Monday, February 05, 2007
Phyllis and I, at the end of last week, decided to take a weekend away. Just for the hell of it. Checking out the weather forecasts, it seemed a good destination would be the English Lake District.
We were last there, I think, well over a year ago. The weather was dreadful. Constant rain. We were camping, then. I vowed I would never return unless our accommodation was made from bricks and mortar instead of canvas. Sleeping in a tent during a rain storm, although not much fun, is bearable. Putting up a tent and taking one down in such conditions is not.
I've had an urge to return since I began reading Moncrief Speaks and reading there about visits to the lakes. My envy spawned not a monster, but a desire for nature, fresh air and silence.
Ever eager to ge green, we found a B&B in Keswick, proud of their fair trade and environmental credentials, booked and made for the lakes on Saturday morning.
We first stopped off in Carlisle, just for a spot of lunch and a look around. I don't think I'll be in a hurry to go back. Carlisle is fine as a shopping centre for the extreme North West of England, but, beyond that, there's not much of a draw.
Next stop: Cockermouth - if only for the lavatorial humour. We really had no cause to drive through this sleepy wee town, dear reader, but pass through, we did. And now, proudly, Ian and I can say we've been to Cockermouth.
Then, deeper into the lakes we headed. Ian found a medium sized hill on a map. It was easily located. We parked up and headed on through the woods beside one of the lakes. The highest point can be seen above. It doesn't look much from the ground, but from the top, I thought and felt I was in heaven. I even wondered if I might see passenger jets passing below us.
Here, dear reader, we see Minge running up that hill. I'd make a deal with God.
Et maintenant, mes filles at the top. I thought I was about to have a heart attack but Meg and Mary were still full of beans. I'm so unfit, it's unreal. When I'm feeling better, I fully intend going back to Yoga. I really miss it.
Here we see our dear daughters again with their lovely Daddy.
Oh, and gosh, here's a rare treat! Minge and Phyllis together in one photograph! A kind man at the top of the hill took it for us. We don't have many photographs taken together. It's kind of sad, really. This one is in fact not very good, but it's better than nothing, my lamb.
Arty shot #1: Minge
Arty shot #2: Phyllis
Arty shot #3: Mary
Arty shot #4: Meg
It was amazing how many people we saw on the way up and on the way down that hill, on a cold, frosty day in February. I dread to think what it would be like in August.
We came back down the hill again and headed for the car. Meg thought she'd sit on the gate for a rest. She's a crank.
The above image, my little maid, is the B&B we stayed in.
As previously mentioned, I had booked a double room for Ian and I over the telephone. I also told the lady with whom I'd spoken about our two dogs and asked if it would be ok to bring them. I was told it was. Her poor dog, Kim, had recently died after a short illness.
The dogs were not a problem, but, on arriving, I wondered if we were.
"Did you want a double or a twin room?" asked Cathy, wondering if the double room had been a mistake.
We informed her we'd asked for a double room and would like a double room. This was followed by an awkward silence, but then all seemed well. I'm sure Cathy and her husband were not homophobic at all but were simply not used to gays. Perhaps there's some gay mecca of a hotel in Keswick that we missed, claiming all the homos for itself, leaving none for the other B&Bs.
The B&B, although clean and not really scruffy was not the most fabulous place I've ever stayed in. I don't think it had been decorated since 1983. The mattress was lumpy. And the pillows were rubbish, about an inch thick.
In the evening, after watching Dancing On Ice on the TV in our room, we popped out into the town for something to eat, deciding on Indian at The Red Fort. I honestly cannot remember the name of the dish I had, but it was delicious. As ever, I couldn't eat it all, but what I did have was superb, accompanied by a beautifully fluffy Peshwari Naan.
We didn't hurry our meal, but decided to forego dessert and coffee in order to get back to the hotel in time for the Dancing On Ice results show. I was sad to see Ulrika kicked out. Why has she gone and Stephen Gately is still skating?
