I read recently that a lack of novel experiences inhibits the formation of new memories, although I can’t remember where I read it. This has been a perennial problem for me lately. I can’t remember names, dates, words, facts, information, why I came in this room. It’s tempting to put this down to age, but I prefer the theory about novel experiences. Who’s having novel experiences lately? We’ve all been trapped by the same four walls for over a year. The same screens, the same faces, the same same. Nothing to fire the synapses, nothing to build neural connection, nothing to keep rebuilding the old ones. Is synapses the right word? Is “neural”?
Last week I was in Newcastle for a work thing, which conveniently doubled as an opportunity to see my mother. Then I drove down to the Peak District, and stayed over in the camper van. The next morning Boff and I ran eighteen miles over Bleaklow Head and Kinder Scout. I was away from home less than 34 hours, but that’s more experience packed into a day and a half than I’ve had so far this year.
We were running that route because Saturday was the anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass. Our show These Hills Are Ours, which will finally open next month, begins and ends at Kinder, which forms the destination of an epically long run I talk about in the show. So we wanted to revisit the terrain before finishing the text of the show, and we wanted to do it on this day in particular. It was a revelation.
It was a glorious day, so the number of people out wasn’t surprising; what was surprising was how young they all were. Dozens and dozens of young couples. Kids bounding down the track. All races and colours. People associate the hills with crusty middle-aged white blokes grumbling into their beards, but on Saturday that was just me and Boff.
The current draft of the end of These Hills Are Ours has a bittersweet quality, as we worry about the future of access and all the ways it’s being assailed. Watching the number of people who took a walk over Kinder as lockdown ends to be their right, we needn’t have worried. Most of them may well have had no idea of the significance of the day; it’s just that the weather was fantastic. But equally, they’d all be absolutely outraged by the idea that this might no longer be permitted: even though, less than ninety years ago, it wasn’t. I’ll remember those shining faces for a long time. I hope the fact that it was memorable means I’ll start remembering everything else too.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will