Sunday, June 21, 2009

A lesson learned

Most of my life I have been afraid of two things, lions and lightning. Both totally irrational. Last night we went out camping again in the mountains. Despite the terrible forecast, written in red, warning of horrific storms, damaging hail, high winds etc. we decided to go anyway. It was after all supposed to be ‘intense but brief’.

For me it was a sort of test, something I have tried many times to do, to sleep out during a lightening storm. The place we went was perfect because too far away to go back if things got bad. At a certain point Massimo suggested we might like to get the fuck out but on pointing out that it might be more risky to cross the hillside in the open we decided to stay.

The weather gods as usual only allowed us to put up our tents before opening the skies so we took shelter in one of the abandoned sheiling huts to prepare the meal.

Actually I got quite blasé about it all. The cracks and booms and deafening vibrations and the momentarily brilliantly lit skies. I mean normally I would have just legged it. But here there was nowhere to leg it to and I was determined to brave it out. One does not after all wish to have ones reputation as an outdoorsman destroyed overnight by curling up in a quivering heap in a corner and sobbing ‘mummy! Mummy!’.

It all seemed perfect, a perfect place to put myself to the test, huddled half-way up a mountain, next to a prominent rock, in an abandoned shepherd’s hut with only half a roof, about a meter away from a lightening tree, and in a place with a huge roll of rusting wire fencing (none of this intentional though, it just happened that way). I was ready to be cured.

Anyway, as the storm got worse I got more blasé and even went out of the hut. Just before nightfall I went up on the crest (the only place there’s a signal) to phone the wife to tell her we were alright. I just finished calling and put the phone in my pocket when suddenly and instantly all my hair stood one end, hair hair, beard hair, moustache hair, hairs on arms and most probably hair in other parts as well was straining skywards. The oddly horrible sensation of having my moustache hairs straining up towards my nose sticks in my mind. Bol Lix!

Formula one drivers don’t know what fast is. I can tell them. Fast is the speed at which I exclaimed – oh fuck, threw my phone down in the direction of the tents, and bending double ran down over treacherous moorland trying at the same time to relieve myself of my knife which I wear round my neck.

As usual in these almost-about-to-die moments there was no panic you just react with great calm and time slows endlessly. You have to do certain things to live, you do them. It’s odd. I just seemed to glide over the surface of the ground, all pain in my heel gone, all stiffness in muscles and joints gone, totally focussed on getting the hell out.

But as I reached the tents still no searing heat and light and no strike either where I had been standing moments earlier. I’m not quite sure how lightning works and maybe it had nothing to do with imminent lightning strike but who cares. I’m taking it that I was being taught a lesson.

The night passed without incident, it rained copiously all night and there was a lot of lightning but we awoke to a perfect dawn. I went up to the rock promontory to watch the sunrise and I went up the way I had run so fast down the night before. Knee deep holes, rocks, slippery grass. Almost impossible to cover the ground at a jog or a fast walk without breaking a leg or an ankle let alone at a full-scale pelt. The things humans can do sometimes amaze me, really amaze me.

So I have learned my lesson. Don’t push your luck Woozle. There’s obviously a reason for not totally overcoming my fear. The gods would seem to want me to hold onto a healthy respect. It sort of puts me back in my place again reminding me that I’m only a speck on the surface of this earth and that at any minute something might come along and just flick me away. Therefore, party on dude before they pull the plug.

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