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Up an doon hills when you’re Thirteen. ©

Danny Reynolds
Dalton in Furness, England

We’d happily spend the day
Climb, climb climbing
Without ever noticing
the emerging view at our backs
There was always a cheap plastic radio,
a novelty gun shaped lighter
and a bottle or two of “Sanja Cola”
McDougall’s finest brew.

Way up past the reservoir
Over dikes and ruins
of what may once have been
Butt n Bens
or Nordic burial mounds?
(Climbing only really counts
when you have to lay hands on knees
to help press down every step
up the sharpest heather-clad slopes)

And all the time, we talked and walked
Of football clubs
And top of the pops
The bonniest lassie in the class
The friends who’d died before their time
(For we ourselves were just thirteen)
the price of single cigarettes
from the different Tally ice-cream vans
the alky teacher’s magic shirt
(White in the morning, turned pink from his pores)
the favourite belt that stung the least
(essential when heading for six o the best)

And all the time, we climbed and climbed
What else was there for us to do
Till the hour dictated, we’d turn around
And our reward? This blessed view.
The Valley of the river Leven
Spread out before our eyes
Shaped by glacier, long since gone
Ne’er seen by human eyes
The Leven was Loch Lomond’s gift
To they who’d live beside
and nourish men and industries
on its way down to the Clyde

Destination reached, we turned, saw all
Subconscious tattoos etched until
We remembered what the climb was for.
The joy of running down those hills.
The steepest slopes, the greatest fun
Top-heavy acceleration, and then..
The heather cushioned the laughing falls
Then smiling, we’d set off again.

The heels dug deeper as speed increased
Back on grassland, burning breath
Dodging cow-pats, lest we slip
Full of life, so far from death.

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