Thunderstruck

Saturday – hooray!

After Midi dropped such a sweary clanger last night, I calmly explained to her that anyone hearing her use bad language wouldn’t want her playing with their children. She’d have no friends. We’d go on no play-dates. No-one would want to come round anymore in case she taught their kids to swear, too. It really got through to her. A bit too much – we suddenly had a deeply upset and hysterical little 6 yo on our hands. I told her that I wasn’t punishing her or shouting at her: she’d made a mistake, I’d told her not to do it again and why not, and that that was the end of it. Look, Midi – I’m still making your circle skirt!

That calmed her down a little. For once, she’d actually asked me to make her something. It was to be ‘swishy and swooshy’, and longer than her knees. Easy! It took me about half an hour to make. Same as Mini’s Tartan Skirt: just stitch a thick strip of elastic into a circle; cut a donut shape for the skirt; attach skirt to band; hem; iron on owl motif; get kid to swirl it.

Maxi's favourite hammock branch (!)

Maxi’s favourite hammock branch (!)

We decided that Midi really needed to go out somewhere to show her new skirt off, so The Boss made up a picnic lunch, and we asked Maxi to take us on a jaunt around the Glenesk Retreat – she’d visited it recently with her school. She was delighted to be the Leader, and took us round its little Nature Trail and the Museum. After ice lollies, we decided that the ‘overcast’ weather forecast was wrong and that because it was still such a beautiful day that we should go for a walk, so we drove further up the glen to the car park at the end of the road, in Glen Mark, and decided to walk the 2.5 miles from there to Queen’s Well.

The Leader susses out how to open the gate. The Leader orders us through

The Leader susses out how to open the gate. The Leader orders us through

From the end of the carpark, Mini started to whine about being tired. I almost believed her, till I saw her scamper over to a deer gate. Ahhhhh – you’re *saying* tired, but you *mean* that you’re bored! So The Boss and I deployed everything in our Parenting Arsenal to keep those little legs moving. She was The Leader and was to walk in front. She was to set the pace that she wanted. She was to tell us what to do. She was to tell us where to go.

The Leader is on strike

The Leader is on strike

“I can’t do that, Mummy – I’ve never been here before!” she scoffed. Yes dear – see that enormous, wide, stony track? Just follow that. I’ll teach you to read maps later…

Every time she slacked off and decided that she was going to give up, I’d say: “Ah, that’s a shame. OK, you’re sacked. I need a new leader. Who wants to be leader now? Maxi? Midi?”

Looking towards Mount Keen

Looking towards Mount Keen

As they raced forward, Mini changed her mind (every single time!) and ran to the front, to set a fresh pace. Even so, it took us well over 2 hours to walk the 2.5 miles to Queen’s Well. The other pair of monkeys enjoyed the walk: Midi filled her pockets with quartz (I insisted all bar one small piece were returned to the path) and found a heart-shaped pebble that she dedicated to her big sister. Maxi told us in detail about her walk up Mount Keen in June, showed us what myrtle bushes look and smell like, and found a (Victorian?) stone marker that coincidentally had her initials on it. She’s also a keen cloud watcher, like me.

“Mummy, look at those towering cumulus!” she pointed.

“Oh yes! Pretty, aren’t they?” I said.

“Will they turn into cumulonimbus?” she asked.

“No. Not enough heat and energy in the air”, I said, and we talked about the conditions that turn fluffy summer cumulus clouds into towering cumulus, then cumulonimbus. We talked about thunderstorms and looked for funny shaped clouds.

With just a hundred yards to go to our destination, we came across a family of 3 who’d passed us on the way there. I think my body language spoke volumes.

Keep up, Mini Leader!

Keep up, Mini Leader!

Queen's Well! At last!

Queen’s Well! At last!

“I guess you guys aren’t aiming to get anywhere in a hurry, are you?” said the dad with a kind, understanding smile. I ranted for a bit about being as tired as if I’d been walking at full tilt for 2 hrs, not just walking for a mile. “Ah, enjoy it, though”, he said, “They grow up so fast!” That was something we all agreed with.

The mum fished out a little pink rubber duck on a key-ring.

“Look! We found this in the well! It was swimming away. Would you like it?” she said, handing it to a delighted Mini. Mini agreed to take care of it, and return it to its well.

Bye-bye pink duck!

Bye-bye pink duck!

As we finally reached Queen’s Well, I took off my sunglasses. The sky had suddenly gotten quite dark. I squinted at dark rain clouds that had appeared out of nowhere over the edge of the mountain.

Frowning, I warned the kids that the picnic stop was going to be superfast and that we were going to head back right away. Luckily we’d already eaten everything except the boiled eggs and water on the way there. I lectured that if they weren’t done in 5 minutes, that they were to move on anyway. No ifs. No buts. Midi wailed that I was scaring her. I felt a bit scared myself, to be honest. I really didn’t fancy being 2.5 miles from shelter with 3 little girls and no rain-jackets (the forecast had been <5% chance of rain all day). I explained that I just wanted to make sure that they knew they had to get back fast and not dilly-dally; it would be fine.

I'm not uneasy or scared at all. This is my standard 1000 yard stare.

I’m not uneasy or scared at all. This is my standard 1000 yard stare.

As I was strapping Mini to my back in the worst Reinforced Ruck tie in the known Universe (newly washed stiff-as-a-board sling, and I was beginning to flap a bit), I looked again at the massing dark clouds. Rain. Definitely inbound. I warned the family that we were going to get wet. Maybe more than a tiny bit. But it would be ok – we’d not freeze, and we’d just keep walking. We could dry out and heat up in the car. OK, let’s get moving!

<rumble of thunder> Oh shit…

Midi squealed and Maxi whimpered. I reassured them that it was ok, it was far away. If we were very, very lucky, we might see some lightning.

<jaggy fork of lightning> Double-shit.

All 3 girls screamed while I counted seconds. Two miles away. Crap. Do we stay? Is there any shelter within 15 minutes walk? Do we walk? Is it safe to walk? Will we be going near trees? If we wait out the storm, would it get dark? Would we be flooded out? We had no jackets or warm clothes – how would we keep the kids warm? Our fast walking march moved up a gear to an out-and-out scamper.The Boss and I quickly conferred and had both come to the same conclusion: push on and stay warm. If we could keep up a good pace, we’d be back in an hour or so.

“I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to die! This is the worst day of my life!” screamed Midi.

I retied the crappy sling-tie and explained to the kids that we were going to keep walking. I told a panicking Midi over and over again that she *wasn’t* going to die. She wasn’t going to get hit by lightning – we were in a valley and the lightning strikes were on the hilltop. We were going to walk as fast as we could. We were going to get very wet and a little bit cold. We weren’t going to stop. We’d keep moving to keep warm. We weren’t going to waste energy screaming or shouting melodramatically for help or running; we’d just walk fast. We’d be at the car in an hour and we’d drive home for hot chocolate and marshmallows and a hot bath. Walk fast, kids, keep up!

The Boss tried to get the minxes to sing songs about rain and thunder. They were having absolutely none of it and said how frightened they were. Little Mini started to get cold, and as I tucked her arms in the sling, her bum popped out. Argh! I stopped again for a re-tie. I tried to stop flapping and just concentrate on getting a rock-solid wrap. I scanned the countryside slowly for other people. I could see 4 figures about 300 yards away, striding down from Mount Keen. Great. Safety in numbers! I got The Boss to keep an eye on them and check what they were doing in case they ducked away to safety somewhere.

The storm was getting closer, and the lightning flashes more frequent. Every time I stopped to re-tie, we sent Maxi and Midi on ahead themselves for us to catch up with them. That was a struggle! Those little legs were fairly pedalling! The girls scampered hand in hand, reassuring each other the whole way. The Boss glanced at the 4 figures. I glanced at the grey sheets of rain slowly gaining on us. I had to get that sling tied tight before it got wet or I’d never sort it out.

The rain reached us. The girls wailed. I reminded them that we wouldn’t freeze and we weren’t made of sugar – keep up this brilliant pace! We’re nearly halfway there already!

Suddenly the wind whipped up and the thunder got louder. Ah, crap – incoming! Like walking through a curtain, the very heavy rain hit us. It was so hard that it felt like hailstones. Little Mini was wearing a sturdy sunhat, so that shielded her face well. The other 2 were drenched within a second or 2. The Boss and I separated them and led a girl each, while they had their faces down.

