I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud


Originally written for Lodestars Anthology

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”, proclaimed Wordsworth on rambling in the Lake District. Yet how often do you see just one single cloud? At times, indeed; that one lone cloud bravely gracing the skies on a clear day, the most beautiful sight in the sky. Yet, more often than not, the clouds wander lonely yet together - simultaneously drifting steadily east or west, northwards or southwards. Normally I am that one, brave cloud drifting along - alone yet not lonely. But this time, I was joined by another to ramble along with. Two lonely clouds running up hillsides in one of my very favourite places in England, the Lake District, on a bitter cold January day.

The Lake District, I think, is a hill-walkers dream. I am quite certain that it would take more than a lifetime to ramble every trail it has to offer, to explore those that are yet to be discovered, to admire every view. But I will try anyway. Indeed, there are certain places that, no matter how many times you visit, they will never become boring. The very nature of nature is that no two days spent outside are the same - the changing winds and seasons, the different cloud formations and sunbeams. And then there is seeing somewhere you have seen multiple times through new eyes - the eye of someone who is seeing it for the very first time. That was exactly the case when I took my younger sister to the Lake District, and two days were spent in winter jumpers and walking boots; hiking to hilltops and running down mountain sides.


Winding roads of Cumbrian gold; fluffy white clouds dazzling the sky and fluffy white sheep gracing the fields. We were en-route to Blea Tarn, I was in the driver’s seat squealing every time a slightly more confident driver squeezed between us and the dry-stone wall on the other side - with less that an inch between both, I’m sure. We laced up our boots on arrival and added a couple of layers to our bodies. I swung my camera over my shoulder and together we wandered down to the water-front. Blea Tarn is a small body of water nestled beneath high peaks. If you’re lucky, you may see a clear reflection of the Langdale Pikes in the tarn. On this particular day, the wind was sending ripples through the water and the clouded sky meant there was no such view - but it was beautiful anyway. It is a place that always seems so peaceful; where phone service is non-existent and nature is allowed to flourish. Protected by the National Trust, Blea Tarn will always be the place I tell people to go when they first visit the Lakes. It will always be the place I go back to every time I myself visit, until I’m 90 I hope - with tea and biscuits, a picnic blanket and a good book.

The next day, I had something more adventurous planned. From the village of Ambleside, we headed up and up and up through thick yellow grass and alongside crumbling dry-stone walls, past Low Pike then High Pike where the wind viciously whipped the bare skin on our cheeks and tugged exasperatedly at our hair tucked beneath woollen hats. We were walking and talking incessantly like only sisters can do, until I realised that we might possibly be quite lost… By this point the wind was relentless, and trying to manoeuvre a map to a readable position was impossibly difficult as the sky seemed determined to steal it away. Our hands were like icicles and with difficulty speaking I had to admit to my little sister, who had trusted me wholeheartedly with route-planning, “I have absolutely no idea where we are.” So together we traced the line we were supposed to walk and realised we had taken a completely different but parallel path. We made a plan to descend away from the wind as quickly as possible, and then hurtled down the hillside as the icicles in our hands quickly defrosted and our spirits rose once again; greedily consuming the beauty of the surrounding landscapes before it was time to head south once more.

There is something I find so alluring about the English Lake District. Perhaps it is in the combination of homely and welcoming landscapes that become brutal and unforgiving in a single, swift gust of wind. It is in the way the air whispers soft tales of times gone by, or in imagining writers and poets sitting on these banks and taking inspiration from these hills. When I am there, I want to close my eyes and absorb all that beauty and hope and the fragility of nature - but these landscapes cannot be taken away… And so all I can do is come back again and again until I am 90 - to sit on these grassy hilltops with tea and biscuits, a picnic blanket and a good book.

Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon | Stories from Iceland II


I drove 1000km in two days to get here. Sometimes I get these ideas in my head and I’m too stubborn and so afraid of regret that I have to see them through no matter what. It happened when I was cycling the Pacific Coast Highway a couple of years ago and I added an extra 40 miles to my journey one day just because I had to see this lighthouse on a dead-end road just north of San Francisco. I knew I would go no matter how tired my legs and my mind were. Everything became about getting to this damned lighthouse and I infuriated myself for not being able to let it go. And then when I did get to the lighthouse it was closed for the day - but it didn’t matter to me because I had made it, and then I had to cycle 20 miles back as the sun was setting and I was so beyond exhausted I could hardly pedal anymore. The whole time I was driving to the Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon on the southern coastline of Iceland I kept thinking about that day in California. And I despised myself for being so damned stubborn and letting myself get these wild ideas in my head.

I almost didn’t make it, actually. The weather was horrendous and I very nearly gave in and stayed in the cosy warmth of an over-priced hostel on a hillside. But I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t have time to get to the ice lagoon and back to Reykjavik to drop my car off in time. So instead, I drove into the night and pulled into a lay-by when I got too tired to drive anymore through the blinding rain. I made beans and hotdogs and curled up in my sleeping bag on the back-seat of my car as the wind pounded on the sides of what felt like a tin-can I was sleeping in, and an eerie flashing light from a nearby single-laned bridge kept me only in the first stages of sleep. In the morning, I drove some more, and when I finally arrived it was eerily empty. Perfectly silent. There was just me and these magical icebergs floating in the water and a family of ducks that call this place home. It was as mysterious and beautiful and tragic as I had imagined. A sign of the warming earth and the brutality of the elements.

And then, as if the earth knew I was there and that it was my time to go, the clouds rolled in and the rain began hammering relentlessly with no concern for those with a half hour journey on foot back to shelter. My jeans and boots were soaked through in an instant and I forgot where my car was parked, but all I could do was keep walking through the rain laughing hysterically at myself because this was the second time in two days that this had happened. Then laugh hysterically some more when I realised I had no dry trousers left and had to sit in my pyjamas for a couple of hours while attempting to dry them laid out on the passenger seat of my car with the heating on full-blast.

And do you ever find yourself in these moments when you wonder why on earth you do it to yourself over and over, but would do it all again anyway, over and over? Challenging the elements and your own body and mind to see how far they can go. How many times will I get soaked in a rainstorm before I decide that I have had enough and stay in the warm safety of my heated car. I’m quite certain that there will be many more times. Many more days of bravely venturing into the unknown and being washed out by greater forces. Many more moments of feeling the thrill of being completely drenched or utterly windswept and laughing hysterically into the elements. For it is these moments that make you feel most alive, that remind you to live, and that challenge you to dream beyond the constraints of a heated car.

Quite often I infuriate myself for getting these crazy ideas in my head then being so damned stubborn to not see them through, but I can undoubtedly say that never have I once regretted those decisions.

Black Sand Storms | Stories from Iceland I


I walked around half an hour from my car to watch the wild ocean waves crashing onto the blackened shoreline of the coast. It was a moment of exhilaration when I realised that, in a country ladened with tourists, I was finally completely alone. Arms outstretched and face to the skies, I breathed in this otherworldly air and felt so removed from life. So removed from all the things that had been building and spiralling in my mind and body over the past year; a year of trying to work my way through a maze of emotion and confusion. Of being told what to do and asking what to do but none of it making any sense to me. And somehow I had ended up on this black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland; alone, exhilarated and completely overwhelmed. Arms outstretched, face to the skies, breathing in the otherworldly air.

At that moment the heavens opened, hurtling me back down to earth. Back to a reality in which I knew I had a thirty minute walk back to my car through this raging rain storm and lashing wind. I tucked my camera inside my coat and gripped the collar tightly around my face as raindrops plummeted relentlessly, drenching my jeans, boots, face, hands and anything that lay exposed to the brutal Icelandic elements. When it rains in Iceland, it pours.

When I finally made it back, I clamoured into the back seat of my car dripping with sea salt and rain drops and black sand and feelings. So many feelings enticed by the brutality of the weather and the wild long roads I had driven to get here. I thought I might cry with the intensity of it all, but instead I peeled myself out of the sodden clothes and sat in the warm cocoon of my little hire car for a while as the windows fogged up from the inside. Overwhelming emotion returning to peace and calm, while the rough winds pounded against the safety of this tin shell, determined to get their hands on me again.

