Sunday, 25 October 2015

Lost Loves and Rekindled Friendships


As I write this the last lingering warmth of summer has dissipated into the windblown grey rains of autumn.  This seasonal change is one of the beauties of living as it replenishes life, which then fades, only to be renewed.  This seasonal change can be viewed as a metaphor for life itself, or more so for those lost loves and rekindled friendships that follow us through life’s great journey, as some ebb and flow, others disappear and are no more, whilst some are renewed and occasionally intensify with an unbridled passion for new life.

I’ve found writing to be part cathartic, part enjoyment and part pain in the arse as inspiration can be difficult to find on occasion, but when inspiration is there, it can blossom in all manner of weird and wonderful ways.  I’ve also found that when writing one should be as honest and open as one can, this can be easily filed under catharsis, however this need for cathartic honesty does not manifest itself very often when writing about surveying a hill, but this article necessitates an honesty that as of yet I do not know where it will take me.  But I’m going to give it a go and hope that the inspiration that I now feel can manifest itself in an honesty that will heal wounds that appeared many a year ago, and although wounds can be repaired their after affects can be on view either externally or in the case of lost loves, internally.

These brief introductory paragraphs have touched upon lost loves, but what of the rekindled friendships?  These come in many forms, where anticipation creates levels of excitement seldom experienced, they can also be unexpected and short lived.  Each can be fulfilling but few maintain a level where friendships from years gone by are rekindled through communication, giving time for understanding of humour and character to flourish.

Many lost loves and friendships that are rekindled are based on encounters that can be traced back to formative years of adolescence and young adult life when the world seemingly explodes with opportunity.    These encounters are sometimes planned, occasionally they just happen or they form out of the wants of life, when groups of people are put together.  The usual place for the adolescent meetings when relationships and friendships are formed is during the schooling years of one’s life.  These are usually hectic with a semblance of study and a sprinkling of alcohol and snogging.  This is when many an important encounter originally takes place.

Although I’ve tried to introduce this article based around its title, I do not know if I am succeeding as I occasionally ramble and dance around the edges, instead of throwing myself into the fray, so let’s stop the dance and let’s get flung into the fray and see where I end up. This article concerns itself with two members of the Evans clan.  For the purposes of this article this clan consists of two sisters, one I was in school with and the other I fell in love with.  These two sisters are from good mid Walian farming stock; their names are Louise and Helen with Lou being the elder by 27 months.

I remember Lou as a quiet, slender girl in school, somewhat unassuming but pleasantly approachable.  We dated once in the local cinema when viewing the Eiger Sanction seemed of little concern, I have only just apologised for my actions from that evening, oh the fumbling of adolescent youth.  In later years I was somewhat shocked to find that Lou spent some of her schooling years snogging older boys whilst wrapped up in sleeping bags during 24-hour charity football marathons.  I remember Helen as Lou’s younger sister who looked drop dead gorgeous in an impish sort of way.

At the age of 15 I went to France on a school exchange trip and stayed in a large, old farmhouse with a welcoming family.  Lou also went on this exchange trip and we both have photographs showing our friends from school wearing the widest Oxford Bags and winged collared shirts that mid 1970’s fashion would allow.  This trip to France brings back many happy memories that in part have been rekindled from photographs that we both have.

During later school years we drifted apart, after school I remained in my home town and got a job, whilst Lou went off to more exciting climes of college life.  We were brought together by Helen, who invited me to a house party where copious amounts of snogging then took place.

As my relationship with Helen started she was living in Manchester in her brother’s house with Lou.  I remember my first visit to this house to stay the weekend and finding that Lou had blossomed into an attractive gazelle of a creature.  However, those school day encounters and their periphery impressions were again shocked into the present to find that Lou now smoked, surely not…. Lou, smoking…. never, but there she was puffing away.  Oh the innocence of formative school years when encounters make lasting impressions.

As my relationship with Helen continued she asked if I wanted to live with her in a house in a near town.  We stayed there for a few months and then moved into a house toward the top of a country lane above where her Mum and Dad farmed.

Between these two moves we went on holiday to Greece with Lou coming along as chaperone.  I stayed for just over three weeks with the two sisters, whilst they remained in Greece for a full month.  We travelled around the mainland before island hopping from Santorini to Crete.  It was joyous, warm, and culturally magnificent and eye openingly appealing, especially when we visited Paleochora in southern Crete and spent a number of days naked on a beach getting fried to a cinder in the increasingly warm weather.

