Wednesday, 24 September 2014

What I've been doing for the last week or so...

It's been a strange and difficult few weeks. It's hard to know what to write.

We buried Mike. We've just come back from a brief holiday in North Wales. Life goes on.

On a personal level, that was notable for a couple of things. Finally getting to the top of the Glyderau, and swimming in the sea in Abersoch.

I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to personal discomfort, but it was a beautiful warm late summer afternoon, and after paddling about for a bit, I stripped down to my undies (we just went out and had no intention of getting more than our feet wet) and and I gradually went all the way in. The shoulders were the hardest bit but once in, it was almost pleasantly warm, at least in patches. The temperature was in no way uniform. There were swathes of cold and warm all moiling and mixing. There were fishes too. Thousands of little pipe nosed things that shoaled and darted around me. Bren took a few photographs but without a polarising filter, they didn't show much.

Last time I swam in the sea was in Cornwall about 12 years ago, and by the time I'd managed to pluck up the courage to go in, it was time to get out. Minor bucket list thing ticked off I suppose.

I went part way up Glyder Fach (or fawr - they're part of the same mass really) a couple of years ago with Bren. In retrospect, big kudos to her for getting as far as she did. It's a long steep ascent for those of us who's idea of mountaineering is a gentle ramble up Moel Famau. We got to the top of the first bit, Llyn Y Cwn, but found there was further to go. It was getting a bit late, so rather than push on, we turned back.

This time though, I set out with Alex, my stepson (and all round active bloke) and we got right to the top. What had seemed like a short further climb to the summit from Llyn Y Cwn turned out to be a long and steep scramble of several hundred more vertical metres. The cloud base was a long way beneath us, and visibility was appalling. At times it was far less than 100 metres. The high Glyderau massif is an incredibly rugged place. Glacial action from the end of the last ice age left it a fractured and almost pathless wilderness. There are low cairns spaced every so often. By going from one cairn to the next, right at the limit of visibility, we were able to make progress along the top, but all too frequently, the line would end, leaving us lost. And we did indeed become lost.

This is not a good place to be stumbling around in the dark. There are sheer and vertiginous cliffs, and it would be inky black once the daylight had gone, even if the moon managed to penetrate the fog. Eventually we heard voices, and made for them. A group of well organised walkers had a good idea of where they were going, and did enough for us to find our way down, although they had their own agenda to follow.

 An autostitch pano. Click image for bigger pic.

 At Idwal Youth Hostal. Raring to go!

  The three images above were shot on the banks of Lake Idwal, at the bottom of it all. Well paved and relatively flat. Already the fog is thick.

The word, "Glyderau" comes from the Welsh, meaning "Pile of stones".

 We'd hoped to get to Castell Y Gwynt (the castle of winds) and the famous Cantilever Stone. In the event, we found neither, although the whole damn place looked like Castell Y Gwynt, and the picture below shows the closest we got to finding the Cantilever Stone...

 Murphy's Law dictated that as we made our way back down, the clouds would clear.

This is what I look like when I'm totally shagged out.

In the end we spent 8 hours dealing with slippery rocks, steep uphill scrambles (my lungs and muscles complained) and rocky steep downhill plods (my knees and ankles bore the brunt) I'd had little choice but to keep pushing and pushing, long after I'd had enough, and when I got back to the car, I cried real tears. Just a little. I did on the way out too, when REM's "Everybody Hurts" came on the car stereo.

Which brings me to the third bit of this post: Mike's funeral.

It took several weeks for the coroner to carry out the inquest and release Mike's body.

The cause of death was compression of the arteries in the neck, due to hanging. The toxicology results aren't with us yet, but I'd expect them to show significant levels of alcohol in the bloodstream. I'd be surprised but not flabbergasted if there was anything else.

So Mike would have lost consciousness quite quickly then, as the blood supply to his brain was cut off, rather than over several minutes through asphyxiation, as I'd assumed. I hope so anyway.

Mike's partner, Jenny wanted a woodland burial. The most local site is in Frankby but it's right next to a proper graveyard, and she didn't want to see a load of old stones. We found another site in South Wirral, close to the start of the Manchester Ship Canal, and right on the final approach path for Speke Airport. Truly a place of quiet reflection and meditation!

Bren was the main organiser in it all, and it was a memorable and special ceremony for us all. We'd expected optimistically for around 100 people to attend, but in the event, there were far more than that. Perhaps 150 or more. The bulk of the service was in the main building. Bren spoke at some length about Mike, and introduced a number of other people, who'd chosen to say something. Bren also spoke about how suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 50 in the UK. That's something I didn't know before.

Alex had wanted to pay his respects to his brother by being a pallbearer. This is something I'd also wanted to do. The funeral directors were happy to oblige, and organised us carefully. Six of us, Me, Alex, Pete (Mike and Alex's Dad), Peter (Mike's half Brother), Pidge (Mike's best mate and partner in crime) and one other who I can't remember carried the coffin in and out of the building, then it was put into the hearse, and driven up to the plot. We didn't linger long by the graveside. Jenny has been to his grave since. We haven't yet. At some point, a tree will be planted, and as the site matures, it will change from being wildflower meadow to woodland. My Mum and Sister represented my side of the family. Both would now like to be buried there.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?