Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What a dump

Last night Lorna and I agreed that we’d meet by the car at 6.15am this morning. It seemed like a really good idea at midnight, but at 5.30am when I dragged myself out of bed, I seriously wondered whether or not we were insane.
The reason for getting up so early was for me to walk as far as possible before BBC TV phoned to organise an interview back in Leeds late afternoon.
I spoke to the producer yesterday and he seemed really keen to record something for the evening Look North programme. Sadly, as has happened more than once on the Opera Walk, they didn’t phone and we didn’t get the chance to publicise the venture. Our publicity efforts have been ill-starred at every turn and I begin to wonder whether the media are only really interested in bad news.
Ho hum; so I walked 25.25 miles instead and when I finished was on the A606 heading out of Nottingham towards Melton Mowbray.
The day started with more traffic dodging on the B road to Mansfield. Given my mind was as vacant as it is possible to be and still function, I was lucky to survive without incident. At one point, however, when faced with a very narrow, blind summit, I’m afraid I took a footpath into a field and then trespassed my way parallel to the road until it was safe to rejoin it. ‘Safe’ is a comparative term as it wasn’t safe in any real sense of the word.
The walk through Mansfield and on to Nottingham was alright but boring. It came on to rain in a dreary, piddling sort of way that reminded me of countless Welsh holidays when I was small. My mind remained vacant and untroubled by any significant thoughts as, clutching my plaid umbrella and water bottle, I threw one foot in front of another hour after hour.
Lorna gave me some pasta salad for lunch and I had a cup of coffee and a bar of chocolate to give me some get up and go. I felt rather weary and, having walked 17 miles by 1pm, my spirits sank when I saw it was still 5 miles to the centre of Nottingham. The food did the trick, however, and my energy levels shot up very noticeably.
I bade farewell to Lorna and said I’d see her again somewhere south of Nottingham, which is a notoriously difficult city to negotiate by car.
As I walked along the A 60, I’m afraid I kept thinking ‘what a dump.’ I rang Sharon, Will’s girlfriend, and asked her how in heaven’s name she’d managed to live there for three years while she did her history degree. ‘Necessity’ was the brief reply [Editor’s note: I assure you it was NOT a brief reply].
The shopping centre was more engaging than the hideous, run-down Mansfield Road but walking out of the city and crossing the river was a gigantic relief. I have no wish to offend people who love Nottingham, but I didn’t see too much to love along the route I walked.
My friend and mentor, the late and great Constance Shacklock, came from Nottingham but I doubt that either she or Robin Hood would care for the way it looks today.
An hour out of the city I met Lorna on the A 606 and called it a day.
We drove to the M1 and as we got onto the motorway, I fell fast asleep in that peculiarly unattractive nodding dog fashion you see on trains. If I hadn’t been restrained by my safety belt, I’d have cracked my teeth on the dashboard.
We got stuck in a huge traffic jam that lasted for aeons and just as we were losing the will to live, we left the motorway and negotiated our way cross-country until we could rejoin it several junctions later - where the vehicles were no longer parked three a breast for the foreseeable future.
Another triumphal entry into Leeds – that is, we found our way to the flats without mishap – and after a sketchy tidying up of the contents of the Jag, we went our separate ways to prepare for another insanely early start tomorrow.
I’ve an interview with Rutland Radio at 12.15 and want to get to Melton Mowbray beforehand if at all possible. Then Diana is going to join me for the afternoon and through till Sunday. It’ll be great to have company again while I’m walking – I do enjoy being on my own when the countryside is beautiful but trudging through dreary towns and cities is dreadfully dull without company.
I’ve packed my bags ready to leave Leeds and shall take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Richard Mantle, Emma Hall and all at Opera North who have helped us with the Opera Walk.
And I’m looking forward to seeing Bernard Cribbins who is coming up tomorrow, the day before he presents the concert at Oakham School. They’re in for a rare treat as Bernard is the most phenomenally gifted and charismatic entertainer I’ve ever met. When he’s performing, his energy levels are so high they’d keep the National Grid going for years.

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