Memories of Greece

However, all good things come to an end, and for me my little world of love was soon to come a crumbling around me.  When Helen finished our relationship I was devastated and wallowed in unknown emotional turmoil that I had not experienced before, and seldom experienced since.  Now I know how driven this younger Evans sister is, and I can see a life near to where she was born and brought up was not for her, I partly knew this when we were together but did not have the maturity to understand the intricacies of life and relationships and the impact that love can have upon those emotional heartstrings.  Oh the devastation and hurt.

As well as losing Helen I also lost contact with Lou.  This is only natural when a relationship ends, as each individual meanders back to life pre-relationship, and Lou’s life was firmly placed beside Helen. 

Years then passed, and I discovered the hills and the beauty and fulfilment that they give.  My life also discovered a new love which lasted for many years, but again it left me with pain and suffering and the need for unbridled wallowing where tears were a plenty.  During these years I’d heard that Helen was married, divorced, married again and now living in Australia, whilst Lou, continued being an enigma in her own lunchtime, waiting, for life to happen.

It seemed our lives continued without each other, as lives are prone to do.  When this happens it is only circumstance that throws people together, and that circumstance happened through a friend request on the GJ Surveys Facebook page.  As I accessed the FB site I recognised the profile picture of Lou’s smiling face next to that of Helen’s, the two Evans sisters together on one profile picture.  I pressed ‘Confirm’ and Lou and I started communicating via FB, these were just a few lines at first which seems to be the norm on Facebook.  Soon, however, we had swapped email addresses and away we went.  It seemed that there was initial exploration of character before one humorously buoyant email flowed into the next.  There was banter a plenty in these emails where ideas and rib pokes would be thrown from one to the other and back again, between the banter there were other moments when Lou proclaimed the virtues of Stuart Maconie and related the shouting emanating from her flat when ‘the lovely boys’ beat their neighbours at the beautiful game one fine day at Twickenham.  I soon noticed that I would switch my laptop on in the morning ready to extol the virtues of life, the hills and having a Trimble, but would find myself being drawn toward my email ‘Inbox’ looking for the word ‘Louise’.

(L-R) Louise and Helen

Our Lou was now living in Worcester and working in finance and insurance in Birmingham, catching a god forsaken early train each working morning and making her way around the corner from the recently redeveloped New Street Station to her 1st floor office.  She was still in contact with her old love; Jim, from Manchester days, now married with children, he was also working in Birmingham and they would meet for lunch to enjoy the essence of lifelong friendship.

As our email exchange progressed Lou invited me to stay and suggested a walk on the Malvern Hills.  She described herself as not being outdoorsy and was now living with an injured back; I offered a piggy back if the going got rough.

On The Hill

We met at the North Quarry car park in North Malvern, she entered the fray with effervescence reminiscent of a teenager, with smiles, waving arms and dancing poses.  Some, although not all, captured on camera.  It was great to see her and we hugged.  It seemed as if I had been transported back thirty years as here beside me was this intelligent, attractive gazelle of a creature bombarding me with ready wrapped rolls and a multitude of smiles, I had an urge to squeeze her legs which looked incredibly slender.

The photo is all the better for being out of focus

Leaving Lou’s personally initialised number plated car at North Quarry car park I drove south to Upper Wyche where we parked and started our ascent of Worcestershire Beacon.  This hill is the highest in the Malvern Hills and also within the county of Worcestershire.  As we walked arm in arm a number of dog walkers and push chair pushers past us, we soon stopped and sat on a bench for our continued nattering and reminiscing, although surprisingly there was little of the latter.  We continued our stroll up the hill, with lots of chat and an occasion back stretch from Lou and a bit of a puff emanating from me.

Over the last week or so the weather had been beautifully warm with slight cooling breeze on the hills, and blue skied happiness above.  These conditions gave early morning mist that usually rose and burnt off by mid-day.  However, today’s late morning saw the mist rise and embed itself firmly in cloud that although above the local hill tops, remained firmly in place giving a monochrome stillness to the land.  Lou described this as ‘soft’, and it was, as the hills and their landscape merged and seemed periphery to life’s activity as they were no more than a side show to rekindle that long lost friendship.

Trust, truth and honesty are just some of the important factors in life, and over many years I have found that friendship is another.  Friendships formed can remain an intrinsic part of one’s life, those that have been rekindled are rather special as they should be gently nurtured and enjoyed as opportunities once lost and now found are ones not to lose again.

