Thursday, 13 March 2014

Punch the sky.

It’s late, I’m aching, I’m sat at home and I’m drinking a long long, Pina Colada cocktail on ice. That’s Rum, Cream, Coconut and Cane Sugar and that didn’t come from round here. Round here we drink lager. This bottle I won in a raffle. Mmmmh, that’s the life.

I had a lousy morning; I was really ill and people who should know better were messing me about. As you know, I only write about myself so you are spared the details.

As the morning got worse there was nothing I could do, I had lunch. Then I escaped.


This not very good photo is from the top of Box Hill where I parked – it’s a little Surrey hill and it hit some sad spots for me as I drove up. In the summer of 2012 this is where the Olympic Road Races were fought out by some of the world’s best cyclists. For more than a few years I was planning out how I’d be at the side of the road cheering them up….”Allez, Allez, Vites!”.

In the end I was too ill to go, but on the road I recognised it all from the TV – the hill, the corners, there were even some marks left on the road. Sad.

It’s a great view from the top – poets and writers have always made a lot of the Surrey hills but you need a day like today to get it. The sky was so blue you could see the moon.

There was a hot sun but the morning mist still wasn’t all burnt off by afternoon; a March sun isn’t strong enough. So, ahead of me were countless shades of misty grey as the shadowy ridges got further and further away.

Birds sang, dogs bounced, pensioners strolled, couples lay about and a strong smell of cannabis hung all over the top of the hill. It takes all sorts.

I quickly covered ‘The Hilltop Stroll’ the kindly warden had suggested to me after taking a long look at my walking stick. Boring, so then (the 8 mile hike was probably a bit too ambitious) I set off on ‘The Stepping Stones Walk’ – what could possibly go wrong?

In fact out of me, my pork pie hat and my Big Bad Boots – one of us wasn’t going to make it back in one piece.

It’s 275 steps down from the brow of the hill and going down I wasn’t doing so great – a bad ankle, two bad knees, one bad back, a thrombosis and a whole lot of problems you don’t want to know about. I made it, just.

Really worth it, walking over stepping stones in a forest glade while spring fresh river water rushes over your feet.

Under the trees, the wild garlic was everywhere but not yet flowering - when its time comes the heady scent of garlic will fill the woods.

I had a choice; the long way back and then up a steep grass slope or a short charge up those 275 steps. Of course, I went up the steps.


Wheezing, puffing, aching. In fact, I only counted 269 but whose complaining?

I made it in the end, face like a beetroot and at the top of the hill I punched the sky in triumph.

That was a very fine day.

Who didn’t make it? My Big Bad Boots died on me, that’s who – the water came in, the leather fell apart.

Three years I’ve worn them, steel toecaps and all – for work (under a suit!) to all kinds of hospitals and doctors, up hills and into all kinds of situations.

Meanwhile poor old Dr Feelgood has been working her way through the whole medicine cupboard for me and even tried behind the back of the sofa just in case there were some pills left behind there. Nothing ever worked but who would have thought that I’d have been round long enough to wear out my Big Bad Boots – I certainly didn’t.

I had to go back to the top of the hill to catch one last look; this is one man and his dog. You can click on any picture for a slideshow;

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


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