the bloody thing.

Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags

‘Don’t worry’ says my Dad, pulling out a tin of beans. He went about opening the tin with a tiny ‘wiggle and cut’ opener and passed the can to me ‘At least they are already cooked’ So we shared the tin ‘drinking’ the beans while trying not to cut our lips on the shredded metal. Suitably ‘refreshed’, we considered our position. My Dad took the view – which I shared – that we were in danger of outstaying our welcome and that we ought to call it a day, even though we were only half way through the walk.

White out condtions on Crinkle Crags

White out condtions on Crinkle Crags

The trouble was the lack of visibility. We were on the traverse of the crags, but which gully to descend by? Get it wrong and it was goodnight Vienna. We consulted the map again and made our choice. I wasn’t scared in the least. I never was when I was out with my Dad.The snow was about knee deep in the gully. The most dangerous thing was avoiding lose rocks and boulders hidden by the snow. After about 20 minutes we broke through the cloud and saw we were spot on with our direction finding – exactly were we should have been – It was still snowing, but much less windy now we were off the tops. In fact we skied the final third of the descent. Not exactly Kitzbuhel but there you go. And home in time for tea and crumpets.

My Dad

My Dad

NB. Scafell is pronounced ‘scorefell.’

Andy Daly 2016

 

Frankenstein’s Monster

It’s a good thing we can’t see into the future.
If I’d have known that one day I would be totally reliant on two Titanium rods implanted into the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain, that these would be wired up beneath my scalp, down my neck connecting to a battery/pulse generator implanted in my chest , I would have been horrified.
It always freaked me out as a kid. You know, that part man, part machine thing. I blame Dr Who; which I watched from William Hartnell to John Pertwee. It was that bloody Davros character half man half dalek that did it. Yep, the thought of it would have kept me wake at nights for years.
But we adapt, and now it seems the most natural thing in the world.
And so today. Lovely and sunny, I decide to go for my usual walk around the park and nature reserve at the end of our street – without my stick.
Ever had a bad idea?
I should explain. I don’t use my stick to rest on or take my weight at any point. I use it to create ‘cues’ (A bit of Conductive Education here) I tend to swing it in front of me, presenting a target for my left and right foot in turn to kick. In this way, I am able to create a rhythmic movement of my legs which approximates steps and allows me to perambulate, albeit with a clumsy gait, even when the oral drugs I take have ceased to be effective and I am in what we in the business call an ‘Off’ state.
I am doing quite well until on the way back I go ‘off’. One of the particlar ideosyncrasies of the way Deep Brain Stimulation works for me is that when the oral medication is working, my gait is adversely affected by an increase in stimulation; so I have to wait for a ‘sweet spot’ in my two hourly medication cycle such that the tailing off of the L Dopa allows me to increase stimulation and as a result, it enables me to walk. As I have said though, it ain’t pretty. I’ll try and describe how it feels as I go ‘Off’. I begin to feel like all my strength and energy are being sapped, meanwhile the muscles of my neck lock up, my jaw becomes set and my head feels like it weighs a ton. Arms and legs stop responding to all but the ‘biggest’ movements, fine motor control is shot. I start to overheat as my body loses its ability to regulate its temperature. Any aches and pains I have got are magnified x 2
The absence of stick proves more problematic than I had anticipated, I start to stumble and my footsteps start to run away with me (Festinating Gait it’s called – lovely phrase isn’t it?) I have to think of a suitable ‘cue’ to control this. I finish up by marching, calling ‘left right’ in my head and swinging the opposite arm, the ‘cue’ being the lower arm seen from the corner of each eye in turn.

Handsome eh?

Handsome eh?

It is when turning a corner I discover that my head follows my body without moving, rather than looking into the corner as you would normally. Marching, arms straight, with my big steel toe-capped boots, frozen Parkinson’s mask- face and surgery scars (which look like OS map symbols for a railway embankment or cutting), I am struck by how much I must resemble Frankenstein.
Or rather Frankenstein’s monster as immortalised in Boris Karloff ‘s portrayal in the 1931 movie ‘Frankenstein.’ The creature almost always appears as gruesome figure, with a flat square-shaped head and bolts to serve as electrical connectors or grotesque electrodes on his neck, and thick, heavy boots, causing him to walk with an awkward, stiff-legged gait. It sounds awfully familiar …
Now did you know that to this day, the image of Karloff’s face is owned by his daughter’s company, Karloff Enterprises?
Neither did I.

© Andy Daly 2014