So how was your weekend? Mine was spent learning the ukulele and caving. As I typed that I realised that it sounds like I’m one of those complete overachievers who isn’t content unless they’re trying out a new activity every day, the sort of person who casually drops into the conversation that last weekend they went on a ten mile hike, learnt Mandarin and crocheted an egg cosy. That is most certainly not the norm with me; my weekends when home are usually spent in a gentle haze of coffee drinking, paper reading and maybe a walk in the park, but for some reason this weekend these two opportunities just came up out of the blue.
On Saturday S and I had one of those lovely moochy days that Bristol is so good for. We started off in Stokes Croft, wandering along in the sunshine, pretending to be tourists and admiring all the graffiti and artwork on the buildings. We then popped into Mickleburgh’s music shop, just for a browse and a lustful look at the grand pianos, but ended up coming out twenty minutes later with a ukulele and an instruction book. We’d been talking about getting one for a while, and when confronted with a row of prettily coloured ones in the shop, decided to go for it. So after a coffee in the park, we went home, tuned the strings and started learning chords. By Sunday night we had mastered a range of chords from D7 to Am, and can play six tunes including My Darling Clementine and Greensleeves. Give us another week and we’ll be just like George Formby…
Despite the beautiful sunshine, Sunday was spent in the damp and dark, seventy feet under the Mendips, after a former colleague emailed me out of the blue on Friday and asked if I wanted to go caving as he was heading to a spot that was good for beginners. As I had nothing planned and S was most likely going to make me a bike widow as per usual, I thought it would be a good chance to do something a bit different.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. You know the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway”? In terms of my caving experience it should be “not realise you would have those fears in the first place until you’re 30 feet below the surface and hyperventilating, but not be able to chicken out in front of your colleague, so do it anyway”. I was somewhat naive in what I thought it would comprise when I agreed to go; I’d done it as an 8 year old (in the same place, in fact) and so was sure I would be fine twenty years down the line. I also thought that it would simply be a case of walking along a cave at person height, with perhaps the occasional scramble over a jutting rock, as this is what my 8 year old self remembers it as. What I hadn’t considered was that I would be burrowing deeper and deeper into the earth, squeezing through tight spaces and trying not to fall down open shafts, feeling more and more panicky as there was more and more rock above my head and the entrance was further and further away.
There were a couple of moments where it was on the tip of my tongue to ask my colleague to take me back up to the surface, but I knew I’d be really annoyed if I didn’t complete the trip, so I just took a deep breath and kept going. And it was worth it. It’s not every day that you get the chance to go into a cave that has been around since the Pleistocene era and has medieval witch marks on the walls. Unfortunately I didn’t see any stalagtites or stalagmites, due to the Victorians’ penchant for blasting them off with a shotgun for use as garden ornaments, but I did see a bat, hanging upside down asleep. Not quite a pygmy goat in a pink collar, but still a good spot.