Normally I get up very early, what with having to feed the residents of the Rock and get myself ready for work the morning passes in a blur of activity until we get into Rene and Tracey drives us to work.
One advantage of having to be in London was I didn't have to start work until 10 at The Friends Meeting House on Euston Road, and as I was in a travelodge on Kings Cross I was close enough to walk it in five minutes. Even allowing for a leisurely shower and the compulsory full cooked English at the greasy spoon I could allow myself the luxury of staying in bed until 9am. Of course I would feel guilt, knowing that Tracey was up some three hours before me, doing the work of two people at Rock HQ but I was sure I could handle it.
I hadn't counted on my friend Sara. She works nights for some TV company in London, a really taxing nerdy job where she monitors the output of channels ready to bung in the "Normal service will be resumed" tape when the machines break down. To get this job she had to do years at University and is a highly qualified tech type. She is also as mad as the Duracell bunny on acid.
We met years ago when she came along as the second climber in a pair for an assault on Mt Blanc. The original climber had dropped out, we needed a driver, she had a car, had some mountain experience, was reasonably fit so she was the ideal candidate. Much later it transpired that her mountain experience was actually a coach trip to Snowdonia where she wandered across the car park at Cadir Idris eating ice creams marveling at the big hills. Two weeks later she was attached to me on a rope with instant death on offer either side by falling into Italy or France, your choice, as she ran across a knife edge arete seemingly oblivious to the risks. In near white out conditions we made the summit of Mt Blanc, the second team that day, the first being a bunch of maniacs from South Korea, the third a German pair who fell off on the descent. Our achievement was not recorded as it was so cold the three cameras refused to work, and, again a common feature of climbing with Sara, she had flat batteries in her camera anyway. I have lost count the number of times I have seen her trying to coax life back into years old batteries to take that crucial picture. Anyway we survived, and spent a couple of mad weeks following the Tour de France, white water rafting, trying to kill ourselves on a luge run and drinking excessively.
Since then we have done annual walks, climbs and dinners, but nothing like the Alpine experience. We often discussed different climbs, Kilimanjaro was always top of the list but for me mortgage, jobs and children always seemed to eliminate any real possibility of going. Sara on the other hand was always off doing some mad adventure, shes some sort of British Champion Downhill Nutter Cyclist, her web sites linked to this one.
So this year she went and did Kilimanjaro.
She called me, we were both in London, she was finishing work at 7.30, breakfast then?
I couldn't decide what was worst, having to get up early on my one and only chance to lie in to go and have breakfast with Sara, or having breakfast with Sara listening to her drone on about how ace Kili was.
She turned up wearing an I climbed Kilimanjaro t shirt. In actual fact she was great about it, only mentioning it once, admittedly this did last the entire time we were together but when she did eventually pause for breath I managed to tell her about Rock HQ and plans for the website. Shes the one responsible for creating such an ace web site for me so I kept her good humoured as I listened to how hard it was climbing Africa's highest mountain whilst having a porter carry your bag. Work called so unfortunately I was only able to look at 356 of the 789 photos, she had for once remembered to carry spare batteries so I bade her farewell as she agreed to return to Rock HQ the next day and sort the website.
Work was fine, the day passed, I got increasingly ill from a cold picked up from the office last week and finally with head pounding I managed to get a seat on the train and idly watched the towns and countryside flash by until I was in the familiar surroundings of home. I felt like death and longed for bed.
Now animals have a knack of being the most needy when you are at your lowest, and its no use explaining to a heavily pregnant ewe that you really have to go and lie down as the headache you have would kill an elephant, you just have to get on and help out. Easter had decided to give birth, just as I had decided it was safe to go to bed. I just made one final check of the sheep shelter and discovered her showing the classic signs of lambing, pacing round in a circle, grunting or chuckling to herself, scratching the floor and lying down straining before jumping to her feet and repeating the process. Eventually at half past midnight we had two lovely Pedigree Ryeland girl lambs, Daffodil and Primrose. Easter showed all the signs of a contented mother ewe, frantically licking the mucus off the lambs, coaxing them to their feet, all the time emitting a low grunting sound that bonds the mother and lambs. Both lambs looked fine and were making attempts to feed so Tracey and I packed up and went back to the cottage and fell into our bed exhausted. As I walked to the house I did think that perhaps we should have stayed and watched them have their first feed but I reasoned with myself that as we would be back out there in less that six hours time all was well.
Unfortunately as I was to discover that rationale was totally incorrect.