Sunday, 4 December 2016

A and E and Peterborough

Today has been ludicrously hard, largely because, at 11pm yesterday, I was rushed into hospital on account of my left leg swelling up to twice the size of the other one and being covered in nasty blisters. There aren't that many headlines to the story; the doctor who told me to go wouldn't send an ambulance, so my land lady texted me a list of local taxi companies, none of whom could take me in. It was genuinely awful. There are no words to describe how helpless it feels to be in that situation with no transport and an increasing level of panic. I had no idea what was going on. I just knew I wanted medical assistance. In the end, my landlady drove me there in an act of absolute generosity.

The triage nurse was surly and didn't really look at the wound, so I was relegated to the back of the queue and only seen by a doctor at 2am. The doctor was astonished and had to get a second opinion which didn't shed a great deal of light on the situation. The second doctor didn't think the rash was related to the fall, and assumes I've walked over some poison ivy or some such. He lanced one of the boils with a pair of scissors and prescribed me some antibiotics, which I'm not sure have done anything but make me feel sick. At the end of day four, I've another blister and the leg is still enormous. I just need to get through two more days and then I can curl up in a little ball and sleep! 

So I took a taxi back to Fotheringhay, which is one of the darkest villages I've ever visited at night, and got about four hours' sleep, which is nowhere near enough.

After a lovely breakfast in the B and B, I took myself to the site of the old castle in Fotheringhay, which, of course, is where Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded and Richard III was born. It's right by the Nene, but these days it's nothing but a mound. There are all sorts of stories about Queen Elizabeth tearing the place down in an attempt to leave no trace of the horrifying order she'd given. I've also read that Mary's son, James I, had the place torn down, but the truth seems to be a great deal less interesting. Probably because it felt like a tainted spot, it simply fell into disrepair and locals went in and nicked the stone. They say most of Oundle is built from the stone of the castle and that the Talbot Hotel has the castle's staircase (which is rumoured to be haunted by Mary herself.)

Frost was glinting magically on the castle mound, and, as I walked out of the village, the sun was shimmering on the stained glass windows of the church. It's been a beautiful day with non-stop, stunning wintry sunlight.

I took the road to Nassingham where I met Peter and Beth from NMPAT who have commissioned this whole project. It was so lovely to see them trudging along the road. Their presence meant I had lovely people to talk to all day, and, in the case of Beth, someone to mother me a little and check I was okay! She carried my rucksack all day as well, which was an act of extreme generosity. It made all the difference. Before lunch I came closer than I've ever been to throwing in the towel. We walked across one field, which was such heavy-going that I started to lose all hope.

One of the wonderful aspects of having Peter about was that he took charge of navigation, which meant I didn't have to think, or keep checking my phone.

The first lovely moment was in Wansford-in-England, where the three of us officially passed into Cambridgeshire. It was rather nice to be doing so with two fellow Northamptonians. Wansford is a lovely town with a stunning 16th Century, many-arched bridge which takes travellers across the Nene flood plain. And why Wansford-in-England? Well, the story goes that a local dim wit fell asleep on a bale of hay, and when he awoke, the hay-bale was floating down the river Nene. Much disorientated, he shouted at someone on the bank: "where are we good Sir?" "Wansford" "Wansford... in England?" asked the dim wit... and the name was born.

We stood on the bridge for sometime, looking back towards Northamptonshire. I was taking photographs into the sun, and everything took on a wonderful 1970s back-lit quality!

Crossing the A1, a few minutes later was also something of a key moment. We did so at a fabulous Art Deco building which featured in my A1 film, when it was derelict and covered in graffiti. I remember the building from my childhood when it was a Happy Eater but these days it seems to be the home of an architect company, which feels appropriate, despite my having a sneaky desire to see it as a truck stop again. I love atmospheric truck stops.

Under the A1 was a murky wonderland where shafts of light burst through the concrete struts of the bridge and dance on the brown surface of the water.

In these parts, the fields are full of teasels. Thousands of them. When the sun lights them up from behind, they look absolutely beautiful.

Just before lunch we stumbled up to the first station on the Nene Valley Railway. It's called Wansford, but is actually nearer to Stibbington. It was a much-welcome break. The station has the most charming little old-school cafe which is run by old rail enthusiasts. It's such a nice place to sit and have a cup of tea and a sandwich.

They were running the "Santa Express" today, so there were loads of highly excitable children rushing about. We got to watch the train leaving the station. I recorded it because I want to feature a musical representation within my work. The rest of our walk to Peterborough was punctuated with the sounds of steam and distant whistles. Periodically, a train would rattle past us. The carriages are plainly French because they're adorned with French words.

The sun started kicking out the most beautiful light from about 2 pm and I'm thrilled to report that I saw my first Oxbow lake in the middle of a field! A-level geography instantly kicked in and I got pathetically excited!

We walked along the calm river for a long time, as the sun started glowing orange in the sky and then again reflected on the surface of the river. Barges would occasionally drift past us, creating v's of shimmering ripples on the river in their wake. Someone was whistling very happily on one of the boats. It was a lovey sound.

We passed a dog wearing a muzzle and a yellow jacket at one point, which had the words "dog in rehab" written on it.

The sun melted into a glorious sunset which kept appearing behind the trees. My legs gave way. The walk into Peterborough seemed endless and by the time I'd got to my hotel, I couldn't even climb the stairs. Now I know what it feels like to be old!!

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