Training the trainers

I’m thinking of establishing a ‘One in: One out’ policy at Strawberry How. Aimed primarily, you understand, at the Fell Shoe Gremlin. We’d already reached peak ‘approach shoe’ and the route guides have long since multiplied beyond any hope of redemption, but yesterday we hit peak rucksack too.

Incidentally, I didn’t know they were called approach shoes until I met the Gremlin. Up until then, they were simply trainers with a more grippy tread and a bit more ankle support. I even had a pair myself, blissfully ignorant of their true nature. But now I know. And the world of trainers is far from simple.

There are trainers for walking the streets in, trainers for knocking around with your mates in, trainers with reinforced toecaps for wearing at work and trainers for dressing up a little bit smarter. There are trainers for approaching a crag you are about to climb (‘approach shoes’, duh), trainers for actually climbing the crag (although these are called ‘rock shoes’, appear to be several sizes smaller than is healthy and make your feet look like they have been cruelly bound from an early age), trainers which are not quite walking boots (for that matter, trainers for summer, spring, autumn and winter walking), trainers for running in (two types: on and off the fell), and trainers for windsurfing in. And when – finally – any of these trainers reach the final leg of their earthly journey, they become trainers for gardening in.

I am fully aware that there are also trainers for sailing in, trainers for pretending to be Andy Murray in and trainers for thwacking a tiny black ball against a wall in (long ago, I myself owned multiple versions of all three) but they don’t feature here. There may also be other trainers whose nasty niffs I haven’t yet had the joy of neutralising. Please don’t write and tell me. I have quite enough to contend with as it is.

Any and all of these can, of course, stay at ‘gardening level’ for many years, simpering away silently under the stairs, before finding themselves quietly smuggled into the garage, ready to be unceremoniously lobbed by Yours Truly – some considerable time later, after a suitable period of mourning by You Know Who – into the bin.

But at least trainers and route guides are stackable. Rucksacks just spill out all over the place, one for every conceivable purpose or ‘trip’, ready stocked with first aid bits and bobs, dog-eared notebooks, write-anywhere pens, spare gloves and hats and waterproof jackets, squashed Mars bars (always carried, never quite eaten) and battered water bottles. The important ones have radios and aerials and curly wires to trip over too.

They spill from one set of wardrobes, across the carpet, along the landing and into another room, up and down stairs, in and out of the car – occasionally tumbling through the front door for a weekend break tangled round the corner chair, before heading back up the path, ready for business come Monday morning – every so often resting briefly in the garage. A never ending cycle of readiness-for-anything.

Of course, the plus side is that, out with the Gremlin, you never need worry about having cold hands or wind-burned ears, about getting wet or lost in the dark, going thirsty or hungry or having the ability to make notes (even in the rain).

Anyway… yesterday, another beauty found its way through our front door, courtesy of DPD and via the green garden bin (as things frequently do, in our absence).

And it transpires that this rucksack is special. Divested of cardboard and bubble wrappings, it now sits comfortably on our soft furnishings, green lights twinkling away, charging itself up. Yes, charging itself up. For this is an avalanche airbag rucksack with ‘rechargeable jet-fan inflation’, ‘repackable airbag’ and ‘fully rechargeable electronics system’ – as opposed to single gas canister, for which read expensive, heavy, one-use only and impossible to take on a holiday flight without getting yourself arrested.

Not only should it aid your drifting to the top of a snow slide. If you are buried, the airbag handily deflates, allowing you extra breathing space while your companions search for and dig you out. And because it’s rechargeable, you can take it out in the mountains here to practice, so reaching for that emergency cord becomes second nature. All of which – hopefully – increases your chances of staying alive. Or that’s what I’m told. And who could possibly argue with that?

So much for my ‘One in: One out’ policy.

The aliens have landed © Hackette on the How

Five top tips for decluttering your home

There are other ways to empty your cupboards, of course. Moving house, for example. Always useful. Carefully wrap everything you own in begged, stolen and borrowed newsprint, over-necessarily gaffer tape inside brown cardboard, forget to label, decant into removal van and instantly wipe every item from memory.

It’s been done before, I know. Heck there are whole websites, entire careers built on decluttering. ‘Nothing new here’, you’re thinking. But based on my own <ahem> vast life experience, that of my own and the Gremlin’s family, and any number of friends, here are some top tips to guide you to a clutter-free life. And, I hasten to add (for the benefit of two of my readers at least), with tongue ever so firmly lodged in cheek.

• TIP ONE: Never, ever, ever throw anything away. Counter-intuitive? Mais, non. Simply throw any unwanted furniture, curtains, crockery, books, toys and games a) into a cupboard, b) into the garage, c) into the loft and wait. Wait for years. Ten, twenty, thirty. Wait until that divine moment arrives. Your offspring finally leaves home, without a stick to his or her name. Simply empty the contents of your a) cupboards, b) garage, c) loft, into the back of a big van and into their chosen home. They won’t even notice. Possibly for years. They’ll be far too busy collecting trainers and route guides and rucksacks. Until that fateful day when a significant other comes along and helpfully observes that they have an awful lot of mismatched ‘stuff’. At that point, you’re rumbled.

• TIP TWO: Tape it all into sturdy brown boxes, leave in damp garage for fifteen, maybe twenty years, until box and contents exude musty odour. Open boxes, realise half the stuff wasn’t yours anyway. And the bits that were comprise the assorted limbs, torso and head of a once-favourite, no-longer-talking doll called Cindy, plus the perished elastic band which once held her together (I know how she feels), a handmade stuffed ‘golly’ called Dina which belonged to your mother when she was a child (now completely off the scale of political correctness), a musical dog called Suzy (yes, really), and the remains of a wasp’s nest. Take the lot to the tip. Wonder why you didn’t do that fifteen years before.

• TIP THREE vis-à-vis TIP ONE: Operate a tit-for-tat scheme (some might say, the precursor to ‘One in: One out’). Remember, generosity works both ways. Always have something up your sleeve to donate upwards. When parent-who-never-throws-anything-away advances towards you with a carrier bag of bric-a-brac you don’t ever remember owning, nonchalantly allow the conversation to drift amiably on – the longer the better, for the purposes of distraction – then, just as you are parting company, simply present them with your reciprocal ‘gift’. They’ll love you all the more for it.

• TIP FOUR: At a time in your life when everyone says you should be downsizing, meet a climbing gremlin with more kit than Cotswold Outdoors at Christmas. A man whose entire bachelor home was a kit cupboard. Simply buy a bigger house than either of you have ever owned, spend a fortune on suitable ‘storage solutions’ in Ikea, and hide it all in the spare bedroom. Hey presto! Clutter free. Note: Works beautifully until shape-shifting aliens invade your home in the form of innocent trainers and rucksacks. At which point – and only at this point – resort to TIP FIVE.

• TIP FIVE: Establish a strictly ‘One in: One out’ policy. And let me know how it goes.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Franklin says:

    Good luck with tip five!


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