As we approached the top of Worcestershire Beacon I asked Lou to find me the highest natural ground and off she went having a look around and then pointing to a rock between the trig pillar and the topographic viewfinder, ‘that’s the point there, put the Trimble there’.  As Lou switched the equipment on I led her through creating a file and soon she had it all set up, ready to gather data.  As it quietly beeped away we kept a firm eye on the multitude that were either gathered around the area of the summit, or were walking toward the trig and viewfinder.  We only asked three couples if they would mind taking a wide berth around the Trimble, they all kindly did so and it remained undisturbed for its five minutes of data collection.

At the summit of Worcestershire Beacon

During the summit survey Lou gave me another neatly wrapped bun to eat and once the Trimble had been safely packed away we sat on a seat close to the high point and happily munched away through our continued conversation.  During this time the sun shot through the cloud and bathed us in its warmth for a few minutes, we smiled, took some photos and continued chatting away.

Worcestershire Beacon is just one of a number of hills that form the Malvern Hills, the hill range is orientated north – south and stretches for approximately 13 km (8 miles).  With the ranges name of Malvern being adopted by the sprawling spa town at its foot and having been derived from the Welsh words Moel (bare, bald) and Bryn (hill).  With a name like this it felt like being back home.

Worcestershire Beacon (SO 768 452)

Our visit to the hills was only going to be short in time and distance as it was an outing that formed a part of the ‘getting to know one another again’ event of the weekend.  As a bi-product of this the hills formed a soft landscape of beauty to conversation and movement, it seemed as if they were there only for us.  This may sound slightly whimsical, but the essence of hill walking is fleeting where one experiences time and space during movement, the views during the times in the hills will remain in all but cloudy conditions and yet they are only there for you, when you yourself are also there.  This aspect is more defined when in company as hill detail is often not seen as conversation and the enjoyment of company can dictate priority, and this was in evidence today as except for the memory instilled by photographs I have very little memory of the hills themselves, there was too much to talk about and laugh about and enjoy outside of the landscape that we were moving through.

As we left our seat we continued arm in arm down to the intervening col between Worcestershire Beacon and Sugarloaf Hill where I set the Trimble up on my rucksack for five minutes of data collection.  This was not one of the three surveys I had hoped to do during the day, but this col looked lower than that on the northern side of Sugarloaf Hill, and although given as higher on the map, I thought it would be fun to compare heights.

North Hill (SO 769 463)

We then continued around the western flank of Sugarloaf Hill and looked down on the St James’s girl’s school in Colwall where Lou’s mother; Marion, stayed doing work experience when in her early 20’s.  Ahead of us was the col that the map gives as the critical one for our second and last hill of the day; North Hill.  As the Trimble gathered data perched on top of my rucksack I sent Lou off to shoo away any walkers that may head down toward it, this stopped us having another break and picnic on a bench, and as I approached the budding surveyor she turned and coyly smiled back at me as the people who were seemingly heading straight down toward the Trimble had branched off on another lower path.

Lou with Worcestershire Beacon in the background

A greened path led us up to the summit of North Hill and by the time we had assessed the ground for the highest high point Lou put the Trimble down on the small outcrop of rock and I pressed ‘Log’.  By now the dullness of colour gave out afternoon cold and Lou’s back needed warmth and she quickly manufactured a space blanket as a fashion accessory which looked rather striking wrapped around her thighs.  This then quickly turned in to an extra scarf that stood bold upright pointing toward the heavens.

At the summit of North Hill

Once five minutes of data were gathered from the summit of North Hill I switched the equipment off, took a few photos and re-joined Lou who was enthusiastically heading down the hill to investigate the view and to see if we could see the clock tower where one of our cars was parked next to.  We could not, and decided that our onward route was back over the summit and down toward End Hill.  On the way I felt the Trimble case and it was empty, feck alive, I’d left the Trimble on the summit whilst we were wandering down the hill to look at the view.  Thankfully it was still there when we passed and I picked it up, placed it in its case and away we went taking the path leading down beside the eastern flank of End Hill.  Nearing the road this attractive, gazelle like creature of wit and wisdom and buoyant energy took a tumble, I picked her up and thankfully no damage to back and body was done.  We arrived back at Lou’s car 3½ hours after leaving mine.

Heading down from the hill

Upended Rowing Boats

The walk over the northern ridge of the Malvern Hills had given us time to re-acquaint ourselves with one another, as indeed had the email thread over the previous five weeks.  As we changed into clean clothes the sun came out and remained with us for the remainder of the day.  On our way back to Lou’s flat we called in for a tea, coffee and cake at a local café before she led the way through the outskirts of Worcester.

