This story has two beginnings.
One beginning is no longer recoverable from my memory, lost in time and masked by other memories. This beginning is on a family holiday in my early childhood with parents of three children determined to enjoy the countryside.
The other beginning is in a small room with a group of young men talking about life. I am supposed to be the experienced one in the room, but the truth is that I’m learning just as much as they are. We are looking at a book with the title Storyline. The basic thought of this book is that many stories follow a pattern, and if you consider your life as a set of stories you can decide where in that pattern each of your stories are. What is more, you can choose the stories that you want to participate in and consciously write your own life stories.
One of the stories that I wanted to write was around my fitness and sustaining a lifestyle that would enable me to be healthy. I don’t play a sport, and I’m not really a fan of the gym even though I attended one at the time. I’ve always enjoyed hiking making it the obvious choice for my fitness story, but what would the aim be? How would the story go?
Many great stories have a climactic event near the end where a target is met or a goal achieved. Sometimes it’s easier to build the story from that event backwards, which is what I did? I needed a hiking goal that would give me something to aim for over an extended period, which was also interesting enough for me to keep going.
Not far from where I live is the Lake District National Park and within its confines are a set of mountains, some that I have walked many times, others I would never choose to visit. The paths and peaks of this area where described in a set of guidebooks written by A. Wainwright known as Pictorial Guides of the Lakeland Fells. There are 214 hills described and climbing each of them has become a goal for many, and seemed like the obvious aspiration for me. Goal set.
There were a couple of options for the climactic event, I hadn’t climbed the highest of the 214, the highest in England, Scafell Pike. I wanted the big day to be a social occasion and leaving a big one to be that hill would exclude several people including family members. The alternative was obvious, a smaller hill in a prominent place which many could climb, even the smallest amongst us. The most northerly hill of the 214, Binsey, is number 191 in size and sits on its own. It’s not naturally part of another walk, you walk it on its own and I’d never walked it, so it seemed like the natural choice. Binsey would be the final walk with family and friends, a climactic event to look forward to, an occasion to celebrate.
(I kept Scafell Pike to for my penultimate walk. My penultimate hill was Great End which seemed fitting)
There was also the challenge of when this event would take place and several years back it seemed sensible that I should be able to do this walk by my fiftieth birthday. A goal with a date.
Working back through the other phases of the story was just as important though, and one of the phases in every good story is the time of struggle. There aren’t many great stories that where everything goes according to plan, struggle is normal, and the Storyline approach encourages you to recognize what those struggles might be and to prepare for them. The primary constraint was always going to be time, I have responsibilities and people that are important to me who are always going to be higher on the priority list. My preparation for this struggle was simple, I was going to hold the target of my fiftieth birthday lightly and keep a good record of my progress to stop myself becoming dispirited. As it happened my fiftieth birthday came and went without my climactic event, but I am proud of the priority choices that I made instead, important people and family situations that needed my time.
Intermittent goals were also important. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was stood part way around the Fairfield Horseshoe with two close friends taking selfies as we reached a third of the hills climbed (which is, of course, part way between 71 and 72). I reached the halfway mark on Great Mell Fell where my celebration was a picture on social media and great encouragement from family and friends:
Every story needs a beginning, a reason to start. Most of the time these beginnings occur when something happens unexpectedly and the only response is to start out on the journey. It doesn’t have to be an unexpected beginning though, there are parts of our lives were we get to write the story, we choose the beginning and the journey, we even design the ending.
Completing the Wainwrights has been a story that I wrote, I didn’t write every detail of it, that would have been dull, but I did create the plot and saw it come to fruition. The journey was an adventure and completing it with friends and family was one of those life occasions that will stay with me. An extra special treat was that I got spend it with my Grandson for whom it was his first Wainwright, hopefully the first of many.
The questions I’ve been asked more than any other is “what are you going to do next?” What’s the next climactic event? I haven’t decided yet. I love hiking and will continue to do that. There are many of the hills that I didn’t see the top of because of the weather, perhaps I’ll revisit those. There are other routes up many of the hills, perhaps that will be the goal. I counted all of the hills that I climbed in my childhood and prior to starting the story, perhaps I’ll revisit those. Some suggested swimming all of the lakes in the Lake District, but I’ve nearly done that already, for the permissible ones that is. No, I won’t be aiming to complete the Munros. All I can be sure of is that I will be writing a new plot. Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this one, whether it’s been in person or online.
Heading Image: This is Jimmy and Grandad who have accompanied me on many of my walks. When I started taking them with me I had no idea that I would become a Grandpa before I completed this subplot. The best stories all contain something unexpected.