Of Mice and (Wo)Men

I’ve just come back from a week in the Lake District. My first holiday in the Lakes – hopefully not the last. The Lake District. Once home to Wordsworth; poncing about in the daffodils, declaiming nuggets of poetic wisdom, his sister meekly trailing up the fells behind him, probably with a quill stuck behind her ear; an ink bottle sloshing down her dress, jotting down said nuggets in her Georgian notebook for poetic posthumous posterity.

We passed Dove Cottage, one of Wordsworth’s Lakeland homes, but it was surrounded by scaffolding, so had to give it a miss – much to the husband’s unbridled joy.  He’s no fan of Wordsworth (here read poetry in general, since he’s no idea who Wordsworth was) and neither am I, ever since being forced to have a stab at The Prelude during a long-ago English degree.  The Prelude was Wordsworth’s attempt to chronicle his entire life in blank verse. Blank verse is a poem that doesn’t rhyme.  Poets should at least make an effort to throw in the odd rhyme here or there (in my opinion) or else the whole thing becomes an interminable, unintelligible bore. The equivalent of Wordsworth bending your ear at an 18th century soiree, in the mistaken belief that you’ll find what he got up to last Wednesday week, whilst checking out the daffodils, absolutely riveting. The Prelude finished up at 8,000 lines long, contained in 13/14 separate books, and Wordsworth wasted spent 50 years writing it. Should he have bothered, I ask myself, when literary academics, conducting pointless studies in their ivory towers, are the only ones who ever take a gander at it.  Also, it’s probably at least 7,900 lines too long.

The Lakes were also home to Beatrix Potter. I don’t mind Ms Potter’s books. They’re small in physical size and a blessedly short read. I must have read all of Potter’s books, featuring her menagerie of anthropomorphic animals, in my long-ago childhood (still ongoing to be honest, since I’m no good at what the current lingo terms ‘adulting’) but there my relationship with Beatrix ended (apart from a Jemima Puddle-Duck I knitted years and years ago.)  I may have forgotten all about Beatrix, but the Lake District was intent on bringing her back to mind, in the interest of tourist revenue.

On our way to our holiday cottage we’d passed a sign which read ‘The World of Beatrix Potter.’  ‘Oohh,’ I’d screamed in the husband’s ear, ‘we must go there.’  This, despite the fact I’ve had zero interest in the various ‘Tales of (insert animal here)’ for donkey’s years. There never was a The Tale of Jackass the Donkey, or some such, perhaps I should rectify this. But this is what going on holiday does to you. You’re prepared to fork out on any old rubbish, so long as it’s written on one of those brown road signs. Of course, there was the clever use of ‘World’ in the BP sign, conjuring up hopeful images of an attraction bordering on the likes of Disney World.

There were three sons, two GFs, the husband and I and one newly minted granddaughter (3 months old) on this year’s family holiday.  I am now a grandmother, and the husband is a grandad. I’ve typed that in black and white dear Blog, just so it sinks in a bit.  On day two of the holiday it rained a bit. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to visit the indoor World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere. Nobody wanted to go, apart from me. I coerced the husband into going, since he had to get me there, and son no.3 agreed, being he was up for anything. I researched online to find that queues were a problem at the W of BP. The solution was to turn up at 4.30, an hour before closing time. The fact that the W of BP was so busy filled me with even more anticipatory excitement – it must be really good thought I. The online info directed us to a Council car park, opposite the attraction and, if that was full, there were two tiny car parks in the town. The fact that the W of BP didn’t have its own car park should have alerted me to the scale of this tourist trap.