There is something about a solo road trip that I find terrifying yet addictive. I am afraid of the tornado of thoughts I will have when driving 1000km alone, yet obsessed with wanting to experience them - with delving into that deep black hole inside myself that can only be reached on a journey like this one. I found myself at the bottom of that hole on this black sand beach in Iceland, but there was nothing there. There was nothing there because there is nothing to find; all there is is another journey of 1000km and another after that one. Endless roads to drive and black sand beaches to be discovered. I don't believe that you find yourself when you travel, but with every journey of 1000km and every storm you get caught in, you can learn to understand yourself just a little more.

Yorkshire, So Very Home

Memories from my childhood are always somewhat hazy. I’m not sure why. When people start talking about the television shows they watched when they were five years old or the teachers that always gave them an extra five minutes of playtime or that very distinct smell of school dinners wafting down the corridor at exactly 11.55am. Instead, my mind is a constantly spinning tornado of the all-consuming thoughts of now; thoughts I have to grab, arms-flailing,  sweat-dripping – to pin down and tackle one by one just to be able to say I’m ok.

Those memories of childhood are floating steadily at the epicentre of this tornado – I know they are there, I don’t have to worry they will float away. Little pockets of happiness that keep me grounded; dancing under the lemon tree in our backyard, the smokey smell of cheese and pitta bread sizzling on a BBQ somewhere in a forest of Australian eucalyptus trees, the squeaky squeak of my bike as I ride around our house in Dubai with my little sister sat in the back, eating mini-jellies with our grubby fingers – barefoot and care-free. The smell of my grandpa’s house when I was 9 years old and had just moved across the world to start a new life.

A musty smell – somewhere between antique wood and flicking through the pages of an old book. Hydrangea’s blooming on the windowsill, a drawer filled with crunchy ginger biscuits that will remain forever stocked, my feet sinking into fluffy pink carpet. A new place, a new life, the memories of which will always be linked with that smell, that house and the slightly frightening but always loving face of my grandpa.

I don’t really remember when my mum and dad told us we were moving to England. I only remember asking them what it was like there, and my sister squealing, “it always rains!”. We were so excited. We were so excited for rain. For somewhere new. I don’t remember being afraid or sad. Only excited, for rain. And I remember trees. Of being asleep for probably a long time and waking up to a road ladened with trees and dappled sunshine – there wasn’t any rain yet.

Then I was the new kid at school, again. The one with the strange clothes and the even stranger accent, in a strange country I was supposed to identify with – the country on my passport and in my blood. But amongst all that strangeness, there was something so familiar about this place. The smell of waking up to fresh rain on the roads, seeing brambles for the first time and being stung by nettles. That sparkly glow of winter’s first frost, red tartan scarves, itchy, woolly socks and dry-stone walls blanketed in powdery snow. Eating flasks of Heinz tomato soup in the back-seat of our car, because in true British style we had planned a picnic but it was too cold to go outside. Warmed bellies and soup-stained smiles, we enjoyed our little adventure anyway.

Identity isn’t a thing when you’re a child. I don’t think you care where you come from or even where you live, as long as you’re lucky enough to have a family that love you. It is something I only started thinking  about as I grew older, or perhaps that was when I realised that I didn’t know what mine was. My accent was an eclectic mix of standard English with an Aussie twang and a dash of Yorkshire. My skin was dark from the Arabian sun and my hair lemon yellow. But for as long as I could remember I loved to read books about the English countryside. Peter Rabbit hopping through cabbage patches and Josie Smith with her scabby knees, always getting into trouble. I started reading classics as soon as I was old enough to understand the language, my bookshelf filled with the Brontes and Austen – times of flowing dresses and grand, old houses that I used to wish I could have been a part of.

Those moors that I read about were my now homeland – where my parents and grandparents and great grandparents had grown up. They were in my blood and in my soul in a way I only realised when I lived there and saw them; when I rambled across those hills and felt that air on my cheeks and looked out onto a landscape of grey and purple and green and gold. Wild and rugged, untamed and uninhabitable.

Yorkshire, I am so very home.

