Christopher Somerville’s A-Z of walking: B
B is for Binoculars – a bird-watcher’s best friend, but also a walker’s. Why didn’t I think of them before? How many person-hours have I spent peering under my hand like a silly old seadog, trying to identify the minuscule blob of a waymark across a misty moor, or wondering from the shape of bovine dangly bits viewed at a great distance whether it’s safe to proceed past that mild-mannered cow that might just turn out to be a bull with a negative attitude? Now I just whip the bins to the faltering eyes, and Bob’s your uncle. Waymarks spring out of hedges, lady cows turn into gentlemen (or vice versa), and stiles appear as if by magic in seemingly impenetrable hedges. They’re great for looking at wild flowers and insects too, if you turn them the wrong way round. Sexy or solid, though – that’s the question. I’ve worked my way through three pairs of pretty wee ones, very high tech, very high spec, and fatally easy to leave behind. One stayed on the top of the Long Mynd after a picnic. Another especially light pair fell out of my jacket pocket on a Cheviot trackway without a sound or sensation. And the third… I still don’t know what happened to the third. Now I go for the galumphing end of the spectrum; the faithful life partner rather than the flashy tart. My Dad’s old wartime naval Carl Zeisses are brilliant, although they do tend to bang the knees as I walk. The Optolyth Alpins I’ve just bought from a friend are the proper job, too. ‘Ultraleicht’, it says on the end plate. They’re not… but who cares? At least they’re by my side when I want them, not sitting five miles back on a rock, waiting to be picked up by any passing Tom, Dick or Harry.