We luckily found a space in the Council car park then walked up the road a bit, wondering where the W of BP was, when I saw the attraction’s sign on the front of what appeared to be an ordinary, slate built Lakeland home, directly off the pavement of a busy road. We walked up steep stone steps to the entrance, wandering past a tearoom and down a very narrow corridor, to be met by a ‘stand and wait here’ sign. A young lad appeared out of thin air and asked that we wait before entering the attraction, despite the fact that there were just three of us in the ‘queue.’  Again, this should have alerted me to the size of the attraction. Some 10 minutes later we were ushered up a set of stairs and found ourselves in a small queue within a cordoned off area. To our immediate left was a gift shop, doing an absolutely roaring trade, as punters handed over their stuffed Peter Rabbits and their stuffed Tiggy-winkles and their BP mugs.  A rapid perusal of the price (£12.99) of a teeny-tiny stuffed Peter Rabbit, sitting on the ticket counter, revealed that the gift shop would be given a wide berth. Fans may be splurging out on BP mugs, thought I, but this mug was having none of it.

Absolutely everyone around us was Chinese. I then noticed that the various signs, dotted around the place, were written in English and Chinese.  Was the W of BP some kind of Chinese Mecca?  Further research, back at the holiday cottage, would confirm that this was the case. It would also confirm that the Japanese are also BP addicts. Their combined importance to the Cumbrian tourist industry is so great that employees were once advised to learn how to say hello and goodbye in both languages and to bow, when serving up grub in the many, many tearooms.  Apparently, the bowing was judged a step too far by the head of Lakeland tourism and he pointed out that a wave and a smile ‘did the trick.’

We bought our tickets and were ushered into a very small, dimly lit, fake Victorian parlour; grainy photographs of BP gracing the walls. The door behind us closed ominously. I don’t do well in claustrophobic spaces and scanned rapidly for another means of exit.  A 5-minute film began playing on one wall, as we sat down on rock hard metal chairs. Two minutes in and the husband fell asleep. All around me the Chinese chattered happily. Pages from the books flashed up on the screen, then the narrator announced that Beatrix had once ‘befriended’ two mice, which she rescued from a cage trap. She’d named one mouse Hunca Munca, who’d become a pet and valued work mate, in that he’d served as an unwitting model for her drawings.  Aghast at the fact that BP was in the habit of voluntarily hanging out with rodents, I then realised why her books had never held much appeal, even when I was an impressionable youngster.  For I, and your average house mouse, will never be friends.  Neither do I have much interest at all in slimy frogs and knobbly toads.  Unknowingly, my Lakes holiday was to test my aversion to said critters severely.

For, on day three of our family holiday, I’d suddenly noticed a peculiar sensation in the big toe of my right foot. I’d gone upstairs to the husband and I’s first floor bedroom, sat on another rock-hard metal chair and removed my sock. Suppressing a tiny scream, I discovered that my big toe had somehow doubled in size (after being quite normal the day before) and was glowing in the dimly lit room like a red belisha beacon. I reached for my iPad and typed in my symptoms, to find I most likely had Paronychia – a nail infection of bacterial or fungal origin which had caused the base and side of the toe nail to become inflamed – and that mine was probably acute, being it had appeared as from nowhere. One site recommended that I soak the toe immediately in a solution of warm water, with an equal amount of antibacterial soap, and to repeat the process every 4 hours, or I was likely to suffer a spread of the infection up the leg, resulting in sepsis. That was enough for me. With the spectre of sepsis staring me in the face, I reached for my trusty Carex squirty antibacterial soap (which I’d luckily packed) and the soaking of the toe proceeded for the next couple of days, which remarkably appeared to clear the whole thing up (along with my self-prescribed dabs of TCP.)

As I’d perched on the chair, inspecting my toe from all angles, I’d noticed a quick movement in the very corner of my left eye and turned to look in that direction on the floor. There, scuttling rapidly about near a carrier bag, was a large black mouse. He (all offending mice are ‘he’ to me) then ran over my left foot and disappeared, as if by magic; but most probably down one of the large gaps between the aged floorboards. There were also gigantic gaps between the ancient skirting and floorboards. The room (like the rest of the circa 1900 built slate cottage) was an almost purpose-built haven for mice and other unpleasant creatures.

