Lockdown reflections

This third lockdown has been a lot harder for me. I’ve seen just two people who are friends, I’ve seen a lot of passers by and neighbours but whilst those conversations are pleasant enough, they aren’t people with whom I can really talk about the big stuff. We had a week of extreme sub zero temperatures when it wore me out just trying to counter the cold. The cold set off my herpes so that was horrible for a couple of weeks. I managed to fall out with a friend and yet again with my brother. That stopped me from being able to write until now.

It’s been the longest year ever since 23rd March 2020. I have spent by far the largest part of it entirely on my own. I got out/get out as and when we were/are allowed to and I did take a couple of trips last summer and I did see family and friends then.

I haven’t had any human touch since 15th March 2020 and now I don’t know how I can do that again. It will surely be like opening up a dam. Whoever that first hug is with needs to bring a bucket.

There have been lots of positives through all of it, my house is looking a lot better inside and out. Every week I meet up on Skype with some ex colleagues and that’s been something I look forward to. I’ve had video chats with friends of course, thank god video conferencing more or less works now as opposed to when I was first using it back in about 1996. I remember chatting to a guy in the US from my flat in Salford, the video on my screen was a tiny little box about 2 cm square, surprisingly it did actually work, that was in the days of dial up modems and when you had to leave the computer overnight to download a browser and if you were lucky the line hadn’t hung up when you looked the next morning. For anyone who wants to remember here is the sound of the dial up modem! The good old days of the web in black and white.

I’ve had madnesses and obsessions. Music has been massive but ultimately it’s probably one of things that has kept me sane. I like how that doesn’t even sound logical. Carol would be calling me out for not being logical. I can sort of play some tunes on the guitar now but am reaching a point where I need some proper Zoom lessons. I still wake up in the night with tunes going round in my head. It’s ok. I’ve found lots of new music and that’s been great.

It’s coming up to my 3rd birthday without Carol, she’s only been dead 2 years so that in itself is a bit weird.
This is the stupidity of what I did on my 61st birthday, less than 2 months after Carol died. Because I’d been made redundant as she died I missed out on my usual first aid at work update course. I enrolled on an outdoor first aid course, which I needed to have in order to continue to work teaching navigation.
I packed my bag and drove to my B&B in Llanberis. When I unpacked I realised the bag with all my outdoor kit was not in the car. I drove all the way back home, collected the bag and then drove all the way back to the B&B. A total of about 8 hours driving. I was so ashamed of how foolish I’d been I don’t think I told anyone. The actual course went fine and I passed. On the birthday itself I wandered round some National Trust places.
Last year I was on a hiking holiday in the Lake District and that too finished up on my birthday and I spent the day wandering around National Trust places and had a nice meal in Grasmere. There was no paracetamol to be had in Ambleside. I’ve looked back at a blog post from this time last year and can see how scared I was of what lay ahead. Thank god I didn’t know about 125,000 dead and the never ending parade of disasters. But now, I’ve had my first vaccine jab and maybe I can start to think about doing the things I wanted to do last year for 2022. I’m cautious as my no. 1 priority is to remain alive. At least we don’t have to hear the monstrous #45 hurting our heads every day anymore.
This year for the birthday, I’ve booked parking at the Nat Trust at Nostell Priory, it’s not exactly local but since we have no definition of what local means or how far it extends that’s what I’m doing, walking somewhere different. Then on my way home I’m picking up a meal from my favourite local restaurant, The Moorcock. I’ve got a bottle of bubbly to go with it.
Maybe next year I will have a birthday with other people before I go travelling…..

Who’s that boy?

I was born with a female body. Before I was 10, I prayed for a penis. My father was a Church of England rector so this was the obvious thing to do. It was so disappointing that my prayers were not answered. I have never been a girl or a woman. Right from when I was little. Of course back then in the 60s I had no idea what was possible.

Sexuality was a different issue and yes I was gay from fairly early on, certainly had to hide that at my all girls’ school, a girls’ school which accepted boys in the sixth form just as I reached the 6th form. For a time we only had one boy who is still my friend now. I had plenty of male lovers, some of them were also gay. Then I settled into being gay, I’ve never been comfortable with the word lesbian. In terms of sexuality now, I don’t really care anymore, what’s more important to me is what is in a person’s heart.

Carol was a godsend because we were both able to be who we wanted to be. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing that before just it was an intense connection and a lot of the attraction between us. We used to go to The Mineshaft club (gay men’s leather club) in Manchester and no-one batted an eye, well we were quite shocked at the poor standard of dancing! We were good, so good we were beaten up for being gay boys. That was a tough one, for instance, on 9th July 1994, Carol proposed to me. Of course we couldn’t get married then so it was a long engagement. We were deliriously happy that day and the scummy boys in Ripon couldn’t deal with that so they rained on our parade big time. We got stoned as in hit by stones, outside Carol’s flat in Salford as well. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been beaten up.

