I learned soon after I began paragliding that the body feels acceleration but not speed. Fly into a good thermal and there is a sudden upsurge as your body goes up and your stomach seems to lags behind. An intake of breath, increase in pulse-rate, mind focuses …. and you know you’re on your way. Once in the thermal the speed at which you go up is fairly constant if you have ‘cored’ it properly and you only know how quickly you are gaining altitude by looking at, or listening to, the instruments. It soon reaches the point where the ground is so far below that you have to look at the altimeter to know how high you are above it.
So it was on Monday when Ruth and Tim went home and said ‘see you a week tomorrow’. They are coming here and I take them to Heathrow. That was when it hit me how quickly time is going and how soon it will be before I’m off to join them in Canada. And it didn’t take much thought to realise how much has to be done in that time. A glance at the calendar confirmed this, less than 3 weeks before I go. It was just like the surge when you fly into a thermal, intake of breath and I suddenly became very aware: “this is serious stuff, I’ve got to get grips with it”.
Stuff that needs to be done? I only ever work from mental lists, except when I go food shopping. I started a list to remind me of things I needed to take before I went to Greece but it had only one item on it – ‘Zovirax’. It still said the same when I came home 5 months later.
This is a bit different because it is 20 years since I last went skiing or indeed anywhere cold. Packing will not be semi-automatic. Throwing a few shorts and T shirts into a bag won’t cut the mustard. Nor will just closing the front door behind me.
Things to take. I need some bits of technical kit for skiing – goggles, ski poles…… And I may need cold-weather clothing as temperatures in Banff go down to -40oC. Trip to the Ski Lodge in Cardiff for ski stuff: did that Tuesday morning. Sort through boxes of outdoor gear to find what extreme weather clothing I’ve still got and what I might need: did that Tuesday evening. But still need some more bits.
Get ready for Christmas. Removal from the Christmas Card List is still regarded comedically as the indicator of lost of friendships. I’m trying to cut down, sensitively, but my list is still 80+. I had already transferred Enfys’s very organised exercise book list onto an Excel spreadsheet, a task which served to emphasise the toll of seemingly accelerating years with increasing numbers of old friends and family removed because they have died. I bought cards last week and now need to write and send them, not a 10 minute job. Buying of presents is underway but not yet finished …. and they need to be wrapped, a job I began Tuesday evening. And one present needs to be made.
Get the house coddled. Leaving the house for a month in winter with the possibility of hard frosts is a bit different from leaving it in summer. I remember one winter which was so cold that the u-bends under the washbasins froze overnight every night for 2 weeks even though the heating was switched on. First thing we had to do in the morning was pour salt down the plug hole and leave it work. Leave the heating too high and it’s a waste of fuel and therefore money. I can’t help but be cynical about the latest increase in prices by British Gas, the supplier I switched to as the cheapest option before I went to Greece, coming as it does just before fuel consumption is set to rise as thermostats are turned up to cope with the onslaught of winter.
Sort out the Garden and the Blue House. There is far too much to do in the garden to achieve even a fraction of it before I go. The Autumn tidying is a far bigger task than usual because the garden got out of hand in the summer. It’s a matter of prioritising to fit the most important things into the rapidly diminishing time-slot. The slide from Autumn into winter has suddenly accelerated. The grey, damp days have finished, at least temporarily. Recent frosts, including the last 2 nights, have been quite sharp. It has been attractive with white frosts and black shadows contrasting the last of the Autumn golds. But it has accelerated the need to get plants under cover. Tender plants are now mostly in the Blue House or the Conservatory but the dead foliage all needs clearing to prevent white mildew developing. Tidying the garden is not my favourite occupation; I prefer the creative stuff. So I’m trying to prepare the last bits of construction work on the terraced vegetable beds as well as cutting back the galloping encroachment of weeds and collapsed dead vegetation.
Catching up with friends. I am very conscious of the fact that I have neglected some friendships since I got back from Greece. I finally caught up with some letters which had been sent in my absence and were awaiting my return, and I’m afraid I haven’t replied to them yet. Similarly with e-mails. I had hoped to meet up with some friends but it doesn’t look as if it will happen before I go. As it is I’m rushing around like a … well … a calliphora vomitoria (Google it and use your imagination, or check out the Urban Dictionary – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blue%20arsed%20fly) Still I’m hopeful of catching up with a few more people in the next 2 weeks.
It all reminds me of exams when I was in college. I never did any revision for the summer exams, including my Finals, until I got back after Easter. Then I drew up as revision timetable and time simply accelerated away from me. From that point on it was amazing how quickly the time passed. Suddenly the preparations were a thing of the past, looking back over your shoulder at them as you sat down in the first exam and knowing that they too would soon be a thing of the past.
In hardly any time at all I’ll be sitting on a plane. Time to draw breath. And remember the things I forgot to do or to bring.