Wednesday 28 December 2011

Christmas frolics

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
     It rained throughout Christmas day too, but we didn't care. We didn't have to go out and besides, we'd a few other interesting things to do. I'll unashamedly admit that, apart from one cup of tea at breakfast time the rest of my fluid intake for the day consisted entirely of alcohol. It began before lunch when a charming elderly neighbour invited us into her cottage for champagne and 'nibbles' around her brightly decorated tree. It's essential  to have a man around on these occasions because her fingers are not strong enough to uncork the champagne. I'm more than happy to oblige!
     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
     A bottle of excellent Chardonnay, suitably chilled, accompanied the traditional Christmas dinner, preceded by a mouthwatering salmon and prawn starter and concluded with some rather rich Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. I barely remember washing up, or at what time we crawled up to bed, but I do remember waking in the wee small hours feeling exceedingly dehydrated and in need of some fluid other than alcohol.
     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
      It was the same for the next mile, along the Mossdale track and past the Stone Man (cairn) until I'd dropped a couple of hundred feet to the long wall below Howgill Nick where it was only slightly less exposed.  I stood for a couple of minutes beside the wall, totally knackered, getting my breath back and waiting for some strength to seep back into my old legs for the long run down.  Then, as I set off running again, an amazing thing happened. A raven cronked overhead, riding the wind majestically, perhaps showing me how clever he was at handling the maelstrom. That raven stayed with me like some guardian angel for the next three miles, almost until I was back in the village. It joined me at almost exactly the same place on a previous occasion but left me after a mile or so. On Boxing Day it stayed with me until I'd run over all the rougher, stonier parts of the ghyll, crossed the swollen beck on submerged stepping stones and all the way down to the final ½ mile of smooth tarmac where it gave a final 'cronk' and sailed away.
    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!


  1. Looks like you had a lovely Xmas lunch. Pleased to see that you are keeping running to fight the excess of this time of year.

  2. Beautiful blog RF. Thank you. I'm with you all the way vis-a-vis ravens. I've watched them flying just above me on many an occasion when I've been lying on the fell in my bivvy-bag waiting to be found by the rescue dogs. Glorious birds.

  3. It must have been raining round the world on Christmas! We got a good soaking too.

    The jacket you gave is just gorgeous- and she will be easily found if she has it on. :) Smart thinking!

    I had a little chuckle at the words bumbag and headtorch..Since I call mine a fanny pack and torches don't go anywhere near my head or my hair would be burnt!

    Glad you had a merry Christmas!

  4. Another wonderful report Running Fox, and another brilliant year of running for you (save for the lay off). Let's hope for a great running year ahead... and a happy New Year to you on all other fronts too.

  5. In the past I have let ravens out of keepers' traps, so I always think fondly about them - often wondering if they are some of mine! - I think they live to a ripe old age, so there is every chance I'll bump into a few from time to time.

    Looks like you have had a splendid Christmas - here's to a great new year to you both too.

  6. Ere, bladdy Booth. Happy Christmas.

    "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."

    Does this mean we will see you in the hills again, WALKING up to summits? Maybe, even climbing again??


  7. Alan, I've released them too but our local keeper has now moved the trap and I haven't yet found out where he's hidden it! A Happy New Year to you too - and another super duper Challenge.

    'ere, bladdy Scott, welcome to my Blog and a Very Happy New Year to you and Maria. Not sure about the walking and climbing, Don't think I'm old enough to return to such sedate pastimes yet!