Emitting a large scream, I darted from the room, as fast as my swollen, painful toe would carry me, ran down the flight of stairs and announced to the lounge/diner in general that I’d seen a mouse in the bedroom.  This was met by almost zero response. Everyone’s heads being either buried in a phone, laptop or a book. Having had three major mouse infestations in our terraced house over the years, I harbour a huge resentment against the creeping, rustling, scampering, long-tailed critters and am, therefore, likely to react to their presence with manic hysteria. I certainly didn’t want to share the holiday cottage we’d forked out nearly £2k on, with uninvited furry guests who most likely harboured fleas.

But back to the W of BP. We exited the screening room and began an incredibly short tour of various large tableaux, recreating scenes from the books, along with sound effects of sundry wildlife. I snapped away with my iPad, whilst the husband and son raced round the exhibition route as fast as humanly possible. At one point I had to run to catch up with them, in a most middle-aged undignified fashion, commanding that they slow down as we were supposed to be in this thing together.

At the finish line, we then made a mad dash for the empty café. Such was the son’s Beatrix Potter-related torpor, that he couldn’t remember where we’d been, five minutes after exiting the building: ‘what was that place we just went to?’ he’d asked in the car, as though the whole thing had been a bad dream.

****

The mouse incident led me to force the husband to message our cottage owner and make him aware that he was likely infested. The owner responded that he was utterly gobsmacked, for he’d never had reports of mice in the 8 years he’d been renting out his cottage. Which leads me to the cottage.

The husband had picked out our cottage months ago. As with all our annual family holidays, I have a curious inability to show any interest in the holiday, until it’s actually upon us. Therefore, I had conducted zero research into the cottage, or the Lake District.  Airbnb depicted our (I now know to be circa 1900) cottage as though it stands alone. A picturesque slate cottage, with a charming red front door and perfectly painted lattice windows. Inside there were three floors. The ground floor featured a huge lounge/dining room, with a high ceiling, an old parquet wooden floor and a huge fireplace with a log burning stove.  There was a long kitchen with slate worktops and a stone tiled floor. The first floor comprised two bedrooms, a large bathroom and a separate toilet at the end of a long hallway. There were two bedrooms on the second floor, which had obviously once been the attic.  All photographs on the website showed flawlessly painted windows; spotlessly clean, gleaming baths; a dazzlingly clean, sparkling silver oven and garden furniture all in perfect condition.

On arrival at the cottage we discovered that it was actually part of a much larger, privately owned house. Our bit was sort of stuck on to the side of the bigger house, at the very back, and had a rock face directly opposite the front door and windows (the windows featured peeling paint and very loose latches). Therefore, we had no view from the front of the house, other than a big lump of rock, which counts as a fascinating view I suppose, if you’re of a geological bent. The curious location of the cottage, and the big rock (sorry, had I already said there was a big rock) effectively cut out a lot of the natural light making its way into the house, meaning the lights were almost permanently on in the lounge, thus increasing our carbon footprint, something the Lake District was keen we avoid.  Please try to get everywhere by bus, bike or walk, each tourist pamphlet commanded.  In order to get any kind of view, and not feel you were living in a cave, you either had to go outside and stand precariously close to a private bit of land, owned by the main house and on which we were instructed not to set foot on (owner’s guidebook) or climb a series of slate steps up to a precariously steep garden. At the top of this garden were two garden tables and a set of chairs. Both tables and chairs were unappealingly rusted and there were huge cracks in the table-tops, to the extent that one table appeared to be almost broken in two. It was at this point that I realised the owner had gone in for a considerable amount of photoshopping.

