Apr 29 2012

Cross Bay Walk

There is no way I am going across that fucking bay. The walk to the toilets from the car park has nearly broken me. It is cold, at least 50 metres and at the end the toilet demands 20p per pee and I have no cash on me. This is it. This is as much as a personal challenge as I can face on a Saturday morning but a nice woman holds the loo door open for me, a delightful example of middleclass anarchism.

I look across the churning sucking bay. There is far too much water there. I seek sanctuary under the awning of ‘She Sells’ eco boutique. I decide I love Arnside so much I do not want to leave it.

Volunteering to do a cross bay walk is easy. The reality is terrifying. You forget about the elements when sitting on a sofa blankly clicking on Facebook.

But it is for the Bipolar UK and I have told a good friend and organiser of the walk that I will do it.

The assembled crowd are jolly and friendly.

The bay is the opposite of jolly and friendly. I look wildly around for escape routes but it is 9am, I do not drive and the pubs are shut. Thus I have no escape routes and am embarrassed by the assembled lively enthusiastic children.

I can see Kents Bank, our destination, twinkling in the distance; it does not look too far away.

Then we wade into the water and walk away from it for hours and hours.

The feeling of doing something you have never done before is discombobulating, terrifying and exciting.  I realize I hate adventure and try and make a break back to the Albion pub that will be open in a few blissful hours but a woman casually walking with a sturdy four year old in her arms and a serene smile makes me keep going. Albeit not in the spirit of charity, more envy and spite at her impressive upper arm structure. I am struggling to keep my bag of crisps out of the water.

The sand is cold, the sand is freezing, we head out across the bay and it is amazing.

Crabs crawl from under our feet; we are still not walking towards Kents Bank, that small village across the bay but to the far horizon.

But from this mismatch of people with rucksacks comes a festival in the middle of the sea. But without the shit music. People chat, share hipflasks, coffee and stories, strangers natter and we hold hands as we go knee high in water, water which is surprisingly warm compared to the elements outside it. The views are amazing. It looks like dinosaurs could still live in those yonder blue shadowed mountains. We walk and walk and watch our destination sitting like a mirage, never ever getting closer.

The sand is colder, colder but alive and fresh and so wonderful to feel nature between your toes, feel the texture and depth of natural materials, assess the sand before plummeting your feet in. I trust Cedric Robinson, official Queens guide to the Sands and his biblical route marked with branches but suddenly feel a sinking sinking sensation in the feet and stomach and a scrambly second of panic before twisting my toes away from the tiny hole in front of me and trying not to think about how it would feel to keep sinking like others have here before me. Horses and carriages lie under these sands.

With the first submersion into proper water comes at first the denial and then rebirth. I cannot escape this so I walk into it, head held high and people around me whoop and cheer.

The second delve through the river Kent and the current makes this impromptu al fresco town realize the true power of nature-it is only up to our thighs but we have to concentrate on walking because there is a surging churning invisible power that is desperate to take us far far away and I can see how it might be easier to give in to it, let your legs be sucked away by the invisible maelstrom beseeching you to go away, away, away, it seems almost easier than this dogged stomp against nature.

This transient population is now alone on a sudden sand desert in the middle of nowhere that could be the Caribbean if it was not for the hazy mirage of Heysham power station in the distance, power and danger again in a squat faint box on the horizon.

We walk through the sea barefooted and biblical, take photos of views we may never see again, we are doing something very special today.

Kents Bank is starting to appear closer. I want a drink and a wee. But I also don’t want this to end, because this experience will never happen again.

I walked across the bay to raise money for Bipolar UK

If you have ever enjoyed reading this blog, it would make me very happy if you could chuck a quid in their direction.

Apr 18 2012

Totnes or when the hippies won-a cautionary tale

totness market The hippies have taken over and I can’t afford a thing. The prices in the chain charity shops * are so ludicrous I feel like pushing an old lady volunteer over smartly in the back whilst screaming ‘Are you fucking insane? It’s a kid’s plastic drum with no stick! No wonder people still have cancer! ’ But I am English and thus look at a Primark dress tag in a slightly sarcastic way on the way out. That’ll learn ‘em.

Totnes is not in the Northwest. If it were, people would come on coaches to point and hark. And maybe throw rancid butter pies. It is in Southest Devon, near rubbish Plymouth but edging away discreetly and burning some Nag Champa to hide the smell. It has history, centuries of it but more recently as being a hippy colonized town, banning carrier bags, having its own currency and the rest. The first person I see when alighting out of the car at Morrisons (I could not find a Fair Trade car park and I like their cheese selection) is a dreadlocked man on a skateboard. When walking up the happily antiquated high street, my boyfriend hears someone say extremely earnestly to a child around six years old, ‘how is your chakra feeling today?’ As a professional Wiganer, he is delighted by this and falls to his knees in delight but as we are on a hill, nobody notices.

After going in the Riverford Organics deli and coming out with a whopping big Homity pie, a mustard and cheese pastry, some posh Italian something and a massive chocolate truffle for under a fiver, I decide I want to live here. I’m quite shallow. There is a cat sitting under a war memorial and there is well-priced pastry from a fancy organic shop I have read about in The Guardian. My wonderful life forged in the North can go to hell. I decide to keep this thought quiet for a bit.

And then there is suddenly shopping like my eBay saved searches. Cutesy old fashioned exterior shops selling within dresses with unicorns on, Spanish designer coats and Scandinavian babygros. Three shops in a row sell Moomins handbags. I love Moomins handbags! I run to find the boyfriend and baby who in the general excitement over cheap organic Guardian pie I forgot ever existed and hyperventilate gently at them whilst pointing wildly.

‘Yes, I know you like them but you can’t afford them.’ Oh. I had forgotten about that. totness cat­ The happy bohemian gentility of Totnes comes at a price even a well-priced pie can’t save. The babygros are 30 quid despite and because of their quirky retro patterns. The coats are two hundred. And we are in a small town in Devon in a recession.

The hippies have taken over and with them came counter culture, with the counter culture came the trendiness, with the trendiness came the aspiration, with the aspiration came the desire, with the desire came the money to fulfill the desire. Thus the desire to be counterculture drives out the true hippies, those with the ideas and ideals but not the brand that determines and markets it.

I hear a woman fluting the words ‘positive energy’ with the elocution, and confidence to make it a statement of fact like the Ocado delivery arriving at 12 rather than an ideal found somewhere hidden within oneself. A small terraced house here now costs a Lot.

But The Performing Arts College has closed, many say the hippy heyday is over and my boyfriend declares the chippy we end up going to, to have a slight hint of menace due to a mushy pea related mix up. Somehow, however I am still alive to tell the tale.

But if you go to Totnes,  remember it is a fairy tale version of hippyness, wonder how the fuck people afford to live there and be very very  clear about your order to the softly spoken man in the chippy who has the faint aura of menace.

totness better* the local charity shops  for local animals were sadly all closed