Day Eight

November 10th, 2012: Near Gorple Reservoir to Brontë Country / Haworth (5-ish miles) …
A wonderfully clear sky greeted us upon rising. The sun hadn’t even risen, but the dense atmosphere---technically known as the troposphere---must’ve had a hunch that it was coming and was already cheerfully blue. (Dense, my ass.) A flotilla of clouds could be espied to the east, but they’d snuck by sometime during the wee hours and were now forging their way forward, to pester those poor innocent denizens of Denmark.

I was excited to get the day going. Not only was it entirely glorious, but so too had I beaten Ruth at yet another game of Scrabble the previous night, extending my win streak to a zillion-billion-katrillion or so. I’d been carting a small board in the event we might muster sufficient mental mojo. In spite of yesterday’s many toils, we managed the feat and thus played another round inside the tent. Ruth commenced with a bingo, a fifty-point bonus for using all seven of her letter tiles in one go, by laying down the word, ‘rerails.’

Being the brilliant Scrabble player I am, I wasn’t convinced ‘rerails’ was a word, but feared challenging it since it might be. ‘Railers’ is a word, so why wouldn’t ‘rerails’ be? Losing your turn after your challenger lays down a bingo is no way to start the game. In any case, I could not possibly challenge the word, since neither of us was dumb enough to lug an official Scrabble dictionary, which weighs about as much as a forged anvil. Anyway, I beat her despite her fast start. Oh, and I was able to find out later that ‘rerails’ is not a word. Neither is ‘refails,’ even though Ruth keeps doing it.

Scrabble Opponent
We made tracks after inhaling some delish(1) orange-flavored dark chocolate and some not-so-delish trailmix(2), soon scrambling out of our delightful ravine and onto an empty strip of pavement. The road looked long enough but was scarcely a single car width. Neither of us was sure of its purpose, as most roads are intended for those in a hurry. The Pennine Way has had a few miles of asphalt hitherto(3), and while the walking becomes a bit robotic and unchallenging atop it, it is nonetheless welcomed, since we don’t sink with each stride. Only the road does.

The tarmac carried on for a good mile or two, all the way to the Walshaw Reservoirs, a series of three manmade lakes intended to spoil the arresting setting. Surprisingly though, the wildlife didn’t seem to care. In fact, we’d see more wildlife in the area than we had for days: grouse, pheasant, rabbits, squirrels, the Loch Ness monster and those sorts of critters. I even saw fish jump, though I wondered why, since the air temperature had to have been colder than the water’s. Maybe Nessy was after them.

We were mobile after a small lunch, which in my case, consisted mostly of misfortune cookies (which my parents had apparently fed me throughout my childhood). One misfortune simply read, “YOU SUCK” in big, bold lettering. This seemed less of a misfortune to me than it did a suspicion, and my suspicions grew. I tossed my cookies.

Ruth labored well behind me on our way out of the basin. It was the first time she seemed to suffer since Laddow Rocks, and I worried she wasn’t having fun. But each time I stopped and waited for her, the first thing out of her mouth, besides a few gasps, was how gorgeous the scene was. She was right. We were en route to the top of an exposed ridge, surrounded by shin-deep heather and miles of panorama, living completely in the moment. I've always held that if you are in the moment, you’re exactly where you should be. And that we were.

The ridge offered even more extensive views, including that of Top Withens, the alleged inspiration for Kate Bush’s Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, her one and only book, but nonetheless deemed a masterpiece of literature (not unlike this blog). Brontë writes…

“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.”

The dwelling certainly fit the bill, though historians discount any such notion. To hell with the historians! No matter how you sliced it, this place was inspiring, and it was easy to see that even if it weren’t Brontë’s inspiration, it was definitely that of everyone who hikes up to the place, thanks to her book. When we arrived, a minute or so after the ridge, there were close to a dozen people lingering around. The nearest road was nearly an hour’s amble, and yet this roofless building had somehow become a major attraction. The historians need to see the effect words can have, be they literary or otherwise. Incidentally, everything I write is absolutely and completely true, even this sentence. Only the facts have been distorted.


We sat on a bench nearby, feasting our eyes on all the eye candy that God had created, and some of what Brontë had. These were her and her sisters’ stomping grounds back in the mid-1800s---the area is known as Brontë Country---and the setting was almost picture perfect, had it not been for the cold breeze nipping at our noses. Emily’s sisters, of course, had also penned their own masterpieces. Charlotte was best known for Jane Eyre, whilst Anne for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Their brother, Branwell, also wrote, though he never attained the successes his sisters had. As youngsters, the four were all extremely close, developing their childhood imaginations through the collaborative writing of increasingly complex stories. Their story reminded me of my own siblings, though we were never very close, nor had we developed our imaginations.

Top Withens
We left Top Withens and headed for Stanbury, where we were to catch a bus to the Brontës’ hood…their hometown of Haworth. It was there we had planned to remain the night and catch up on our Brontë history and, if all went right, some sleep.

En route, we passed a Japanese girl, who strode side-by-side with her granddad or whom we could only assume was her granddad (he may well have been her sugardaddy). She appeared to be about twenty or twenty-five, though possibly sixty. (One can never really tell with those darn Asian women, as they never seem to succumb to the ravages of time.) She also appeared quite out of place. Adorned with knee-high designer boots, black stockings, a mini-skirt, an oversized leather purse and a long red coat, she looked like she belonged on a runway, not the Pennine Way. We were forced to wonder what the hell she was doing out here, though we would’ve done so anyway.

