The lemon tart wasn't fantastic. What was fantastic was that when I went into town to find a bank after dinner, rain streaming down, black as night (because it was, and night in a village where light pollution isn't such an issue), there, on the side of the main road, were two snow white geese, just hanging out on a corner, like you do. Very surreal.
In the morning I asked Dave for the best way back to the route, Quickest or prettiest he asked. Whichever means I don't have to go back down that hill, I replied. Brrt! Wrong answer. Not an option. A couple of suggestions later he settled on telling me the way to Heptonstall and its famous landmark—Sylvia Plath's gravesite. All that was required was to pop back down into town, turn onto the bridge that the town is named for and straight up the hill on the other side. No problem, except that this was all in the rain, on cobble stones and at a seventy degree angle. I thought I was going to die by falling backwards onto my pack and sliding all the way back down the hill. These visions of dying this way never seem to come to fruition. Even though I had hardly gone anywhere, the steepness of the climb and the ickyness of the rain sent me into the teahouse in Heptonstall for a very nice tea and well deserved (I thought) cake. I asked the lady in the shop if Ted Hughes lived around there (why was Sylvia buried there I wondered). She told me: 'Oh yeah, his family live next door to me'. Like you do. Live next door to a Poet Laureate's family. Sylvia's grave had a huge pot full of pens on it. Maybe they don't have word processors in heaven.
Easiest, relatively, was to follow the cycle route to the Pack Horse Inn and jump back on the trail there. It meant walking along the Hardcastle Crags—an incredibly steep ravine. It is a National Trust area and amazingly beautiful. It is a little disconcerting to stand at points along the road, where there is no fence or rails and look straight down into the abyss. Makes it difficult to jump out of the way of oncoming traffic.
The Pennine has become more what I expected it to be now. It is mud making its way up and down hills in their steepest parts. I thought I could psychologically handle it better if I booked in somewhere to stay at the end of the day. But the phone at the Pack Horse was out-of-order and so spontaneity is once again forced upon me. Three or four hours of sleety rain, ankle deep mud, slippery flagstones and following what is not a track but rather a river, and I was in Ponden and knocking on the door of the Ponden Guest House. It had been a literary day. I didn't realise that I am smack-bang in Bronte country (can't hope to do the accented 'e' on this thing I am afraid). Near Ponden is Haworth which is where the Bronte's dad preached. On Top Withins, where I stopped for a moment of wind-free and mostly rain-free sitting without a pack on, is the house that is purportedly in the location that Charlotte based Wuthering Heights on (the house, not the book, the house in the book). Opposite Ponden Guest House, Ponden Hall is allegedly Thrushcross Grange. Time for me to be reading Wuthering Bites I think.
Big, bold statement alert: Ponden Guest House may well be the best B&B I have stayed in for this whole trip. I mean from Land's End to here, not just this year. Bold, eh? Big, yep? Its hard to put a finger on exactly what makes it so beside just plain 'vibe'. It feels fantastic, and all the credit lies with Brenda. I got to speak to a couple of other hikers, Dale, and Phil and Jill, while we had dinner there, and we sat 'til late having a yak and a laugh, but it was when it was just Brenda that it was most magical. She sort of disappeared when everyone was there but we had a nice cup of tea when I arrived and, even nicer, another the following morning in her kitchen. There was just something 'right' about being in that beautiful space. I can't explain it better—that will have to suffice.
Annoying: someone keeps calling my phone at five and six in the morning—four times. I am not answering it due to not knowing the number and not being willing to pay for the international roaming charges on an unknown call. So I texted them—it is a mobile after all. It is someone asking for a reference for a friend—one I agreed to ages ago, implying, I think that the friend applied ages ago. Now, millions of years down the track, they are super-eager to get hold of me (its a personal reference only??). It'll just be thirty or forty minutes they say. That will cost at least a thousand dollars by my esttimate. I asked them to give me their availability and I would, when I could, get a phone card and call them from a pay phone. They came back with an availability of nine-thirty am tomorrow. Are they only available for that one minute in a whole day. And I know it is the UK, but do they know that there are places that don't have a shop, that don't have a public phone; places that are in the middle of nowhere, and I am walking. I explained this nicely several times (fifty cents for each text I sent and each text I got, at one a.m!) In the end I just had to say—I will call you when I can, full stop. My poll question to you is: Is that mean? Should I take a forty minute call on international roaming because I said I would give the reference. Mind you, I got no fifty-cent return text from my last text. I hope, to all that is spiritual or fatalistic, that this doesn't look bad for my friend.
Good night to Ponden, good night to you.