Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stones and sticks

This half-attractive photo is of our daughter and me on Pillar a few years ago. When Bob Cartwright saw this picture, he gently suggested that technical shirts had come a long way and I might want to take a look at one. Sartorial lapses aside, we had a great week walking from a farm in Wasdale, while H’s mom and an old friend toured the fleshpots of the Lake District. This Mosedale Horseshoe was probably our best day. A little earlier, we’d passed the very nice chap who took this photo, lounging about on a flat boulder near the Shamrock Traverse, wearing a tweed jacket and reading a small volume of something that was probably terrifyingly erudite. Insouciant Oxbridgian elegance personified. I’m sure he was impressed by me, too.

The day after this picture was taken, I had the worst fall I’ve ever taken in the mountains. It happened not much more than a stone’s throw from the pub, was a drop of less than a foot—pure stupidity its only cause—and it resulted in a pathetically inglorious and ridiculous-looking dislocated thumb, breathtakingly painful bruised ribs (“No — Gasp — Wait, wait — Gasp — Just let me get up — Gasp — by myself!”), various minor abrasions, and, the piece de resistance, a dislocated shoulder that popped out and back in again so quickly that I didn't know it had happened until months later when odd arm pain sent me to the doctor. (“No, Doc, I've never dislocated that shoulder.” “Oh, yes you have.”) Back home, this eventually required arthroscopic surgery and—always my favorite—physical therapy.

Emergency treatment was at the hospital in Whitehaven, where my wayward thumb and other complaints were treated with astonishing promptness and I was looked at as if I were crazy for wandering around afterward looking for someone to pay. Say what you want about the NHS. Then come over here and try us out. Bring, say, Moby-Dick or Ulysses to read—something thick and slow-going—and a valid credit card with a high limit.

Because this was essentially a slip off a wet stone, its effect has been to make me timid hopping from rock to rock while crossing streams. I’m getting better (lots of teeth gritting and self-admonishment), but I still can’t reliably muster that necessary commitment to ongoing motion that true safety and success in that situation require. This is the reason I’m thinking of bringing walking sticks to Scotland. More on that topic soon.

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