In all actuality, we knew what she was doing. Or what she was hoping to do, anyway. She was hoping to hike all the way to Top Withens, a thirty-minute trudge through the muck, entirely uphill. Not to be too negative, but there was NO WAY IN HELL this cute little Japanese girl was ever going to make it there. Not only was the path absolutely chaotic, so too was the wind. She must’ve weighed in at eighty-five pounds, and the jacket she wore could have easily been mistaken, at least by the swirling gusts, as a kite (a designer kite, mind you). The wind would almost certainly pick her up and throw her down into a bog she couldn’t climb out of, even with sugardaddy’s help.

The truth of the matter is that the Japanese have a deep adoration for the Brontë girls and their varia, bordering on worship. Indeed, many of the signs we passed, including a Pennine Way sign, were written in Japanese. Droves of the Japanese read and reread the Brontë books, and droves of them fly all the way from their homeland to come see Top Withens every year. Behind Shakespeare and David Beckham, the Brontë girls are Japan’s most beloved of Brits. I too adore them(4), but this is strange shit, methinks. Hadn’t they heard of Mister Bean or the Spice Girls?(5)

We were in Stanbury shortly after we had encountered the Japanese doll, hoping that the next bus wouldn’t wait too long in reaching us. Stanbury plays host to about seventy million sheep and a hundred or so humans, though some of the latter could easily be confused for the former; they’re all white and they wear enough wooly clothing that, I’m telling you, it’s not always easy to decipher which creature is which.

One (four-legged) sheep sat in a front paddock, away from all the others. She had a big ‘NO!’ painted on each side of her butt, presumably to ward off any desperate hikers or the more literate of rams. That was my guess anyway, but it was more likely the poor gal had an infection---Mad Sheep Disease, maybe---and needed separating from the flock. “Why don’t you get the flock out of here?” the farmer asked the shepherd. “You gotta keep ‘em  separated.”

The bus soon arrived and scooped us up, and for the paltry sum of one pound, sixty pence. I’m not sure what this equated to in US funds, what with the rapid plummet of both currencies currently occurring, but Ruth and I would have paid whatever it took to travel in any other manner but walking. In times of hurt, money matters not. Though it wasn’t a red double-decker bus and though there was gum stuck to each of our seats, we felt we were traveling in first class. The pace seemed all wrong---the landscape was literally flying by in the other direction and it was difficult to avoid getting woozy---but we smiled the entire time.

The entire time only took about ten minutes and we had landed in Haworth. Our first stop was the local youth hostel, where we were to converse amongst strangers. Our next stop was also the youth hostel, where we were to eat amongst strangers. Our last stop also happened to be the youth hostel, where we were to sleep amongst strangers. The first two stops seemed easy enough to handle, but the last one sort of freaked me out.

Sleeping among strangers is, well, unnatural. It makes for light sleep, that is if it makes for sleep at all. Someone inevitably passes gas all night; someone inevitably snores all night; someone inevitably talks in his sleep all night; and someone---or everyone---will inevitably get mad at me for having done all this. No doubt that earplugs, nose-plugs and eye-shields are obligatory gear when frequenting hostels, though I’m not sure what defensive measures to take against sleepwalkers. There are four of us here in room 11, just as there are in Ruth’s room. Each room is not much bigger than a work shed.

Communal sleep would be far more agreeable if it meant communal sex first, but the three middle-aged men in my room aren’t really my type, particularly the hairy, chubby bloke; I guess I’ll just masturbate. They’re going to have to deal with all my other idiosyncrasies anyhow, so I might as well rub them the wrong way from the onset.

I’m a light sleeper and breathing the air of others sort of defeats the whole purpose of being out here on the Pennine Way. I seek space and peace and perhaps the occasional kick in the spiritual gut, not the things our modern world generally consists of. This hike mixes the comfortable with the downright miserable, but I tend to be most miserable when comfortable. That’s because others crowd me, as comfort is what they seek. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of all invention, but I think comfort and sloth play bigger roles. Indeed, these things seem to be man’s main aim in life. I suppose I’m no different, just that I’m most comfortable with a bit of challenge thrown in. And I guess that’s it; I guess sleeping in a room with three strangers is tonight’s challenge. I’m just hoping there’s no further challenge involved.

(“Foot”note of the Day #1: According to the official Scrabble dictionary, delish is indeed a word.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #2: According to the official Scrabble dictionary,
trailmix is indeed not a word; nor is it edible.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #3: According to the official Scrabble dictionary, hitherto is a weird word.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #4: Particularly Charlotte. If I had my druthers and had been alive in the early 1800s, she’d be the one I’d have gotten jiggy with. Jiggy may not recognized by the official Scrabble dictionary, but I guarantee Charlotte would’ve recognized what it meant, had I showed her...)

(“Foot”note of the Day #5: On a more serious note, what about the Beatles? Or Lady Di? Or Churchill? Or that Monty Python guy? Or that Pink Floyd guy? Or Guy Fawkes?!)


IM AN IM said...

Judging by the amount of challenge you have encountered thus far on your journey, you must be quite comfortable. It will be a trip that you will not soon forget.

"To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live.”

― Tenzing Norgay

Journey mercies Mr. V


Chuckie V said...

I love the quote Craig! Thanks...


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