'Yes,' says my flatmate. 'Let's go to Wales.'
To be precise - Let's go up Snowdon. This is my flatmate's ambition for the year. She wants to see in her birthday up a mountain. And despite the total lack of deck-shoe action I'm likely to get in, I can sort of see the attraction. A Buchan-esque adventure in the wilderness, with Kendal Mint Cake, Duffle Coats and dreams of Avalonia. I agree, and get on with the borrowing of the anorak from the parents.
And so off we set, rucksacks packed, on the trains and buses that make up the nine hour journey to Llanberis. For the record, I am an excellent travelling companion, with a fantastic sense of direction and highly sophisticated organisational skills. Any journey with me is as smooth as a samurai sword through a silk handkerchief. I think of the experience as 'precision relaxation', and I'm sure my flatmate will back me up on this one.
At the B&B our hosts look at us like we are idiots. They recommend we go back to civilisation and watch the new Star Trek movie. Good start.
Still, up with the sun, or a little bit after it, or...no...wait...there is no sun. Okay. Up for the Full English, toast and jam. I feel confident about today. I like the elements. I like a bit of bluster. Only liking one kind of weather is the same as only liking one kind of cheese. A barren life. Why grow a beard at all, if not to bash it against the great outdoors?
Boots on. Coat on. Hood up. Snickers Flapjack in the bag. LET'S DO THIS.
09.15 - The guidebook says 'start out with your back to the station' so we walk to the station in the type of rain you get in Jurassic Park. Only at the station do we realise that can mean ANY FUCKING DIRECTION. I can be in bed and have my back to the station. I can be in Valencia and have my back to the station.
09.30 We find the mountain path. It's still raining. So much. This is supposed to be the easiest path and already I feel like I am trying to walk up the side of a well.
09.45 The relentless wall of rain has shrunk my Uniqlo jeans. I think Taylor Momsen would struggle to fit into them. I walk like a Geisha girl, unable to take proper steps thanks to the denim wrestlers attacking my legs.
10.00 My jeans are now so soaked, that each and every step wrings out water from my crotch like I'm pouring away old tea. The rain lets up for a bit. Or rather it freezes into hail and goes off in our faces like Dick Cheney's shotgun.
10.30 This is new. The water in my boots now gushes upwards along my calves in little fountains with each step. It's a sort of trouser bidet. I'm glad I can still feel things down there.
10.40 I can't feel anything down there.
Lost track of time. I get a swimming proficiency badge to sew on to my jumper.
Everything in my pockets is now drenched. I check to see if contents of bag are still dry so stop under a bridge and have a rummage. Flatmate points out I've put my bag down in a stream.
Hands have swollen up like pig dicks.
Wearing a cagoule over my duffle coat means I'm as big as a fucking sail and I bluster about like a NASA parachute as God does his level best to blow me off a ridge to my broken end. I consider crawling the next bit.
The path in front of us, the only thing I've been able to see through the scuba mask I've made out of my hood and glasses, turns into rapids. Up ahead there is a building all boarded up and enough fog to blanket Maine. Saruman's voice echoes in the rocks. Perhaps we should have taken the mines of Moria instead.
This boarded up building turns out to be the half-way mark. The trains aren't running today because they'll just fall off the top. It's too much. I tell the flatmate I want to soldier on ahead - perhaps treat her to a birthday helicopter ride once I've collapsed. She quite sensibly concludes that, as we are the only two people up on this godforsaken rock, we are likely to end up part of a statistic, maybe a sad story in the Metro, before any helicopter ever makes it up here.
On deciding to abandon it and head home, a wave of euphoria washes over me. I feel almost okay.
A minute later my knee craps out. It just gives up, and any attempt to put weight on it sends the whole leg spasming in protest and pain. I resort to a straight-leg limp like Herr Flick from Allo Allo. The river path thing ahead is a mix of knives sticking out of the ground and perfectly smooth, slippy suicide blocks. I adopt the pose of a sixties bobby trying to keep Beatlemania away from a hotel door.
I am going to die on this hill.
I'm going to drown on a mountain. Why can't I drown in the Adriatic? Or off the coat of Sardinia? Why is it I have to drown so many meters above sea-level, in Wales?
Eventually my pathetic, suburban baby-self gives up and I start muttering to myself in the guise of Edouarde, a much more rugged cliche of a Frenchman who I firmly believe can get off this mountain. He's not going to cry just because his knee feels like a snake bit it and then hit it with a pool cue. He's going to sing and laugh and keep fucking walking until he gets a fucking beer.
My flatmate is about sixty yards ahead of me, so my mental breakdown is fairly discreet at present.
At long last houses appear. It's joyous. Although for a brief moment I think we are lost and worry I might die in a cul-de-sac which I find even more objectionable than up a mountain. Perhaps I should head back to the rocks and die there, quickly and get it over with. But look! There is a pub. We are saved.
And as soon as we are sat down with our halves of real ale and the Trivial Pursuit board is unboxed...the sun comes out.
Fuck you, sun.
Happy Birthday Flatmate.
I am never leaving my flat ever again.