Thursday, 14 July 2011

Half A Lifetime Ago

I've been digging out and scanning old photographs this week. I think I still have two albums full of geological photos to scan, but these were some of the highlights of my school and university life. There are a few little gems waiting to see the light of day. The more enterprising of you will click through to the album (I think Picasa allows you to see the whole album if you have access to one image). Beware - what has been seen cannot be unseen, so consider whether you really want to see me dressed up for the Rocky Horror Show circa 2000...

One that I thought was worth showing you is this:

This is me, aged 13. It was my first Trailblazer expedition (Trailblazer being a Nottinghamshire County Council scheme acting as a precursor to the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme). I was about halfway along The Roaches, and you can see just about how much I'm enjoying the experience - NOT. I complained all the way up the hills, and cried all the way down the hills. There may have been some landscapes, but I didn't take any photographs. I suffered from hammer toes, which meant every expedition was coupled with blood blisters under my toenails, and frequently temporarily losing the nail. I was also extremely asthmatic - I'm holding my first aid kit in the photo, so I was almost certainly going for my inhaler.

Fast-forward 14 years. The surly teenager gave rise to a twenty-something who actually quite enjoyed being outside. At 18 I'd had corrective surgery, removing the distal phalanx from each second toe (as an aside, I now wish my surgeon had kept the bones for me!), and it gave me a new lease of life as far as the great outdoors was concerned. It also meant I could continue my dancing classes, but I haven't scanned in the pictures of me doing the rumba yet...

A four-year geology degree was also a great way of getting me fitter. I did whine a fair bit through my first and second year, but the end of my second year brought the mapping project, and after six weeks of wandering the Lake District I came back super fit and super buff. And so Paul and I began to contemplate going on holidays that involved a fair bit of hiking. In late 2007 we went to the Peak District (we stayed in Castleton, not too far away from the Roaches as the crow flies), and on our first day did a circular hike on Hathersage Moor. Paul took a photo of me on a short break, immediately post-Mars Bar:

I'm smiling, for starters. I'm also very well-clothed for the weather - that jacket has been going over a decade and is still in great condition. My hat, I think you'll agree, is far superior to the woolly number I sported in 1993. I don't remember being cold at any point on that holiday, although having to take a field piss on top of Kinder Scout is a particularly bracing experience for a woman. I don't need to take my inhaler as much now - oddly enough I am now more likely to need it from being indoors in a dusty environment than being outside exercising.

If you'd told me at 13 that I'd be yomping over Hathersage Moor, hiking up Kinder Scout, tackling Winnats Pass and scaling Mam Tor for fun, I'd have laughed (and then probably needed to take my inhaler). There are maybe two points worth making out of all this. The first is that it's very useful to keep records of our younger selves - it's a great way of seeing how far we've come. It's one of the reasons I like keeping as much of my students' work as I can, and then showing them their first pieces of work for me when they leave at the end of the year/two years. They look back on their journey and can see their improvement. The second point is that if someone told our younger selves what we'd be doing once we were double that age, we probably wouldn't believe them. It simply would not compute. But life throws us some unusual consequences, and maybe my students won't rule out anything in their futures - what they turn their noses up at now may come to be one of the things that bring joy to them in another 18 years' time.

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