A Springtime Sunrise

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.

The Road Keeps Calling

It was precisely fifteen and a half days before my 23rd birthday when I eventually passed my driving test. I actually started learning to drive when I was 17, then I had run away to university and only reluctantly came to pass that stepping-stone in life five years later. I remember my sticky hands clinging to the steering wheel as I smiled and nodded politely at the awkward small-talk of my examiner. Twenty two minutes later he handed me my certificate and precisely three and a half days after that I flew to America. That flimsy piece of paper I had been trying to get hold of for five years to me represented infinite miles of freedom, and I headed across the Atlantic filled with wild dreams of the Great American Roadtrip, the Californian Dream.

The first time I drove alone I had planned a three and a half hour journey to Sequoia National Park. After unknowingly making an illegal turn out of the car hire centre in Los Angeles, I headed towards the I-5 for my first solo four-wheeled adventure. I was instantly struck by the freedom of it all. The long road ahead and the wide sky above. “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars” said Kerouac and it all made sense to me now. At that time in my life I was indecisive and restless, lost and emotional. I constantly longed for fresh air and aloneness yet I was overwhelmed by both. The road was an escape from life but not from my emotions and I spent many a car journey fighting back tears or letting them roll, even when I didn’t know why exactly. I sang loudly to Carole King with the windows down and became obsessed by podcasts on murder trials. I stopped whenever I felt like it and ate whenever I felt like it, and sometimes I realised that no one in the whole world knew where I was at one moment. The road exhilarated and terrified me, and I was addicted to it.

I drove north along Highway 101 towards empty beaches on the coast, where the sky turned moody at twilight and it rained all night on me and my little tent. I climbed a mountain near Santa Barbara where Californian poppies covered the peak. In Yosemite friendly camping neighbours made me cinnamon toasted apple and blueberries for breakfast before I hiked to gushing waterfalls and mirror lakes. The delicious scent of redwoods followed me around Sequoia National Park, and I frolicked amongst pine needles at golden hour when the forest glowed a thousand shades of red and the towering trees seemed to grow another few inches towards the setting sun.

I spent my 23rd birthday at Joshua Tree, not alone this time. I remember those long, empty desert roads and the air that cooled as the sky glowed orange and the stars that twinkled and and the fire that roared. Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and cheese burgers for lunch along Highway 395 at one of those all-American diners you think only exist in the movies. We climbed rocks at Alabama Hills and sat at dusk below California’s grandest peaks in the Eastern Sierra. There could have been nothing else in the world but for the vastness of the American West. The road may lead to a new place everyday but it also confines you to a moment, to a place, to another person or to your own thoughts if you are travelling alone.

Driving back to the bright lights of LA past the shadows of mountains and the darkness of night. Luminous signs for Texaco and Taco Bell indicate that we have left the wilderness behind somewhere. But it’s too late for me. Now I have tasted the road and savoured its freedom, I am hooked. My restless spirit has found a new calling. Let me roll my windows down and feel the changing winds. I chase the seemingness endless paths and dance between mountains and sing to the sky.

I have found a new home and it is nowhere.
And it is everywhere.

“The evening star must be dropping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.” – Jack Kerouac, On The Road

The Girl Who Climbs Mountains

I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly stubborn. My sister got that gene off my dad. I was given the more passive, verging on pushover trait from my mum. But that does not mean to say that we are weak. My mother taught me that too. You can be passive and permissive but also strong. You can be kind and giving but also powerful – mentally and physically. You can be a woman who buys flowers and bakes cakes and wants a family some day, but one who also wants to climb mountains and camp in the snow. And one who will do it alone if need be. I am not particularly stubborn, but I am determined.

“Where exactly are you going?” he said to me.

“Well…” I stuttered a little, I knew he was judging me and I didn’t like it. “Up the Old Man”, I said, “but the snow is quite bad, I’m not that prepared”.

I immediately regretted sounding so weak and pathetic.

“Do you hike much”, he continued, slanting his eyes and judging some more.

“Oh yes”, I said, “I hike all the time, and alone, but never in the snow”.

Again, why did I have to sound so unsure, I scolded myself.

