I love a city. Despite not being a massive fan of all people (and there are a lot of these in cities) I love a metropolis. I choose to spend my summers not on a remote beach with a book but in one of the most urbanised places in the world, Los Angeles. Just getting off the plane at LAX and diving straight into the melting pot of smog, graffiti, gun threats, and traffic instantly makes me feel at one. Similarly, I rate London, New York, Manchester, Paris and San Francisco amongst my favorites. The thought of the ‘great outdoors’ or even a field brings me out in hives, so how on earth have I spent the last three weekends with an OS Map in hand avoiding sheep and breathing in the fresh air? Let me tell you.
My bestest friend (I know that statement makes me sound aged 11 - get over it) is Mum to a lovely ten-year-old (not something I normally would say about a child, but Tabby broke the mould. My god-daughter is intelligent, witty and most importantly super pretty (as if I would have accepted the godmother role otherwise). Tabby’s Mum is an all-around epic parent, however, sometimes she has moments of going above that, these are known as ‘top Mam’ moments. Taking Tabby to see Taylor Swift in Manchester or making the best costume for world book day and subsequently smashing the parent based rivalry and competition, all examples of being a top Mam. I have no humans to be a top Mam to but I do have dogs, two of them: Dennis (Doberman) and Neville (Airedale terrier - basically a massive teddy bear) and I also have top Mam moments, even though they hated Taylor Swift as they couldn’t see the stage.
I have heard of this weird phenomenon where people that live and work in the city go to the countryside on a weekend to ‘walk’. And they like it. However, a lot of these people (weirdos) like to do this without a dog. So just to be clear, they get up, put on their outdoor gear, plan a route to walk on some sort of rural terrain and then return to their car - all without a dog. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone here but when I was a child if I saw people walking in a slightly remote setting without a dog this equated to ‘stranger danger’. If they had a dog, well that was clearly a totally safe person because they are walking for a purpose. With this in mind, and having two large dogs that get a lot of street walking and runs on the field I decided I would try and take them to the dog equivalent of Disneyland; rural Teesdale (I suspect from what I have seen almost all Teesdale is rural, but for the purpose of creative writing lets just keep it like that).
So, I put on my normal trainers, we will call these ‘death traps’ for now, leggings and my North Face that is basically a beautiful rose gold quilt in the shape of a jacket. An hour drive and I had arrived, arse end of nowhere nestled in a little valley with a beautiful stream, a little bit of that fine rain that gets you wet and not a soul in sight. Perfect, what could possibly go wrong for a city girl with no phone signal and her two urban dogs? Absolutely everything would be the answer. Let me start by saying that the boys are very different. Dennis is a rescue dog, he is a Doberman pinscher and possibly the most loving, needy and pathetic Dobie ever known, he will sob uncontrollably if no one is touching him, outside of the house he is totally different he seeks to chase, hunt and kill anything that is not another dog or human. Neville is an Airedale, had him from a puppy, lovable, friendly, no aggression, no recall, and let's just say he is never going to be on University Challenge, he is however, cute AF.
We started off well, meandering along the little rocky stream, the super lush green scenery making me feel mildly wholesome and I was doing so well, I was having an outstanding ‘top Mam’ moment. As it started to get a little wetter my grip wasn’t as great, my leggings were a now soaking wet and my North Face was getting heavier (shock - it was not waterproof). My stylish ‘outdoor look’ was translating into ‘drowned rat in a quilt’. The boys, however, were loving it, we rounded a corner to more beautiful scenery and there they were, goats, a shit tonne of them. Dennis was like an assassin chasing them (goats move quickly) and Neville was perplexed at the entire situation, remember these boys have only ever seen an urban fox (from a distance). There is no other way to put this other than all hell breaking loose. I decided collateral wise that Dennis had the most chance of being shot by a farmer (yes this actually happens). Cutting a long story short Dennis had trapped one of the goats in a stream, he didn’t know what to do with himself, the goat was staring at him (looking death in the eyes I suspect), and he was staring at the goat, I was staring in horror at both of them (and shouting a lot) on the bank. It ended horribly, with me wading crotch deep into the stream to drag out Dennis, free the goat and realising that not only did my trainers have no grip I had turned into a baby giraffe trying to walk back to the car on said ‘lush greenery’ which was now a death trap. Driving home for an hour in your knickers and a hoodie was as far from my moniker ‘Jilly life in style’ as I could possibly get. If I was doing this again, I was going to be prepared.
My knowledge of retailers that targeted people that enjoyed outdoor pursuits was limited. Online it is a minefield and at one point was making me think that I needed a pair of waders and a canoe. I asked around and decided footwear and warmth were my priorities. I was recommended that purchasing a pair of ‘Salomons’ would be ideal. So off I went to Cotswold’s outdoors. Going into the shop on Newcastle’s main high street felt ‘outdoorsy’ and I started to come out in hives halfway up the stairs (that were made out of pretendy logs - bizarre) but I pushed on through (trooper). I went to the ‘shoe’ section and there was a man there offering a lady all sorts of advice so I waited my turn. I said in my most earnest voice that I would like some ‘Salmon’s’ and was then bombarded with questions that I still do not understand such as did I want them with Gtx (this was gortex - smartarse), he also asked me about the terrain, inclines, speed, and climate that I liked to be in, I replied with ‘whatever all of those things are in Selfridges’, he did not laugh. I ordered a pair of shoes as he said ‘Salomon doesn’t do anything in pink’ (and in my naivety I believed him) and then I had them delivered the next day - they were thoroughly dull in colour but they felt like clouds with grips on my feet.
Fast forward to Saturday morning and I am in LD Mountain Centre on Dean Street, Newcastle, an independent retailer with over 50 years experience and lovely nice outdoorsy people there were so helpful, not patronising and bestow their knowledge for what someone of my experience (zero) needed, they know their stuff but don’t take themselves seriously at all. I liked them so much that I proceeded to purchase a PINK pair of Salomon speedcross (sod you Cotswolds jobsworth) and a lovely North Face jacket that was water repellant and had a rose gold logo (practical and fashion). I would go back there for anything like this again, I was tempted to buy a knife and an oxygen mountain carrier as they looked so fun but thought that this may be a little over the top to start, next week maybe?
I was ready, I was practical and I was stylish. For those that questioned if this is possible it is, but it is no easy task in this genre of clothing. So off I went with my map, my dogs (top Mam) and headed for the hills. Just as a disclaimer the nice items do not make you physically fit, holy shit those hills are high, as I type this the day after I have had to make allowances regarding how I sit as my ass is killing and my face has a bit of windburn (did everyone know that it gets windier higher up?). You meet lots of nice people as these outdoorsy types are generally friendly (the ones with dogs - remember my earlier caution) and it makes you feel like a total top Mam, next weekend we may go somewhere different, I have heard that there are loads of hills on Bond Street, you didn’t expect me to be a bumpkin all the time did you?