The enamel in the bath on the second floor was heavily tarnished, covered in unsightly brown streaks and weird green/blue stains coming down from the taps. One guest had commented in the guest book that her son had refused to bathe in it; as did we. The photo had showed a gleaming, as new, white bath. NB. If you were brave enough to make so much as a mildly critical comment in said guest book, then you opened yourself up to the holiday book equivalent of a Facebook flame war. One unfortunate guest’s mildly critical comment had been later littered with derisory cartoon add-ons, and exclamatory one-liners (in CAPITALS) to show that the other guests, aggrieved that anyone else would dare to have an opinion, meant business and were having none of it.  I later wondered if the owner spent an odd evening graffitying his own guest book, to get his own back.

The oven contained a grill pan so ‘caked’ in cooked-in black grease that I refused to use it, ditto a baking tray left in the bottom. I tried cleaning them and then thought, hang on a minute, why am I paying nearly £2k (did I mention it cost nearly £2k) to stand here scrubbing a grill pan.

There were cobwebs all over the back of two settees in the lounge, and cobwebs all over the windows.  Thick dust rested beneath the settees (noticed when searching for the granddaughter’s toy) and under the beds. Why bother pointing out these lapses in housekeeping?  Because the owner referred to his cleaner as the best cleaner in the world and, for the princely sum of £2k a week, you’d at least expect a bit of light dusting (and a spotless grill pan.)  Maybe, in keeping with Lakeland’s environmental policies, the cleaner lets the spiders, grease (and now mice) run riot in the interests of maintaining the local ecosystem.  The grease probably makes good spider/mouse food for all I know.

****

The best cleaner in the world paid us a visit. The owner’s handbook, and a notice behind the sink, stated that all rubbish was to be placed in black bags, to be found in a drawer to the left of the sink. I’m naturally a rule follower but couldn’t find the black bags. No problem, we went out and bought some. We notified the owner that he was black bagless, just so he was aware. In the same way that we made him aware that he had a mouse problem. The light switch in our bedroom emitted a continuous buzzing noise and occasionally a burning smell filled the room, when I switched the light fitting on. It also appeared as though two of the bulbs were knackered. I worried it might be a fire hazard, so informed the owner. The tumble dryer proved to be problematic to turn on, so I informed the owner, again just to make him aware. GF1 had managed to get the tumble dryer going by twiddling the knob around in an endless fashion, until something finally clicked. The owner sent round the cleaner to deal with our various issues.

A knock came at the door on day five. I opened it to find an imposingly tall, slim and athletic woman, a shock of attractive blonde hair framing her determined face. She strode into the hallway, without a by your leave, and marched straight into the kitchen. There she opened a drawer to the right of the oven and pulled out a couple of rolled up white bin bags. ‘Vat is dese?’ she demanded, so suddenly and aggressively that I was momentarily stunned into confused silence. ‘You say there are no bin bags? Here is bin bags (you English idiot.)  At first, I’d thought she was German, but it was difficult to exactly pinpoint her nationality, but let’s go with German. She definitely had something of Hitler’s youth about her.  She then marched into the small utility room, which housed the tumble dryer. With a deft flick of her wrist, she turned its dial and the dryer came on immediately. The dial that we’d all been faffing about with ineffectually for days.  ‘How did you do that?’ I stammered. ‘You just turn…like this,’ she repeated in exasperation, ‘it work fine’ (you British imbecile.)  We marched upstairs, me following meekly behind, trying to keep up. She flicked the light switch on in our bedroom. No burning smell. She adjusted the dimmer switch so that all the bulbs glowed with the same brightness. ‘Light is fine’ (vat is wrong with you, dumme englischerthe sooner UK out of EU the better.)  We went downstairs, but I was determined to at least stand up for myself on the ‘white bin bag’ issue.

I showed her the owner’s handbook, which mentioned putting rubbish in black bags and where they could be found. She softened, momentarily, explaining that here the owner was at fault, and she’d told him he should have changed the handbook, in a tone that conveyed that she didn’t think that he was the best holiday cottage owner in the world. Then she was gone, whilst I’d had to supress an impulse to give her a Nazi salute on her way out.