“You don’t have crampons, do you? You should at least have poles, the snow will be deep up there, and it will be misty, do you have a compass?”

“I have a map… I’ll start descending if the visibility gets too bad or the snow too deep.”

He pursed his lips as if to stop himself from saying anything else. I was glad of it. By that point I just wanted him to leave me alone, and I would do anything so he would.

He looked me up and down once more before continuing his ascent. He was a 60-year-old male in a green raincoat prepared with gaters, crampons, poles and a back-pack which I can only assume was loaded with a first-aid kit, three days worth of food, survival bag, extra down jacket and spare socks, of course. I had my camera and a couple of spare films, an extra thermal and a food-flask filled with beans which I planned to eat at the summit.

It was my first mountain ascent, though that doesn’t really matter because I didn’t even know the Old Man was classified as a mountain until later that day… Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly prepared and I hadn’t expected so much snow, but it was that man who planted a seed of doubt in my mind making me believe me that I shouldn’t or couldn’t continue.

I waited a while until his green coat disappeared into the distance, took a few photos and admired the view. Then I looked ahead at the snowy track ascending into the clouds. The mountain felt like a giant towering over me, its peaks obscured by the dense mist bearing down on the path I would be taking, creeping closer and closer to my being until it washed over my body in a wave of fear and uncertainty.

And so I admitted defeat and began my descent.

The view before me as I made my way down the mountain was one of the most breathtaking and peaceful I had ever seen. White, jagged peaks framing a still tarn nestled in the hills, mountains shadowed by a densely clouded sky. And then the sun shone through and the highest summits came alive with light. I wonder what is up there, I thought, as I turned on my heels again to face the Old Man. We gazed at each other a while through the clearing mist and the silent snow. But he wasn’t challenging me, I realised, he was inviting me.

And so I accepted his invitation and continued my ascent.

I stumbled and tripped, gripping to rocks with my freezing hands and falling through snow in my sodden leggings. I had to use both hands to steady my balance, and when the snow got deeper and the edge got steeper, I dug my boots hard into the snow to ensure I got a solid grip. I almost turned around a couple more times but the summit felt so near, it had to be near. In truth, it wasn’t and it took me another half an hour until I caught sight of the cairn stones in the distance. At the same time I noticed something green on the horizon. It was that man – the other old man, with his judging tone – taunting me upwards.

In honesty, though, I didn’t reach the summit to prove to that man that I could — well, maybe I did in a way. But it was mostly to prove it to myself, because there are moments in life when it is easy to be weak, to take the easy option – to go home or to stay at home, to make excuses for yourself. Then there are moments when it’s not a question of being weak, but of being sensible. If the snow had been any worse or if the clouds had kept rolling in then it wouldn’t have been safe to have climbed the Old Man alone, and in that case it takes a greater strength to admit defeat than to put yourself at risk.

But I made a decision and I reached the summit that day. I smiled at the Old Man, took a few photos and then headed back through the clouds, back to reality.

I wouldn’t say that I am particularly stubborn, but I am determined.


“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir

Nostalgia for the days of rambling and roaming through the trees – springtime in California – when the air was thick with pine and my heart was full of adventure and promise.

Skirting the edges of the mountain, on the road into the forest. Occasionally the trees would break for a moment and glimpses of the landscape would appear, wide and vast and lovely. Mother Nature’s silence singing through the valley. I must have pulled over 5 or 6 times on the way up there.

But I liked being within the trees. I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I spent the first years of my life in a country without a lot of them. The beach was my playground back then. Then there were the eucalyptus trees of Australia with their distinct scent and the gumnuts that would cover the ground to be trodden on or collected by mini-explorers.

We used to play games under the lemon tree in our garden; we would skip around it and sing a song and all of a sudden we were transported into another world. My memories are hazy from those days, but I remember the worlds we visited. Worlds where magic was real and pixies danced in the sky.

