Sunday, 26 August 2007
Notes on Lakes, Poets and Constipation
Twenty-Five Things to do of interest and slight hazard in the Lake District
1. Arrive at your cottage and stall an over-laden Renault Clio as you climb a road towards it so steep you expect to have a nose bleed any minute. Do this whilst also being asphyxiated by the fumes emanating from the burning brake pads of descending cars.
2. On your second day take a local bus to enjoy the views and crash into a camper van on a road only wide enough for two fat sheep.
3. Sit on a small overcrowded ferry across Conistan to Ruskin’s House, note what you feel to be the lack of life rafts and the potential for hitting a troop of incompetent sea scouts in canoes. Ponder whether you could survive longer than Leonardo De Caprio in the freezing water, acknowledge that you would be no Kate Winslet and your heart will not go on.
4. Become trapped in Ruskin’s ice-house, admire the granite walls.
5. Walk along a narrow path (suitable for one skinny sheep) hacked into the side of a mountain. Note the absence of a handrail and the presence of severe vertigo. Turn back and beat yourself up over this weakness and add this to your list of many failures of courage.
6. Experience severe constipation due to the change in water and endless scones. Wonder whether the local hippy shop has a crystal suitable for constipation relief. Imagine the conversation with the shop owner about this.
7. Be trampled by Yorkshire day trippers in Bowness clutching tea-towels depicting a map of the lakes and fudge in boxes which have ‘Thank-you for looking after my cat’ written on the lid.
8. Climb onto a cottage roof to check the TV aerial connection as the screen shows only blizzards and you need to see the next episode of Waking the Dead.
9. Attempt the walk up the steep hill (known locally as ‘The Struggle’) to your rented cottage without the aid of oxygen and knowledge of the nearest defibrillator. Note the lack of ladies offering water at the half way point.
10. Overdose on sticky toffee pudding washed down with Pinot Grigio, beer and gin.
11. Cross the roads in Ambleside on a Sunday.
12. Risk being stoned to death by ardent ramblers for breaking the taboo of walking without clutching a little pole that you jab into the ground at intervals. We presume this is some mass attempt to aerate the grass on Lakeland fells and improve drainage.
13. Watch an American tourist, who whilst enthralled with the tour of Dove Cottage, inadvertently places her bag on a table.You’ve just put your bag down on Wordsworth’s card Table Madam, the guide comments in a very English understated manner. Her shame and mumbled apologies did not save her from being reduced to the size of a small amoeba in the eyes of her tour group and being sentenced to death by Preludes.
14. Sit for a quiet pint outside a pub and be initiated at length into the world of the Caravan Club by the alpha male from a family from Bolton. We are initiated into the dark secrets and rites of caravaning club such as the pulling weight of a Mondeo, touchable ceramic heaters and the precise configuration of his Elvis (or what sounded like Elvis). Wonder if after all their secrets have been divulged they are then forced to kill you. Being sandwiched between two caravans afterwards takes on a whole different paranoid experience.
15. Eat the melting hair gel of the cheerful good looking boy band type waiter which drops into the tapas in the bar full of trendy media type people. Trendy media type people on holiday manage to retain the look and aura of trendy media type people, even in the Lake District; they have a better class of poking pole, Gucci day rucksacks and talk about audience ratings and Baftas. They use Satellite navigation in their 4x4’s to find a tapas bar whilst we find it because we are not yet ready to attempt ‘The Struggle’ and need a sit down. We like poking down small dark alleys without the aid of a pole and thus locate the tapas experience without the aid of Sat Nav or even an OS map.
16. Go to the Pencil Museum in Keswick for the kitsch experience and actually find yourself fascinated by the whole graphite, pencil history business. Weigh yourself down with a variety of purchased pencils, charcoal, tinted charcoal, and every grade of H and B. Note that American astronauts were furnished with a biro that would write in zero gravity, the development of which took millions of dollars. Russian cosmonauts were given a pencil. (Note to self…there has to be a poem in that fact)
17. Sit and look at a mountain for hours as the light and cloud formation constantly alter how it seems but not what it is.
18. Understand why Wordsworth and Coleridge were always going out for walks given the tiny dark cottage they lived in and the stench of talo candles which must have pervaded it. Wonder if the long walks prevented constipation, the bowels of poets no doubt effect their output.
19. Look at Sara Wordsworth’s wedding ring and ponder why Dorothy Wordsworth wore her sister-in-law’s wedding ring that William had bought in France until the day of their marriage. She did not attend the wedding and took to her bed whilst the marriage was taking place. Does the comment by a friend ‘ She took to her bed’ = sulking.
20. Read an extract from a letter by Coleridge’s wife and think about the fact that despite being an undoubted genius of the romantic movement Coleridge refused to allow his depressed and sick wife a three year break from producing endless children, most of which died. She pleaded with him but obviously the plight of the oppressed and common man did not extend to women.
21. See Mervyn Peake’s original illustrations for Rime of the Ancient Mariner recently donated to the museum at Dove Cottage and be moved by their power and the overwhelming sense that both Coleridge and Peake understood the nature of madness and had looked it in the face.
22. Try and light a gas fire without significant blow back. Wonder if this could be a cure for constipation.
23. Hand feed heron’s at the wildlife’s centre ‘Happy Heron Hour’ without being impaled or carrying the marks of the stigmata on your palms for days.
24. Take a minibus tour with a lively lad called Tony over Hardknott Pass (the steepest road in England) whilst he is somewhat distracted by a dispute with the local council about his rates. Watch pale and frightened drivers stare wide-eyed as he hurtles towards them. A definite cure for their constipation no doubt.
25. Try to answer young Japanese girl’s question truthfully and in simple English whilst we examine Roman remains in driving rain and wind at the top of Hardknott Pass
.. and please to tell me is there summer in England, I bring only T- Shirts and I have to buy this in Kes Wick.’ She plucks at her baby pink
anorak with a rather disconsolate expression on her face.