But these were all minor issues, receiving prompt responses from the owner, and prompt responses from the scary cleaner and I’m the type of person who finds being in a different house unsettling anyway, so was probably too much ‘on my guard.’  And perhaps I should have expected to live alongside mice in a Lakeland home.  To begin with only I’d seen the mouse in the bedroom, but the next day a mouse ran into the lounge, across the floor into the fireplace, shot up into the wood basket, ran out again and back across the floor, to disappear behind a book shelf filled with DVDs. The sons and GFs reacted with steady, calm interest, whilst I jumped up onto a dining room chair (with a new-found agility belying my 58 years) and stood there screeching like Mammy Two Shoes imploring old Thomas to catch that there Jerry mouse.

We last saw a mouse on the morning we left for home. Son no.1, GF and the granddaughter had left the night before, leaving sons no’s 2 and 3, one GF, me and the husband.  As we ate breakfast, a mouse ran all over the kitchen, causing me to wonder how much of our self-catering food had been trampled upon, or indeed nibbled at, by our mousey friends.

Apart from the mice and spiders, we were also joined by tiny black frogs. I found the presence of frogs in the house deeply unnerving. Especially as they had a habit of appearing out of thin air. There’s just something about shiny amphibious creatures that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

But enough whinging, on to the Lake District.

White Moss Walks

Researching online I found the Lake District has something called ‘miles without stiles.’ This is a series of walks which are wheelchair and pushchair friendly. I thought this would be ideal for the husband and his ankylosing spondylitis.

The White Moss walks are a series of walks which feature wide concrete pathways. You can follow these pathways only, or divert off them onto stonier and higher ground.  We parked up in the White Moss car park. It was packed but we were lucky to arrive just as one car was leaving. Then we set off on a cloudy but beautiful day.  We wanted to get to Rydal Cave.  Son no.2 and GF had spent a couple of days in the Lake District several month ago and had visited this cave. Their photos of Cumbria had sparked our interest in holidaying in the Lakes.

We found a wooden signpost which pointed to Rydal Cave, stating it was 3/4 of a mile away. Not bad, thought I, should be doable. The sign took us off the pathway and up onto a stony, wooded hill, then we were back on the pathway walking past a lake, or very big river (wasn’t sure) with the fells undulating along its far side. On all sides we were surrounded by huge fern leaves and imposing, overhanging trees, more undulating fells to our right. It was like walking around in Jurassic Park.

We trekked around in increasing heat, first going straight, then clambering up short stony inclines, then walking across narrow flowing streams, all the while wondering where Rydal Cave was. Son no.2 pulled Google maps up on his phone and we followed this for a while, until we realised that the walk was going on for much longer than 3/4’s of a mile. By this time, I was thirsty.

I’d done what I always do on any walk I ever go on…….forgotten to take a drink. Luckily GF2 habitually carries a small rucksack, packed with various life-saving items. Just the sort of companion you’d want if you ever survived a plane crash, out in the Sahara, or found yourself stranded in an Alaskan wilderness (which the husband very much hopes will happen to him someday.)

She’d packed a large water bottle. I begged for a drink. Luckily this water bottle came with a cap, which sort of doubled as an inch-high cup. I swallowed a couple of slurps and passed it on to the husband.  The husband immediately went into Bear Grylls mode (being a super-fan of anything survivalist.)  ‘We must ration ourselves,’ he announced importantly, as though we were marooned in the Borneo jungle. The husband and I were the only ones who needed to ration ourselves, for it transpired that the sons and GF were camels in disguise.  On we trekked, whilst I continually bleated at the GF for more rations.

After more than an hour son no.2 announced that the route was definitely to go up quite a steep incline, then wind around amongst the ferns for a bit and we’d soon be at the cave. On we trekked, whilst I sporadically whinged ‘are we there yet?’ like an oversized kid in the back of your car.  The husband gamely walked on, using a stick for the first time, at times nearly giving up but spurred on by son no.2’s recommendation that getting to the cave would be worth it.

