After an early breakfast with some people from one of my bible study groups, ran for the first train up from London Euston to the Lake District for some R&R with friends.
The incessant rain during the first few days made the mountains and rivers a dreamscape of petrified tree skeletons. Through dirty misty panes of Cumbria buses, vague impressions of dark unknown valleys, threatening rushing waters, moving things that might have been dark green men coming out to frolick in the muck, or straggly wet Herdwick sheep grazing.
When the rain finally let up, a train ride along Cumbria coast past the bleak coast off Arnside and Grange-Over-Sands. Then past the nuclear reprocessing site at Sellafield between Ravenglass and St. Bees. Names that would not have been out of place in Middle Earth.
Managed an early stop at Cart & Cartmel for a pilgrimage to the home of sticky toffee pudding
at Cartmel – a tiny medieval village amongst rolling verdant hills that, due to the presence of artisan bakeries and a restaurant that had switched from molecular gastronomy to locavore cuisine and the plethora of Land Rovers, screamed Disney simulacra. But a village it was. The languid village chatter in tea shops meandered gently through a review of the weather in the village for the year thus far, Christmas bonuses of the staff at a local establishment, the stuffing in last year’s turkey (pigeon and venison, if you must know), in what order one should eat the single accompanying petit fours that came with one’s tea. Surely this, and many a village like this, was Hobbiton.
And the sticky toffee pudding at the Cartmel Village Shop wasn’t too bad at all.
A neighbouring village was the charmingly named Flookburgh, a fishing settlement on the shore of Morecambe Bay. Another Middle Earth-ish gem. And of course, a writer always writes from within his culture. And the reader, i suspect, is not immune from experiencing such writing in the spatial context of his reading it.
Having watched The Hobbit at the local Keswick Alhambra cinema (where they issued paper tickets from large colourful rolls) the night before, was so engrossed in poring through JRR Tolkien’s book to verify that events were not as presented in Peter Jackson’s film version (and forgetting that Bilbo looked strikingly similar to Adrian Pang with auntie hair) that I only got off in a daze at Carlisle 2 hours past the original intended destination of Whitehaven. It was slightly difficult to distinguish between the misty mountains and The Misty Mountains.
This was not helped by Wainwright
‘s maps being old school illustrations – just like those inside the cover of Tolkien’s books.
Pub at The George Hotel, allegedly one of the oldest pubs in town
Dog & Gun pub
The Bank Tavern
The Oddfellows Arms
And when cold sniffly failed walkers huddled early in the pubs all around Keswick (sundown at 4pm (and then 2pm on the shortest day of the year)), trading stories over Jennings and other good ales about previous hikes, it seemed like they were travellers on epic journeys: dwarves to take revenge on old enemies; kings going abroad to win back their thrones; wizards-in-hiding manipulating world events… but these humans were talking about the trials and travels of the upcoming holiday season – the freshly divorced having to work out the logistics of which party to attend to avoid the ex-spouse and who would/could have the kids this Christmas, the recently bereaved wondering how they could possibly celebrate this winter.
When the black and white waitress uniforms at Bryson’s of Keswick
, whether authentic hangover from begone era or tourist-indulgent get-ups, made me think of certain cafes in Akihabara
, it became very apparent how truly our previous experiences colour our interpretation of present reality.
On a not-at-all-epic bus route, the driver and i were the only people on the lonely journey over some peaks. So i stood next to him (cheekily, in front of the sign that demanded that no passengers must stand to the front of the sign) and chatted (first about the weather, of course) as the scenery unfolded round hairpins bends and over the tops of steep hills. He could not name any of the mountains, he said, because he was only driving through them. If our past influences our present experience, how much more does our worldview do so?
And i wondered if we can enjoy creation more, both the brutal rain-drenched days and the startling vistas from the top of fells on a clear day, now that we know the Creator who made it all?
Or do we enjoy the present creation just that bit less because we’re longing for the tremendous perfect new one?
To get to Keswick, take a train from London to Penrith and get a bus from Penrith to Keswick (see Cumbria Buses
). No train runs direct to Keswick.
To get a feel of wide areas of the Lake District by bus, think about getting an all day pass or 3 day pass like the Explorer. There are several train versions – the Cumbria Round Robin, Lake Day Rover etc.)