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Ancient Feet: 54 - A Banging Door

...There was only one thing for it. I lay flat on my stomach on the carpet (hoping that the landlady had done a thorough hoovering that day), with my legs out of the doorway and my hands out in front of me trying to find the key. The towel protecting my modesty came loose and there I was, completely naked, stretched out on the floor with my feet sticking out on the landing...

Now what was Alan Nolan up to in the middle of the night?

Do read this latest episode of his account of a Coast to Coast trek with his mates.

To purchase a copy of Ancient Feet visit

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

Paul is the clean-cut sort and one of the few people who somehow manages to look almost smart even in his walking gear. He is average height but has an enormous stride-length and moves deceptively quickly when out "walking. As a part-time National Park ranger in the Peak District, he keeps fit by walking in the National Park most weekends. He is always pleasant and never seems to complain about anything. In fact, he is so uncomplaining that you do not even know he is there most of the time. In short, he is the ideal bloke with whom to share a room.

I had noticed that he had been even quieter than usual during the last couple of days and wondered whether there was any particular reason. The fact that he had phoned his office the morning before could suggest a problem at work, I thought. When I got back to the bedroom, he was just putting away his phone and had what I interpreted as a troubled look on his face.

'Is everything alright?' I asked.

'Yes, fine,' he said, distractedly. 'Actually, no. Everything isn't alright,' he added, after a moment's thought.

Oh, no, add is everything alright to the questions which should never be asked under any circumstances even if you can't think of anything else to say and you feel stupid just standing there saying nothing list.

'The thing is,' he continued, as I wondered whether there was any polite way I could resign from my unelected office of group counsellor,'I've got a potential health problem. I had some tests a day or two before we came away and the results should be through by now, but they seem to have gone astray.'

'What sort of tests?' I asked, in some alarm, despite Paul's obvious fitness. For him to even mention it suggested that he was very concerned.

'Well,' he continued, hesitantly,'to be honest, I've got a lump which could be cancerous.'

'Bloody hell!' I couldn't think of anything else to say.

'The results should have been through by yesterday and the Consultant told me to phone his secretary, so that was the call I made yesterday morning,' he explained.

'So, what was the result?' I asked, knowing that I would not like the answer.

'They didn't have the results through, so I was told to phone again this morning.'

'This is not on,' I said, 'they must know how important it is to you and should make sure they have the results when they say.'

'It's much worse than that,' he gulped, as I prepared myself for the worst, 'when I phoned this morning, the secretary told me that the lab claimed to have sent the results a couple of days ago, but they haven't arrived.'

'What?' I exclaimed.

'She said she was organising a search and would ask the lab to send a copy of their report, and asked me to phone later. Now, she tells me that she hasn't been able to track down the report and, when she spoke to the lab, it was too late for them to get a copy across today, so I've got to wait until Monday now.'

'That's disgraceful,' I said. 'They can't really expect you to wait all that time. There must be something someone can do.'

'She says not. She was very apologetic and I believe her when she says she has tried everything, but there's nothing more she can do.'

Poor Paul. There was nothing I could do or say that could possibly help. He had come away with us, burdened by this anxiety about his entire future, and knowing that he would have to wait until Thursday before he would know any more. During those days of waiting, he had thrown himself into his walking, stretching himself to the limits of physical endurance, not caring about the consequences, believing that this could be his final opportunity to enjoy walking in the beautiful English countryside.

The solitary walking had, in a strange way, brought a certain peace. He had been able to consider his life to date, remembering the good times, and had convinced himself that his time had not yet come. By Thursday morning, he was ready to make the most important call of his life; the call that would determine his future. Instead of clarifying his prospects, the last two days had renewed the nightmare and, after the latest call, he now knew it would last for another three days, at the very least.

He faced up to it well that evening and the others wouldn't have guessed there was a problem, but I think he was glad to get back to the guest house.

Inevitably, in the middle of the night I awoke and needed to go to the bathroom. I crept out of my bed as quietly as I could so as not to disturb Paul, but why do doorknobs in guest houses always make so much noise? Stealthily, I moved on to the landing and started to pull the door shut behind me to ensure it didn't bang as it closed but it was one of those doors with a spring-loaded mechanism which seems to resist any pressure to close it faster than it wants to go. I stopped pulling when it had only an inch further to travel, ready to close it gently. BANG! Oh shit, it was one of those doors that deceives you by not wanting to close, but then travels the last half inch at a hundred miles an hour.

As I padded along the landing, I could only hope that Paul's slumber had not been disturbed. Bloody hell. What's wrong with this door? Oh bugger, it's locked and the key's on my bedside cabinet. I retraced my steps to the door and tried to re-enter as noiselessly as possible but, once again, the doorknob creaked. However, I managed to open the door without further incident. The problem now was that I couldn't risk the door slamming shut
again whilst I was retrieving the key, only to have to open it again.

Fortunately, I found that, by holding the door with the toes of my left foot, I could just about reach the bedside cabinet with my right hand. My fingertips reached the key and dragged it across the cabinet. Success. Oh, sod it.The key tumbled to the floor and in stretching to retrieve it, my foot released the door. Now it was a race against time, as I groped around on the carpet trying to find the key in the dim light from the landing as the door made its slow, relentless progress. There was only one thing for it. I lay flat on my stomach on the carpet (hoping that the landlady had done a thorough hoovering that day), with my legs out of the doorway and my hands out in front of me trying to find the key. The towel protecting my modesty came loose and there I was, completely naked, stretched out on the floor with my feet sticking out on the landing. At that moment, I hoped that Paul was still fast asleep and that he did not raise his head to see me scrabbling about on the floor. At least, there was no one in the other bedroom, was there?

Eventually, I found the key and the door only banged twice more before I was back in bed. Paul did not mention it the next morning so I have no idea whether he slept through it all or whether, in his usual uncomplaining way, he was hoping that he would not have to share a room with such a noisy pillock again.

Readers may be wondering about two matters arising from this tale. Firstly, why was I naked and, secondly why did we bother to lock the bathroom door when we were supposed to have exclusivity rights and were the only guests on that landing? My answer to the first is that I did not pack pyjamas as that would have meant more to carry, although I do now accept that I could have helped Don out by borrowing one of the five pairs he was carrying. As far as locking the bathroom door is concerned — good question. The answer is that we didn't think about that at the time, and there's no need for you to feel so bloody clever.


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