Should have been so easy, that climb, nothing like the daily toil; instead, however, I emerged dripping with sweat and feeling decidedly overworked! Read on…
Yesterday was so beautiful that my morning stroll with Jumble segued, quite naturally, into a two hour plod up lovely lanes and then up one side of Glastonbury Tor. I could lie, edit madly – and lay claim to the epitome of transcendent experiences. But I am not going to.
It was, in places, more nightmare than twinkling visit to the Faery Realms. It hurt. I was scared. I got very tense and feared that I would fall, or be dragged, over. Far from showing the world a far-away, otherworldly smile – as I wafted up in a cloud of Patchouli – I was snarling, snapping, hauling on the dog’s lead for dear life and crab-stepping my way down the precipitous steps as if I were a frail centenarian.
So, why, you may ask, was this? After all, the day had dawned so promisingly and the Tor itself was at its exquisite best; the dog is elderly (like his owner!) and, ‘…all’s right with the world…’ (as my relative, Robert Browning, said in ‘Pippa Passes‘)
All I can say to that is that Browning, when penning his famous lines of snails on thorns and birds on wings did not have an ancient canine possessed of the strength of ten far younger hounds – and, far worse, a gallimaufry of free-ranging sheep – to complicate an already-fraught situation.
It wasn’t so much the sheep themselves – though Jumble, as a border collie, has an inbuilt herding instinct and often tries to make his humans keep to the path when they show signs of straying! – it was more a matter of that which they left behind them: Gourmet, from Jumbs’ perspective, sheep poo.
Clumps of this greenish faecal matter were festooned about the Tor. The smell must have triggered Jumble’s Inner Food Taster, or something, because I swear his rheumy old eyes lit up, and his nose certainly quickened in greedy delight. The Tor, for him, was one vast Take Away – and I the curmudgeonly old cow intent upon spoiling his pleasure.
Problem was, I couldn’t take the risk of releasing him from his lead because I wasn’t sure he’d leave the actual sheep alone, and I, not built for speed, would have been totally ineffective trying to get him back, particularly as he does an excellent line in Selective Deafness when it suits him!
It was bad enough on the way up, with ovines way below on t’other side – and, when I sat down to look at the gorgeous landscape stretching for miles all around us, it was as much about resting my trembling legs as about admiring the natural beauty – but the problems really kicked in when I began the descent.
Suddenly, the luscious green and sloping ‘table’ was groaning with a plethora of putrid poo – and my stubborn and lovable old pet was off like the proverbial greyhound from the slips. I am not sure whether he had set himself the goal of eating all of it, and, thus, wiping the platter clean – but he certainly went at it like a starving tapeworm…or tried to.
Now, I have to say at this point that I would have loved a leisurely and dreamy drift down, mayhap declaiming a few lines of poetry or singing a light air or communing with the abundant Higher Powers; but, in the tussle between Ali and Jumble, there was only going to be one outcome: A small slice of Hell!
He wrenched me off the path in his pursuit of droppings. I hauled him back again as hard as I could. He ran helterskelter down the path, or tried to, while I braced myself and pulled in the heavy sails of his enthusiasm. He executed sudden little sideways leaps as he scented a particularly succulent specimen, while I growled and gibbered, and shook and trembled convinced, as I often was, that I was about to be dragged to my death down the whole flight in one skin-flaying go!
And then, when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, he smelled the sheep themselves! Ye gods, that was scary! Torn now between small food to the left and the Real Thing to the right, he went into a frenzied dance, dashing hither and yon like a mad thing. I swear I am suffering from whiplash today as a result!
Meanwhile, though tempted to shuffle down on my bottom, I managed to stay upright and minced my way down in such tiny tottering steps I am sure I looked as if I had had my feet bound as a wean! The fragrant air was blasted by regular wrathful shrieks of, ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Jumbs!’ and, ‘WILL you stop pulling, you accursed hound?!’ – and, on two momentous occasions when I came close to going arse over tit, ‘Aghhhhhhhh!!!’
I met several spiritual-looking Pilgrim types as I descended – and, to a man, they looked bemused (as well they might) at the sight of a middle-aged red-headed woman screeching like a bean-sidhe at a puppy-like playful dog, albeit of advanced years and declining sight, while the wonders of Avalon and of our mythic past lay in panoramic splendour directly above.
This, my dears, is how the proposed half hour walk turned into two hours. Meandering up country lanes was child’s play in comparison, as was the walk back through Glastonbury afterwards. I reckon, at a conservative estimate, it took me nearly an hour to walk back down the Tor – and I was decidedly woolly, nay jelly, of leg when I finally reached Chalice Well.
Of Elven Knights, attempting to lure maidens (in my case, mainly from memory!) into their frabjous palaces, I saw not a sign. Mystical experiences generally were thin-to-absent on the ground. Inner peace and transcendence? Don’t make me laugh!
But, as I marched, revived, back along Chilkwell Street, in a homewardly direction, I reckon I scored an A* for Harpy-on-the-Warpath activity. Those who passed me must have thought I was channelling Boudicca at her most fearsome, and were probably looking round nervously lest the infamous chariot, with its attendant spikes, hove into view and reduced them to lean mince.
Yesterday was so beautiful…