Wednesday, 26 February 2014

There's A Reason They Call It The Great Outdoors

I suspect it happened in the Lake District - the time when I first became aware of her absolute power over me.  For my being there at all in order to fall in love, I have my parents to thank, but particularly my father who, it seemed to me, had a wonderful if somewhat never fully explained affinity with that land: the moors and the lakes evoked a poetry and a buoyancy in him which kept itself carefully concealed for the most part in everyday life.  Of course if my mother were here as I write this she would argue that it kept itself very concealed, alluding to his general lack of energy and enthusiasm for daily chores. 

But out there among those hopelessly exposed moorlands, amid magnificent ancient rock faces he turned into something of a scholar; a romantic for the poets and the painters and the writers that had gone before us and he seemed to find great solace in that dark, dripping terrain.  My mother also respected and appreciated the ragged, unique beauty of the lakes but also regarded them as a dangerous and forbidden territory, only to be enjoyed from the comfort and relative safety of a car, and never on a day that was anything other than clear, dry and mild.  

Of course I did not agree with the latter, but the sense of menace she painted only helped fuel my already flaming ten year old imagination; and the thought of what danger awaited amid the mists and marshlands (beasties, werewolves, snakes, escaped lunatics?) drew me to the natural conclusion that the wilderness was a much more exciting place to be than say, a small harmless conservative village in Kent. It was at this age I therefore declared (with a sincerity that almost alarmed my mother) that on reaching adulthood I would without doubt be very happy living in some shambles of a farmhouse “slap bang in the middle of nowhere”. 

Yes, there were just so many secrets and so much charm to the great outdoors: it’s artistry, its seemingly ever changing weather; its star smothered skies and it’s black, black nights all seemed like a different planet and, undoubtedly like anyone before me, to cast my eye over such wonders, it felt like I was the one discovering it all for the very first time. 

Never was this truer than the day I took it upon myself to explore the remarkable terrain alone and on foot. Purposely waking early and tip-toeing from my rather quaint, quiet bed and breakfast room, past my brothers breathing heavy in sleep; I made my way out into the morning and found it to be perfectly composed and placid; everything peaceful and in its place.  The moisture of a new dawn was still hanging in the air, enough to fill my lungs, and my only company was the sound of grazing animals or the odd bird heard amid the mist, as I strode with absolute freedom up to the moors.

How could I be anything but enchanted by the sense of escape? The lack of society with all its silly restraints! This gave me a rush which until that point in my life I had never experienced. Moreover, it was one I had never questioned: a ten year old never would until they experience an alternative. That is not to say – and I absolutely stress this point – that I had a terrible or restrictive existence up until then. My childhood was very fun and pleasantly safe and there is a part of my heart which will always belong to the place where I was raised. Rather this is akin to falling in love; being seduced by a way of life that felt both terribly alien and remarkably comforting to me at the same time. 

Exploring the outdoors, hiking, climbing, being free, challenging oneself – it’s as good a past time as one could manage on this earth, which offers plenty of artificial, unremarkable alternatives.  Twenty three years later I've not reached that farmhouse in the middle of nowhere; far from it in fact as I currently reside in London where I find work, friends and film-making a most agreeable lifestyle.  However I have dedicated a vast majority of the last 2.5 decades going back to the wild.  I have hiked and scrambled my way through parts of Germany, Wales, Canada, Scotland, Sweden, Austria, Greece and the many rugged landscapes of inland and coastal England. I won’t ever settle in London, a man like me never could, but for now it will do - and whenever I feel restless my hiking boots are never far away.  Then it’s simply a case of seeing where my feet will take me.

C.P.S courtesy of inside Shadows protected by copyright 2013