Oh, and I must add... I'm very disappointed. We were convinced that Stephen's partner was called Kristina Manko. This would have been hilarious as manko is Japanese for the c word. Sadly, for us, Kristina's surname is Lenko.
We woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off the next morning, not having had a good night, had a shower and got dressed before going down to breakfast.
The dining room contained one large table. "We like everyone to sit together," Cathy told us. This is all very well, but I hate people with a friendship agenda and manifesto. Like midnight mass at Christmas when the Priest tells the congregation to wish their neighbours peace. It's fake. Enforced camaraderie is grim and makes people feel uncomfortable. The proof of the pudding was in the eating. We broke bread in silence.
Barry, Cathy's husband, announced to the dining room that he had some kind of flu virus. Exciting! Nice to serve food when you're ill like that. Furthermore, he went on to announce he might have H5N1. Exciting! Nice to make a joke out of a virus that's killed millions of birds the world over and quite a few people to boot.
Oh, and thanks, Barry, I now have your nasty bug. I'm coughing up muck all colours of the fucking rainbow.
After eating a full english, we returned to our room, packed our few bits and pieces into our over-night bag, paid and left.
We took a stroll through Keswick before driving off. It's an amazing town. Almost every private house is a B&B, there are more hotels than you can shake a stick at and every other shop is dedicated to outdoor persuits. If rambling lost its popularity overnight, Keswick would die.
From the town, we took the dogs down to the lake, just for a short walk to see if they needed yellow and/or brown. Indeed, they did, both. It was a very misy morning and the wee island, as seen above, seemed very spooky. I wondered if we might see a sword rising from the waters.
On the way back from the lake, making our way to the car, we passed Keswick's cinema, The Alhambra. I thought it was quite a beautiful building and so typical of cinema's golden age when every wee town and village had a picture house. How it's survived, I don't know.
So we drove on, heading for Buttermere, leaving the fog and mist behind us.
After climbing a road with a 25% incline, we stopped at Honister slate mine for the view.
And saw a punk sheep.
By the time we arrived at the lakeside, the fog had almost cleared, revealing the majesty of our surroundings. Buttermere was like a millpond, the hills and mountains casting reflections like photographs.
Our intention was to walk around the whole of Buttermere, guessing it would take us two to two and a half hours.
Mary loves a stick.
I think Meg looks quite puppyish here.
We had to put my ladies on the lead a few times when sheep were about. Meg and Mary would only want to play with them, but I don't think the sheep would have seen it that way.
Half way around the lake, the beautiful view, above.
Mud was practically omnipresent. The paddling of canine toes was in order.
Between the lake and the road, the footpath passed through a tunnel. I should have been scared, but I was too excited to remember my fear.
Snowdrops - but no snow, sadly.
Almost back at the car, two and a half hours later, and we find another Border Collie on a farm. Her similarity to Mary was uncanny. Do you think they might be related, dear reader?
Beside the car - and Mary is worn out. Practically falling asleep stood up! How I'd not passed out by this point, I don't know.
Heading back to Keswick for a late lunch, we came upon this fantastic view. J'adore the myriad of colours.
Almost back in Keswick, back into the fog...? No! Miraculously, it cleared as we arrived. The gods were smiling down upon us yesterday, my love.
It didn't take us too long to find a small café for a wee bite and cuppa, run by a husband and wife team. They seemed to be performing a scene from Fawlty Towers. Ian commented that the husband was to catering what the Queen Mother was to arc welding. It was actually quite funny to watch, though I did feel sorry for them both. The poor woman was probably on high blood pressure tablets.
Our drive home to Edinburgh was quite eneventful. As usual, I fell asleep. We stopped off at a supermarket in Midlothian for bread and milk. The clock struck five and I took my photograph for Window On Your World. Incidentally, if you've taken a picture for this project, please email it to me by Tuesday night at the latest, though I can always add to any blog entry later. I hope to get all the pictures uploaded on Wednesday. Thanks to all of you who've contributed thus far. You know who you are.