thesticks

"It's raining, we'll need coats."

"Have you seen my gloves?"

"Proper gloves or those woolly things with holes in the fingers?"

"The yellow pair."

"No."

 

The dogs are ready, we set off. It isn't really raining. Maybe it has stopped or the Webmaster was wrong.

"First time for months we've needed coats." 

"Not bad considering it is already November. I was out in shirt sleeves last weekend."

At the bottom of the lane the dogs pull hard right towards the path through the farm yard but today they anticipate incorrectly. We turn left over the stile and head up the hill.

"The Student was amused by us being cold yesterday while she was swimming in an outdoor pool and sun bathing."

"Well she won't be amused if Trump wins."

"I doubt he'll win in California."

The dogs are pulling and the wind is behind us so we hardly notice the climb and it doesn't feel as cold as yesterday. For Sunday morning there are few cars on the car park. It must be the weather. We turn left and head for the footpath across the farm land and down the eastern side of the ridge. The ground is soft with localised puddles which the dogs find irresistable. The muddier the better. The Webmaster is not amused.

"Don't let the dog go into the puddles," he shouts, but too late. "Grr, now it will be wet and muddy all day."

"We've only just set off. There's no way we can get round this route without the dogs getting muddly legs."

The Old Dog suddenly turns sharply to her left and walks right across the Webmaster, almost taking him out at the knees. Recently she has seemed oblivious to all around her and this is becoming a regular hazard.

"F**k, keep your bloody dog under control," he complains somewhat unfairly as he tries to avoid overbalancing and in doing so steps into a large and very muddly puddle. "Sh*t! Sh*t." The Webmaster sounds annoyed.

"What now?"

"My feet are soaked and my trousers are falling down."

"Oh dear. Haven't you bought a new belt yet? 

"I've already got a belt."

"Haven't we had this conversation before? Just go out an buy boots and a belt. You only get wet feet and half mast trousers because you procrastinate. It's your own fault. Don't blame the dog. Or me."

"Grrr," growls the Webmaster, indicating he knows he has no valid argument.

The path takes us down a very steep, partially paved farm track which is covered in slurry and mud. The Young Dog is still pulling and the Webmaster starts to slide. He swears at the dog which ignores him. Fortunately he reaches a flatter and cleaner section of the track before losing his balance.

We see noone as we walk through the farm yard and continue on the track towards the road.

"The footpath goes that way, through the garden," I point.

"Let's go round the road." Either route will take us to the same place and there is little difference in distance. The Webmaster doesn't like public footpaths that go through private gardens, so I follow him along the road.

We turn right onto the lane and head down hill. It is steep and slippery and the Webmaster starts to slide. He is making a habit of it. I smile but don't say anything. He scowls. Then I laugh.

"What?" he demands.

"You and facebook live broadcast. You shouldn't use it while you are lying in bed."

"I wasn't. It was an accident.."

"... Your Honour!"

"It was like your dad and the colour inversion on his tablet. He accidentally put his thumb on one of the setting buttons. That's what I did."

I laugh again. He starts to laugh.

"Who would see it?" I splutter.

"All my contacts. But fortunately it has an 'are you sure' option so it didn't happen."

I am still laughing. "Is it only live and then gone?"

"No it stores a video file." I am now nearly doubled up with laughter. It is amazing we are still walking along. The dogs seem oblivious to the fun. "But it didn't happen. I stopped it."

"Imagine explaining that one to the Student. What would she say if she woke up to a video recording of your willy? You could have lost a lot of Facebook friends."

The Webmaster laughs, "Or I could have become an internet sensation."

We  turn off the lane and take another farm yard track which soon turns into a muddy, grass lane taking us back uphill. We arrive at a gate which opens away from us. The Webmaster opens it. It swings forward and he follows it. The Young Dog pulls and the gate hits a raised piece of ground and suddently stops. The Webmaster crashes into it and howls. It isn't his day and his internet porn career would appear to have been thwarted.

We continue in silence for a while only speaking to confer on the correct route. It is a long uphill drag, but the ground here is better drained and it is fairly easy going. This path will take us back to our house but we want a longer walk and have decided to turn right and extend the walk through Blackwood, towards Gratton and back up the briddle path to Lask Edge.

"This route would be OK for one of the Summer Series races if we could get permission from the farmers."

"And a suitable car park. Hill Top is too small."

"Yeah and the stile is too close to the start. It would be a bottle neck. There isn't time for the runners to thin out."

"But apart from that it would be OK."

"I think the path to the right is somewhere before the next stile. Look, I think that is where we waited for the ramblers, explaining how we would have to lift the Old Dog over."

We turn right, over the stile and follow the path down to a small finger of woodland. The Young Dog, who for the uphill climb had been walking nicely, now starts to pull harder than ever. He is really straining on the lead. His head up, his ears pricked and his eyes searching.

"Pheasants. There are pheasants in that ditch and one just went through that hedge. He's recently become obsessed with pheasants. Worse than fluffy cats."

The pheasant disappears but the Young Dog knows there are more and the Webmaster is struggling to hold him back. He charges down the last few metres towards the stile at the bottom of the hill and the Webmaster flies along behind. The ground is wet and there are rocks near the stile. Another pheasant appears on the far side of the stile and the Young Dog takes off. The Webmaster slides into the stile and narrowly avoids being dragged over by twisting the dog's lead round one of its posts. The Young Dog stops but continues to pull. The pheasant has gone. The Webmaster climbs over the stile and regains control.

His feet are wet and his trousers have slipped down again. He is not having a good time.

We emerge from the trees and follow the farm track. The views over the Roaches and the moorlands are dramatic. Dark hills against slate grey sky contrast with the green of the farmland foreground.

"You wouldn't get that in a photo," said the Webmaster.

"No, not just snapping pictures, but I would have done when I used to take proper photographs. In the days when I had a manual camera and had to set everything myself."

"Amazed you had time to take any photographs, it takes you ages with an automatic. Which way now?"

"That way. I wonder if the donkeys are still there."

They were, huddled behind their stable hut sheltering from the cold northeasterly wind.

We decide to walk along the lane. Last time we came this way the Old Dog struggled with the stile onto the footpath and then we got lost. We still can't see where the path goes when it passes the farm yard. The road, is easier despite the steep, sharp bend. 

"Past my ancestral home," said the Webmaster as we walk past an old tudor style farmhouse.

"I haven't found any records of your family owning this place in any of the Staffordshire records."

"My aunt said it was. We went in, remember?"

"No, you weren't with me. I was at work earning money. You were with your aunt."

"Oh. Could have been." 

We continue along the oak tree lined lane until we reach the bridle path. It starts to rain hard and we stop to fasten our coats and pull on our hoods. "The dogs will definitely be wet after this rain."

"Now for the long slog back to the top."

"This would be a good training route for running."

"You'd have to be pretty strong to run up here with this soft, uneven and muddy ground."

"Good training though."

"Yeah, unless you twist your ankle."

We concentrate on the uphill walk. Once into our rhythm it isn't difficult. The rain stops before we reach the top but the light has faded and dark clouds have gathered.

"You can't see the hills or the moors now. They are completely hidden in the clouds, and it's raining over there," I point to the almost vertical streaks of dark grey descending from the cloud.

We walk along the road on the final mile back home. It begins to rain again.

"I'll be glad when we are back and I can take these wet shoes and socks off," said the Webmaster as though anticipating the end of an ordeal.

"Get a pair of decent boots."