And then we were at Rydal Cave and it was worth it. There had only been a few other walkers on our trek, and even fewer people were at the cave. As you approach the cave, all you can see is a bit of grey rock in line with the high green land surrounding it. Then the path bends to the right and suddenly you’re outside the cave. There’s a large pool of water in front of the cave entrance, several large stepping-stones lie in the middle of it, leading into the mouth of the cave. The cave entrance is all jagged grey rock, high above you and curving down to the sides. You can walk into the cave for quite a long way. I stayed outside, fearing a calamitous rock fall, but also wondering at the mind-blowing beauty of Nature.

Our walk to the cave and back took just over 2.5 hours. We discovered, on our walk back, that there had been a quick and easy route to Rydal Cave, which Google maps had somehow completely ignored, taking us instead on the most twirly, roundabout way possible. We could have got to the cave and back in probably less than an hour.  But then we’d have missed a lot of breath-taking scenery along the way, and the opportunity to bang a coin into the stump of a tree with a bit of rock.  Which I did, being it was a ‘wishing tree,’ and I can never pass up the opportunity to make a wish aided by Pagan superstition.

Lake Windermere Cruise

I researched that we would all take the Red Line cruise on the lake, as this was a round trip. I assumed that this meant there would be no getting off. So, we all bundled up at the Ambleside Pier ticket office in Windermere, a short drive from our cottage, and all demanded Red Line tickets. We were lucky enough to board one of the large ‘steamer’ boats and also lucky enough to be first in line, thus assuring good seats. GF2 and I were determined to not sit below decks, in the bottom of the boat looking through windows.  Two reasons for this: you were likely to get a very limited view and, should the boat sink, you’d be trapped below.

We sat at the front of the boat, as it cruised along almost silently and very, very smoothly. This isn’t so bad, thought I, after an initial period of cruising nerves. After a while I decided to stand up, as it was such smooth sailing, the better to view everything.  We passed by yachts, and small ‘for hire’ motorboats, and privately-owned speed boats, and people messing about on paddle boards and in kayaks and canoes.  All the lake activities were carrying on in a controlled and civilised manner. This is the life, thought I, as we passed by mountains, and Wray Castle (right on the Lake’s banks) and oh so pretty, Narnian, wooded glades. 30 minutes later the boat stopped at Bowness.  I instructed everybody to ‘stay on board,’ safe in the knowledge that this was an hour round trip, even though practically everybody else got off. ‘Why are they getting off,’ I inwardly mused, ‘when we’ve all paid for a short round trip?’ Then the boat got going, sailing straight ahead for the far end of the lake, and most definitely not turning around to take us back to Ambleside pier.

Cue for me to go into jittery panic mode.  I implored the husband to find a crew member and ask if the boat would ever be going back to Ambleside. He found a woman in the onboard café and she assured him that we’d be going back to Ambleside, once the boat arrived at Lakeside Pier (35 minutes away) at the very end of the lake. It transpired we should have changed boats at Bowness pier. So, we paid for an hour’s boat trip and ended up on a 3 hour cruise – and nobody ever checked our tickets.  Son no.1 announced that if our boat didn’t carry on to Ambleside, at the next stop, but instead went back to Lakeside, in a kind of infernal loop, then he would jump ship and swim the 12 miles back, for he didn’t want to be condemned to a never ending cruise, in the manner of The Flying Dutchman.

The cruise back was wondrous. There were plenty of Chinese and Japanese tourists with us, clearly doing the full BP Lake District pilgrimage. One Chinese lad was so the Anglophile, that he’d set sail in full Hogwarts regalia (Gryffindor.) We passed impressively HUGE lakeside houses, clearly homes to multi-millionaires, and briefly contemplated the distribution of wealth.  We gazed in stupefied adoration at the granddaughter, as she emerged comically from a nap that had lasted almost the entire length of the cruise. And we were overjoyed when two fighter jets alarmingly appeared from nowhere, flying noisily, directly above the boat, then hurtling off into the fells.