Then there was that big, old willow tree just around the corner, our secret sanctuary. I remember it’s leaves were so thick that it created a sort of leafy cave that we could hide inside – dark but lovely and safe. We would pretend it was our home and cook dinner with sticks and leaves and rocks for our imaginary friends. We made perfume out of soil and rainwater, and with scabby knees and tangled hair we would run home at the end of the day. The world was changing all the time back then, but one thing we knew for sure was that that big, old willow tree would always be there.

The trees at Sequoia were different to the ones I’d known from my childhood. First of all, they were bigger. Bigger even than that willow tree. And they smelled different. Different to that familiar eucalyptus scent from the Australian bush. And there were more of them. More trees than I’d probably ever seen in my life. All huddled together like a peaceful army, stretched as far as the horizon, as far as my eyes could see. And every one of them different, for no two things are the same when created by Earth.

Then I was 7 again. Skipping through the trees like I did back then. The sun was setting and the reddish tones of the forest became ever more rich and vibrant – glowing.

And that smell of pine, oh if you have smelt it you can never forget it.

It follows me now. It haunts me sometimes.

When I smell it I am transported back there, to the middle of the forest, dancing and skipping through the trees.

The Hills Were Beckoning

When I woke up that morning I knew I needed to escape – the city, people, pollution, noise. I live in a quiet and leafy corner of Southern Manchester, but a yearning for the rolling hills, biting country air and being completely and utterly alone comes from deep within me, an ache in my stomach that gradually increases the longer I am not there. It was painful that morning. And so I had to leave.

I trudged through the grimy, concrete streets of Manchester with men in stiff suits and women tottering in stilettos on their way to the 9-5. Past questionable buskers in Piccadilly Gardens, dodging pigeons swooping for leftover McDonalds bags. My hair is wild and unbrushed, my face free of make-up, my clothes are too bright and my boots are too heavy for these city streets. That morning I was a country mouse scuttling to escape the madness.

My heart grows lighter the further the train whizzes into the depths of the Peaks, as the landscape opens into a vastness of green and purple; dry-stone walls that have stood for hundreds of years and grazing sheep who I amuse myself in thinking are the rulers of the valley. How – I wonder – can anyone stand to spend their life staring at the dark grey walls of an ugly building when the rich blues and greens and yellows of Mother Nature are but a 45 minute train ride away?

I am heading to the Dark Peak, the one I feel deepest in my being for its wild and untamed landscapes, beating to its own drum for hundreds of thousands of years. We – humans – may have axed its forests and built bricks on its valley floors, but the highest peaks still reign almighty and uninhabitable. Ascend if you dare, and if you do you shall be rewarded. On one side of the valley is Kinder Scout and on the other Mam Tor; two lovers gazing at one another longingly by day and resting in darkness by night, when they leave the valley to the greater forces. Billions and trillions of uncountable stars. I watched them one night from the top of Kinder. It is why I think it is so peaceful here… while the city is sleepless, loud and careless, Mother Nature demands her beauty sleep.

And just like that I am consumed by the hills. I let them wrap their arms around my body and tangle my hair and redden my cheeks. My boots are no longer heavy, as I tread on dirt and rocks and yellow autumn grass, passing through fences and waving at sheep. Just as I wished there is no one around, so I hike until the very last glowing sunbeams hit the highest tors across the valley. The clouds are wisps of candy floss, suspended in the bitter November air, and the valley sings a harmony of silence and calm.

This is me in my element. It’s so easy to be towered and intimidated by tall buildings when they surround you but are no longer familiar to you. But the hills… the hills are home. They are welcoming in their wildness, challenging in their fierceness. They are a free spirit and so am I.

Lost Notes

Someone told me that the ‘notes’ you write in your phone say a lot about you. Do they really? Is that scientific fact? Oh gosh, what do mine say? No you cannot read them.

So I had a look, and no you cannot read them.

What does that mean? That I am secretive? A plotting murderer? Certainly not a good one if I am hiding the evidence on an iPhone.

Or maybe it is just because it is where I write my deepest, late night thoughts. And no you cannot read them.

Lost notes. The ones I forgot about.

Eggs, pancetta, onion… A shopping list from October 16th 2015. I must have been craving carbonara.

The weights I pulled when I rowed. My 2k split. The weights I wish I pulled.

