Breathing slowly and steadily.
I stood admiring the view: it was a glorious day. A man walking his dog stopped nearby, and he remarked upon how nice the conditions were.
Me: isn't it just? Think I chose a good day to go walking.
Man With Dog: Whereabouts have you been so far then?
Me: Oh I started off going up the high street, then cut sharply upwards towards the Heights of Abraham, all the way over the top and then down into Matlock. Along the road for a while and then up to Riber, then back down the hill and up to here.
MWD: I'll be doing similar with a group of people next week, but we're starting off at Cromford and walking the first stretch down by the Derwent - it seems to be a part which is really overlooked.
Me: I know that one, I went camping down there about 20 years ago at Cromford Meadow, and I would walk along the Derwent to get into Matlock. Seem to remember it being really nice.
MWD: It is. Do you know it round here then?
Me: I grew up not too far away, we used to come down here pretty regular. I tend to come back every so often just to do some walking and to have a change of scenery.
...and so the conversation continued for a few more minutes (me having the pleasure of inadvertently lapsing back into my broad Derbyshire accent - something I'm rarely able to do if I'm to have any chance of being understood): remarking on various walks we had done or intended to do, a few general observations about life, and of course about the weather. It was glorious, after all.
Calm and relaxed, I remained at the same spot for a few minutes more once the man and his dog had gone on their way. I felt like I had just gone a long way towards conquering one of my fears. Not - I hasten to add - a fear of engaging in conversation with men walking their dogs.
The point is, I was stood just a few feet away from the sheer drop at the top of High Tor. For whatever reason, in recent years I've found myself increasingly nervous about the prospect of such heights (or drops). Not unreasonable in itself maybe: but as someone who enjoys walking in the hills and mountains it feels like a bit of a handicap, the extent to which it has affected me.
Back in February I had travelled up here and walked on a similar route which took in this particular spot. As I'd got nearer, my legs had the sensation of being made of ice, but with large dollops of electricity coursing through them. I'd felt dizzy and more than a little unsteady, and I'd had to slow down. The closer I'd got, the more it felt like electricity was coursing through my brain as well. It wasn't safe - I didn't feel safe, but I'd forced myself to at least try and stand there for a minute or so. I managed to take a few photographs whilst feeling like the ground might fall away beneath me at any moment.
It had felt like a very dark moment as I edged closer, fear mounting, thoughts racing. Darker than I could handle, in fact: I turned round and walked away, rushed away. Even just the knowledge that I was still on the crag itself (though well away from the sheer face now) was unnerving, like I was being goaded. I couldn't stop until I was back at ground level. The sense of vulnerability was deeply shocking, nasty, raw - and it seemed as though the further away I walked from this particular place, the less in touch with those feelings I would be.
It had left me feeling rattled. I'd visited this spot again in the spring and I fared better, at least to an extent.
So how pleasing it was yesterday to be close enough to the edge to peer over and have an amazing view down towards ground level: close enough, but not enough to be in danger. I felt much stronger, more secure, less vulnerable. A cliched phrase I know, but it does feel like I've gone some way towards slaying a demon. I wonder how much it's about the external fears themselves, and how much it's about a general sense of my own well-being.