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Seldom Seen

14th - 16th October, 2019 I woke up at two in the afternoon to several messages and missed calls from various people about various things. Most were focused on the arrival of my friend and new house-mate who, as I later found out, was already on his way from Herefordshire to London with ‘a Land Rover full of stuff’. There was a message asking a favour from my actor-cousin Charlie who appeared at my door minutes after my waking to regale on said favour which turned out to be a fashion check for a meeting he had that afternoon with an agency in Hampstead with whom he was hoping to be signed. The ensemble was a combination of blue denim jacket/shirt over simple, yet well fitting, black t-shirt (acquired for free from a friend in Los Angeles with a price tag of eighty dollars. Eighty). These atop a pair of green and grey checked trousers. The whole look gave off a stylish and artistic yet professional and confident vibe which is, I’m sure, exactly what he was looking for, so I grunted something along the lines of ‘yeah, mnmym, looks good’ and rolled over. It was Cousin Charlie who also informed me of new house-mate Charlie’s departation and estimated arrival that evening around seven. I thanked him with a ‘cool, cheers’ and rolled over again although somehow stayed facing the same way, so perhaps the second roll over was rather more mental than duvet turning. There’s a message further down the list from another house-mate, and long term friend, Ollie who had worked the early-morning shift at BBC Radio Kent, rising at the ungodly hour of half past three that morning to drive an hour and a half at least to Tunbridge Wells (from North London, mind) in order to perform his duties as broadcast assistant on the Breakfast Show. He would take calls, find guest speakers, ignore emails and generally try his best to stay unbiased when particular political enemies came knocking, though he would often bait them with ideas like a three day working week, or the dismantling of the private school system. These would usually result in the sort of ear-steaming, pot-boiling responses that resort to things like ‘you just- you- that’s stupid. You don’t understand’ at which point he’d put them through with an other-end-of-the-phone grin and a thank you for getting in touch. Next in line, however, is a text from new house-mate Charlie, and we haven’t resolved the name issue yet though the beginnings of nickname planning have already begun. It’s actually from about six o’clock the evening before and reads ‘U need a PA or a secretary... can u call me pls’. To his dismay I never did though, as I had at this point learnt, he’d contacted Cousin Charlie and arranged the necessaries. Text from Lucy that morning ‘Oi! Wake up and respond to Mr Dunne!!!’, (that’s new house-mate Charlie) duly ignored. Missed calls from both Charlies ignored ignored, and finally the message that first caught my bleary afternoon-woken eye, from Ollie which simply said ‘Do u wanna go to the lake District for 2 nights?’ train that pm, back on Wednesday, with his parents. To put into context my prior-to-this mental state, which you may have guessed something of already, my exact plan, devised in the dark on Sunday evening was to go to bed and stay there till Thursday, not for any drastically necessary reason but simply because that seemed like the thing to do, and you can read into that as much as you like and more. That plan was duly scraped as Ollie himself was the next visitor to my bedroom when he, without introduction or warning, bumped his way in and ordered me get up as we were to leave at once. Him at the end of his day, me at the beginning of mine, time was doing loopy-loos that Monday, and it wasn’t done yet. The intrusion was most distressing at the time as you can imagine given my predisposed mandates but I clambered my way into jeans and T and was thus in a state of humanity which I had not dreamed of, that being stumbling downstairs of all places to see what was what. That what turned out to be a train in exactly one minute which we’d probably miss so a reprieve from the getting up and going of an hour or so which gave ample time for our favourite low-effort, high-outcome snack, the delicious, creamy, straight-out-the-pot dish known as cheesy pasta. A university favourite carried over with a little extra panache, though not quite the maximum effort it would take to do a cheese-based pasta bake, the meal consists of pasta cooked to a liking between mine of al dente and Ollie’s of mush, tipped out of the pan then back in again and mixed with a fine-tuned concoction of grated mature cheddar, dried oregano, dried basil, freshly ground salt, freshly ground pepper, and, should the basil plant have been revived from the droop to live another week, a little fresh of that. The ensuing deliciousness was then consumed at top speed directly from the pot with great yummings and this-is-greatings to the surface level distain but deeply rooted envy of all who surveyed which, on this particular Monday three o’clock, was an audience of one in the form of brother Ryan who’d stirred from his green-screen roost to pop a