A couple of days before the event Wifey asked why I hadn’t tried to guess my birthday surprise. She had been scheming for weeks and I wasn’t allowed to check communal emails without express permission, so why with only a couple of days to go wasn’t I more interested?
“Because if I guess something super awesome like hunting bears with a wolf pack, you’re going to feel you have disappointed me with anything else.” Fair enough but I had to be given more information to make sure I turned up in the correct attire: It was going to be in the Lake District so a lot of waterproof clothes. Obviously. But specifically, no jewellery, loose clothing or strong smells.
Such a shame because I do like to wander around in perfumed robes like Lord Varys from Game of Thrones when on an adventure holiday.
We agreed to leave work and get out of Norfolk before the mystery was further illuminated. We got as far as Louth: a market town in Lincolnshire, where for reasons that nobody in my almost entirely North East based family has ever adequately explained, is where I was born. Nobody in Louth recognised or remembered me. I was two years old when I left so to me the whole place has never been more than a disappointing word on my birth certificate. Perhaps 50 years later I should give it another chance.
It’s alright Louth: it’s obviously not Newcastle or New York or anywhere useful that I could apply for citizenship of to escape this idiot Brexit but we found a place (Cobbles Bar) that sold draught Estrella and had decent music playing.
“So you know you joke guessed bear hunting?” said Wifey with a twinkle in her eye. Hmmm. “It’s not that.” OK. “And you know you joke guessed running with wolves?” …. “It’s that.”
“What?” I said. “Shut Up,” I said. Then I said, “What” again while my eyes thought crying would be appropriate and my heart seemed to decide this would be a good time to actually just lurch to a halt and then explode.
Dee and Daniel run Predator Experience http://www.predatorexperience.co.uk/walking-with-wolves/ and they are very lovely as you ought to be when you have got the best job in the world. There are never more than 4 people on a Wolf Walk and you have to be over 16. They sent us very specific instructions about how to find them. They are just off the A590 which runs along the bottom of Lake Windermere to Ulverston where Stan Laurel was born. We stayed in Ulverston. Loved it.
The day we arrived the weather was hot and sunny. The day of the Wolf Walk it was pouring down but if you stay in The Lake District and you are not prepared for a drenching you’ve gone to the wrong place. Did Withnail & I teach us nothing? Visibility was poor as I pulled our hired jeep onto a narrow lane and stopped to look quizzically at Wifey. Was this the right place? But Wifey didn’t answer, she was looking straight past me with an expression of shock, awe and delight. I turned and behind a wall topped with a wire fence there, standing on their hind legs with their forepaws on the wall looking at us with beguiling amber eyes less than a metre away, were two massive, handsome wolves. You have to be careful not to get too cod-mystical about wolves or you end up looking like those people who seem to think wearing an Athena Art Wolf T-shirt tucked into their sweat pants while wandering around Poundland in Hartlepool makes them a bit Cherokee. However, something stirred: some deep-rooted primeval, reassuring correctness in our decision to be here.
We met Daniel and Dee and drove up into the hills where we joined the two other people on the walk and then we were formally introduced to Maska and Kajika. Maska (meaning – Strong) and Kajika (meaning – Walks Without Sound) are brothers and Canadian Timberwolves mixed with just enough Czechoslovakian Wolfdog to make them legal to keep in the UK. Wolves like to lick your hand to get to know you. They want to lick your face and if you bend down towards them they will consider this an invitation to do so. Dee gently puts her hand on their heads to ask them not to and as they recognise her as our pack’s decision maker that’s fine. Yes, “our pack” – we’re accepted into the pack now and we mustn’t wander off or they become suspicious. Wolves are not dogs, they don’t need you petting them but you stand next to one and try not to run your fingers through their thick, luscious fur and it’s impossible. It took all my feeble will power not to bend down and give Kajika a cuddle and get covered in wolf spit. Wifey and I had Kajika on a twin lead and you could feel his power as he pulled in his insistence to be at the front. Maska challenged this early on and there was a squabble with snarling and a brief fight which looked vicious but Dee and Daniel were unconcerned by it.
We walked back with Maska who was stronger but more chilled than his brother. The wolves jumped up onto the back of their station wagon which put our faces at the same height – impossible, given this opportunity, not to steal the briefest kiss.
Wolves howl for different reasons, a call to arms, communal grief or just as a celebration of the pack. Dee set them off on the latter and we all felt compelled to join in.
Some people who, like us are galloping through their 50s, start to resent the rapid accumulation of old age that a birthday represents. We have been trying to use birthdays as an excuse to try new things and not just acquire more crap for the DVD/book shelf. In this sense Wifey knocked it out of the park by organising this for us because the sense of thrilling excitement, of privilege, of the memory of smelling of wet wolf was permanently branded into us last week. Oh and you know those people who complain about getting the same stuff every year? This is a rare example of that not being such a terrible thing.