A jolly wheeze


Wheeeee! Exams finish and summer begins! Peculiar thing about the human brain – my human brain, maybe – that I can’t recall birthdays, conversations with friends about fairly life-changing stuff, or indeed quite a lot of the material I’d revised, but by jiminy I can remember all the stupid things I wrote in my exams. The flashbacks are subsiding now, but for a while I would make strange noises in the street and clutch at my face involuntarily. Oh well, they’re finished now. And I can’t imagine that my retrospective mangling of the Bretton Woods institutions (‘the IMF is, like, well important’) is going to make any difference to anything.

In the run-up to exams I went to Lincolnshire to be dubbed godmother to little Lily who is an adorable currant bun of a baby. I like a bit of an explore, so since I’d just done lots of revision on the train I hopped out at Lincoln to stroll around and see the sights. It’s a tricky thing to gauge because you’re talking to a stranger, but usually when you suggest walking anywhere, people’s faces change, like they’ve just peeped into hell. Their eyes get big and their brows furrow as they warn ‘It’s nearly a mile. You’ll have to get a bus.’ Do you know how long a mile is? This is not a mile of fording rivers, slashing through bramble patches or tiptoeing past sleeping bears, not in the East Midlands. It’s 15 minutes along pavements and over beeping pedestrian crossings.

And yet, and yet. If someone gets the fear in their eyes and mentions a hill, listen to them, especially if they’re a wiry-looking 50-something. There’s only one hill in Lincolnshire, and Lincoln Cathedral is on top of it – as is the tourist information office. Oh, ha bloody ha, Lincoln. No pocket street maps to be had until you’ve grunted up Steep Hill – good name – wondering how a dress, a pair of shoes and a little silver christening present could make a wheelie suitcase that effing heavy. There’s a Victorian meeting house part way up with a magnificent clematis and a lovely view, which is a perfect place to stop. Old people like it too, so you can stand behind them to hide your labouring flanks and pretend it’s the pensioners whose lungs are whistling like the dawn chorus.

Another sour little joke: all the posh chocolate and ice cream shops are at the top of the hill; Greggs and the West Cornwall Pasty Company are at the bottom. Which means, interestingly, (once the dizzy spells have passed) you can tell roughly how high up the hill you are by the shape of the passers-by. Anyway, lovely cathedral. And very good ice cream!


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