An Ode to Custard
O glorious custard, yellow, sweet, warm and warming
Smooth on the tongue, soothing each swallow, resting gently in the tummy
Sweet smelling custard, custardy custard. Birds, M and S, supermarkets’ own brand, all of you, Ambrosia, food of the gods
Like golden manna, you are the custard that dulls pain, taking away the memory of hardship, struggle, and a 4.30am start.
To you, Custard of the Three Peaks; to you, Custard of the Spiced Bread Pudding; to you, o custardy custard, served by the Queen of Custard to the weary hungry walkers seeking refreshment after 24 miles of trudging mountain and mud, I give you praise and eternal gratitude.
It had been an early start to arrive at Horton-in-Ribblesdale in time to hit the limestone way for 7.30. We’d even packed the rucksacs the night before and I’d covered my feet in industrial quantities of Compeed to stave off the blisters I knew would come at some point on the 24-mile trek.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is to complete the circular walk taking in Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough with an ups and downs of 1600m within 12 hours. We we in a party of 24, including Andrew, Glenn and Jack walking in aid of the local school. In turn we joined a steady stream of hopefuls heading for the hills.Not all would make it…
The start point is the Pen-y-Ghent cafe, home of the glorious custard I would dream of for the next 11 hours, where we clocked in on an old-fashioned machine, making a satisfying deep-throated monosyllabic ring with each card entered. Then it was off to the hills, determined to be back in time to claim exclusive membership of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club.
The long, steep slog up steep limestone was interspersed with what looked like amusing slow-motion dancing on the flat as hundreds of walkers did the waltz or quickstep to avoid the stinky black peaty mud. No-one escaped mud-free, Noel tried, but failed to do the splits, which I thought was showing off a bit. I just opted for sliding about and exclaiming ‘we-hey!!!’ to anyone who was listening – no-one was, they were too busy doing their own dance.
Conversations overheard on the mountains are random and bizarre, but the best was one that was in full flow about ecological benefits of a modern-day version of the twin tub washing machine, complete with sound effects. I turned to see two men who wouldn’t have been out of place in an advert for the latest mountaineering kit for anyone wanting to make a solo attempt on Everest.
“Well,” I said to them. “You hear some things up here, but I have to confess that two gnarly men debating the pros and cons of washing machines caps them all”
They laughed and maybe it was the tiredness, or the alarming sight of the nutty woman with the red hair and mud for trousers, but they said I had made their day. I warned them that that kind of comment could find its way on to a blog. They carried on, with their assessments of moisturisers for beards reaching us for the next half mile.
For the last mile, which seemed like all the previous miles put together, my muscles became mush and my thoughts turned to custard. Custard at the cafe which I knew would heal all aches and pains, stopping blisters in their tracks. As we clocked in, out came the custard and, as it’s not polite to ask for it to be served on its own in a pint mug, I ordered spicy bread pudding too, but with extra custard.
Immediately all the anguish and tiredness, aches and pains disappeared in a custardy bliss which lasted until this morning. On the plus side, there are no blisters, so at least I can walk. If only I could get up! I think I’m going to need more custard…