chocolate fudge cake in the microwave. Gloriously we feasted and morosely Ryan looked on, accompanied I am sure by the spirits of Cousin Charlie, meeting in progress, NH-M Charlie (does that work? Looks awful.) en route with dad and stuff, and probably former house-mate Dan who was presumably punching numbers into a computer at his tech-based bank job in Liverpool Street and thinking fondly of afternoons of cheesy pasta. This main event was washed down with copious amounts of Robinson’s summer fruits squash and wrapped up with lightning-fast packing and straight out the door with brief goodbyes, a packet of five red onion and chive New York style bagels, a tube of red chilli flavour Pringles (gamer edition, whatever that meant), and three quarters of a large bar of Cadbury milk chocolate pocked with jelly popping candy, marvellous. The trudge to the Golders Green station across the Heath Extension was preluded by a phone call to Lucy who was, an hour after I’d risen, bedding down herself, adding to the loopy-loos that were becoming common place, after all who was I to tell anybody that just because the sun was up you don’t have to be awake and just because the moon is doesn’t mean you have to sleep. Neverminding all thoughts of the wibbly-wobbly, away I left Lucy to her recovery napping and with Ollie we talked of simple things till rounding the bend of the station where we were bracingly buffeted by a swarm of what might have been a school trip, the twenty or so of them all of them being small and baggaged. I deftly nipped to the right and was through the barriers without a hitch but Ollie was trapped against the ticketing machines on the other side where he’d foolishly diverted to snatch up an Evening Standard from the stand which left him wading through the masses. Later on he would curse this exact moment many times over, and lay the blame of delays to come on the face of the floppy haired round-face man who adorned the front page in all his deal-attempting bumbling ineptitude. Through to the platform where a train was sliding away and Ollie, checking his watch on the underside of his left wrist began the first of his blamings on the newspaper. At this stage we were checking the Trainline app for platform numbers and I went to buy my ticket on the app before realising I’d left my railcard, it’s sleek, slim Platform Nine and Three Quarters leather case on my desk at home. Bugger, thought I, and went straight to calling Brother Mine who dutifully did not pick up, nor respond to the messages requesting he take a picture for the numbers which I could use to download a digital version onto the Railcard app. I later learnt this was impossible and the plastic railcard was incompatible with the digital version and it’s rather more of a one or the other affair. At the time however, it seemed of great importance to saving my third-off twenty four pounds. Four minutes later and no response from the brother and we were Bank branch-bound for Euston with the watch-checking becoming minutely as our three-thirty train began to look like a run. Hampstead came and went, using the EEfreewifi to check for a message from Brother Ryan to no avail. Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, still nought, twenty-two minutes past, twenty-four minutes past. Camden Town, things became tense. The last stretchy, bending, shrieking track and we were into Euston. Still nothing from Ryan. I’m still trying to buy the ticket anyway, claiming I have a railcard that sits on my desk at home. We’re jogging up and round, out the barriers, Ollie’s ahead of me, I’m still trying on the Trainline app. We bump and scoot our way around the afternoon crowd and I’m chasing Ollie down to platform two where the Glasgow train we’re aiming for is closing its doors for the final time that October three thirty. But there’s a woman on the platform still, and she presses the button and the door slides open! We’re careening down the slope from the station’s main large room but the staff at the bottom are already shaking their heads. Ollie gets there first, then turns back to me in dismay. It was lucky really because I didn’t actually have a ticket yet, the Trainline app repeatedly pooh-poohing my thumb print for payment. Perhaps it knew I didn’t have a railcard and the ensuing hour wait was penance for my heinous lying crime. Or so I thought! Things were all about to change… Suddenly Ollie made tracks and it turned out our hour long wait was to be shortened to thirteen minutes via the slow train to Glasgow via Preston, Crewe, and co. which would depart shortly from platform four maybe or six, or seven. With renewed enthusiasm we hurried ourselves over there and I had cousin Charlie on video call going through my desk draws looking for the sleek, slim Platform Nine and Three Quarters leather case which turned out not be on the desk but somewhere else entirely. It was found and we stood for a while by the ticket checkers as they checked others and I sort of mumbled apologies of trying to find something at home and put in details before the kindly station manager shooed us onto the train saying they’ll come round and help us out on route. On board we found a pair