THE SITE FOR SORE EYES

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WANLKERS

What are they about? I don't mean your average trucking-down-the-street type bod. Oh, no. I mean your bobbly-hatted, checked-shirt-with-matching-beard type bod. The kind who walk around, seemingly everywhere, with a canvas wheely-bin on their backs, complete with assorted Teflon frying pans, several steel mugs and an aluminium wok (family-sized) type of bod.

Why do they do it? 'Cos it's there! What the hell kind of an explanation is that?

Animals are 'there' - do they climb them? (I expect some of them do. I've seen stampedes of nervous looking sheep in their vicinity!). Lemon meringues are there... - That doesn't mean anything. The truth is out there... - Even more obtuse.

What is it about?

I've seen walkers with lacerations and congealing blood on their feet that would make a hardened battle surgeon wince, telling their friends, similarly attired, things like, "Well, the way down Retentive's Folly was blocked by a harvester so we took the wet weather route and detoured three hundred miles over Ankle-macerater Beck, down by Varicose Tarn until we came to Sweatynut's Gully. What a great walk!"

These people should be shown the business end of a tenderising hammer. They would probably enjoy it. What kind of person (rhetorical question time) scrapes most of the skin off their hands, shatters their knee joints and squirts synovial fluid throughout the countryside, all the time sweating like a one-handed peeping tom, and then says things like, "That was good. I really enjoyed that. Same time next week!"???

Precisely.

I strongly suspect that they aren't fell walkers or climbers at all. They have got to be in competitive training for their local S & M chapter. Not until most of the skin on their hands and knees is calloused to a similar consistency of an over-baked pumice stone are they allowed to put in an application. The next stage is to mutate their shoulders, surgery is considered cheating, until all manner of harnesses, belts and leather thongs will fit into the indentations caused by their rucksack straps. In preparation for the mandatory corset when they attain full membership of the Oswaldtwistle Heel-lickers and Gimp's Club, they take up the slack on their rucksack's waist belt, cinch it in by a few feet, and tiptoe around, unable to breathe, looking like William Shatner after a cream-cake binge.

Then the training gets tough!

Anyone who doesn't sweat, pant or wheeze enough while wearing an inane grin on their face is mercilessly kicked out. No ifs, no buts. Their beards are ruthlessly inspected by the head man (there's a joke, there, somewhere...) and if enough crumbs aren't accumulated to feed the average flock of starlings, again they are expelled.

They have to endure weeks of ensuring the folds and creases in their greaseproof sandwich wrappers are so well defined that the wrapping falls open when slapped against a rock a certain way. The wrappers are also date stamped to ensure that they are 'recycled' for many years. Their checked shirts are checked (!!) that they are regulation: salt marks under each armpit; washed the prerequisite three hundred plus times and frayed beyond recognition at the neck, sleeves and crotch (another demand is that the shirt is several sizes too large).

Most of them carry a rope - though why this is so has never been fully ascertained by the hordes of anthropologists and psychologists who dog their every step, leaping from bush to rock and back again while taking notes.

I'll tell you why. Why else would any self-respecting sado-masochist carry a rope? Now you're on my wavelength. That one was obvious. But why would anybody cart the following kind of items up a mountain, and then down again?

A WHISTLE. Supposedly, if a walker gets lost, breaks a leg, gets threatened by a sheep turd or whatever, they can blow on this and help will come. Oh yeah? To my way of thinking, there's only one reason for whistling in the countryside. Any of you who've seen ONE MAN AND HIS DOG on TV know where I'm going with this one. Weirdos.

A MAGNIFYING GLASS. Enough said. Weirdos.

A 'SURVIVAL' BAG. If any of you haven't seen these, they're basically a big bin liner made from quite thick plastic. You're supposed to get into one if you're stranded and therefore be protected from the elements. People who walk have told me that in an emergency you can fit two people into one and they can 'huddle together' (their words, not mine) to 'share body warmth' and prolong their length of survival in difficult circumstances. Oh yeah? In my book there are names for people who dress from head to toe in plastic and then 'huddle together', and it isn't walker. Although the spelling's almost right. Weirdos.

PARACHUTE CORD. In the absence of an actual parachute, are they hoping to stumble across a very large handerchief in the event they can then paraglide to the nearest pub for lunch? Or is the habit of carrying lengths of cord and twine, and knowing how to tie hundreds of different knots, for a more sinister purpose. Whatever could that be? Weirdos.

So, let's see what have we got up to now? People taking a lot of time and effort to get into the wilds, miles from any people and possible witnesses; they strap all manner of things to themselves and punish their bodies to the point of utter dehydration and exhaustion and enjoy it; they like to tie knots, wrap themselves in plastic, huddle up together in groups, and whistle for the nearest dog to round up some amiable sheep.

Somehow, the next time I see a Ramblers' Group poster advertising healthy-looking individuals laughing and talking while sharing sandwiches and flasks of tea by a giggling stream, it won't seem the same. And I'll be the one riveting my feet to the nearest heavy object.

Weirdos.

PALMER ON PROZAC is a freelance writer from Stockport, England. He is also the main author of this Web Site. You can see more of his observations and Rants on THE SITE FOR SORE EYES soon. His views and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the owners of this Site. When not wandering lonely as a cloud of Plutonium from Sellafield, he likes to dress up as a sheep and give the collies of this world some payback.

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