I suppose the beginning of my adventure was when I heard on a recent radio programme that Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484 BC - 425 BC) went in search of the source of the River Nile. By searching for the beginnings of such a momentous waterway, Herodotus hoped to discover something about the beginning of life itself. This sounded like a noble cause and one worthy of Theme Thursday so I decided to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately I had neither the time, nor the energy, nor the spare cash to go in search of the source of the Nile but I reasoned that if I went in search of the beginnings of our local River Calder I could expose myself to the same philosophical truths. And so an adventure was born.
What little I could discover about the beginnings of the River Calder suggested that the quest should centre on an area of moorland to the north-west of Todmorden called Heald Moor. So on Tuesday morning I shook my son Alexander awake and told him that we were going on an adventure in search of the source of the River Calder and the beginning of life itself. He gave me one of those knowing but slightly pitying looks that they teach them at Medical School but, Power Of Attorney form in hand, he agreed to accompany me to make sure that I didn't get into trouble.
Space does not allow me to fully describe the journey we had to undertake just to get to the area where we expected to find the head-waters of the river. We travelled through strange lands (Hebden Bridge and Todmorden) and met with exotic natives (unfortunately, Tony was not around that day). We followed the river as it left the comfort of the last trans-Pennine track and dissected the black mountain crags. We climbed up steep hills and clambered over bracken-fringed slopes. As we made our way higher and higher we discussed the philosophical concept of beginning. Could their be a single source, a single beginning to a mighty river? Was the source for an identifiable beginning merely a cartographers' dream. Perhaps there is no beginning and if this is the case perhaps there is no end.
The end of my strictly limited store of energy occurred as we climbed over a rocky ridge and sighted an enormous waterfall in the distance. The water seemed to be cascading down from heaven itself. "We have found the source, we have discovered the beginning", I said to the Lad. He suggested we climb even further and discover what occurred before the waterfall. I said that this was like asking who created God or what set the Big Bang in motion. I reminded him that good old Herodotus got as far down the Nile as Aswan and then simply said that that was more or less the source because he didn't have time to go any further.
After further strenuous efforts we eventually got down the near mountain and back to where we had parked the petrol donkey. As we walked across the car park the Lad pointed out a storm drain out of which a continuous stream of water was flowing. It flowed down the road and eventually into the stream. Finally we had discovered the beginning, the source and indeed the meaning of life. It came not from the waterfall from heaven but from a storm drain in the ground.
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