|Carol singing round the village
Christmas comes but once a year, and thank goodness for that a lot of us might say. Any more of them and we'd be positively obese! Things started to hot up in Hebden on the evening of the 23rd when a group of us braved the bleak mid-winter to traditionally sing carols round the village, thus proclaiming to anyone who didn't already know that Christmas had officially begun. Time for some ding dong merrily on high! Our scattered congregation were all very appreciative and a grand total of £118 was raised for Manorlands, a well deserving hospice in the West Yorkshire village of Oxenhope. The evening was rounded off with an alfresco gathering around a brazier where the stars shone brightly as we quaffed mulled wine and stuffed our faces with some rather more-ish mince pies.
It rained most of Christmas Eve but a brief weather window around 2pm had me reaching for my studs and nipping out the door for a seasonal run up the ghyll and over into Mossdale. It was bordering on dark when I got back two hours later, but I'd packed a head torch in my bumbag - just in case. Later, it rained harder than ever, rattling the west facing windows and seeping under the back door. Outside, the wind chimes jangled madly, like some grand crescendo to a Messiaenic masterpiece, almost drowning the Church bells calling the faithful to midnight mass.
|Choccies and malt whisky
Then it was back home to delve under the tree and pluck out our own presents while consuming yet more lunchtime nibbles and another bottle of choice bubbly. Our many presents from many friends required many digital pictures to email to said friends displaying our ecstatic faces and exceeding pleasure at receiving such thoughtful gifts. Among mine were three bottles of single malt whisky! Also, an exceedingly expensive Paramo mountain shirt from my wonderful partner which suggests to me we might be spending less time running in 2012 and more time wandering the hills together at a more sedate pace. Curiously, I 'd been thinking along roughly similar lines when I gave her a lightweight Salomon rucksack, a lightweight waterproof jacket and lightweight headtorch. But what I had in mind was RUNNING the hills as opposed to other touristy means of getting to the top!
|That bright new jacket
Boxing day was dull and cloudy but mercifully the rain had stopped. We ran up the ghyll together before parting company at Cupola Corner to go our different ways, my wonderful partner heading towards Yarnbury to return home by a shorter route, me continuing on an eight mile circuit of Grassington Moor and Bycliffe Hill to burn off more calories. My choice was a huge mistake. At 1,500ft the umpteen miles per hour gale was raging like a mad thing, all very well when bowling me along from behind, but sheer hell when I turned to face it on the way home. I progressed in fits and starts and a few short jogs over Bycliffe, but it was impossible to run with my eyes streaming water and the wind tearing my breath away.
|Stone man - a cairn high on Grassington Moor
I seem to recall reading somewhere (was it Gavin Maxwell?) there's something unlucky about ravens, but I've always regarded them as friendly birds and give them a cheery wave when I come across them up on the moor. They're particularly delightful in display mode, flying together at speed and flipping over onto their backs as they flash through the air like avian answers to the Red Arrows. No, I can't believe a bird that gives so much pleasure can be a harbinger of evil. Quite the reverse, I tell myself, hurtling towards my 80th birthday, occasionally flipping over onto my back as I trip over some projection and go flashing through the air.......... Ho hum!