of seats that didn’t display RESERVED FROM MILTON KEYNES in blocky digital font and settled in for the three hours thirty (that was delayed by fifteen at Crewe for no apparent reason). The journey began without incident and our tickets were never checked in transit so my railcard woes were pushed to the back of my mind, to be excavated on return from Oxenholme when I would face the guardians of ticket pricing once again. The entertainments began with Ollie revealing the true nature of his delay back at Golders Green as he produced not one but two copies of the Evening Standard. Two sets of blonde mops shrouded two sets of bloomering eyes gazing morosely out onto bleak nothingness. Perhaps he was eyeing up his nemesis in Brussels, or witnessing his true enemy take on their final form, the bicycle thief. Either way, we began our race on the front cover and delved into the paper in search of the puzzles section. Adopting two opposing tactics I hurried in a huffle of pages to rush my way to what I believed the page would be while Ollie smartly turned to page one and scanned down the contents for the correct page number. Were this a moralistic tale he would then have proceeded to turn calmly to the desired page and, with great smarm begin with a deft seven in the top right corner, but as this is no such parable Ollie found himself increasingly frustrated as he stared up and down the inside cover while I turned one page from where I’d randomly opened the paper and began with a thick-penned four in the upper central square, bottom left corner. This rather sums up our friendship over the years in ways you can’t possibly imagine and it wasn’t an easy one, the sudu that is, I’ll tell you that, and there were prolonged periods of quietude where the two of us sat chewing on thumb nails and umming and ahhing as we sat both hunched over our papers, brows furrowed with concentration as we scanned the rows and columns, our gaze criss-crossing the infuriating squares and squiggles. Ollie adopted the tiny number in the corner approach while I looked for some clever logic and we both harrumphed out loud saying things along the lines of this is a hard one or hmm noo until one of us would get a break and a two here would mean a two there and that means a three up there because… and that’d be all for another five minutes of sighs and head scratchings. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, I noticed myself pulling ahead as a couple of neatly placed nines in the bottom row of squares opened up the tricky fours and sevens which had been alluding us both further up the pitch. Coming to the end of the dook I noticed that I was potentially able to complete the puzzle with what expert puzzleologists call the bullseye digit, and sure enough I placed my pen on the thin grey paper to ink my final number in the central square in the central square and what satisfaction to so gracefully declare a modest victory. Ollie was getting nowhere so I did the cogen, the battlefield, and half the crossword before he eventually pronounced himself finished. The rest of the journey passed without real event. We snacked on the red chilli flavour Pringles and the three quarters of a large bar of Cadbury milk chocolate pocked with jelly popping candy which diminished to roughly a quarter of a large bar of Cadbury milk chocolate pocked with jelly popping candy. Stations passed us by, I suppose people got on and off. Milton Keynes and then perhaps Coventry before Birmingham, then on to Crewe and up the coast via Preston, a short delay at Lancaster and we pulled into Oxenholme Lake District in the dark. Disembarking, we strolled under the tracks to the car park side before reaching Ollie’s mother on the telephone and hence strolling back under the tracks to the side where the car was parked. Handshake for Mr Richard B (reverend, ex-music teacher), Mrs Lorna B (music teacher, reverend’s caretaker) was still in the car and turned to give very warm hellos as Ollie and I back-seated it having offloaded sacks and bags into the boot which was closed, very satisfyingly, with a simple wafting foot wave under the door. The drive through the foothills and valleys and great grassy knolls of that beautiful and ancient land was nothing short of a swathe of black the colour of pitch and visions of great lakes and large parks of green and sheep were coddled and muddled by the absolute nothingness that paraded alongside our four-man wagon as we rolled for some fifty minutes along the long and winding roads. At one stage in the lives of both Ollie and me, and many others besides including the aforementioned former-housemate Dan, Brother Ryan, and Cousin Charlie, the Lorna Braddy who is Ollie’s mother was also our schoolteacher. As the generations of us passed through the traditional replacing of maroon blazers and white lunch cards we were all of us exposed to the force of musical nature that was Mrs Braddy, and her indomitable spirit taught us all various lessons, most of them outside of the treble clef. In her role as the timpanic maestro of concert bands and orchestrum, Mrs B, or Loz, would often drive the faithful minibus that the school gave priority to hockey games but