It had all seemed so simply in the late spring sunshine. There was a low bank with trees screening it from the farm. Three options of routes from the lane where I would park my car, and no more than a mile hike, up a lane across a tumbled down dry stone wall and then a straight forward amble across the relatively open hillside. Straight forward. In day light.
It had at least stopped raining. For the moment. Moonlight seeped through the thinning cloud cover. The landscape, so familiar during the day, seemed different. A strange foreign land, of blurs and smudges. I picked up my pack and locking the car, set off along the lane.
After a few minutes I pulled my night vision scope from the depths of my coat pocket. I switched it on and peered through the sight out across the fields. The blurs and smudges became familiar if weirdly monochrome. The uniform grassland glowed white, pitted with dark mounds, that I guessed were mole hills or rocks. Nothing moved. I put the scopes strap around my neck and trudged on.
In the sunshine of Sunday morning the gap in the dry stone wall had been clear and welcoming. One step and you were through. In the dark it seemed more complicated. the gap had shrunk and there was quite a pile of rocks on the far side that I was sure had not been there yesterday.
I managed to get through without any damage to the wall and myself. As I found out as I made my way back to the car in the feint light of dawn, I had found the wrong ‘gap’ in the wall. But then as I always say when explaining one of my many navigational mishaps, I do have a Geography degree you know, so what do you expect?
After frequent stops to check for any movement with the night vision scope, I reached the shelter of the low bank. At this point I ought to explain that ‘shelter’ is perhaps generous description. It was in fact a low bank of gravel. It offered nothing in the way of protection from the bitter wind that was blowing directly into my face. It had started to rain again.
At least I was warm. My last minute decision to grab my waterproof jacket was a good one. I warm, not toasty warm but comfortably warm. Warm that is apart from the last two inches of my fingers and thumbs. I was wearing fingerless gloves. No doubt the inventor of these fashion catastrophes earned a decent wedge in royalties. He must be sniggering into his warm cosy fingers covered as they are no doubt in finest warmest cashmere wool.
So the rest of me was warm, while the important bits that I needed to open pockets and extract night vision scopes and turn the things on, these would have frozen the fires in hell they were so cold.
I tried putting them in my pockets, but it made little difference. So it would have been a sorry sight to behold as the sky to the east began to lighten. It would have been had there been anyone else stupid enough to have been out and about at that time in the morning.
Six o’clock in the morning, feel pretty good, so sang Crosby Stills and Nash. But then they were flying in Winchester Cathedral, and I, well I was on a desolate hillside in the Peak District. Freezing not flying.
What was I doing there at that time in the morning? That will keep for another day.