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Essay: Up a bonnie, bonnie hill by Loch Lomond

It was a day calculated to turn anyone into a hiker.

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I didn't think it would happen – although the Electricity Man and I had talked about doing it for, oh, three or four years.

We'd bump into each other as we were exercising our dogs on our semiurban streets. His house is 10 minutes from ours. When we'd meet, I'd turn around to go his way or he mine for chat. But one part of our chat almost became a refrain.

"So, when are we going to do our hill walk?" he'd say. Then add: "We'd better wait until the weather improves, though."

I would invariably agree ... and then, somehow, even if the weather did improve, we went on thinking about it but never settled on a day.

In the end, I decided that we would probably never get around to it.

I should admit that I am not what you'd call a frequent hill walker. Living in rural Yorkshire, England, in the 1970s, guests once or twice inveigled me up the nearest hill, Ingleborough by name. You could see its flatly rounded silhouette from my studio, across the valley. I liked it. It wasn't formidable, and going up it was a sort of pleasantness between lunch and tea.

My next hill walk took place in the 1980s. By then I was (and still am) living in Scotland, a part of the world with a hill or two to its name.

But the friend who agreed to show me the delights of walking up and down a Scottish hill kindly took me to one of this country's lesser geological humps. So it wasn't too demanding a day. Nevertheless, for that occasion, I made a gesture toward the possibility of doing this sort of energetic thing more than once or twice a decade: I bought a modest pair of hiking boots.

I have never used them since.

Then quite suddenly, the Electricity Man's wife was to be away from home for a few days.

The forecast was good. Wednesday was more or less free for both of us. Determination was in the air.


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