A Requiem for Going Out Out

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‘Going out out’ is a phrase that sends shivers down the spines of most people in their mid-thirties, yet this weekend I tried to prove myself wrong in the name of reliving my youth. A couple of weekends ago, I had attempted to go out out. By that, I mean that I wore a pair of heels and some red lipstick, to go out. However, that night we ended up out-outish, in a pub that blared out cheese music whilst my friend and I planned that fated walk in Wales (see previous post – WARNING: SCENES OF MILD PERIL). Coincidentally, that same evening, another friend invited me to go proper out out. I foolishly said yes because I was determined to prove that I, in my mid-thirties, could still have a bloody good time out out.

Fast-forward to last night (Saturday). Now, let me put my weekend into a bit of context here; Friday evening (after a full day at work) I hosted a fondue night which ended up with me mopping the floor at midnight because there was an explosion of cheese and flour, and Saturday morning/afternoon was spent fake-god parenting at a naming ceremony. I had had a fairly full-on 18 hours. However, I soldiered on regardless prepping for my night out out with a classic disco nap. It was not a glorious disco nap, not like the ones I used to have during a matinee movie on the telly. I pseudo snoozed whilst Sir Pepperoni the cat kneaded me to death.

When it came to getting ready, several things came into my head (anyone who has read my Twitter feed may be familiar with some of these thoughts):

  1. Getting ready to music on the radio was rather disappointing, no classic getting-ready choons (this included 80s & 90s stations). I settled on Smooth FM which, in hindsight, was a bit too low-tempo for getting ready but at least I knew the songs they were playing.
  2. Upon packing my tiny clutch bag, it felt like my personal possessions had gotten too big and wouldn’t fit/my inhaler took up all the space. I settled on shoving overflow items into my jacket pocket.
  3. Tights. I spend 99% of the year in opaque black tights (footless ones in the summer). Expecting to go for a boogie, I tested their danceability by jumping up and down; I was not going to have Nora Batty knees tonight, no siree.
  4. Footwear. I put on my lovely tasseled wedges. Then remembered sticky, beer/vodka/Redbull-soaked dance floors. I replaced these with a pair of black flats. However, I secretly worried that the black flats would get ruined; I no longer have a disposable shoe wardrobe.
  5. I had to make a mental note to myself to not eat too much at dinner, because boogies.
  6. I have a LOT of red lipsticks. Maybe I should wear them more?
  7. Out out clothing: I was sure that my dress looked a bit like a black bin liner made from crepe paper but one of the joys of being in my mid-thirties is that I no longer give a shit.

Upon arrival at the restaurant I was actually a bit excited. I wanted to tell the restaurant that I was OUT OUT. Catch up with BFF was lovely; she was all glammed up with a face made up by the gods at Givenchy and heels to die for. I resented my choice of black flats. All was well until we ordered some water for the table. The waiter came along in a rush with a stupidly shaped jug (FYI curved jugs are a stupid idea), he placed it on the table but didn’t place it properly and before I knew it, a tsunami of cold tap water gushed towards me. I got soaked good and proper. As did my phone and the rest of my textile-based possessions. I believe my precise words during this incident were: ‘FUCK MY LIFE’. Looking on the up side, my crepe paper dress was super thin and was semi-dryable underneath the hand dryers in the toilet. My jacket and scarf couldn’t be saved though and they remained damp for the rest of the evening. By the time I got back to the table, my pasta was cold (it was also overcooked) and my gin cocktail had gone flat. I won’t be going back there any time soon.

Anyway, moving onwards. We did a mini-bar crawl stopping off at hotspots like Turtle Bay (HAPPY HOUR AT 10PM!), where we made friends with two girls we shared a table with. Over cocktails that tasted like UmBongo, we bonded over Bongo’s Bingo (to be honest the girls were off their faces and I’m still none the wiser as to how it differs from normal bingo, other than it’s aimed at hipsters), bananas (mainly dislike of bananas) and not understanding how people were ordering food at 10pm which is way past anybody’s dinner time. We swiftly moved on to the Victoria and got trapped on a very small make-shift dance floor. It was also dark. Very dark. Like, they couldn’t afford to replace the lightbulbs kinda dark. Not great when you’re still sober (another observation: definitely takes longer to get merry on drinks in your mid-thirties). We managed to squeeze our way out for proper boogs (that’s short for ‘boogies’ guys) at the legendary Island Bar. It took a while for us to recognise any song on the playlist (thank you RiRi, we will ensure to werk werk werk werk werk). As the music got louder and we lost the ability to hear each other, we headed towards another tiny dance floor to get into the swing of being out out. I’m not going to lie though, we were very distracted by the projection screen that was showing Baywatch, reminiscing over CJ Parker/Pamela Lee, Jaaaaaaaason Simmons and Yasmin Bleeth going to sea in a full face of make up. Also the episode ‘Der Cowboy’, probs because it was a German dubbed episode. Having watched a few episodes/danced to a few choons we’d never heard of in our lives, we decided to call it a night at 12.30am. But the drama wasn’t over. SOMEONE HAD STOLEN MY BFF’S DENIM JACKET (of 12 years). *sighs*. Several search and rescue attempts later, the denim jacket remained unfound. Since when did going out out become such a perilous experience? 30 minutes after leaving, I was at home in front of the telly watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit with a cup of tea.