allowed out for special occasions, such as the short trip round the corner to our infamous girls school equivalent. To say that Meastro Braddy’s driving at the time was erroneous or erratic or simply dangerous would be an understatement as boys carrying violin and flute cases went crashing about at breakneck speed while the tubas and bassoons in the back created a veritable dodgems of a game for those unlucky enough to sit nearby. Dan was once stowed away in the boot. Flashbacks to these thrilling times were thrown to mind as we careened, some ten years later, around the Lake District, the sole vehicle on a solitary drive through a place of solitude. Inside, however, we were warm and giddy with the pure fun of the place. We talked of this and that and positively bubbled against the night glooming all around, a cosy carriage blinking by the unseen lakes that were lying patiently for us to suckle up with our greedy eyes in the morning sun. Navigating the by roads which would lead to the cottage in which we were to stay was a simple enough task until we reached the western edge of Ullswater and found ourselves fumbling for the directions which had been screenshotted onto LB’s phone, found by RB and passed immediately back to OB who spent a while attempting to navigate the navigations which were none too reliable. The use of ‘pass the bus stop and a rocky outcrop’ was fairly nulled by the abundance of outcrops and poor visibility of bus stops but we nonetheless found a turning which appeared to resemble that described and sloped away from the water onto an incline that trailed into the gloom. Turning turned, we then followed the directions past a squat stone hut to the port side, some erratically behaving sheep to starboard, and ten minutes of extreme rocky road that was more tumble-dryer than marshmallow and chocolate. Can you not slow down, exclaimed the man in front and the reply came, no no I’m not doing anything at all, but the rebukes went left and right while we sighed and bumped about in the back. The digital speedometer stayed at a round five for the most while and, you could go slower than five, he said and, I’ve taken my foot off, she said, it’s just doing it on its own, and the two of us laughed and laughed and sighed and bumped about in the back. Trusty as our wagon was, we eventually summited the danger trail and found ourselves emerging from the pine canopy around us onto a driveway, at the end of which was parked a much more suitable four-wheeled four-driven mountain crusher jeep and behind that the end wall of a row of four old miner’s cottages where we were to spend the next two nights. As it happens, the in-car satellite navigation system ended at this exact point, asking questions of the necessity of written directions in this day and age of G maps and iMaps and Apples that can be maps too. We parked up in a small holding area and bag-carried our way to cottage number three of Seldom Seen which was so far living up to its name’s expectations. The key was found in a small lockbox hidden in a birdbox and unboxing we took the two sets and creaked open the old door that sat snug under a portico where a wooden stool and boot rack were protected from the worst of the elements. Inside it was cold and dark and we fumbled a little with the light switch before I made my way in and over the other side of the small living room-come-kitchen where I found the fuse box and flicked the biggest redest switch I could find to ON, simultaneously causing the room to burst into a healthy glow, and a hefty satisfying clunk to emanate from the bowels of the electric centre-point that gave my ears and insides a healthy glow too. A veritable feast of comfort availed us as we surveyed our new camp-out. A leather sofa opposite the wood fire stove with a bare wood coffee table on a large deep pile rug that covered a good portion of the cosy living area, with the bare black stone floor just reeking of chilly pale feet hopping about in the morning. Overhead the oak wood beams ran the length of the cottage, just above the head height of our tallest (which was me, as it invariably would be), pinned with odd decor in the form of a row of festive soft hangings and various stapled mementos from across the globe, as far as Venice and near as Grasmere. A sideboard held books and maps of the local area with a small silver television screen set neatly in the corner. Many minutes were spent attempting to retune our visual link to the outside world but to no avail, instead we would repose in the evenings to the sound of Radio Three sweetly singing from the wireless on the windowsill. The kitchenette was just the other side of the light wood table where we ate breakfasts and dinners thereafter and was kitted out with all new modern appliances including fresh Russel Hobbs kettle, knife set, two-slot toaster, and microwave. There was an induction two hob and when we got the boiler bubbling, rather hot water ran from one tap, with icy cold from the other, filtered just out the back of cottage number two. Having stacked up our dinnertime particulars with the bagels in pride of place (where they would remain untouched till they returned to London to