ON the ridge above the Falls of Glomach I flop down in the heather for a kip. But I am woken by a backpacker who sounds and laughs like George Formby. “My word, it’s a cracking day. Heh heh heh. Sorry, did I wake you up, old lad? Heh, heh, heh.”
I have been woken by a little chap with a South Lancashire accent and a permanent grin. As my mind drags itself into the realms of consciousness, it kicks over a memory stone of an unpleasant encounter I once had with a tram conductor in Blackpool. On boarding this tram, my wife says to the conductor: “Do you go all the way?” meaning, in her innocence, all the way to Bispham. The conductor, pushing back his cap in Reg Varney style, replies: “If you want to go all the way love, I’ll go all the way.” I’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say there was an incident.
Another memory stone rolls over. I am reminded of a recent conversation at work. While discussing George Formby, one of my colleagues described him as a “chirpy little bastard”, which at the time I thought was a bit harsh. Now I am not so sure. What is even more irritating is that – once I am on the move again and by myself, with George well in front – I find I am whistling Swimmin With the Wimmin in time to my steps.
I reach the Falls of Glomach by mid-afternoon. They are extremely impressive. Coming over the ridge from Morvich, the path approaches them from above. The Allt a Ghlomaich plunges into a black chasm – about 200ft of white water that divides into two plumes. Because of a bend in the chasm, the falls cannot be seen from below. You have to stand above them and look down into their bowels, or descend into the chasm on a very steep and slippery path – which I do, mistakenly thinking it to be the way down to the glen.
On reaching the end of this path at a sheer drop, I realise my mistake and clamber back up, to where George Formby is sitting on a rock clutching a guidebook. We discuss where the proper path could be, and he suggests it runs across some steep ground under some nearby crags, then descends a very sharp tongue to the valley. I scan his suggested route rather sceptically, thinking he is wrong because the ground is incredibly steep and dangerous-looking. But on inspection I do in fact discover the route.
I give him a wave then start my descent, and the path IS very steep and dodgy – several awkward steps being ideal places from which to plunge hundreds of feet to certain death. But after an anxious half-hour or so, I arrive safely at the valley floor, turning back to see George many hundreds of feet above me, slowly picking his way down.
That is the last I see of George. I expect it turns out nice for him.
And me, I wander on down the glen. And like the chap in that great mountaineering film Touching the Void, who drags his broken body through the Andes with Brown Girl in the Ring constantly reverberating through his skull, I am permanently saddled with Swimmin With the Wimmin.