Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Swinging through the trees (real and metaphorical)

Yesterday I completed a Tree Top Adventure with GoApe - not, shall we say, my usual thing, and if you had asked me as I stared up the length of the first rope ladder what I thought about it, I'd have said that I was contemplating how easy it would be to get my money back without losing too much face.

The website says ''You’ll enjoy two to three hours of fun and adventure. It’s a great way to get outdoors and try something a little bit unique. Our high ropes adventure experience takes one lush, green forest and a healthy dollop of stunning views. Then we add a smattering of tree top high wires, tricky crossings (using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and super-strong wire) and unforgettable zip wires. It’s a day out like no other."

Now, I'm all for outdoors and forests and stunning views, but I'd never even touched a zipwire before, and while heights have never particularly bothered me, I find as I get older that I have les and less faith in my own balance. The people I was with climb, now and again, and as I contemplated that ladder I wondered just how much I was going to be holding them back, letting them down, and generally giving them an excellent story in the pub later at my expense ...

We had a good little introduction and practice at using the harness, and the staff were friendly as well as exuding an air of competence (as well as youth and fitness - one of which I've lost and the other of which has for most of my life eluded me very successfully). Then I had my first, baby zipwire and we were off - not quite on our own, as a staff member was always somewhere around and we had whistles, but to be honest they were a long way below us most of the time!

Those rope ladders - well, I've never been able to climb ropes or do monkey bars, and watching people do chin-ups has always been a bit like watching someone walk on the moon, for me. I had to stop twice before I made it up the first one. The cargo nets were worse: I had to be hauled off the first one, and even though I was only traversing the second one, not climbing it, I have bruises deep into my forearms from hugging the ropes to me trying to stop letting go. I avoided the last cargo net, which was a shame, as by that time the sensation of hurling yourself off something and relying on your harness to save you was becoming just a touch addictive. I have to say that with the exception of the nets and ladders, I had a brilliant afternoon, and came down every zipwire laughing. I can't believe I did it all, and I feel three inches taller today. The only good story I was able to give my companions was that I managed to descend every zipwire backwards, and braked at the end not by running along, but by sliding on my bottom into thick piles of bark chippings, which had to be raked back into place after I had carved my ample furrow through them! But I am left with a lingering feeling that the red squirrels were laughing heartily at us ...

It was revenge, really: at the Highland Wildlife Park this week we were wandering along a boardwalk when our companion some distance in front of us sneezed. At the sound, a red squirrel shot vertically out of the undergrowth, as if our companion had sneezed down a pipe and the squirrel had been sitting over the other end of it. He sneezed again, and the same thing happened - but this time the squirrel scuttled off, unimpressed. A third sneeze sent it straight up a tree, as if blown there. This time it was us laughing at the squirrel.

Holidays are over now, though, and I am finding my way through the metaphorical trees, piecing together the pathways of Out of a Dark Reflection, the working title, at least, of the next Murray of Letho novel. It's set in Letho in the autumn of 1816, and begins with the violent death of an old woman in a cottage in the village. It's where it goes next that is tying my head in knots today. I plot for a few minutes, type furiously, then take a break doing something mindless like knitting for a few minutes more, letting the tangles untwist so that I can do the next little bit. This is the basic plan: it will look fairly thorough when it's done, but it will still change as I actually write the thing, as further ideas are caught up and included, and practical problems present themselves (he can't possibly be in the village at noon and home by ten past, for example, however neatly it fits the plot).

Well, better get on!

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