Let’s be clear here, I am not opposed to a cheeky night out out. I am not a destroyer of spontaneous fun with friends over a few boogs and bevvies. However, occasionally the pressure to have a good time when you’re out out (especially when you only do it twice a year) becomes a bit overbearing and I sometimes get a bit of social anxiety because of it: ‘WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A GOOD TIME?’ ‘WHAT IF MY FEET START TO BLEED BECAUSE I’VE BOOGIED TOO HARD?’ ‘WHAT IF I GET A MIGRAINE FROM HAVING TOO MUCH FUN?’ ‘HAVE I PUT ENOUGH HAIRSPRAY IN MY HAIR?’ are just a few thoughts that go through my head. Having said that, in my opinion letting your hair down is absolutely necessary and I see it as an important form of self care. I quite like the idea of a cheeky night out out every now and then but I think that as you get older, you realise that there are other more conducive things you could be doing with your time and money. Especially when you have to work real hard to earn that money and time off only comes once every five days. Fun comes in other forms; a happy hour drink with friends after work, crochet, dinner parties etc. For the foreseeable future I think I will channel my energies into standard, plebeian ‘out’ which, in my humble opinion, is far more rewarding than a night out out which, more often than not, ends with painful feet and a sore head. Here’s to going just out *clinks*.

The Walk That Nearly Broke Me.

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Pen y Fan in the distance (left) and Y Gyrn to the right

Wales. It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it? Miles and miles of beautiful rolling hills punctuated with epic summits, cwms (is that the correct plural for ‘cwm’?) and long sloping ridges; dotted between are a few jewel-like lakes that look like small puddles in a giant’s playground. This weekend was supposed to be about relaxing, a chance to catch up with a BFF, to blow out some of those cobwebs, yadayadayada. I was not expecting an 8-hour hike fuelled by periodic waves of mild peril. Now, I’m just going to say that I am not a novice at this mountain walking malarkey, despite what my £25, 9 year old walking shoes say (SHOES, NOT EVEN BOOTS). I’ve done the 3 peaks (in those exact shoes) and I’m proud that I didn’t cry climbing any of them. However, this weekend nearly broke me.

With it being a weekend away, said BFF and I thought we might as well make a day of walking. An 11-miler didn’t sound too bad as we’d both just completed the Midnight Walk – a 10-mile walk around Bristol, in the middle of the night (yes, it did occur to us that we could have done that walk on any other day, at any other time). We read the information on the Brecon Beacons website carefully and made a sound and educated judgement to attempt ‘The Big One’ which was an 11-mile walk covering 4 peaks including Corn Du (like Fondue but not) and Pen y Fan.

On the day, I arrived late, which didn’t start the day off well. Plus it had started to spit rain, and we couldn’t find a parking spot, so we should have just gone home. BUT WE DIDN’T. Because we were foolish WE WERE BETTER THAN THAT. Anyway, after a spot of kish (my new way of spelling ‘quiche’ because apparently, some people do spell it ‘kish’) for luncheon, we headed off on our trek. Off up a really steep slope we go, we should have known it was going to go wrong, the directions said ‘Ignore the stone path and take the less obvious track off to the left…‘ ‘IGNORE‘?! OKAY THEN. (SPOILER ALERT: We did not get lost at any point on this journey). After a bit of panting (far too much panting) we got to the top and shortly after, we were met with sights like this:

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I *think* the lake/cwm to the right is Llyn Cwm Llwch 

We also walked past Tommy Jones’s Obelisk. Poor little 5-year old Tommy got lost when visiting his grandparents. The obelisk marks the spot where they found him, having died from exhaustion, after a 29-day search. Kudos to him though, he got pretty far up.

