Fine In Trainers by Julie Astronaut

It was June and the weather was surprisingly wonderful. The previous 12 months had been a strange and startling time where humans were only seen in far smaller numbers than ever before. Apparently, according to the recent news, times were changing. Everyone wished to have some sort of holiday now in this glorious country. To stay local. To stay safe. Some of the local self-catering cottages and guest houses in nearby valley towns were open and were ready and waiting. Rooms were being stripped of frippery and stuff that couldn’t be dusted or cleaned easily. Windows that could be opened let in the fresh air. Carpets and rugs had been vacuumed Soft and hard furnishings were scrubbed to a new brightness and the air was expectant. 

So, it was concluded that a great number were thinking that the idea of walking over hills and feeling the sun on your face was more than inviting and to do this as an overnighter was a huge relief. They remembered the novelty of staying away from home in a new place with a renewed sense of freedom. Even if such an idea was never considered before as a choice, it was certainly a liberty to be allowed to feel this way. Cars were loaded up and any coaches and trains running were booked. Rooms and cottages negotiated steadily increasing tariffs which didn’t put many customers off. Competition was the name of the game and a large portion of the population wanted to invade areas not visited before. This area, where Hope lived with Howard, was called one of Outstanding Beauty and it earned it. Much appreciated by these two even though neither had lived anywhere else. 

Visitors in these recent days would experience the joy of finding themselves standing at the top of any of the hills and rewarded with a marvellous vista. A high point of surveillance for an effort that could be worked in only a day. No stressful mountaineering. No extremely hard work to get the reward of such views was required. Ages both young and older could make their way upwards. Here and there were little islands of shrubbery and scratchy gorse rolling away. The sun would pick out the worn paths narrowing and widening as they ran up the inclines. Cattle grids were reflecting in the distance, keeping people both in and out, as all the beasts roamed freely. 

Hope was waiting. Soon enough ‘the others’ would be up here with them. It could be a very exciting experience, Howard enjoyed it as such. Hope was entrusted with the responsibility for the actions of the day and enjoyed it to a similar degree. Here come the ordinary folk, the sightseers, the ramblers, the destroyers. the countrymen, the country women, and the bumpkins. All could be, and would be, dressed in their strangeness including waterproofs tied around waists. Spare clothing stuffed into backpacks. Sometimes they could be sweltering in their gear even at this time of the year with the sun shining down. An appearance of such specimens this June was guaranteed. They came packaged in Navy and Khaki with either trousers or shorts or the waterproofs as noted. Unisex-sporting windcheaters or fleeces would be near at hand threaded through the straps. Cameras and binoculars adorned their necks or mobile phones strapped in special leather pockets on belts. Sunglasses today reflected the scene. Bobble hats as standbys were also known to be carried, as it could get windy as the day went on. Some here today wearing wide-brimmed Tilly hats. Maps were either crampon’d on to the side of their backpack or hung on lanyards swinging side to side with each step as they advanced. 

She stood very still behind the bit of brush and scrub that sheltered them, and eyed the path. Howard was directly behind her nuzzling as was his manner, pushing his weight against her, hoping and trying to overbalance her. 

“Will you stop!” she hissed but hiding a full-on laugh, twitching her ears around like radar. “I need to hear what they’re saying.” 

“Pfft” he replied. “What does it matter? They only need to want a photo of us. No problem with that as you’re gorgeous. They think we’re harmless. It will be fun.” 

She tittered at this and shifted her feet in the grass. 

“Yup, here they come,” she said. “like lambs.” 

Steadying, she focussed her long-distance lenses in order to pan the view with her dark brown eyes. The drystone walls were patchworking across the fells and valleys. The clouds were very few today. It could get very wet here in this part of England. Many days they stood in the rain in the greyness and mist. Today the clouds were scuttling the shadows across the hillsides. It was a fine day. 

Hope stepped out into view so they could capture her fullness and presence. Sure enough the small group were heading directly their way. She could smell them as they came closer. It was quite overpowering sometimes. 

“Wow, why does this particular throng smell so strong?” 

“Not sure,” Howard replied “I guess it’s what they’ve been eating. You say that every time.” 

Both could see that cameras were being taken out and focusing on the hill with its wonderful view. Howard stepped forward into the scenery. They stood as two cuties showcasing the whiteness of their curly wooliness which was slowly growing day by day after the recent shearings. They looked so young and trim and friendly, standing proudly with their woolly shapes. 

Now Hope could properly hear the walkers. They were ‘aahing’ and puffing as they came closer. 

“The ones in the boots will be easy,” she whispered. “The ones in the trainers may prove yet again this season able to run.” 

They acknowledged that it was an amount of boredom that had bred this interest in chasing. They were a speedy pair and blessed with a terrific sense of play. Their slitted eyes gave a peripheral vision that was superb. This sport was something they had certainly missed over the last couple of seasons. They liked humans. They didn’t feel scared in their presence but that wasn’t always the way they were perceived. These two trackers had established themselves as pursuers with an unrivalled persistence unheard of in other herds on the fells. 

Experience had taught Hope and Howard that heavier boots were not flexible at all for any sort of walker over the duration of the day. The light trainers worn by the younger specimens were far more advantageous and allowed the wearers to be energetic. These specimens ran back and forth and bounced up the path, waiting for parents and grandparents to get a move on. Light footed ones were a lovely challenge, should there be time for some sort of involvement. Youth and Gravity would assist them and the ones in trainers were known to slip and slide and stumble their way down the quickest to safety. Very rewarding it was to see them move agilely and eventually disappear. 

The adult and particularly the fatter ones were going to struggle, especially if they were shod in stout boots. This aided their balance whilst climbing the journey but not the speed required to get out of trouble. If they carried too much weight along with too much flesh, it was appreciated and always good according to the two watchers. It had turned out to be a fact that despite being older they still packed a good amount of flavourful fleshiness. Over their years these fatties had researched what they liked to eat. Not many fast-food junky items included in their current diet. Spare time allowed them to try different menus at home, or to eat out and to ruminate what they were eating. Yes, time was taken to eat the variety of foods that made them taste exactly what they were. 

“Let’s count to 10 and give them a good run,” Hope laughed. 

Similarly, not all sheep were strictly vegetarian. These two liked to experience a zingy nibble, a playful lick and suck of juiciness. It raised the game on these fells and pastures. As with many other species in history involved with sport, the thrill was in the hunt. 

Published in Issue #16

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