Sitting under the tree at the bottom of Slemish Mountain, Matthew suddenly felt very foolish. He was always well-prepared, for any eventuality, but today’s hike was just not going his way.
He had started well in the County Antrim countryside. His kit packed in his rucksack after his night in the open air. After a quick brew, he was off heading towards the volcanic plug that is Slemish.
On his way he passed through the small settlement of Buckna, he followed the roads and climbed towards the carpark at the base of the holy mountain.
As he passed the farmyard on the way up the lane, he felt something give way. His bootlace had broken on his right boot. He stopped, reached into his kit, and re-laced the boot. Once again he started up the lane.
The car park was not as he had remembered it, perhaps the local council had invested money in the facilities. He checked his kit and set off towards the tree. There he had felt the bootlace go in his left boot. This is where he suddenly had a problem.
During yesterday’s hike to Broughshane, the bootlace had gone in his left boot before. He had re-laced the boot. Today it had broken. There must be something wrong with the laces he thought. But that did not help him today.
Planning for this trip, he had packed his kit with one spare pair of laces. He had never needed them before, so he was sure he would be fine. His boots were coming to the end of their useful life but he had a spare pair at the bottom of the bag—just in case. Being the thrifty fellow he was, he had the boots but would transfer the laces from one pair to another as and when he needed.
None of this thriftiness helped today, though. Sitting exposed on the volcanic plug, Matthew had a problem.
Siobhán looked out from the Trig Point on the summit of the old volcano. She had been coming here since she was a girl. Today, she had climbed on her own. She’d never done that before.
She climbed the mountain with just herself, and a small daypack with some essentials in it: a flask, an apple or two, a map, her camera and tripod.
Like so many people, she had photographs of the mountain, but not from the mountain. That was her objective on this occasion. The mist around made there not too much of a view of the town in the distance, but she looked across at Buckna and found a view she thought she could take.
She stepped back, to sort out the tripod, and tripped. She heard a rip, and looked down… Her shoes had come apart. She looked at her feet and wondered what to do.
Deciding that she wanted what she came up the mountain for, she got back on her feet, took the photograph. She then sat down, examined the shoes, and decided to get off the mountain as quickly as possible. She thought she had a spare pair of bootlaces in her car, she may even have two. She could find a way of tying the shoes together, provided there was no further damage during the descent.
As she reached the tree, Siobhán saw a man just sitting underneath it.
“It’s a great day to be up here,” she said, as one climber to another.
“Yes, lovely and quiet, few people about,” he replied. He quickly looked away, and back into his mug of tea.
“Are you OK?” asked Siobhán.
“I am. But your shoes are not,” he quickly replied.
Siobhán was surprised he had even noticed, he had not been looking at her for very long at all. He couldn’t have seen her shoes had fallen apart. Could he?
“Well, yes, I had a bit of an accident with my boots.”
“That makes two of us,” Matthew said.
“Why? What has happened you? You look well prepared.”
“I am. Or rather I thought I was. You see, I hike in the hills every year for my holiday. I’ve never had a bootlace break on me at all, but my left one went yesterday, and the right as I climbed to the carpark. And then as I got to this tree, the left one went again.”
“And your spare set is used?”
“That’s it in a nutshell. I’m stuck sat here wondering how to get my boots done up again. But I have got a bit of a solution for you,” he said.
Siobhán wondered what he could mean. Matthew reached into his bag and produced his other pair of boots. They look like they ought to fit you — and yours have fallen apart. At least let me help you with these.
At that moment, Siobhán just laughed. Matthew looked at her, puzzled. What was so funny.
“You have two pairs of boots but no bootlaces, and in my car, I have two pairs of bootlaces but no boots. Looks like we were meant to meet,” she replied.