Keswick: Arriving and exploring

The first two photos I took after arriving in the Lake District in 2016. Reblogged for new followers, and anyone who hasn’t seen them before. Please enlarge them on the original post for the best effect.


All photos in this series are large files, and can be clicked on to enlarge for detail.

Keswick is an ancient market town in the north-west county of Cumbria, almost 300 miles from Beetley, and bordering Scotland. It is in the Lake District National Park, and nestles at one corner of the large lake called Derwent Water. Popular with walkers, hikers, climbers, and the boating fraternity, it has been a tourist destination for centuries, and the town still depends on tourism to this day.,_Cumbria

We arrived there on the 8th, and collected the keys for our rented apartment just after 3 pm. It was a nice surprise to find late afternoon sun, in an area known for cloud and rain. The main thing I noticed was that it was significantly colder though. Only half the temperature it had been when we left Norfolk at 10 am. Antony knows the…

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Castlerigg Stone Circle

Another reblog of photos from my 2016 trip to the Lake District for anyone who hasn’t seen them before. This time, an ancient stone circle, dating from around 5,000 years ago. Please enlarge the photos from the original post, to get a better idea of the site.


All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail.

After dropping off some of our gear following the walk back from Lodore, we got back in the car for the short drive to Castlerigg Stone Circle, just outside the town of Keswick. Ever since I first saw Stonehenge as a child, I have always been very interested in such things, whether in large numbers as at Avebury, or in their use as Dolmen burial chambers, good examples of which can be found in Wales.

As we approached the site on the small access road, we were confronted by a large tourist coach coming our way. There was no chance of passing whatsoever, so I had to make a somewhat difficult reverse back the way I had driven. This went on for a considerable time, until we reached a place where I could pull off the road. There…

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Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

How Old?

I went to bed last night thinking about age. Not my own age, but the age of other people. Those who were stars in my youth, and are still alive today.

I know how old I am, and when I was a teenager, I knew those film stars and singers were older that me. But as I have grown older, they started to get old. Very old. They did this seemingly without me being aware that there was still the age gap that existed when I was watching them on screen or stage. Of course, many have died too, but it is the living ones who are in my thoughts today.

Twitter has many users who habitually congratulate celebrities on their birthdays. There are others who mark the birthdays of famous people who have been dead for perhaps fifty years. Occasionally, the great age of some living stars that I expected to not be much older than me comes over as startling.

Olivia De Havilland, famous for her roles in films as diverse as ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘The Snake Pit’ was 104 years old this week. Yes, 104! In my youth, I was greatly attracted to the stunning actress Gina Lollobrigida. Today, she was 93 years old. 93? How is that possible? Do you remember Eva Marie Saint, the American actress? She was 96 today and was born one week before my own mother!

Genvieve Bujold is an actress I used to watch in films like ‘Anne of The Thousand days’, and Coma. She was 78 today. 78! And the delightful Leslie Caron, star of ‘Gigi’, ‘Father Goose’, and ‘Chocolat’. Wait for it, she was 89 years old on the first of this month. 89!

There is something very wrong about all this, and has it dawned on me what it is.

I am a lot older than I ever imagined.

The Great British Public

Yesterday, the pubs in Britain could open for the first time in three months. People were naturally advised to be careful. Keep social distancing, obey the restricted numbers inside bars, and take some responsibility for their actions.

In Central London, this was the result.

Such pig-ignorance, and utter disrespect for all those who have died, and the essential workers and medical staff who have sacrificed so much since January.

Entitlement. Selfishness.

Those two words should be added to the flag of the United Kingdom.

The Fear: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 940 words.

According to Ted, it was now necessary for me to get out into the fields at first light, as the birds could do too much damage before my normal arrival after breakfast. He woke me up extra early, and sent me out with a flask of tea and some sandwiches while it was still dark. As there were no neighbours nearby, he was also unconcerned about the noise from the scarer, telling me to use it as early as I liked. I set the machine to a random programme, and retired under some trees to enjoy my tea and sandwiches.

Just after nine, I saw his big van drive along the track, heading for town. Once he was out of sight, I switched off the machine, and began to walk along the rows, loosening the pegs that held the netting in place. It was hard work, and I used a big screwdriver in the eyelets, twisting them around until they were no longer holding in the soil. The birds were congregating in the trees behind me, unsure what was going on, but emboldened by the lack of noise from the scarer. I knew that harvest was imminent. The fruit looked plump and ripe, even to my inexperienced eye, and I could smell the sweetness in the air too.

I had managed almost one full row before I heard his van return.

It had obviously occurred to me that I could not capture wild birds in sufficient quantity to transport them to my house for a proper experiment. For one thing, I had nowhere to store them on Ted’s property. I considered buying a large number of birds like parrots, or other types kept as pets, but that would leave a suspicious trail of purchases. My conclusion was that I would have to see the effect of Ted being scared by the birds actually at his farm, and not drug him and remove him to my workshops. So my first idea was simple enough.

As I was not allowed to return for lunch because of the imminent harvest, I knew that Ted would be bringing me something to eat and drink in the blackcurrant fields. So I secreted myself out of sight, and waited until the birds had discovered the loose netting and the absence of a patrolling human. It wasn’t too long before they did, scuttling under the billowing nets in large numbers, and squabbling among themselves as they gorged on the fruit. By the time that Ted appeared carrying a plastic lunchbox and flask, almost half the row was full of birds.

Ted didn’t notice at first, as he was looking around to see where I was. After a while, he stopped and shouted. “Boy! It’s lunch, boy! Where are you?”
After all this time, he had still never asked my name.

