Tuesday, May 19, 2015

All hail breaks loose

If you are from Southern Africa, English rain is pretty wimpy. It more or less comes down but often seems to think "It's too much trouble" and gives up half way. South African rain is more macho; the point of rain is to make you wet and it will make damn sure you are soaked within a couple of seconds  if you have the temerity to step outside in a storm.

Until recently - very recently - I thought the same was true of English hail; ice the size of pinheads would drift down aimlessly like a 15 year old contemplating his future.

Today changed all this. We set off from Chollerford towards Steel Rigg, two hamlets you have never heard of before. En route were a couple of Roman forts and a good section of Hadrian's Wall. I would like to entrance you with a magical description of what they were like but about midday it started hailing.  These were, indeed, not much more than pinhead sized bits of hail but they got bigger in size and more frequent in volume while lightning and thunder split the sky for four hours.

A school trip was seen sprinting for the bus. Birds were beaten from the skies. The path underfoot became treacherous with ice. And the blasted hail just went on and on. Every now and then the sun would break though, just to tease us, before another squall of hail would saunter along and do its stuff.  I only survived due to my Tilley Hat; I do not know how the others managed. I began to get delusional, believing I was on Scott's doomed trip to the Antarctic.

The final mile of the hike was along an ice-covered road. Some of the hail was melting and the effect of the ice-melt and the accumulated hailstones looked rather like those films you see of ice-bergs calving in summer.

Bizarrely, in the distance a two hundred foot gout of flame suddenly appeared. Where from? Who knew? Two RAF Chinooks flew around it. After a couple of minutes, as quickly as it appeared the flame was put out. Surreal? Nothing could surprise me any more.

We survived. The sun has come out.  I have just asked the owner what time supper is and he replied by giving me a menu and asking if I could find out what the six of us in the group would like to east.  Have I moved to a parallel universe?  Am I a waiter-hiker?

Tomorrow, surely, must be saner.

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