A few months later, I introduced Paula to rock climbing in the Lake District. Given my age at the time, I felt that we’d be restricted to climbs graded no harder than ‘severe’, but on our third day out, having already climbed a couple of severes, Paula suddenly asked whether we could do something harder. Well, I managed to fiddle my way up a climb graded ‘very severe’ (VS), and a few days later we set off to do a climb that I’d identified as being at the low end of the VS range of difficulty.
That day didn’t quite go to plan, because someone was doing a climb that crossed our intended route, so I was forced onto another climb (described in Young Sid) that was at the top end of the VS range. Two weeks later, we were doing Kipling Groove, which is a grade harder, which I’d climbed twenty years earlier and which I’d never expected to do again.
The result of my wife’s not so subtle encouragement was that I ended up climbing at the highest standard in my entire climbing career during the 1990s, at a time when I had imagined myself to be past it. Consequently, mere thanks seem like a poor response. Nowadays, our principal physical activity is cycling, and for the most part the tables have been turned: I make sure that Paula is thoroughly cream-crackered after an outing, although I’m left in the same condition at the end of a day too, because I don’t believe in merely pootling along.
I’m not trying to put forward any kind of a blueprint for a successful relationship, but having activities that we enjoy doing together certainly helps. And we both liked intense physical activity before we met. And we haven’t had a real argument in years, although we have mock arguments all the time, because they’re much more fun than sitting in glum silence.
Anyway, I thought I’d post a few of my favourite photos of Paula from the last five years to celebrate twenty-five years together:
The first photo was taken shortly after we moved to Fanling and shows Paula holding a hot ngau lei so (cow’s lips), a type of deep-fried bread that is delicious hot, disgusting cold. The second shows Paula alongside an angels’ trumpets bush a short walk from our house that used to flower every couple of months when this photo was taken in 2011 but has since been cut down, while the third was taken on the same day in the cultivated area between our village and the eastern edge of Fanling. We like flowers.
Both these photos were taken at our friend Tom’s country store in the remote village of Sham Chung, which is the 36km halfway point on what I’ve previously described as a Saturday morning adventure. The first photo shows an empty plate (we never leave any of Tom’s pan-fried noodles) and two empty glasses, so we’re probably about to set off home.
I don’t expect to be around twenty-five years hence—there’s a strong possibility that I’d be dead already if Paula wasn’t around to keep me going. I’d certainly not be anywhere near as fit, so every new day is something to look forward to. More joke arguments; more fun.
* * *This piece of music sums up how I feel today.