be breakfasted at Wildwood) we set about the cottage exploring its nooks and crooks discovering upstairs two bedrooms, one larger for Lorna and Dicky, the other roughly half the size for OB and I where we were to be bunked with bedding of pink and red hearts on a white field. The tiny room had room enough only for the one-on-top-of-the-other, a small table with a light-up globe, and a chest of drawers under the foot-by-foot window that looked out directly onto the steep gradient of the hill that rose up directly behind and around the cottage. On the sill was sat a thick slate on which stood a small sailer man with a boat, though of different proportions so that were the pirate to be blown up to the average height, he’d barely have space to sit in the bow with his legs out, or were the one mast sailer built to the standard specifications of a ship of that style, it would creak mightily under the ensuing weight of her gigantic occupant. Three paintings on the wall, each with one animal above and one animal below from right to left depicting fox and hare, stag and hare, three owls and squirrel. So far we had only ticked off a couple of sheep who glared out of the dark as we bumped along in the night. For sleeping arrangements I went top, with Ollie greatly enjoying my attempts to fit into the bunk which was clearly designed and intended for use by people of smaller stature than myself, that is to say, I didn’t fit in the bed. With either a slight curl of the leg or an awkward neck bend I touched wall to wall and so resigned myself to the anticipation of either foetal sleeping or over the ladder leg hanging. We cooked and ate and spoke of this and that, with a large portion of conversation devoted to the rewording of science that had taken place since Braddy seniors’ days and ours. More specifically, how the term ‘semi’ had been replaced by ‘partially’ when referring to the permeability of membranes during osmosis. Enjoying the chatter in equal parts the four of us dipped in and out of the more scientific side of talk and mused on other world affecting events. There was some great political upheaval taking place in Westminster at the time though with the sheer quantity of daily upheavals I forget which it was now. Needless to say we were all on the same side of what we saw as Right and Good and could therefore hum along the conversational tune in relative harmony over dinner of sausages and mash with beans and onion gravy, prepared by yours truly and cooked by LB in the semi-modern partial kitchen. A cup of tea (with sugar for one, though no salt left in the pot) and to bed for all with quiet cosy excitement for a good long walkabout and a good long lookabout and a breathy heave ho here we are at the toppity top. OB up before me and, after a quick Mexico, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, into the shower he scampered, to hose off ready for the day. For me it was downstairs and kettle on, three bags of Lancaster tea in the pot, LB and R packing, sorting and looking at maps, waterproof socks, waterproof trousers, waterproofing rubbed onto boots. All the while I paled at how woefully unprepared I was for any sort of dampness about the foot or leg area but decided right then and there to not give two anythings about it anyway and what would come would come and a little water never hurt my toes yet. Consult the map! Consult the map! Such was the warning call of the morn along with salt, salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, then back from me as a question salt, pause, salt and vinegar, pause, cheese and onion, then yes, then oh cheese and onion, then get in! from Richard, then I’ll pack all six from Lorna, then compass? No compass? All out. Have you got the map? Porridge-full we struck out at around the ten o’clock mark in hopes of making it back in the evening with plenty of time before dark. The day was as cool and crisp as any you could pick out of a line of novels set in fresh autumns with a little cloud cover diffusing the sun into a bright, coming-from-everywhere light that made the dew sparkle and revealed the view that I had been promised, to be rather spectacular. Up and away from the cottages and, putting the lake to our backs, we made like mountain goats up the grassy banks of our first fell. We followed the wall with the sunshine until we turned away from the valley and over the saddle where the view on both sides was obscured by one beefy hill. Already we had discovered the dampness of the grass and Ollie and I leapt from seemingly dry patch to seemingly sturdy ground, making our giddy way up past old miner’s dens, sheep pens, long low walls and streams tricking from pass to valley from every direction. Stopping at the saddle for a moment we took in a breath of Ullswater and then worked our way down the other side where we encountered an intensely sodden patch that soaked the unprepared trainers and socks for Ollie I, and we resigned ourselves to wet feet and trudged gleefully, squelching every step down the other side. At the bottom of the saddle a new bridge crossed the river from the old quarry rock on our side down to the village way below on the other, but we turned upwards