|Together after the Langdale ½ marathon, 2010
Last weekend marked a very special anniversary. In July 1991 I received a note from a casual acquaintance, a friend of a friend, asking if I'd like to accompany her to the Lake District and help devise a route she was planning to do with her mountaineering club a few weeks later. The plan was to camp in Eskdale for a couple of nights, reconnoitre the route on our first day to ascertain whether it was feasible, then do our own thing on the second day. "I'll bring all the food and cooking gear" she assured me, "just bring your sleeping bag".
As she opened the boot of her car to unload our gear at a campsite in the wilds of Eskdale a curious look of concern spread over her face.
|Wild camp in the Western Isles, 2009
"Where's your tent?" she asked.
"Er...I didn't bring one, you told me to just bring a sleeping bag" I reminded her. The rest, as they say, is history.
Last Sunday we awoke together after twenty glorious and unforgettable years. Curiously, we've never been back to that spot in Eskdale though we've since camped in wilder and equally beautiful places; by otter-haunted shorelines on remote Hebridean islands, by laughing rivers and sparkling waterfalls in deserted glens, beneath the Eiger and other Alpine giants where, amongst other things, we've run the Eiger Trail and climbed the Schwartzhorn during our annual jaunts to Grindelwald and Kandersteg.
|Climbing on the Schwartzhorn, 2008
We've raced together on British roads and Spanish promenades, through Swiss forests and manicured vineyards in the World Masters Mountain Running Championship, waded rivers and run the high hills of energy-sapping fell races and tough off-road Trails in the Cumbrian hills.
We've talked and run with 'Island Parish' celebrities in the Scillies. We celebrated my 70th birthday at a wild camp in Glen Shiel while walking and running some rough miles to complete the last 23 of 284 Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft) when many of the high tops were swathed in snow and ice. Many of our exploits and victories have been chronicled in the local press. We even appeared, albeit briefly, in 'Calendar Girls'' a popular film that swept the nation.
|After The World Masters Mountain Running
Championships, Switzerland, 2006
We've run the hills and shorelines of Crete, Grand Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma.
On annual Great Outdoor Challenges we've backpacked our way through some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery from Strathcarron and Lochailort in the west to a seemingly faraway Montrose on the eastern seaboard.
Remarkably, in all those years there has never been a raised voice, argument or cross word between us. We've learned to accept each other just as we are, warts and all.
|Here's to the next 20 years - La Palma, 2011
I didn't hear very much of the sermon in Church last Sunday, in fact I couldn't concentrate much on anything at all. "What page are we supposed to be on?" I'd to ask the person behind me. My mind was too busy reminiscing about those twenty action-packed years and privately thanking God for all the manifold blessings bestowed upon us since that fateful day, July 17th 1991, after we'd eventually come to terms with having just the one tent. Judging by our amazing experiences since then, I reckon God has either long ago forgiven my frivolous misdemeanour or, what is more likely, He jolly well arranged it!.