Sunday, 25 April 2010

The hag of Hagg Hill (by Andrew Wooding)

Our latest excursion started with a tip-off from a text: ‘Strange sightings at Hagg Hill in Sheffield. People seen hanging from trees.’ I normally only get texts from Orange asking if I want to top-up my account, so naturally I was interested.

Mike was interested as well when I told him. I suspect he was just as surprised as me that I’d actually got a real text at last. So, being Two Men (but still no Ghost), we decided to investigate further.

Synchronising our watches and stocking up with supplies of Vimto and Haribo Mix, we set off separately, agreeing to meet at the top of Hagg Hill at 8pm on a Friday.

But as they say, they best laid plans of Mike and men gang aft agley (whatever that means).

I looked up Hagg Hill in my Sheffield A-Z and worked out a foolproof route to get there. This ‘foolproof’ route eventually took me to Hillsborough, Crookes, Broomhill and beyond. Everywhere, in fact, except for Hagg Hill itself. Where exactly was it, and why was it so hard to get to?

One thing I did discover on my Friday-night travels was that strange, exotic creatures roam the streets in the evening, making up for what they lack in the skirt department with body mass and volume of make-up. Whatever we might encounter at Hagg Hill couldn’t possibly measure up to the gruesomeness of these swaggering lifeforms, tripping off trams and buses and swinging sparkly handbags at each other.

Turning down a side street, relieved to put some distance between myself and these heffers who travelled in herds, I texted Mike to inform him that I had a map, I could point to Hagg Hill on it, but getting there was sadly eluding me.

No sooner had I pressed ‘Send’ than I got a text back from Mike relaying a similar tale of woe. His sat-nav was apparently up the spout. He would type in the precise postcode for the top of Hagg Hill, but would always somehow end up at one end of Crookes.

A change of plan was needed. It was time to join forces. I knew where Crookes was, even if I couldn’t find Hagg Hill, so within minutes I was pulling up by Mike’s car, then knocking on his window.

‘Yikes!’ went Mike. I could see through his window that he looked a little jumpy. When he realised it was me, he seemed relieved and motioned me to join him inside.

‘Why so tense?’ I asked him as I slammed the passenger door behind me.

‘Sorry, old chum. I was getting a little paranoid,’ he admitted. ‘I’ve been parked here a while and I keep getting odd looks from people walking past. I thought you were one of them.’

‘Odd looks?’ I said. ‘Why?’

‘No idea,’ admitted Mike, and he immediately plunged both hands towards his groin area and started shaking and vibrating. The car was shaking along with him. More strange looks from passers-by.

‘Er … what’re you doing, Mike?’ I admit I was worried.

‘The wind-up torches,’ he explained. ‘I’m charging them up for our investigation.’ And he thrust a hot and sweaty one towards my face.

‘Right,’ I said. ‘Er … great.’

Mike sensed it was time to make tracks. So make them we did. Through Crookes. Through Hillsborough. Through narrow country lanes. Through Crookes. Through Hillsborough. Through more narrow country lanes. Do you ever get déjà vu? How many times have you seen Groundhog Day?

Finally, more by fluke than navigational skill, we found ourselves approaching a street sign that looked promising.

I’m short-sighted, so I squinted as we approached and the letters became sharper and clearer until finally and unmistakably they spelt out the name of our elusive haunted side street … HAGG HILL!

Raucous cheering. The sound of the Hallelujah Chorus. Bells chiming. Horns hooting. A crowd applauding. Triumphant cannons firing. Yes, rejoice with us – we’d finally reached the bloody place!

Except we couldn’t turn into it because a ginormous lorry was in the way, selfishly parked on the corner. It didn’t seem to be in a rush to move – the driver was picking his nose with one hand, opening a thermos flask with the other, and consulting a fold-up map sprawled out in front of him.

Mike revved his engine and the driver took the hint. Folding away his map and disposing of the thermos, he quickly turned out of Hagg Hill and we quickly turned in. Happy to be there, we drove up and down it a number of times.

Yes, there were trees aplenty on either side of the road, stark and leafless, forming eerie silhouettes. Their presence was unsettling, and if you were scared down here, your frenzied imagination could quite easily make out any number of menacing shapes in the gnarled and random branches.

But people hanging from them, there were none.

Disappointed, we parked by the side of the road and had a natter for a while, mainly about our puzzlement over Mike’s sat-nav and my map reading skills failing us so badly. We rounded it off with a robust and in-depth discussion on the sexual undercurrents to be found between the various colourful characters in children’s TV classic, Balamory. We eventually came to a number of firm conclusions.

Feeling that our evening wasn’t entirely wasted, we turned to leave Hagg Hill just as the slowest gritter in the world trundled past, trapping us there for a while. Why? It wasn’t as if we were in the middle of winter or anything. Just our luck.

To add to our woes, Mike lost control of his car just as we tried to turn right out of the road. He kept stalling and rolling backwards. It was almost as if someone – or something – didn’t want us to leave.

Mike and I have a theory. We don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Hagg Hill is so named. Rivalling the so-called mad monk of Stocksbridge bypass, we reckon there’s a spectral hag causing chaos amongst motorists and pedestrians alike. She momentarily muddled my brain as I consulted the Sheffield A-Z. She reached into Mike’s sat-nav and sabotaged the directions it gave. She arranged a lorry and a gritter to block our way in and out of the road that’s her domain. And she caused Mike’s car to sputter and fail as we attempted to make an exit.

Who knows what this hag looks like? Maybe she has one tooth, warts all over the place, and smells of fags and cheap cider.

What do you think of our theory? Are we bonkers?

Don’t answer that.

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