On Thursday the 10th I again spend a good chunk of the day looking at travel arrangements. My original intention had been to stay in Keswick about a week and then move into an apartment for the month of January to do my work from.
I spent a little longer than I should have narrowing down the locations before finally deciding to comprehensively search Cork, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, and Istanbul. But then I ran into a wall. Every advert I posted or replied to led me straight into scammers. People with terrible spelling who claimed to have gone to big-name schools, people who were not part of any social networking site but who would send me resumes and long stories, people who wanted me to wired money to their “family lawyer” via Western Union.
So I abandoned the advert approach and searched AirBNB. Unfortunately, everything there was a little more expensive than I wanted to pay and the inexpensive offerings seemed to come mainly from people who weren't very interested in answering my questions about their lodgings.
So I toyed with the idea of hosteling, but I didn't fancy having my poor night's sleep in Dublin repeated many times.
A few friends had suggested Couchsurfing, but I was leary about it. One of my primary purposes with this time is to get some work done, which conflicts with Couchsurfing's focus on cultural and host interaction. Could I find a place where I could stay long enough to contemplate things? Would host interaction obligations cut too much into my time?
We'll find out. Instead of looking for a place where I can stay for a month, I'm going to try things a week or so at a time and cross my fingers that it'll be okay.
Feeling like a change in my routine (look for places to live, climb mountains, hang out with family) and feeling like contributing something, I opted to make supper on Thursday night. Around four I put on my backpack and jogged through town to Booths, the largest grocery store in the village. Inside I feel simultaneously as though I'm in a sterile operating room, a cozy log cabin, and an echoy warehouse; I love this place. Touring around the aisles, I pick up the supplies for calico beans.
With the backpack loaded down, I settle for a quick walk back through town. It's become somewhat dark while I was inside and there's some chill in the air. The way home takes me past the Alhambra Theatre, which has been operating since 01913 and still lit by gas until the mid-01980's. Just past the entrance of the theatre, I see a group of people standing around someone who is lying on the pavement.
I walk over, “Is everything alright here?”
“Yes, he just fell over. The ambulance is on its way.”
“Do you need anything?”
“No, we're okay.”
So I keep walking. But my brain is checking things off. Was the man on the pavement responsive? Yes, he had said something while I was there. Was he warm? Yes, they had a blanket on him. Was the man on the pavement staying still? Yes. Was advanced medical help on the way? Yes.
All of which contributed to the first impression that intervention wasn't necessary. But my brain kept churning along. Why do people fall over? Ice… too warm. Stroke; possible, but I can't do anything for that other than call an ambulance. Heart attack? Maybe, but the man's responsive and falling over wouldn't be the only symptom. Dehydration? Could cause fainting, but that would still be several stages away from anything truly life-threatening. Hypoglycemia? Ah, CandyBars…
I turn around, walking quickly back. Rural community? Could take a while for an ambulence to arrive.
When I get back the situation is much as it was, though someone else has shown up and is squatting by the guy. I squat down next to the man's wife: “Does he have a history of low blood sugar?” “Yes,”—bingo!—“but he had a cup of coffee just an hour ago.”
The other person who's arrived turns out to be a first aider associated with a local rugby team. As she pulls out a space blanket, I pull out a couple of chemical hand warmers. She's regularly asking the man on the ground questions to assess his state of alertness. At first he thinks he's in a completely different village and then remembers he's in Keswick. But the situation is complicated by his wife, who keeps answering the questions. I explain what we're doing to his wife, which means that now she half-answers the questions, catches herself, and apologizes.
It ends up being nearly a half-hour before the medics arrive, do their focused spinal assessment, move the man onto a backboard, and drive away. The other first aider gifts me the space blanket saying she has a pile more in her shop down the road.
I apologise for being late in starting dinner, explaining. “It's the perfect excuse…”, Helen laughs, “how long did you spend thinking it up?” The calico beans, when they are finished, are a success: a couple of days later Helen pops into the office to ask me how much brown sugar they use. Matt wants to make them back at uni.
Later in the night, after Big Bang Theory, Matt asks if anyone wants to go up Castle Head with him. Of course we do! He, my uncle, and I set out through the misty darkness of the forest. The top of Castle Head normally has a swell view of the village; tonight, the only thing we can see is the inside of a cloud.
I fiddle with my torch and try turning it on by pressing on the wrong end, damaging it. I end up descending the hill with my thumb covering most of the light in order to keep it on. Seeing this, Matthew offers me one of his torches, an LED Lenser. I turn it on and it's so bright that you can see the edge of the light cone it makes. The side of it has the kind of warnings you normally see only on lasers.
Thus armed, we cross the road and proceed through a forest and then some vary damp grass to Friar's Craig. It too, is fog-shrouded. Out on the lake you can hear ducks conversing: one will quack in the far distance and then, a little while later, another will quack from an entirely different place.
Matt's got a tripod, red/green flashlight, and DSLR—the works—in an attempt to get a good shot out. I tripod my own camera and set it up, only to find that it's batteries are wimping out in the cold. Leaving me with only a single test shot before they give up entirely.