I feel like a friend of mine, retired Canadian trucker, Mel McConaghy, who, with a lot of other people who feel that they’re either in their second childhood, or, like Mel, have never left their first. I’m sixty two years of age (a lot younger than Mel), and still feel like a young man, well, until I look in the mirror and see this grey haired old man, reminiscent of my father, looking back at me. Like a lot of older people, I’m on pills for blood pressure and cholesterol, but I still feel quite fit, and love to walk and cycle in my beloved Scottish hills whenever I can. When I found that I’d lost a few pounds of weight after a week’s holiday, I was determined to try and keep that weight off. Sunday morning dawned bright and clear, a perfect day to get out and indulge in some exercise, so I thought a scenic bicycle ride would be perfect, but my good lady wife was not as keen as I was to go cycling, so I suggested that we hike up Tinto hill.
We dug out the walking boots, made a flask of tea and some sandwiches, and off we went. Tinto hill is about a half hour drive from our home. When we got there, the car park was already nearly full. I put the backpack with the supplies on, and we were off. Tinto hill is a bit of a local landmark, but at 2,320 feet high, it’s not the biggest of the Scottish hills, so I had no worries about us making it to the top. It was 11:15 am by the time we started up the well worn path to the top. There was a lot of cheery banter from other walkers already coming down, and although it was warm and sunny, an old man who was coming down with his hands behind his back, said that it was cold up at the top. My wife and I kept up a brisk pace for the first thirty minutes, then I started to find excuses to stop and ‘look at the view’, or ‘take a photograph’. It was really because I was basically gasping for breath.
But, I was determined to reach the top, and I wasn’t about to let a ‘wee hill’ like this beat me. Two 30ish guys stopped and asked if I wanted a picture with my wife and I both in the frame. “Of course,” I said, “Yes, thank you.” It meant that I could stand still for another wee while. He took a couple of shots of us, handed my camera back, and soon disappeared into the distance. I found a flat rock to sit on for a spell, and took in some more of the view. We looked up, and saw what we thought was the hill’s summit, but, all the walkers seemed to disappear over the edge when they got there.
We’d been walking for an hour and fifteen minutes when we reached the point we thought was the ‘summit’. My legs felt like lead, and my steps were getting shorter with every one. When I found that, what I thought was the summit, was actually a small plateau, and that the hill went on upwards for what looked like the same distance that we’d already walked, it was the final straw. It was bad enough that we were being passed by all the younger walkers, but some of them were dressed as if for a summer stroll. I thought that I was an experienced walker, but, to be left halfway up gasping for air, was a half step too far. I did what any self respecting man would’ve done, I sat down and enjoyed the tea and sandwiches. Then, after looking at the spectacular view for a while longer, the cold edge to the wind moved me on, urging me to head back down the hill. So, it feels like I’m leaving my first childhood behind, and moving toward middle age, but I’m not going without a fight.
– Colin Black (seen in photo) is a truck driver (now for over 40 years) and author, from Bellshill, Bonnie Scotland –