again and North and wound our way up the side of another fell with a river on our left, ski huts above that and small streams crossing the patch dropping into the valley below. The mist and drizzle had set in as we reached cloud level where we found the cross roads at which we would head South for Helvellyn. Sitting for a moment, surrounded by mist, the wind dropped and there was absolute silence all around, save the distant footfalls of two coming down form the North. We ate a small snack before continuing upwards to Raise, a cairn, a mountain bike, two travellers maybe. Then it was down and up and down, and steeply up along a ridge to the crown of the Helvellyn horseshoe, all the while the thick fog concealing the great valley below. From the crown it was another short rise to the peak and finally we stood at the summit of Helvellyn where we saw simply nothing at all. A large stone cruciform made a shelter from the wind regardless of direction but even that cover couldn’t ward of the chill that began to creep in as we sat on spread out waterproof trousers, munching away at crisps and sandwiches (one inside the other for me, as I always have done, and shall probably always do, and I will fight any blackguard that defies the notion that a layer of crisps within a sandwich is at least six times as satisfying and delicious as crisps eaten alongside a sandwich like a side salad). The warmth of the climb had seeped away and jumpers were back on and we were away around the South bend of the shoe to Striding Edge. Striding Edge. Striding Edge is a ridge of harsh, sharp cliff faces and broken stones in jagged undulating humps like a great serpent laying along the high-up bank of Red Tan. Striding Edge means many different things to the various types that traverse that way. For some it is a bold challenge and exciting adventure to clamber up and over using hand and foot to avoid the fall to certain death, for others it is simply a path they have known their whole clambering lives and tread carefully in well known spots, respecting the slippery-when-wet nature of the smooth stones, for others still it is to be completely avoided, and most take the Northern bend round to something else Edge, something a lot less adventurous, Swirral. It sounds like Squirrel. Nothing called Squirrel would ever hurt you. Striding Edge. OB did it all hands in pockets except for one of the trickiest sections where we went down sliding and then reached up for bouldering holds to clamber up onto the flat peaks and then down again. It was halfway up just such a silly ascent that we caught a waft of the view from way up there. Like the inverse of a cloud drifting across a perfect vista, a small patch of clarity drifted through the fog, someone waving a huge torch of beautiful clear sky down on the Tan, shining it across the water and then up and over a hillside and it was gone. LB and R went a smoother path which we joined to follow down to Hole in the Wall, the Tan behind us now, out of view again behind the hillside. A photographer stood beyond the wall with a tripod and despondent friend sitting on a bag, expelling the complications of the dark foreground against the bright sky and hill behind. Without wanting cast aspersions, the other looked so incredibly bored, despite the enthusiasm from the photographer, that they might have slipped off and both been none the wiser. We followed the wall up and down gain and on a zig-zag steeply down, strolled into Glenridden. The Traveller’s Rest was two rooms and a large outside area of covered benches. Two chillies off of the specials board and a vegetarian masala. Two pints of something gold, a coke and a coffee with Tia Maria. A young couple sat hand in hand with empty glasses that were hastily replaced. Another couple played cards, one noting scores in a small notebook. The door opened to two women who pointed at stools and picked a table with a plush bench alongside where then sat a man on crutches, one trouser leg tied up at the knee. Two dogs joined them and RB grumbled about the misery of canines in public spaces. If I was on Room 101, he muttered, I’d be spoilt for choice, as the man with the blonde-haired American girl went to the bar and discussed the pros and cons of local, real, draft ales. Another traveller met him there and they compared their journeys to the peak in unnecessarily loud tones, for nobody to listen to or care. After eating it was a darkening walk home along the banks of Ullswater, paths swaying from roadside to lakeside. It was really very dark by the time we reached the boat house that marked out turning away from the water and uphill to Seldom Seen. Ollie and I went ahead and when the other two arrived there was a fire in the stove and water bubbling in the kettle. Open the flaps on the burner and wait as the embers glow red then burst into bright orange and yellow flame. Magic. The evening was dominoes, cards, tea, shoes warming, socks drying, biscuits, cheese and crackers, gin, cordial, talk of leadership and history, geography, the countries of Europe, of Asia, more wood on the fire, open the top grate, close the bottom grate, let the flames die down, open the bottom create, let them flare up again and die. My journal stops here. The next page has a list of shops in Grasmere and some of the things we got up to there under the Lion and the Lamb. This was the next day: Co-op Barry’s (Barney’s?) Newsbox Lakes Art Mountain Hi - £140 jack ?! 