On Thursdays I go to see the Yoga Ogre in Buxton. I had the most amazing drive over there last week. Amazing only in that it was perfect, until I reached the A6 at least. When I compare it to the sort of journeys I used to make in London…. well, there is no comparison. There I had to plan exactly when to leave the house to avoid the worst of the traffic jams. Driving to see a friend five minutes away could commute to 30 minutes of wheel-clenching, teeth-grinding frustration, magnified into urban hell by tired/hungry/irritable/bored babies in the back screaming blue murder. Give me a padded cell any day.
Here, it’s a rather different matter. I have to go, I get in the car and I drive. The only obstacles are horses, tractors, ageing LandRovers driven by stubborn farmers and equally stubborn sheep. Used to be a dairy herd issue too, but sadly, the last one was sold a year or two back. I used to love going in to school and saying ‘Oh, gosh, sorry I’m late, cattle, you know, milking. Got stuck in the lane’. Now I just have to say, ‘Sorry, late again. No reason. Yep, ok, flossing my teeth.’ I get the hard stare back and put myself in the naughty corner.
So last Thursday I flung myself eagerly into my car, slinky black yoga pants by my side, and reversed in one seamless arc out of the drive (thankfully the need for a reverse manoeuvre through narrow gate and walls is what put a lot of people off buying the house and hence left it wide open for us to grab, slightly non-plussed by the extraordinary reasons people do or don’t buy houses). Wow, what a beautiful day it was. One of those that's all shiny and bright, like looking out through newly cleaned windows. The focus is true, the shadows are sharp, the colours deep. The blades of grass were positively sparkling and the chirpy, chatty bluebells were bursting through the green verges on the edge of the road, gossiping away to the fat yellow dandelions about the comings and goings of the village. They were nodding their pretty heads and whispering and giggling and swishing their green skirts in the breeze. Most of the daffodils were now hanging their bedraggled heads having shown up early to the party, just a few late-comers happy still to join the throng and laugh and dance and be merry.
So I waved goodbye to the old house on the hill, lilac wisteria decorating her handsome stone windows like eyeshadow on an old dame. She's crumbling a bit round the edges but still stands firm against the elements, solid as a rock, defying time. As I descended the steep right-hand curve (a bitch in snow), past my neighbours in what was once the farm and some workers’ cottages, down through the 'cutting' of high hedge and stone wall and under the boastful bowers of a cherry tree heavy with pink blossom, I startled blue-tits, sparrows and blackbirds out of the hedges and up from the verges: flashes of blue, yellow, brown and black all swooped in front of the car, drawing me with their frenzied flight further down the lane before darting back into the safety of the hedgerow. Round the S-bend (‘Mummy’s Corner’ – tale for another day) by the track which leads under the railway and down to the reservoir where ducks bob and white sails glide. Little brown bunnies hopped out in front of me and darted into some hidden holes in the hedges, one had a mouthful of grass still clamped between its furry jaws. Lunch interrupted. Then, as I was going over the modest little stream (which swells and floods in the downpours of autumn and winter) I looked to my left and saw a scene straight out of a children’s story book: three perfect white geese with nine perfect brown goslings were standing on the slope of the jewel green pastures which lead to the meandering stream. The light was so strong and sharp it was as if they were etched onto the landscape. They stood motionless, in perfect formation, looking up at the blue sky.
I continued past the farm, scattering cocks and bantams (they don’t always make it, but not guilty I), past the watering hole (pub to you) and on through the village. Another S-bend, another stream and up the green tunnel of trees which leads to the escarpment. I rounded the corner at Florence Nightingale’s old haunt and came face to face with a big bay horse. Atop it, way up high, was a mother from school. I gave her a wave and a smile and was relieved I’d got there just in time not to have to grind up the hill behind her and her noble steed, while feeling a bit of a cad – how much better to have been scaling the hill with real horse power rather than with man-made. But it would have made me terribly late and my thighs would have hurt even before the yoga began. With a mental note to fix up a ride soon, I went round the hairpin bend that once, in ice and dead of night, I famously tobogganed down in a car packed with Christmas gifts and parents. It was not a good moment. ‘Mummy’s Other Corner’. The view is beautiful from here (if you’re not plunging over the escarpment at the time). The yellow gorse has now taken over the chief hill-decorating role from the white hawthorn, soon to be joined by purple rhododendron. I passed the gritstone crags on the right where climbers often cling, and glanced over to Chapel in the wide valley on my left, the brooding outlines of Kinder Scout beyond. Suddenly a bolt-eyed hare bound out into the lane and bounced along in front of me before jumping through a gap in a crumbling dry stone wall. A ewe with her two sturdy lambs bumbled off the tarmac in fright, another escapee from the surrounding fells. Everywhere I looked there were woolly mothers with their little black-faced charges. Further on a farmer was feeding his flock which crowded round him like adolescents at a pop concert, jostling for pole position.
I passed the march of electricity pylons and tumbled off the hillside into man-land. The barren moorland feeds into the first line of houses and parked cars. A ginger and white cat strolled across the lane and hopped onto a wall. I passed the station, on the Buxton to Manchester line, and popped out onto the dreaded A6 to join a stream of cars and lorries, many of them serving the numerous quarries, in the (relatively) tedious trail into Buxton. I passed the spot where a guy from our village, born and bred, killed himself on his motorbike. The flowers to mark the year ago anniversary lay limply by the re-built fence. Past the spot where a new leisure complex has been proposed (oh, the horror of it, ruining the open-viewed approach to the town and causing more congestion problems on this busy main road), past the driving range and the golf course, and down into town. Past Aldi and the new Waitrose which took over from Somerfield (signs that things are changing in Buxton…), past the imposing Palace Hotel, the art-deco splendour of the Opera House, the rejuvenated public gardens and into the Yoga Ogre’s road. I am late. She is not pleased. The karma’s not good. I make my excuses and flee, muttering something about ‘next week’. Well, at least I enjoyed the journey.