Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pressing on

During the night I was aware of bits of me hurting that have never hurt before. I got up and took some Nurofen at 5am and it helped enough to let me go back to sleep till 8.30am. Then I got up and did some gentle stretches to warm up the tired muscles. The foot massager that Angie and Sue lent me really eased the complaining ligaments and tendons, and gradually the chorus of groans from my body died down to a tolerable murmur.
Lorna and I left the flats at 10am and arrived, nearly half an hour later, at the Grand, which is about half a mile away. The one way system in Leeds is a total nightmare; if the aim of the planners is to keep cars out of the city centre, they’re going about it the wrong way. So many people get lost in the inner city loop and one way streets that it takes several circuits of the city to either get out of Leeds or reach your destination. A strange way of dealing with the problem of pollution; a local said to me it was all ‘arse about face.’ So there you have it.
Lorna took a photo of me outside the Grand Theatre, which is the home of Opera North and which is in the midst of a huge refurbishment. It promises to be spectacularly good and will make an excellent home for a truly excellent company.
Then I set off out of Leeds; back the way I’d come to begin with and then I started my doomed search for the A61. It’s so much harder on foot to find a direct way out of a city because all signs seem to be road signs.
I started with a flourish and then mistakenly followed road signs which, after a long, hot slog beside a dual carriageway, brought me to – the M1. Whoops!
So I made for Middleton, had superb directions from a lady pharmacist and found my way back on to the A639 which would eventually connect with the A61 rather than the motorway.
I was a bit dim to be honest, but after the strenuous day yesterday my brain was as foggy as my feet were tired. The weather was hot and getting hotter by the minute and I felt as if I’d be walking in circles indefinitely if I didn’t hurry up and get a grip. Of Lorna there was no sign; she was lost in the one way system again, poor thing.
My two great friends, Carolyn and Julia, whom I’d last seen at Buckingham Palace on Day 1, were joining me for two days walking; and by a series of phone calls, they tracked me down at a gigantic roundabout just as the A61 reappeared. Of Lorna there was still no sign and I began to wonder if I’d ever see her again…
Carolyn began to walk with me while Julia drove quickly ahead to do a recce. In no time at all, Julia phoned with a complete description of the route to Wakefield including footways, pavements, difficult crossings and pubs! Yes, pubs. These girls certainly have their priorities firmly in place.
So, while Julia carried on scouting the road ahead, Carolyn and I walked the route she described and had a good old chinwag. Carolyn was a branch manager for Barclays Bank until the end of last October; she decided that her health and sanity were worth preserving and since she retired she has got her life just the way she wants it. She’s started a gardening business; ‘Carrie on Gardening’ which is a huge success and she plays as much golf as she wants at Effingham Golf Club where she is secretary to the Captain. Being super efficient and capable like Julia, who has also recently retired from her job (something demanding to do with computers), Carolyn has such a busy life she doesn’t know how she ever managed to go to work.
Lorna eventually passed us about forty minutes after the girls found me and when we met briefly for water supplies, we all agreed to meet for lunch at the Rose and Crown which was another two miles further on.
The girls treated us to lunch, which was very much worth the wait. Newly baked baguettes with delicious fillings and perfectly judged side salads were just the job, and sitting in the cool of the pub was a huge relief after the relentless heat outside.
The young lady behind the bar let us leave Julia’s car in the pub car park for a couple of hours and after use of the facilities, we three set off again towards Wakefield.
After several miles, Lorna picked up Carolyn so she could retrieve their car and Julia and I negotiated our way through and out of Wakefield. It was not what you might call ‘fun’ but we did have the pleasure of walking over a medieval bridge beside an ancient chapel, which overlooked a really lovely stretch of river. What a contrast to the busy roads and grimy buildings that looked as uncomfortable as us in the sweltering heat.
We toiled out of the city and as the need for facilities was yet again upon us, we cheekily nipped into a pub and used the Ladies before cheekily nipping out again. We gathered a few stares and glares, but tough. If pressed, I’d have bought some crisps but fortunately, I wasn’t – pressed, that is.
We passed the very Volvo garage from which Julia’s car had originated – even though she lives in Surrey near me; and Carolyn, who was, like Lorna, scouting ahead, spotted a Guy Salmon dealership. I phoned Lorna and suggested she might like to pop in and see if we could have a picture taken with the Opera Walk Jag on their forecourt; this she duly did and the charming manager not only had the picture taken by his equally charming assistant, but he also promised to e-mail it to Guy Salmon of Thames Ditton. Brilliant.
Carolyn parked the Volvo once more and we three set off on the B road that Lorna had scouted earlier. Unfortunately, it turned out to be rather fast and dangerous with longish gaps in the pavements which rapidly became suicidal to walk along.
A quick consultation with the map and we realised that the Trans Pennine Trail was accessible a short way further on. So, with Carolyn back in the Volvo and heading for Royston, Julia and I ended the day’s walking with an hour and a half’s rambling through lovely wooded countryside. The path was shaded, level and clearly marked; just the job after a long, hot day. The last half mile stretched, as country miles do, into at least double the figure written on the finger posts; but it was so peaceful and pleasant and the temperature had subsided into gently warm rather than ferociously baking, that neither of us minded the extra distance.
Carolyn was waiting for us at the end of the trail in Royston – clever girl – and of Lorna there was no sign. When I phoned, she reported that she was in the Co-op car park some two miles away; so Carolyn, Julia and I sank gratefully into the air-conditioned comfort of the Volvo and drove to the middle of town to locate Lorna and the Jag.
I collected some bits and pieces from the support vehicle and told Lorna she could go back to Leeds; we three did some food shopping at the Co-op and then followed her sedately, retracing our journey and measuring the mileage on the trip. I walked 18 miles today and the girls did a little less.
As they’d been unable to find accommodation for the night whilst we’d been walking, I suggested they stay at my flat and we’d do something clever with cushions to make an extra bed. A bit Blue Peterish really, but it worked. Lorna kindly brought more cushions from her flat and joined us for a glass of bubbly before she retired for the evening. I treated Carolyn and Julia to a really great meal at a pucker Italian restaurant on Leeds Bridge and then it was home to bed and into the arms of blessed Morpheus yet again!


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