20p for he toilet by the church Sign - don’t bother breaking the box B - Wordsworth by Heaney O - Orwell on Socialism Oswald’s church - WW’s grave Ginger in bread? I announce my arrival with my head Defibrillation post box Lots of cafés TA: No1 G Hotel UK deal dwindling over NI Stuck behind a Coachstyle coach Castle Coombe ltd@btconnect.com Screens in the back of car headrests Buying woodland “hello this is my woodland” White moss walks Swiss Cheese potholes Rydal Water/ Cave Stepping stones And that’s it. Perhaps I drowned in Rydal Cave and so never finished writing up that day of driving around lake Windemere before Ollie and I took the train home from Windemere to Oxenholme, then back to Euston and across the Heath Extension home. There were lots of people in Euston station and lots of messages left on my phone which hadn’t had good signal for the best part of three days, it was mostly useless chatter anyway. The next morning I woke up at my alarm for seven thirty and set about the day with renewed vigour. We all went to a play that night in Swiss Cottage and drank two bottles of red between four. The next morning after that, up again at seven thirty, unheard of, I was invincible. Did some painting, some wiring, had a good long day feeling very productive. Went with Dan and Lucy for dinner, then to Dan’s new flat in Bethnal Green, then to a party in Walthamstow, but not for long, a big weekend on its way. Saturday and Lucy and I were off the Cold Ash, Nana’s eightieth birthday celebrations, seventeen of us in total, cousins and plus ones all around one table at the Crown for a carvery. The next week began as the last, with a long lie-in on the Monday then more or less all go for the rest. Tuesday a workshop with a new theatre company, Wednesday the BBC Concert Orchestra at Maida Vale, Thursday an audition, Friday lunch with Lucy at Darjeeling Express then the theatre with New Housemate Charlie. Saturday the rugby semi-final at Flood and Eve’s in Clapham, lunch in Covent Garden, Hot Chip at Alexandra Palace. Sunday, Hannah Gadsby with surprise tickets from a kind stranger outside the Southbank Centre. Monday, sleep in till the afternoon. Tuesday something in the evening, Wednesday something in the evening. Home to Bridge for Halloween and an escape to the country weekend with the Padstow gang who are all gone by Sunday afternoon. Monday sleep in till gone three, breakfast at half past four. Back to London, cleaning the house. Went for a run, painting, writing, playing the piano, keeping up to date with the election campaigns. Friday Flask then Hattie’s birthday. An empty weekend looms. An empty month looms. Perhaps it would be daunting if Christmas weren’t on the way. Mariah has done a Walkers ad where she’s quite obviously not in the same room as the actor opposite her. You can see the same thing in an advert with Kevin Bacon leaning out of a chip van. Normally, when you have a good thing coming up, the anticipation rises and falls, with a spike at inception, even though it’s so far away, then slowly building as you put it the back of your mind, before the thing goes from next year perhaps, to a couple of months, to next month, to next weekend and then it happens and oh goody good isn’t it wonderful. The satisfaction of the thing actually happening is almost as elating as the content of the good thing itself. I booked that lunch months in advance, booked the workshop and audition in September. Lucy won tickets for Maida Vale way back, our activity-packed weekend in Bridge took a good while to plan, but when Ollie walked into my room on the Monday that it was at a few minutes past two in the afternoon there was no chance to build the excitement, it all happened at once. There was suddenly dressing and suddenly eating, then suddenly leaving and walking and suddenly on the tube and the train and suddenly in a whole other part of the country. Then suddenly to bed and up again and on top of a (nearly) mountain, and suddenly down and suddenly back to London. I woke, was in the Lake District, and then it was over. It struck me though, as new experiences, new places often do. I certainly enjoyed myself, I learnt some things, saw some sights and was home on Wednesday. Sitting on the Northern Line, or walking with the crowd though busy central London it’s alarmingly difficult to remember to think of the wider world but I’ve learnt it’s healthy for me to remember what it is. Ullswater is still big and blue, the streams still flow down through the valleys between Raise and Sheffield Pike. The sheep are bleating on the hillside, chomping greedily on the thick, wet grass. In Grasmere and Glenridding, in Kendal and Windermere they’re sitting out or sitting in. In a seldom seen cottage in a row of four there’s a mariner standing on a slate sill who’s far too big to sail his boat which is far too small for him to sail.

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