This is wrong on several points – the landlord and the customers of the Golden Lion made no attempt to help us whatsoever which is why we had to get out of there to get to the B&B which was on the same street; the 2 attackers were together all the time so were jointly complicit in what they did; flattering as it is, we were aged 36 and 33 which is not exactly young though I don’t really know when young stops!; we were not cross dressers; we were Gays (with a capital G) and homosexuals; we were not women.

For the sake of ease in my working life, I passed as a gay female. That’s what it felt like. I was always out as gay and that served me well, I was able to contribute to changes in my workplaces that ended up making policies better for everybody not just gays.

It was only during the last few years at work that I had the privilege to work with 2 men who totally got me being a boy. That was so good and healthy and it really mattered when the people I loved were sick and dying, that I had a tiny piece of space where I could be me.

I never had the guts to undertake any surgery or drug therapies, I’m terrified of that and have huge admiration for those that do follow that path. I have always been a boy, even now at 62, daft though that may sound to some. Now that I’m not a person who menstruates I’m even more of a boy. I so hated the monthly reminder that I wasn’t quite who I wanted to be.

I do not accept anybody else’s definitions of who I am. Last year an old friend refused to accept what I was saying about myself. This was quite soon after Carol had died and it was inappropriate because I think newly bereaved people need a bit of care and consideration. Not to say that they need to be agreed with on everything but just choose the battles you want to have with them carefully. It mattered because this person was denying the whole structure of my relationship with Carol and how and why it worked for us. It’s nearly 18 months now since Carol died and I’m a lot stronger and I tell you I will fight back now.

Sometimes I get quite confused with all the terminology being banded around and have to look very basic things up. I had no idea what doxxing was (a breach of privacy). That’s why I thought I’d put this into my own words. On one level I just want to be Jak without any labels but then I think about all the trans people who are denied basic rights, who are murdered every day and we have speak out. I’m transgender, genderqueer. I’m Jak.

Keswick November 2019

Friday 21st

Nice easy journey. Nowhere to park near my B&B. Cold room. Lots of rules including no visitors so this put paid to Cath and me doing web things on the laptop.

I booked a table at Merienda restaurant. Walked the whole 5 minutes into town. I’d thought Keswick in winter would be nice and quiet. But no, it was a living hell. Christmas lights switch on, people shuffling along when not at a standstill, swaying to a choir singing Status Quo songs at great electronic volume. How could that possibly be good?

Merienda was a haven of peace despite the racket outside. I had baked trout which was excellent. And a Moretti beer. Popped back to the B&B stopping briefly in the rain to chat with a woman who said “Hello, the Titanic was hit by a burger!” I managed not to roar with laughing, we had a short chat about the programme at the cinema and off I went. Returned a little while later to meet Cath at the Square Orange and drink another beer. I’d last been to the Square Orange with Chris in April 2014, that was our last mountain adventure together. The Titanic burger woman was in the bar.

Saturday 22nd

Smoked salmon and scrambled egg for breakfast. Asked about the woman we’d met last night, it turns out she is a much loved local character called Mary and often engages people in conversation for hours at a time. I’d been fairly assertive with her. The locals look out and after her.

Attended a workshop on weather with 2 men from the Met Office. Boy oh boy this was hard work. So what I learnt is that everything brings about rain in the end. And there is a line called the snow line above which there is a 50% chance of snow. Tuna for lunch, that’s 3 fishy meals on the trot.

Christmas dinner, I went veggie. Nice nut roast. Then some beer. Back to my B&B to find a parking spot next to it. My room much warmer so glad that I asked them to sort it, they had to fill up the pressure, something I’m very familiar with doing!

Sunday 23rd


Contours only workshop. Into Chris Ensoll‘s car for 10 minutes. First half hour was guidance on how to move on steep slopes, really useful advice on how to be more efficient moving. The maps have nothing else on them except contours and grid lines so you can tell which way is north.

Great day in the Newlands valley finding tiny gaps between the crags to climb up and up. We ended up overlooking Cat Bells which was the last mountain that Chris and I climbed together. Still so much in my heart. My best buddy. So many adventures, she trusted me and we always got back down ok. A few months earlier before illness came to fuck us all over we’d climbed Sheffield Pike and ended up getting down in the dark but she still forgave me. It wasn’t her last mountain but it was the last one that was a lot of fun. Cat Bells in April 2014 had been pretty awful although I couldn’t really say that at the time. She’d had to stop every 10 metres or so because she had no breath to get up there but she wouldn’t accept the get out of jail free cards I offered. Such a tough stubborn old girl! Of course I’m glad she did it because she must have been worried about what was starting to go wrong.

