CLAG is, as you can plainly see, a four letter word ... and rightly so, for the clag is without doubt a curse. Anyone sojourning in the country, especially close to swampy ground will concur, but it is, believe me, the burdened wanderer who is most afflicted by this beast. It has followed us all the way from the Alps, across southern Germany and up through northern France - a constant if unwelcome companion.
The clag doesn’t ascend in ominous clouds from the depths of hell like the devilish midgie, leaving anyone in the vicinity with no option but to run for their lives, or at the very least for their sanity. Nor does it keep the frustrated, recumbent figure awake at night in the blackness of the bedroom with its needle-like buzzing as does the heinous mosquito. But this creature has definitely earned its place in the premier league of loathsome insects. Yes, it’s slow and a bit dopey, and provided it’s spotted, it can be swatted without a great deal of skill required on the part of the swatting person. But, that’s the problem you see – as a walker, you just don’t get a chance to spot the things before they’ve already sunk their fangs (or whatever it is they use to conduct their parasitic antics) into you.
I mean, take me for example... I’m just getting into my stride, I’ve found my rhythm, I’m in the zone, and, most importantly, I’ve forgotten about the pain in my feet for a few seconds, when, out of the corner of my varifocal lenses I spot a dark clag-shaped spot on my leg, just above the sock line. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise now that, with the tiniest amount of rational thinking, the following series of events could have been avoided. What actually happened though was that instinct kicked in and I bent over double to make sure I could get a proper swipe at the offender. Immediately, all the loose items stuck in the side pockets of my rucksack – walking sticks, tent rods, umbrella – came clattering down over the back of my head and, after inducing several sharp pains in that region, continued on their downward journey eventually getting entangled with my legs, which were still trying to maintain the rhythm I had found. I (helped along by the forward momentum and the 22 pound rucksack on my back) pitched headlong towards the tarmac and ended up sprawled across the road, a scattered and broken train-wreck of a man.
But the good news: Looking down at my grazed and bleeding leg I noticed that the clag had not survived the impact, and that I, after a quick check of my vital signs, had.