Whenever you drive into Wooldale, there are big signs at the start of the road:
followed by a list of all the main local roads, with lamps to flash if any of them are closed. And they never are, at least not when I drive up into Wooldale. Which is, to be honest, a shame. I’d rather like to drive up there through softly-falling snow and see the list of closed roads flashing at me. But, no, the roads are always open, with no flakes to be seen anywhere.
Last night, for example, was just the same as any other. There were thunderstorms, heavy rain pouring down and almost flooding the road back up to the motorway, but that was just down to blocked drains. It felt fairly warm, for January at least. No sign of snow at all, even at 2am when I left the club to head home. So I was slightly puzzled to wake up this morning, and hear that Wooldale had been snowed in. When it comes down, it can come sudden.
This one is from back in April. I’m sat in the back of a car, with some people I don’t really know that well, travelling off to somewhere I’ve never been before. I didn’t really know where we were going, either. I mean, I knew what it was – a Social Club – what it was called, and vaguely where it was, but not exactly where. I’ve always been closely attached to maps, and not knowing where I was going made me feel a little disconnected and wary.
I was very nervous, and the other people in the back of the car could tell: knuckles clenched, quietly staring out of the window. We galloped along the motorway, and I tried to enjoy the scenery, trying to overlook my nervousness. It only got worse when I spotted the signs for the exit I guessed we’d be taking: “Netherthong, Wooldale A648″.
Off on another kissogram-escorting job last weekend. We had a booking in Marthwaite Hill, a little village overlooking Wooldale.
When I was younger, I had one particular type of recurring dream which I found slightly disturbing. It would involve setting off on a journey but never reaching the destination, because the road would get narrower and I’d get more and more lost as the dream went on. And that’s pretty much what reaching Marthwaite Hill is like. We turned off the main road, onto a country lane which went up into the moors, twisting and forking, until eventually we reached a little cluster of houses lodged on the edge of a high hill,* with half the county spread out below.
We trundled slowly up and down the village street – there is only one – looking for the Working Men’s Club. We passed a reasonable-looking pub, and approached a run-down looking building with a small patch of rocky wasteground for a car park. “I hope that’s not it,” said Kissogram Girl.
That was, of course, it.
We were supposedly there for a stag do – but the lad in question looked to be about fifteen. There was no sort of party going on, as far as you would notice, just a typical crowd of people drinking and playing pool. The lad was a drunken tosser, who wouldn’t do what he was told. The crowd wasn’t impressed by the performance, either. “Can I have a word, mate,” one of them said to me. “Is that all we get? Is that all we get for what we paid? Is that it? We’re expecting a bit more than that, mate.”
“Sorry, mate,” I said, trying to work out how many of them were between us and the door, “we don’t set the price.” He tried to get some more of the crowd interested in arguing with me, but fortunately none of them felt like starting anything. We stalked out of the building as quickly as we could, without trying to make it look obvious, hoping like hell that none of them followed us back to the car. And we didn’t look back, just headed straight back to the A-road and didn’t look back until we’d returned to civilisation.
* I checked on an OS map later – the village is on the 1200ft contour