I learnt I’m really not too bad at navigating after all. Saw Cath before we both departed for home. Back via Tebay services.

Cat Bells

Lakes August 2018

Weds 15th

I got to Monk Coniston early enough to settle in to my room in the cottage and plan my walk for the next day.

HF had sent me a voucher for a free bottle of wine so I made a start on it. Dinner of chicken with Parma ham, a bit tough and then ice cream.

The HF inter house quiz was on and the team I was in won in this house. We each got a cloth bag prize!

Thurs 16th

Breakfast of poached egg and sausage and a croissant.

I drove to the end of Langdale and parked off the road. Rain was on and off. Walked up to Pike of Blisco. Some short scrambling sections. Very windy at the top. Started to go to Cold Pike but retreated because the weather was so unpleasant I wasn’t enjoying myself and it was a long detour. Down via Oxendale, last walked with Chris when we did the ruddy Crinkle Crags.

Back to a hot shower and a local produce dinner. More wine (same bottle). A vegetable soup, a mini Cumberland sausage, salt marsh lamb, very tender, with creamed potato and half a parsnip, a dessert trio of sticky toffee pudding, cold, not my favourite at best of times, Kendal mint cake cheesecake which was nicer than it sounded and a lemon torte which was delicious and which I wished had been my entire dessert.

Chatted with Sally while we nibbled cheese and biscuits.

Went to bed early and fell asleep straight away.


This woman is in the garden at Monk Coniston and I had to keep walking past her. Something seems to have slipped a bit…

Fri 17th

Breakfast, surprisingly hungry. Fruit, yoghurt and granola, hash browns, poached egg and beans and toast.

Parked up on road in Coniston. Had no change or inclination to pay £7 in car park.

2.5 hours to reach the summit of Old Man of Coniston. This is another hill I’d done with Chris. Stayed mainly dry on the way up but hideous weather at the top. V poor visibility. Went to Brim Fell but abandoned the idea of a circuit because I couldn’t see enough. Returned to the Old Man for a bit of shelter and met Sally and her 2 friends. They decided to return the way I and they had come up so I tagged along.

Not far down Jenny twisted her knee. She kept going but very slowly. One of the HF groups passed us and advised that we call Mountain Rescue. Sally and I were reaching that view also. I rang 999 and asked for Police Mountain Rescue, a very calm woman took our grid reference and description of where we were. We kept going. After a while the Coniston MR team rang us and said they were on the way, another calm chap who said they could drive up quite a way and they would ring from Crowberry Haws. We kept on. Then hooray, heard a siren. Before long the team of 8 arrived and stretchered Jenny down to their Land Rovers. Sally, Abi and I walked to the Land Rovers. Once the team arrived with Jenny, they unstrapped her and got her into the warm van. Then they all pitched in did fiddly weaving with all the stretcher straps. The team gave the 3 of us a lift down a very bumpy mine track. It was all done extremely efficiently and kindly. An ambulance was waiting for Jenny on arrival at the MR base in Coniston, she was whizzed off for x-rays at Barrow in Furness hospital. Abi went to her home in Coniston. Sally and I were given hot drinks and Mars bars in the MR base.

The weather had deteriorated from about midday. Certainly all my gear (summer showers rating only) was soaked by the time we got back so there had been a real risk of hypothermia at the speed we were going. Fab HF drying room sorting out the wet gear.

Finished off my bottle of wine. Dinner of fresh tomato soup, home made pizza with potato wedges and coleslaw, raspberry creme brul√©. I’d originally asked for small portions but after our adventures I was very hungry. I had a half of beer watching a game of skittles! Yes indeed!! I did 10 pin bowling when I was 16 but was terrible at it then so didn’t even try it.

Mine workings

Low Water, not visible at all on our way back down

Cairn on Brim Fell

Hats off to these people

Sat 18th

Sally updated me that Jenny had no broken bones or torn ligaments, muscle damage so that should heal more quickly. She also got a lift home with the doctor who treated her!

After breakfast I went to Windermere and looked at an exhibition about the Windermere Boys (and girls) who were housed briefly in Windermere after leaving the Nazi concentration camps as orphans. An impressive exhibition in the library.

The rain had dropped off and I did think about walking up Lingmoor Fell but decided to go home.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.