Mountains, monarchs, and my new colleagues
What was good about September?
We started the month at the end of a week’s hiking in The Alps. Our intention was to hike from Les Houches in France to Courmayeur in Italy via the first third of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). Booking a bunk in the mountain huts ahead of the Italian pass, however, proved impossible at this time of year. My wife and I weren't keen on adding the weight and stress of camping gear to what was already a new adventure for us, so we took a circular route around the valleys between Chamonix and Les Chapieux, braiding the main TMB trail with higher routes of our own, found via French app, IGN-Rando.
This was the first time that Sarah and I had embarked on a multi-day hike, staying in alpine huts and drinking from glacial streams but it won’t be our last. The experience was gruelling, uplifting, contemplative… just awesome.
We met a lot of other self-guided hikers en route, many of them American. It seems that a great many people planned adventures in far-flung places while cooped up in lockdown because we met a dozen couples and small groups who had all dreamed the same thing when the world was shut down.
What did you learn?
I learnt that you can make a queue wrap all the way around the Embankment and stretch to Southwark!
The death of Queen Elizabeth II hit me surprisingly hard and I, like millions of others, took her passing as an opportunity to greave for my own relatives. I write about that there:
Five Reasons To Mourn The Greatest Generation
Why Queen Elizabeth II’s death is such a blow to us all
The queue of mourners was a fascinating scene of Britishness. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the live stream of people who traipsed past the coffin, non-stop, for five days and nights in order to pay their respects.
Military personnel in uniform saluted smartly, yet had tears in their eyes. Openly weeping OAPs shuffled stiffly into the hall, having shuffled alongside The Thames for over 12 hours. Smart civil servants in dark suits had clearly been given fast-track VIP access. The old, the young, the disabled, the weary. It looked like the entire country had turned out for this macabre outing and in many ways, they had.
Who inspired you?
While I spent a lot of time thinking about what we have lost with the passing of the Greatest Generation, it made me think a lot about the brilliant young people in Gen Z. They are a serious, focused lot who don’t drink as much as their parents, don’t party in the same incautious way as the Baby Boomers did in the 60s, and seem to be stoic in a way that their great grandparents were.
I’m working with a lot of young lads in their early 20s at the moment and I have to say, they are inspiring! They are serious with work, careful with what they say, thoughtful in how they treat people. Perhaps I’m just lucky that these young environmental scientists share my own worldview, or perhaps their behaviour is indicative of the strong character of their generation. I hate the whole notion of “snowflake” and think that the more realistic view of this sort of behaviour is sensitive acceptance of difference and grim stoicism in the face of an uncertain future. We haven’t created a safe, positive world for these kids to grow up in. They are sober, careful, knowledgeable individuals as a consequence.
What are you looking forward to in October?
There’s a nip in the air and the nights are drawing in. This is the month of hot stews, gravy and steamed puddings. My exercise regime will move indoors and I’ll be doing a lot of batch cooking. I can’t wait!