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Ancient Feet: 5 - Andy Capp

Alan Nolan and his hiking mates head for St Bees in a bouncy minibus, and the start of their Coast to Coast hike.

To purchase a copy of Ancient Feet visit

Signed copies of the book are available from Alan http://apn.thelea@yahoo.co.uk

St. Bees may be the ideal starting point for the Coast to Coast Walk, but it is the devil of a place to reach by road, particularly from the south. The Cumbrian Mountains form an effective barrier to travellers from the east, so it is necessary to skirt the mountains and approach from either the south or north. The northern route involves a further thirty-five miles on the M6, followed by about thirty miles on the A66 travelling west to Cockermouth, before turning south towards St. Bees. It seems odd to travel so far north only to have to drive south to the destination, but the roads are good and this is much the preferable route.

Inevitably, Trevor chose the southern route which heads almost to Barrow-in-Furness before turning north, the road deteriorating the farther we travelled. A minibus is not the most comfortable mode of transport and the journey seemed interminable. I made a mental note to reduce Trevor's tip.

Even the short stop for breakfast along the way brought little relief from the tedium of being shaken about as the minibus bounced on the uneven road surface and slewed from side to side along the twisting highway. The one compensation was that, whilst the others were enjoying their full English breakfasts, I slipped to the pie shop next door to indulge in the secret training regime I had undertaken in preparation for the walk. Two Cornish pasties were much better for a serious athlete than bacon and eggs!

The long journey and the early start took its toll after a while and the banter subsided as we became lost in our own thoughts. Once again, I found myself wondering how we would all cope with the challenge ahead of us and whether there would be any personality clashes. Despite Andy's mission to irritate everybody to death, I knew that he was popular with all of us. His broad smile and ease with people draws them to him At fifty-one, he was the youngster of the group. Indeed, he was the only one under sixty. Tall and broad with a mop of fair hair, he has a winning way with the opposite sex, although a bachelor. Unfortunately, he suffers from both hypochondria and malapropitis: 'Trev, can't you drive more carefully, I've got a terrible pain in my neck,' he complained, massaging the area where his neck meets his shoulder, 'it's a stabbing pain, as though someone's sticking needles in my epitaph.'

'I think that should be called your effigy,' Paul corrected him in his quiet way.

'I don't know the medical term. It's just here between my shoulder and my neck.'

'Anyway, I thought you were concerned about blisters,' Paul added.

'Yeah, I am. I bought a new pair of boots for the walk and tried them out on Kinder Scout last week and I've been struggling ever since.'

'No wonder everyone round Glossop calls you Andy Capp you're always suffering from one 'andicap or another,' said Joe, to everyone's amusement.

A long long time ago
I can still remember how that music used
To make me smile..

'Oh, no,' we groaned, as Andy crooned. The original Don McLean recording of American Pie ran to over eight and a half minutes, but we knew Andy was quite capable of extending this to an entire minibus journey to St Bees. It seems to be one of those songs that doesn't have an ending, and it becomes more than a little wearing after a while.

He spends some of his time helping out on a farm, which gives him the look of a typical farmer big, strong and with a florid complexion. Whether it is this or his personality that makes him attractive to women is a mystery to me, but he has a certain confidence when in female company, which is a bonus when 'on the pull'. On occasion, this self-confidence can be misplaced. During a weekend in Amsterdam, he needed little persuading when someone suggested a visit to the 'red light' district one evening. The tour of the red light district is a must for all visitors to Amsterdam, the majority of whom drink in the atmosphere with no intention of participating in the activities on offer, so it was a surprise when Andy was seen heading determinedly for the entrance door of one of the properties.

'What are you doing?' Tom asked as he grabbed Andy's arm.

'Going in here. Have you seen that girl in the window? She's gorgeous,'Andy replied.

'But you'll have to pay,'Tom explained.

'No, I won't,' Andy said confidently.

'It's a knocking shop.You don't get anything without paying,' Tom insisted.

'No, I won't have to pay,' he said in an assured tone as he broke
free of Tom's grip and headed for the door again.

'What makes you so sure?'Tom shouted after him.

'She fancies me.'

'How do you work that out?' asked Tom in desperation.

'She smiled at me and beckoned me in.'

'She smiles at everyone, you daft bastard, even the women. She's not particular, as long as they pay.'

Despite Tom's forthright appraisal of the situation, Andy still needed some convincing before he would move on and he had to be restrained on several more occasions whenever one of the 'ladies of the night' smiled at him.

Despite his naivety on that occasion, he is an intelligent man. His grammar school education means he has a wide vocabulary, although he does tend to use this with ingenuity: 'I'm having trouble with the crucial ligature in my right knee,' he complained on a previous trip.

'Shouldn't that be your cruciate ligament? And anyway, I thought you told me it was your left knee,' Paul said.

'No. That was last week and, anyway, it was the interior ligature in the left knee that was bothering me then.'

In his younger days, he shared a house with a rugby-playing pal and rumours started circulating around the village about the two rugby forwards living together. His housemate had a girlfriend who worked for Estee Lauder in the cosmetics department at Boots and she called at the house a couple of times each week on her way home from work, still wearing her white nylon outfit and carrying her leather bag full of cosmetics, so the word soon spread that the 'two gays' were suffering from AIDS and the District Nurse was visiting twice a week!

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep

'The bad news must be Andy's going to sing.

But something touched me deep
The day the music died

'Something will touch you deep inside if you don't stop that bloody caterwauling.'


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