Perhaps the flat tyre was an omen. We are inside the car because the wind has howled into Yorkshire on a holiday from the arse-end of Antarctica or somewhere. First there is one knock on the window, then another – “You need some air in that back tyre.
We get out and see that our friends’ car does indeed have a deflated back end. A compressor is borrowed for later, and off we go.
Walking with friends is one of life’s great pleasures. Tim Dowling in his Guardian magazine column described this just yesterday, and here we are doing the same, only Tim was on a soft walk along the Thames and we are up on the North York Moors in a gale.
I have a lot of time for Tim as he answers annoying questions from part-time journalism lecturers. Unlike other well-known, Jay Rayner-shaped people we could mention who prefer to make you look stupid on Twitter.
Tim describes in his column how on a walk you often have the same conversation, first with one friend, then another. That’s how today starts, although we are shouting against the wind. And the wind cries, “What are doing out here on a day like this?”
The wind knows more than we do, you see. We take the moorland route that follows the high rim. The wind is strong and icy, but the sky is clear and the views tremendous. One friend asks how to make sourdough bread, so I bellow instructions against the gale. News about offspring is sprung against the wind, too.
The wind dies, we bump into other friends out for the same walk, then carry on, dropping down towards Levisham, where we stop at the pub. Early for a pint at 11.45am, so coffees are ordered. We stand outside and chat as the sun dies away.
The sky above the Ginger Pig farm opposite the pub inks a threatening shade. That farm now has butchers’ shops and stalls across the south, having started by taking carcasses to Borough Market and doing the butchery on the stall.
On the Ginger Pig website, it mentions raising native breeds of cattle “across our unforgiving patch of North Yorkshire”. As the set off, we are about to walk into that unforgiving patch, but for now we chat, turning away from the village and into the path through the woods.
“Might be muddy down here,” someone says.
The rain starts as we prop up against a bank to eat our sandwiches. Other walkers trudge from the opposite direction, their boots thick with mud, and soon we are slipping and sliding, grabbing tree trunks as we stumble through the muddy trough of a path. This is takes a long time and is tiring. After that we reach the valley with the path that winds back up to the car with the flat tyre.
This is where the walk goes downhill just as it goes uphill. The rain pours down, the icy gale blows strong enough to knock you over, and the art of conversation is blowing in the wind. Soon we are soaked and silent.
I spurned the waterproof trousers and everything below the waist is drenched. There is an unpleasant hazard peculiar to male walkers, as I now discover. The rain runs off your waterproof jacket and goes straight into your pants. The icy wind then blasts your soaked trousers and your manhood takes a cruel beating. I then fall over sideways, hitting my head on the muddy earth.
As we climb the last stretch back up to the top of the rim, the sun comes out and the afternoon seems benign. Ten minutes later, we are in the car park, the tyre is being inflated and rain and sleet pelt us as we change out of our boots.
You always get something from a walk. This one has had its moments; mostly it was miserable, in a companionable way. Still, the best part was getting home, throwing off those soaked clothes, stumbling into the shower, dressing in dry clothes and drinking lots of hot tea.