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Tommy Jones’s Obelisk

 

The next few hours and peaks brought us to magnificent views like these:

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BAAAAAA

We climbed up and down 3 peaks and made sure we stopped every now and then to admire the view. Despite the rain earlier that afternoon, it stayed dry for the duration of our walk. The breeze and occasional gust of wind meant that the temperature stayed ambient. We even stopped to have a chat to some sheep. We eventually reached the Neuadd Reservoir (the upper part of which has been drained). These were the last pictures I took before I lost the will to live.

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By the time we reached the lake, it was around 6pm. We stood by the lake and laughed at the idea of the peak on the other side. It looked horrendous, the worst of all the ones we’d climbed. Having passed the lake, reality dawned on us and we still had one more peak to climb. THAT peak we stood there laughing at. Craps. Like, major craps. We had to get up to the Graig Fan Ddu ridge which was apparently only a 200m climb. 200m MY ASS. It was the steepest of all the peaks so far, and remember, we had already been walking for over 5 hours. We had to climb the m***er***ker AND walk along the whole length of the ridge before our descent on the other side. My legs were already sore, I needed a wee real bad, and I most certainly did not want to spend any more time climbing mountains.

My memory of the next 3ish hours are pretty hazey. We bumped into some mountain runners, asking them what was directly over the other side of Graig Fan Ddu; a really steep descent apparently. So we dragged our sorry asses up towards Graig Fan Ddu and resorted to walking along the whole length of the ridge. I got to the point where I could barely lift my feet onto the stone steps. This has never happened before, my body has never given up on me like this. Not even at the top of Ben Nevis during a blizzard with my inappropriate footwear; MY LEGS WILL GET THROUGH THIS. Just about.

After what felt like a million hours later, we reached the top of the ridge but we still couldn’t see the path down to the carpark. Alarm bells were ringing in my head as at this point it was definitely gone 7-7.30pm and it was going to get dark soon. Although I had my headtorch and torch with me, the last thing I wanted to do was descend the unknown terrain via torch light. So we walked fast. Like, walking-to-work fast. Almost being-followed-in-the-dark fast. I was spurred on by my anger at… the Brecon Beacons website. There is no way this walk was 4-6 hours! We’re a) not stupid and b) not slow SO WHY ARE WE STILL ON THIS MOUNTAIN AFTER NEARLY 7 HOURS?! You can see where my anger was going. On a lighter note, we did bump into a couple and their chocolate labrador (they were camping on this ridge – mentalists). They offered some words of comfort and I got to burn off some of my anger by jumping around with the lab. ‘Aim for the pile of rocks over there’ the girl said, ‘the path down is just there’. THANK F*CK.

We power-walked to the pile of stones, although at this point I was sure my BFF was starting to see stone-pile mirages. Alas, at 8pm, the pile of stones was within reach. We didn’t even pay homage to the pile of stones, we had no time. It was getting dark and I still really needed a wee. We almost ran down the descent (my knees will never forgive me for it) and finally, we saw our cars in the car park. HALLELUJAH. 8.45pm we got back to our cars. Cars that we left around 8 hours before.

We arrived at our rather random b&b around 9.30pm. They’d stopped serving food. Great. We’d not eaten since around 12.30 that afternoon (bar a couple of Lindt chocolate balls and a banana). We were advised to go to the Chinese down the road. I wanted to ask the woman whether she had noticed my ethnicity, but by this point I was too tired and hungry to argue. After a quick text to my parents to tell them I was about to experience my first Chinese takeaway NOT FROM MY FAMILY, we rolled down the hill to get our tasty treats (my parents were not very impressed, no one can feed their daughter as well as they can #fattyfattyboomboom). Fried rice and curry sauce in a mediocre hotel room had never tasted so good. The local offie also did good:

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The next morning, we woke up early (and in pain) to get on a steam train! The best £14 I’ve ever spent. A little journey from Pant to Torpantau with a stop at Pontiscill, it was utterly delightful! The little choo choo cheered us right up! And it was nice to rest our legs too.

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The weekend was… an experience. Somehow my BFF and I are still talking, although I am certainly not walking. It was the first time I noticed my physical strength detoriorate during a walk which is probably a symptom of too much rest over the past few months. Although the walk was definitely a challenge, this time more physically than mentally, it was actually really rewarding to see the amazing views from the top. What has this weekend taught me? That I really should go out and see our country more often as there is so much on my doorstep that I’ve never seen. However, I think I might stick to flatter terrain in the near future…