Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Fighting on

Poor old chest had me coughing all night. What a pain.
A surprise delivery of a large box of crisps of all flavours and made by Tyrells, a local and very highly regarded company.
I met Leonard and June Chase at the concert last night and Leonard told me about his son William, of whom he was justifiably very proud. William was a potato farmer who realised pretty swiftly that however hard he worked, there was no livelihood to be made in farming the old fashioned way. So he took himself off to America and lived with the Amish in Pennsylvania for a year. After which he returned to Herefordshire and developed Tyrells Crisps which is now a multi-million pound business. He grows the potatoes, turns them into the most delicious crisps I’ve ever tasted, on site, and then sells them all over the world. How’s that for drive, focus and daring. Bloody marvellous. Perhaps he’d like to run the country…

No surprise for guessing that as I walked out of the house the rain started to fall heavily from a leaden sky.
We drove to Kivernoll and I set off along the B road equipped with my fluorescent tabard and plaid umbrella. I was determined that whoever ran me down had a good look at me first.
No problem with the traffic – what a relief – and then minor roads nearly all the way to the outskirts of Hereford.
I walked into the city at least twice as fast as the traffic which was backed up for the best part of a mile. Hereford was buzzing – full of people braving the rain to do their shopping – and the city centre was virtually at a standstill as far as the traffic was concerned. This is worth noting as it had an impact on the following few hours.
I’d had several long phone conversations to while away the miles and Hereford itself was a joy to walk through. I didn’t find a branch of Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society, so have still not paid off my mortgage. Bummer.
So out of Hereford I marched – along pavements and up a very long, steep hill. I’d heard nothing from Lorna since 10.15 and it was now 1.00 pm. I’d asked her to check out the A465 as I had a horrible suspicion that there would be no pavement to walk on safely. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the said A 465, Lorna hadn’t been able to check it out and was still stuck in town. I was not sure what to do for the best because the road was not pleasant to walk along even when there was a pavement – seriously fast traffic and nowhere to hide.
But not knowing what lay ahead I pressed on until it became clear that walking any further would be suicidal. So, having spotted a bridleway, I phoned Lorna who was still stuck in traffic in Hereford, and said I was going off road to cut off a corner off two dangerous roads.
The path started off reasonably well, albeit grassy and therefore wet – very wet it truth be told – but I resigned myself to another soaking and followed the clearly marked byway without difficulty.
The problems arose once I turned onto what must have been a four wheel drive path; laughingly known as a ‘green lane’: it was unbelievably muddy and rutted and, with pathetic inevitability, I lost my footing, staggered briefly and fell over into deep, slick, glutinous mud and thereafter looked like Big Foot staggering into town.
I was filthy; wet through, caked with enough mud to do justice to Glastonbury, and I spent two electric minutes swearing very loudly indeed into thin air. As Toria says, ‘you gotta laugh’. HA bloody HA.
Then I carried on. And on. Eventually I reached a road and had a funny five minutes watching the reaction of a group of horses who found my umbrella astonishingly exciting. A cheerful conversation with the Cribbins’s, which lightened my mood considerably.
And then it was onto the A465 and head on into fast traffic in the pouring rain. To be absolutely honest, I didn’t give a shit by this time.
After a couple of miles, however, I took to minor roads in an act of pure self-preservation. Lorna showed up – four and a quarter hours since I’d last seen her – and I changed out of my sodden clothes into dry ones. A passing motorist got more than he bargained for when he drove past me as I struggled into my clean clothes. I hope he had a penchant for rugby playing thighs with a touch of cellulite – otherwise he must just have suffered extreme shock.
Lorna had found a garden centre which had some super hanging baskets; and we wanted to give Bridget Eastaugh, our remarkable hostess, a present to express our gratitude for her amazing hospitality.
So as I set off, dry, clean and comfortable – and munching my delicious Tyrells crisps – Lorna drove to the said garden centre to buy a really lovely basket for Bridget.
It stopped raining. Truly. It was DRY. The sun came out, steam rose from the tarmac as I tramped up and down hill after hill, and the air became muggy and stifling. I started to get wet inside my clean Musto jacket and had to wrap it round my waist to cool off. So bizarre.
For some weird reason, I didn’t feel the need to stop for food or rest and was very happy to keep walking.
I stopped for five minutes to watch two tiny ponies wrestling with each other; there were no holds barred and they reared up and boxed before shouldering each other with all their strength. One caught hold of the other’s hock in his teeth and they spiralled round in circles until they separated. Two other tiny ponies grazed feet away from this titanic struggle without even raising their heads. It was very entertaining and I suspect they were chaps; male horses, whether they are gelded or not, will constantly juggle for top position in the herd. Mares, on the other hand, have one sorting out and then stick to the same pecking order indefinitely. Mmmm.
Shortly after, I passed a beautifully kept equestrian centre which had a Welsh dragon on a tall pole at the entrance and the Welsh flag was flying proudly above it. The fields were beautifully kept and the show jumps and cross country fences all looked in excellent repair. It made me feel quite nostalgic; perhaps the next fund raiser should be on horseback. Then I’d have blisters on my bum rather than my feet!
I’d met a charming couple painting their fence a really nice shade of green a mile or so earlier and I’d made them laugh by telling them I was walking to Leeds. It never fails.
Swinging along cheerfully, I greeted a young man coming down the hill towards me with his adolescent dog and not unreasonably, given we were the only two people around, expected to receive an equally friendly greeting. Did he say a word? Did he hell. So I shouted ‘manners’ as I marched up the hill away from him and was seriously annoyed by his deliberate rudeness. Too much inbreeding, I expect. And poor dog, having such a boor for an owner.
I decided against going off road as I was becoming quite attached to dry feet. So, down to the main road and I strode womanfully into oncoming traffic until I reached Bromyard.
As I gathered speed down hill – passing a very particular wooden sculpture with sheep and apples on it – there was a toot on a car horn. My friend Hilary and her daughter Annabelle, who were joining me for the next day’s walking, were driving past; they were in urgent search of a loo and I was opposite a garage with ‘facilities.’ The coincidence was extraordinary – I could have turned off earlier into town, for example – but, as often happens, the unlikely came to pass.
A quick chat and then I walked through Bromyard to the Holly Tree pub where I met Lorna.
Then back to Bridget’s and a delicious and sociable supper with Bridget, Jill, Lorna, Hilary, Annabelle, me, Jackie and Bryan . And then, bed. Oh joy. 23 miles.

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