Originally written for Home of Millican.
I’d been pulling pints until midnight the night before. What the Instagram-filtered version of my life doesn’t reveal are the long and far from glamorous evenings spent behind a bar, emptying a dishwasher, wiping tables, “bottle of red, please” “would you like the house red? Or we have Malbec, Rioja, Shiraz…”. It is not that I am ashamed of it, but it doesn’t inspire me. So I seek inspiration in the hills, in the silence of the peaks, in the ever-changing leaves and the colours of the sky. When I got back from work at 1am that night, my alarm was set for 4am. More of a nap than a sleep. I knew I’d be exhausted, but I knew it would be worth it.
“Oslooo!” I called out to my three-year-old Trailhound, his little tail waved in the air as he leapt over to greet me. We bounded up the stairs leading to the summit of Mam Tor, two steps at a time as the sky was already a magical glow of pink and orange. My eyes were heavy but all I needed was this country air to revive me; air that smelt like early springtime freshness, the promise of change and excitement, of a long, warm summer spent happily in the hills. This was the start of it. My cheeks were pink with the thrill of it all.
We soon reached the summit stones of Mam Tor. With a name meaning “Mother Hill”, Mam Tor is one of the most iconic points in the Peak District. Living in Manchester, it only takes an hour before I can be sitting on her banks, looking across to the mighty Kinder Scout on the other side of the valley and down at the village of Castleton at the base. That morning was something special. One of those dream mornings you and I always long for. Clear and crisp, but warm enough to leave the coat stuffed in a rucksack. The base of the valley was shrouded in a blanket of light, wispy mist, rising steadily as the colours of the sky changed from pink to orange to blue. The sun made her appearance as I sat drinking hot, rich coffee out of a flask on that hillside, Oslo skipping around me gleefully.
If every morning began like this, it would be a good life, I thought. It is moments like these that make you realise what little you need, what makes you happy. That morning, my contentment came in the form of an old, vintage film camera, a brown and white dog, some battered, leather walking boots, a flask of hot coffee and a dreamy view before my eyes. It came in the sky and the air and the trees. In the purple heather and the craggy gritstone peaks. It came in having messy hair, tired eyes and the sun on my skin.