My ad­vice is find your spot and wait...

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

REGULAR read­ers of this col­umn will re­call my tales of travel with long-time friend and one-time band roadie Peter ‘Oaf’ Bromhall – watch­ing wildlife, play­ing rugby, singing songs, tak­ing pho­to­graphs and thor­oughly re­search­ing the food and drink of each and ev­ery na­tion, from Poland to Spain, and from Ire­land to Latvia.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions we lit­er­ally stuck a pin in the map and booked the flights. Happy days in­deed, and a book is in the pipe­line packed full of our mis­ad­ven­tures, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing af­ter I had sung at an Ir­ish wed­ding in Nerja, south­ern Spain.

Oaf and I had fool­ishly ac­cepted a chal­lenge to climb the moun­tains seen here. By the time we reached the tor­tu­ous ravines of the Rio Chillar, the sun was al­ready un­for­giv­ing and burning up the mist which hung like a neck­lace around the jagged moun­tain back­drop.

Three miles up a nar­row dusty road, with the lofty peaks loom­ing, my alarm bells rang. Roger Har­g­reaves, the cre­ator of the Mr Men se­ries, would have had a field day with Oaf and me. We were, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, Mr Wrong Trousers, Mr Wrong Shoes, Mr Wrong Com­plex­ion, and if truth be told, Mr Wrong Body.

The three Spa­niards set off like moun­tain goats, and for the first hour, wher­ever they could, avoided ev­ery gen­tle slope, pre­fer­ring to slice ver­ti­cally through the rough­est scrub and rock­i­est scree they could find. Our un­pre­pared and bare legs were ripped to shreds by thorns, and ev­ery in­sect that could bite, had done. Most an­noy­ingly, our com­pan­ions car­ried on an an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tion as they marched, and one even sang an Ir­ish song to me, whereas I was soon be­yond talk­ing. Oaf gasped: “Woody, I know I’m the roadie, but can you not carry your own stuff now?”

With a throat as dry as a No­mad’s san­dal, I checked my rac­ing pulse, and be­gan to think play­ing rugby at my age had done me no good at all. We needed to buy time, and in a scene rem­i­nis­cent of a good ac­tion movie, when a wounded sol­dier en­cour­ages his com­rades to save them­selves, I sat down, pulled Oaf down with me, and said: “You go on boys, we’ll be okay.”

And off they went, van­ish­ing into the depths of a bot­tom­less canyon, still chat­ting away.

Af­ter 10 min­utes’ re­cov­ery, and af­ter fin­ish­ing off what was left of our wa­ter, which by then was hot enough to make tea, Oaf and I were able to take stock and look around us.

The place was stunning; un­touched splen­dour of a rare kind, with huge shrubs of gor­geous red flow­ers, and a for­est of wild rose­mary which we were sud­denly able to ap­pre­ci­ate, and in the air, three Grif­fon vul­tures. I sup­pose the big birds could have seen us strug­gling, but pre­fer to think they were look­ing for some other car­rion.

When the vul­tures had passed by, we set off back for the small car park to wait for the Spa­niards’ re­turn, and it was here the wildlife came to us, which made me think we should have just stayed there in the first place.

It has al­ways been the best ploy, find your spot and wait. Don’t break the sky­line, don’t make any noise, and in fu­ture ‘Sean’, don’t climb steep moun­tains un­pre­pared, when you could be in a tapas bar. We could hear partridge chun­ner­ing, and swifts scream­ing as they wheeled above the gorge, while in the dis­tance, the melo­di­ous song of a war­bler, which I could not give a name, but there was no such trou­ble with the red kite, wheatear and lin­net which fol­lowed.

Our de­ci­sion to wait and watch, rather than walk and die, had saved the day. More Oaf tales can be found at www. laugh­ing­bad­

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glossop

●● Sean Wood and friend Peter ‘Oaf’ Bromhall on the Bal­con de Europa, Nerja, in south­ern Spain

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