And then we were back at Ambleside Pier, where I threw a coin into a Rotary Club wishing well (making another wish) and we got ice creams from a place called ‘The Choc Dip.’ Here, they squirted ice cream into a waffle cone and then dipped the ice cream bit into a vat of warm chocolate, which cooled instantly when they handed it over, before adding two flakes. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as good as it looked, the excessive amount of chocolate lending it a somewhat overpowering and sickly quality.

Loughrigg Tarn

I saved the best for last. During the week’s break, I’d sort of semi taken notice that there was a ‘tarn’ very near the house.  A tarn is a small mountain lake. Because of the husband’s AS, I’d been reluctant to do any more walking. But we decided to walk to the tarn with sons no’s 2 and 3 and GF2, being it was just a ½ mile walk from the cottage to get there.  The road was very narrow and some of it quite steep, but the views across the fields to the mountains were mightily impressive. Led by son no.2 and GF, we left the road and walked along a stony path which led to a large gate. Going through the gate we passed a camp site on a hillside; just a few tents dotted about here and there. So far so good. It was a lovely country ramble, but nothing I’d not seen before during our treks in Wales and Cornwall, until we approached a green field on the right. I first noticed a line of immense trees bordering the right side of the oh so green field. The field more resembled a gigantic manicured lawn, so perfect was it. ‘Look at the trees!’ I kept shouting. There was something about the trees that seemed so different from your average bog-standard tree.  It wasn’t just that they were so huge and of all varieties. There was a very definite feeling that they were alive. Of course, trees are alive, but these trees were very alive, like if I sauntered over to them, they’d probably impart their ancient life histories in rumbly, rustling tree voices.  It was the only time I’ve ever felt that I was entering another realm; where everything in it was peculiarly alive, entirely separate in time and space. It was magical.

We carried on past the trees and came to a grassy hill which dipped down towards a lake. The husband and I gave audible gasps. For there before us was a natural scene so perfect, so entrancing, that we might as well have been those two kids from Mary Poppins (the original) transported to an animated world through the pavement.

The lake was almost circular, resting in a deep valley surrounded by green fields sweeping up the valley’s sides. The fields all had the manicured lawn quality of the one we’d just passed, as though some Lakeland giant mowed them every day. Each field was bordered by slate Lakeland walls and filled with sheep. Beyond the hills rose the mountains and fells, and above them hung a blue sky.  The place was silent.  We sat on a low bench and drank it all in.  The scale of it was so perfectly manageable that your eyes could frame the whole scene into a picture-perfect living postcard.

The husband broke the entranced silence by saying it would be a very good place to come to should the ‘nukes’ ever hit, being it was a valley surrounded by mountains. This is the husband’s favourite topic of conversation, whenever confronted by the great outdoors – its suitability for escape from Armageddon.  Thus, when I decided to walk down the hill to the side of the lake, and join son no.3 who was already there, I had nukes on the brain.

The near edge of the lake was filled with water lilies. As I approached, the son informed me that the lake was full of nukes.  Taken completely by surprise, and wondering at the coincidence, since the husband had just been talking about nukes, I asked him to show me. ‘Where are the nukes?’ I asked, ‘are they under the water?’ really hoping that that wasn’t the case.  ‘Not nukes!’ the son said, ‘newts.’

After spending quite some time in this nearly deserted idyll, we trekked back to the cottage, vowing to one day come back.

And the holiday was over. As is this lengthy post, enough to test anyone’s patience. But, in the far or near-off future, I’ll come back and read it and it’ll remind me just why I bother writing a blog.

 

2 thoughts on “Of Mice and (Wo)Men

  1. This blog is truly excellent, wife number 1 has always told me that when she was at school and when one was given pen and paper ready for her exam she did not write anything down and of cause failed, she says that you are very lucky it is a gift which has not come her way. For me I cannot wait for a novel from you, you have a golden gift, thank you from D and wife number one.

    Like

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