It was a joy to be in Lou’s company and although life for both of us had moved on since our school days and the sun drenched bathing on Greek beaches, it seemed that life’s friendship remained the same.  As we sat for an evening meal of Thai Green Curry followed by Pavlova she said that Helie wanted to speak with me during the Face Time slot Lou had pencilled in for the next morning.  I thought ‘oh my god’ it had taken courage to meet one Evans sister after 18 years of not seeing one another, and now I was about to speak to the sister who had broken my heart so many years ago.  I said that I would speak with her, but asked Lou if she could dress me up in disguise, thankfully we never got around to the toe nail painting part of this disguise, but ever up for new experiences this may form part of a future visit, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Helen is now living in Australia and is happily married to Mark, a drumming and kite surfing Ozzie.  As the Face Time connection popped up on Lou’s IPad I thought back to all those years ago, to a still young adult, not mature in so many ways and the relationship that developed and the love felt and then lost.  As Helen’s face appeared on the screen, that same smile shone back and there was a little yelp as she saw the length and colour of my hair.  We chatted away with Mark next to Helen and Lou diving in for conversational titbits.  After half an hour and being shown around their house and meeting their ever so cute dogs we said our goodbyes and the connection to the opposite side of the world faded away.

It felt good to speak with Helen and Mark, although the art of conversation via video connection is one that I have not yet mastered.  Probably unbeknownst to either Lou or Helen, this conversation, in some small way, was a cathartic experience for me, and one that was long overdue, as the years following loves lost should not be embroiled in either pain or bitterness, these emotions are often felt when the splitting up is initiated by one’s partner, but life and its delicate and meandering ways is too joyful for these emotions to remain and fester, they should be understood and accepted as part of life’s great journey.

As one Evans sister disappeared to finish off their glass of wine 9,400 miles away the other had laid plans for us to visit ‘Plan B’.  This turned out to be a wonderful earthy experience of home furnishings in a beautifully renovated and decorated house and outbuildings named Baileys.  The company is run by Mark and Sally Bailey, who won the ‘best homewares retailer’ in the Telegraph Magazine 2012.  As we sat in an upended rowing boat having English morning tea that was placed on a table made out of rust, I could but smile, for as well as it definitely being an earthy experience it also seemed that an upended boat can be a metaphor for those friendships and relationships that enrich one’s life, as some sway on the wave and make progress, others sink without trace and a few are upended but somehow survive the passage of time.

On our way back to Lou’s flat we stopped off in Worcester and visited Waterstones, where I had reserved a copy of the ‘Dull Men of Great Britain’ book.  This had only just been published and page 48 is dedicated toward three Mountain Measurers.  As we entered the store Lou looked at the nearest book display and smiled as Stuart Maconie’s latest book sat next to a book entitled Extreme Eiger, you just had to laugh.  As the man behind the counter found the book and looked at the cover, Lou proclaimed that ‘we have a dull man in our midst’, the person behind the counter looked a little puzzled before she burst out with ‘we do, check page 48 for the dull man’, once page 48 was turned to, the Waterstones employee uttered the never forgotten words of ‘Oh Blimey’.  On our way back to the car the promised piggy back took place with the happy rider ushering orders of ‘trot’, ‘canter’ and ‘gallop’. 

Suspect the first books funnily excellent and the second book brings back memories....ooopppssssss

My last image of the weekend in the company of the elder of the Evans clan of sisters was this bright, young thing wrapped up in raincoat and light blue ski hat, dressed to the nines for EA duties in her trainers as she adopted skiing positions on the platform of Worcester Railway Station whilst making whoosh whoosh whooshing noises as she slalomed her way on to the train.  Such an attractive and extraordinary creature has seldom inhabited such places – priceless.

This article was inspired by Lou, beautiful in mind and body.      


Survey Result:

Worcestershire Beacon

Summit Height:  425.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SO 76882 45230

Drop:  335.7m (converted to OSGM15)

Dominance:  78.91%

Sugarloaf Hill

Col Height:  341.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Col Grid Reference:  SO 76819 45668

Drop:  27m

Dominance:  7.34%

North Hill

Summit Height:  398.0m (converted to OSGM15) (390m Sub-Four status 


Summit Grid Reference:  SO 76933 46361

Col Height:  336.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Col Grid Reference:  SO 76634 46156

Drop:  61.7m

Dominance:  15.51%

For details on the survey of the col of Worcestershire Beacon

For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}

1 comment:

Alex Cameron said...

A lovely article to read :). Very pleased for you that you've found a touch of happiness in your life. There is something quite special in the air about those hills overlooking Malvern. Hope to explore them more thoroughly myself too one day before too long.
Best wishes for the future. Alex.