The name of that place that person told me to go to, that I inevitably forgot about and still haven’t been to. *Writes down again.*

Messages I sent or didn’t send that I wanted to make sound casual… but really the fear of not sounding casual, or worse, accidentally pressing send too early resulted in three drafts and a check (or two) from my best friend.

Passwords. A lot of them.

Books to read, films to watch, restaurants to visit. Levain Bakery, New York.

The things I noticed about a boy I once liked. Should I delete that one?

A random date in 8 months time. I wonder what I’ll be doing that day..?

A diary entry from a sad day that I can’t quite bring myself to read.

“Confine yourself to the present”. A quote I read and liked.

What does all that say about me? That I am forgetful but thoughtful? That maybe I should write my passwords somewhere safer, and check what I’m doing on that date, and maybe I’ll go make some carbonara now.

P.S. I wrote this in a note on my iPhone at 23:47 in bed. Or the first draft at least. Gotta sound casual.

This Morning, One Year Ago

My eyes flicker open wearingly at the sound of a soft tapping on the canvas walls of my little green tent. It is dim inside, meaning it is either still nighttime or that my first day of riding on the South Island will be beneath rainclouds and on shiny wet roads. It appears to be the latter. By this point – roughly six weeks into my bike-tour of New Zealand – I am more than used to grey days and rain, but I had optimistically hoped that my passage to the South Island would see a turn in the weather.

The morning unfolds as it always does, in this exact order: I lie awake in the warmth of my sleeping bag for approximately 37 seconds until my body finds the courage to venture into the cold. I take off my thermals and pull on my cycling kit – which is often a little damp from the cold of the tent – at lightning speed, before stuffing the majority of my belongings into my pannier bags in a very precise order that cannot be changed or there won’t be enough room for even that last pair of socks – it is an order I have perfected over the last two months. I then remove everything from my tent, and once the entire contents of my home are spread out on the wet glass, I un-pitch and pack my equally damp tent along with the remainder of my belongings. I wheel my bike over to the picnic tables and realise I have packed my oats in the very bottom of my pannier bag. Once I have retrieved them, I make myself overcooked porridge with a bruised banana while checking my map and planning my route for the day. My mornings are peaceful and perfectly imperfect; I wake up with black coffee, a morning chill and the thought of the views, hills and roads that await me. 

It is a morning like every morning has been for the last couple of months, except every morning is different really when home is somewhere new every day. When the view from your bedroom window changes from wild oceans to lush green hills to the blank side-view of an RV parked next to you. My view this morning is relatively bleak; an average caravan park in the middle of an average town. But there is something about this morning… there is a spark in my eyes and a fire in my legs.

“Welcome to the South Island”, the sky says to me as the sun burns through the clouds and I take my first pedal strokes in this new and unknown land. “We have something for you”, she whispers.

An Ode to the Moors

Though I wish I could say I grew up on the Moors, I didn’t. The truth is that I grew up with my feet in the sand on a beach in Dubai, or playing beneath the lemon tree in our garden in the suburbs of Melbourne. I’ve never found it easy to identify any one place as home; but if anything could be, it is seeing the Moors appear in the distance as I’m coming back to Yorkshire.

Those wild plains of yellow, weaving in and out of the horizon. A deep shade of violet in the summertime as the heather reigns over the valley. A crisp white in the winter when the rolling hills sleep beneath a blanket of white.

There are those golden days when the moors are framed by a baby blue sky and lit up by warm sun rays. But mostly they are wild. Shadowed by a sea of clouds, shaken by a rough wind, drowning in a rainstorm.

I love them most on their wild days because, to me, that is when they are most alive.

Uncontrollably inconsolably terrifyingly free.

Rugged and untamed.

That is is the true essence of the valley, my valley, a little piece of my soul I carry with me wherever I go.

“It’s–it’s not the sea, is it?” said Mary, looking round at her companion.

“No, not it,” answered Mrs. Medlock. “Nor it isn’t fields nor mountains, it’s just miles and miles and miles of wild land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep.”

“I feel as if it might be the sea, if there were water on it,” said Mary. “It sounds like the sea just now.”

(From The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson)