Paring Weight.  (or Lost Johns in style)

There comes a time in many peoples lives when ones figure becomes somewhat more than Junoesque. Ladies are prone to fall foul of this misfortune in an earlier stage in life than gentlemen due perhaps to natures physical metamphoses with which we are well acquainted (I hope), though more likely because their mirrors reflect a pampered imagination not a pampered fogure. The result is a healthy sales figure for Slimcea, Nimble, Ryvita and all those other brands whose company directors grow fat on the proceeds -- and so the wheel turns full circle. Emaciation nurtures an art whose form reveals the vice factor of its propagator. Fortunately my body has no need of repatriation, with the sylph like figure of moderation. But for one exception. As the very embodiment of blue eyed innocence, I have for years dragged an excess tonnage of ropes, ladders, ammo-tins & even fellow friends, through squeezes, up & down pitches, over lakes and all other predicaments with which you will be familiar  (I  knew this was a fairy-tale. ed.) It clicked recently that some of my chums were getting a free ride at my expense. Was I the fool in the subterranean theatre of comedy? Could this be why, my arms stretch down to my ankles? I was resolved. No more, dear reader, would I play slave to my simple yielding nature while bearded knaves chuckled in heinous anticipation of relief from their jangling shackles. (Oh dear, come back Barbara Cartland. -  ed.) I had a plan. The scene was set the lights went down, & down, & down --- to the New Roof Traverse. On this day, I was partaking of a second brew at the farm along with Pete who got the drift of this game when I was still green. Eventually we sallied forth into the muslin mists of Leck Fe1l changed & descended, reeling unsteadily, unused to the novelty of weightlessness. This was unlike anything before. It was the experience of a runaway train, a downhill racer &  hang-glider all wrapped in one attractive package. Surely there would be a catch. But still no tackle lay strewn across our path. And what was it my stars had said, “Friends will come to your aid. This is the time to relax & let others take care of your problems” Tee hee!
Being back of ‘the queue’ was not all roses and a lengthy wait ensued at Hammer Pot, and the Centipede where Keith piddled about with SRT line, & Andy’s stentorian voice boomed to no effect & everybody’s confusion. Finally I could press the ground floor button & idle smoothly down to the bottom & Dome Junction, Pete & I were shortly reposing at the Stemple traverse, mindless of the frenzied activity on the pitches below. And still all the tackle was in front.

A clever rig of ropes & pulleys made light work of the traverse, though I half expected to find Buzby perched on one of the lines that crisscrossed the passage. “Make someone happy with a free fall.” Down the thirty to the ledge where the ladder swings in and you hoist round over the black void of Wet Pitch & then on down the sixty with raindrops falling on your head. The eager beavers had hurtled off to Lyle Cavern, making however, the fatal mistake of leaving the all-vital ladder with Andy, .& Andy doesn’t know where Lyle Cavern is. I found him wandering despondently in the Master Cave, sufficiently uninspired to concede asking me the way. “Grovel!” I commanded. He groveled, after which I took him to Lyle Cavern where he got his backside kicked again by Jim & company who were fed up of waiting.                                    .                                                             However; this was where I backtracked to Groundsheet Junction as the Long Pool beckoned & I wanted to get there before it got much longer. On & on downstream I trod. What a fantastic passage not a stoop or a crawl in its entirety, nice shingle floors & hidden shin-bashers in the deeper pools. I curse wellies, soundly as I emptied them for the fifteenth time. Hallucination plays some nasty tricks on the mind after awhile, so I put it down to just that when three figures bearing more than a passing resemblance to Keith, Paul & Sandra loomed out of their own foggy breath & jerked their thumbs in a downstream direction. Then I was on my own again & the roof started coming down. Oh, co blimey, guvnor. The next few hundred feet were very Styxian & silent, save for the odd glug-g1ug. A slow brown wave rolled ahead, 1apping lasciviously at the huge scallops. I pretended I was delivering a box of Milk Tray & pressed on, pushing all thoughts of a flood pulse into the subconscious. Eventually the pool relented and I was back on dry land for the dash down to he sump, where the flood pulse syndrome reared its frothy head again so I dashed back minus the chocs.

Several welly flushing sessions later I arrived back at Groundsheet Junction, ate a Mars bar whilst nobody was about and curled up on a ladge for 5 minutes shut-eye. My lucid dreams were shattered just as I as being booked for the fourth time by one PC Pickup for laddering with intent to explore.  I was right. Keith, Paul & Sandra had been upstream all the time. We nipped back to the big pitches via the small one which some twit had hung in the water & sped into the rafters with an ease which bore no Red Rose Hallmark.

The remainder was all plain sailing if such a phrase can include hauling Sandra bodily up No.3 Hole where, the use or a ladder had been waived. On the surface we were shocked to findit was 8pm. & horrified by the ferocity of the midges, which homed in for a late evening snack. Paul pulled, out his insect repellant (no, not that,) & wearing face compacts that: Este Lauder would be proud of, we beetled back to,the. farm, where worried Gill  was boiling Pete’s sprouts for the fourth time. Bob’s parents were waiting as well, but decided that as a good film was just starting on the telly he might as well be a couple of hour’s late.

I was still feeling remarkably fresh, despite the late hour, & fancying few pints with my friends back home, I set off, thinking this would also make more room for the late arrivals who, were still struggling with the tackle somewhere. Ah well I didn’t go to university for nothing, did I?
Why this bright idea took so long to manifest itself however remains one of the mysteries of modern education.  

H. St.Lawrence.

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