Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Homeward bound

We all slept like proverbial logs and after a quick shake of the tootsies on the foot massager, my lower back gave up the unequal struggle and stopped aching. We had breakfast, and I gathered together all the things I was taking home to Surrey this evening. The Coverwood Concerts will be happening this weekend and I always planned to break off from walking today, do the concerts at home in Surrey, and then resume walking on Monday 12th.
I did the same thing when I walked from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 2001 and the wonderful Coverwood audiences donated nearly £2,000 to Speakability. They’re a fabulous crowd and all my artists love appearing in the Barn; we get the sort of reception when we start the concert that most performers would be thrilled to receive at the end of a concert. This is the 16th year and during the winter, Ann and Nigel Metson and their son Tim, who own Coverwood (and with whom I’m in partnership for the concerts), are going to pool our ideas and revamp the Festival; we’ll keep some of the elements the same and introduce some brand new ideas as well. Perhaps a jazz evening or an audience with a celebrity – we’ll see. Old and new side by side – it works really well – which is just as well at my advanced age…
I said last night to Lorna that she should have a lie in and meet us in Barnsley around lunchtime; she looked dreadfully tired again and a morning off seemed a good idea. Nevertheless, she rushed out of the flat when she saw us driving away and handed me a couple of bottles of water to see me through to midday or thereabouts.
We made excellent time to Royston and parked the Volvo in Cross Lane. As my former married name was Lane, I found it very funny and, sadly, rather appropriate these days. I saw another road name a few days ago which at first I thought said ‘unfit’ lane, but then it disappointingly turned out to be the much more prosaic ‘Linfit Lane.’ I still laughed out loud, however, which is slightly worrying given that I was walking by myself at the time. Neee, naw, neee, naw… (pathetic attempt at siren noise).
We rejoined the TPT and walked mile after easy mile along well-marked footpaths that were sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, sometimes rural and sometimes unattractively suburban. But it was bliss being away from the roar and fumes of traffic. The din as you walk beside major roads is deafening and tiring, and the guff you inhale must be horribly bad for your health.
The hawthorn bushes were magnificent; heavily laden with white, pink and red blossom. During these last three weeks of walking, the May blossom has been so astoundingly luxuriant that sometimes the fields and hedgerows looked as if there had been a great snowfall. The grass was vivid emerald green wherever we looked; today the weather was intensely hot and muggy and the sky was a picture; mostly duck egg blue and with impressive white clouds that were artfully dotted about as if by design.
We left the trail at Stairfoot and, courtesy of Carolyn, each had a very large, cold Diet coke at a Little Chef cafe. She was the only one with any money on her and she now reckons that Julia and I have taken a leaf out of the Queen’s book and are travelling cash-free.
We arranged to meet Lorna at Wombwell and rejoined the trail in the searing blaze of the midday sun. Oh God it was hot. Blisteringly, enervatingly boiling with absolutely nowhere to hide. I had several phone calls that took my mind of the temperature and we finally reached Wombwell looking like a bunch of sweaty refugees.
Lorna was close by and we decamped to a nearby pub that turned out to be a complete gem. The Thawley Arms is a large, well-designed and homely pub which advertises its excellent food on a board outside. Now, how many times have we all seen signs like this and been bitterly disappointed? Well, go to the Thawley Arms and be amazed! They had on offer today any one of their magnificent burgers plus chips and salad and a pint of either alcohol or soft drink for the unbelievable price of £4.99. Yes, £4.99. And it was delicious; freshly cooked, charmingly and efficiently served by Leanne who was a great advert for Northern lasses, as well as being depressingly young and slim. Oh where, oh where did our youth and slim figures go, we all ask? If you happen to find them, drop me a line and I’ll come and get them.
We spent an hour in the pub enjoying this lovely lunch to which Lorna very kindly treated us. I can state categorically that no weight was lost today – at all.
After using the facilities – no surprise there, then – Julia and I set off through town leaving Lorna to take Carolyn back to Royston to collect the Volvo. Funnily enough, Carolyn showed no signs of distress at having to take a few miles off walking in the increasingly unpleasant high temperature…
We strode womanfully through Wombwell, on into Brampton and finally across country towards Rawmarsh. We were sweating buckets – not remotely lady-like, but a fact – and the sun was more of an enemy than a friend. Never happy, I hear you cry; she complains about the rain and now she’s complaining about the heat. Abso-blooming-lutely right. But walking a long way in boiling hot sunshine is really unpleasant, even when wearing a hat. And of course, we were wearing shorts. Not necessarily a pretty sight but jolly practical. We made a few people laugh as we marched past, so without even trying we managed to give strangers something to smile at.
Carolyn and Lorna were waiting for us at a pub and because there was still time to add a few miles to my day’s total, I asked the girls if they’d mind my walking a fast two or three miles before we set off for home.
Bless them, they agreed and bidding farewell to Lorna till Monday, I shot off down the hill as fast as I could.
I added nearly three miles by the time they caught up with me and my total for the day was 16.2 miles. Not a huge amount but respectable considering we’d had a long lunch stop and the heat was terribly energy draining.
We drove down the M1 in air-conditioned luxury; it still seemed an awfully long way in the car and astonishing to me that I was even contemplating it on foot. Which is really weird when I know perfectly well from experience that I can do it quite easily.
We reached Ripley village after a speedy, trouble-free three hour journey; I’d asked Will to come and collect me to save the girls an extra 40 minutes driving and he duly turned up and gathered up his grubby old mother and her ragbags of belongings.
Home felt very strange indeed; more peculiar than the times I’ve come home from working abroad, for example. Goodness knows why but after a shower, a prize-winning supper cooked by Will and Sharon and a veg in front of the TV, I had acclimatised enough to wend my way wearily up the wooden stairs to my very own bed. Heaven.

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