March, march, march. Dripping hair in eyes. Try hard not to stumble on the rocky ground. With a heavy 4 yo on my back, that’d be a twisted ankle or broken leg if I slipped crossing a burn. I kept counting flashes-to-bangs. Closer. Ever closer.

Suddenly I smelled ozone. Didn’t that mean that lightning was about to strike close by? Should I drop to the ground? Run? Scream? I dropped The Boss and Maxi’s hands and looked round like a panicked sheep. Nah – not ozone: just smelly stagnant water in a silted-up burn! Still, I sent the girls a little ahead, and us adults walked separately.

I started to sing rain songs as loudly as I could to cover up my own unease. It’s Raining It’s Pouring; Incy Wincy Spider; I Hear Thunder; Rain, Rain, Go Away. The Boss sang just as loudly. Maxi and Midi joined in occasionally, in between flashes and bangs and rumbles. Mini just clung to my middle and nestled her nose into my neck.

The girls raced across the little burns that we’d taken an age over crossing on the way there. I was relieved to get across in 5 swift, sure-footed strides, still dry-footed. (The next bout of heavy rain did for my little Vivos, though – soggy feet!) The girls later admitted that they’d just waded through the middle.

As we ducked around another turn, we realised that we were finally away from the most exposed bit. We were more than halfway to the carpark. Only about a mile to go, and the rest was mostly in the ‘shelter’ of the dips. We weren’t so exposed. We were still ahead of the 4 men following us. I told Midi how cool she and her sister were, walking faster than 4 real, actual, grown men. She chuckled with glee, that turned into a sob at the next lightning flash. I jumped into a big puddle to surprise her out of her fear and panic.

“Well, I can’t get any wetter, can I?” I reasoned with a wink. She sniggered and joined me, jumping and splashing through the biggest puddles.

“This is the best day EVER!” squealed an overjoyed Midi, when I called her a Wetty Girl as we splashed each other in a deep trough of a puddle.

In a fit of euphoria, I pointed out to the girls how green the world looked in the rain; how we never really got to see this because we never went out in rain-showers. How lucky were we? Nevertheless, we were all so very relieved when we finally got to the carpark, 52 mins after setting off from Queen’s Well. What a pace those little girls had set! The 4 men passed us as we got to the carpark. I’d wondered if they’d hung back and made sure we’d gotten to the carpark safely. The Boss scoffed and pointed out how miserable they looked – they were thinking only about their rain-jacket failure (they were all as wet as we were).

Bit wet and glad to be safe

Bit wet and glad to be safe

Really quite wet. But not cold

Really quite wet. But not cold

The Boss threw his rucksack in the car and took the quickest of photos before he was going to help the girls strip off then get in the car. Well, we *were* going to do that. But as the 2nd photo was taken, there was just under 2 seconds between a lightning flash and rumble of thunder, so we abandoned plans and just dived in the car.

The Boss and the minxes stripped off their wet clothes and shoes, while I opted to stay soggy, sloshing water around my feet with every clutch change and brake. For the first time ever, I appreciated the heated seats, that dried my wet bum.

While we waited for the windscreens to de-mist and the car inside to heat up, though, The Boss sorted out the tunes. It kinda had to be AC-DC’s Thunderstruck…

The drive back was fairly hair-raising, too. I’d pootled along there at about 40mph, but with sheets of standing water, I didn’t get out of 3rd gear until nearly at Edzell. Probably just as well: we passed a stopped car that had its front stoved in and its airbags had deployed. I reversed so that we could check that no-one was in there, needing help. As we looked inside, like a car-load of naked, nosy snoopers, a man came out the nearby house.

“Everyone ok? Do you need any help?” The Boss called out the window. The man gave us a grim thumbs-up and said they were all fine. We wished them a quick “Take care” and tootled off. Phew! Must have been very frightening for them. (Both the crash and being approached by a car-load of wet people with no clothes on)

One thought on “Thunderstruck

  1. Pingback: You’d Think We’d Learned Our Country Walks Lesson By Now | (Reasons Why I'm A) Grumpy Old Trout

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