Venturing into the second field, closer to where I was hiding, he noticed that some of the netting had come adrift. Setting the lunchbox and flask down on the ground, he grabbed some of the loose pegs and began to push them back into the ground, using the heel of his boot. As he worked his way along the row, he suddenly noticed the birds on the bushes some fifty yards ahead.

Without hesitation, he turned and began to run back in the direction of his house. A man of his age and physical condition does not run that well, especially over broken ground in a field. Even more so, when he kept stopping to look back to see if any birds were in the air close to him.

For me, this was very interesting of course. Would his heart give out with fright? Would he fall and injure himself, unable to get up again? I had to get up on my knees as he got further away, so I could see every moment of his escape. But he made it off the fields eventually, and I watched as he ran into the smaller of the two barns. I had expected him to remain there until I got back, so I was very surpised to see him making his way back to the bushes within a few minutes.

As he got closer again, I could see he was carrying something, stopping to fumble with it. It was a double-barrelled shotgun, and he was trying to load some shells into the open barrels as he was walking. Eventually, he had to stop to make sure the shells were seated properly, then I heard the metallic sound as he snapped the weapon closed. He started off again, making a bee-line for the bushes that were still covered in feeding birds. But as he raised the weapon without stopping, he dropped it.

The noise of the gunshot made me jump, and also caused some panic in the birds. I stood up, and could see Ted lying on the ground some one hundred yards away. I ran over quickly, yelling that I was sorry, but had fallen asleep. I thought a cover story might be necessary. But as it turned out, it wasn’t.

The effect of both barrels of a shotgun at close range is most interesting to observe. Falling with the barrels pointing upward, the jolt as it hit the ground must have caused the ancient firearm to discharge. Ted had a hole in his body just above the belt around his overalls. It was big enough to be able to put my fist into, had I chosen to do so. His sightless eyes stared up at the sky, as the noisy birds circled above. I was rather annoyed.

That wasn’t supposed to have happened.

The Lakes: The Bowderstone

Photos from the 2016 trip to to the Lake District. This time, they are of a very unusual tourist attraction, not a lake. Please enlarge the photos from the original post, if you are able to.


All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail

After the exertions of Monday, Antony promised me a much easier day to follow. In reasonable weather, we headed off on the drive to Buttermere, one of the smaller lakes in the area. On the way, he suggested a stop at The Bowderstone, in the Borrowdale Valley.
A gentle walk of about ten minutes from the car park took us to the site.

This huge rock is believed to have fallen from the crag above, perhaps thousands of years ago, and it is unusual in that it came to rest on its edge, and has not moved since. Now managed by the National Trust, it was one of the first tourist attractions originally promoted in the area. In 1798, Joseph Pocklington publicised the stone as a tourist site, and employed an old woman to act as a guide…

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Ashness Bridge and Walla Crag

More photos of a trip to the Lake District, in 2016. These are posted for the benefit of new followers, and anyone who missed them at the time. Please enlarge the photos on the original post if you can, as they do look so much better full-screen.


All photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Thursday was our last but one day of the holiday, and we set off in another morning of dull weather. The plan was to take the short ferry trip to Ashness Bridge, on the eastern side of Derwent Water. From there, we would make the climb up to Walla Crag, which has panoramic views over Keswick, and the lake. After getting off the boat at the first stop, there was a short steep ascent to the bridge.
Antony informed me that this was the most photographed spot in the region.

As we continued up to the crag, the weather improved slightly. I got this shot of the view behind us. The cluster of white houses you can see is the town of Keswick, in the distance below.

After my exertions going up Helvellyn, I must have been getting…

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The Fear: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 870 words.

Working for Ted, I soon found out that I was the one doing the real work. I tended the bushes after the briefest instruction, hauling the hose on its trolley to the standpipes dotted around for watering. Then spraying the roots with weed-killer using an ancient hand pump attached to a tank I wore on my back like a rucksack. After lunch, I was expected to fix up the buildings; rehanging doors, and stopping up leaks and gaps in the woodwork. It was just as well he fed me such a lot of food, as I had never worked so hard.

For his part, Ted kept the house clean and tidy, did the washing, and prepared the food. He drove into the nearest town every morning after breakfast, insisting that he liked to buy the food fresh every day. He had a big panel van which was signwritten with ‘Cobden’s Fruits, Cobden Farm’. It didn’t even have a contact phone number on the side. He kept it parked out of sight, behind the biggest barn. In the afternoon, he had his ‘rest’, while I carried on with whatever task he had assigned me. I was allowed to finish at five-forty-five every evening, so I could have a quick wash before dinner at six.

After the evening meal, he always liked to chat for a while before I went upstairs. But despite showing willingness to engage in conversation with him, I never managed to find out that much personal information, and nothing at all about whether or not he might have some genuine phobia, or fear. It went on like that much the same every day for weeks, until the fruit started to ripen.

That morning, Ted accompanied me to inspect some of the bushes, and seemed to become agitated. “We need to get back and get the netting, boy, right quick”. I followed him to one of the low outbuidings, where he showed me lots of rolls of fine mesh black netting. He explained that I should load one onto the big metal handcart, and walk along the rows of bushes unravelling it. It was wide enough to completely cover the bushes once it was dragged up and over them. Then every dozen or so bushes, it had to be secured into the ground using metal pegs, not unlike tent pegs.

I came to hate that job. The netting was difficult to get into place, as it caught on anything and everything. Then hammering the pegs into the hard ground between the rows was back-breaking. It took me all of that week to finish off, using every roll of netting in the storeroom, back and forth collecting each roll in turn. On the Saturday, he made me what he called a ‘special meal’ of sirloin steak, and thanked me for my hard work. Following a substantial dessert of bread and butter pudding with custard, he informed me how to set up and use the bird-scarer. This device consisted of a long tube of plastic attached to an electronic box, and according to Ted, it made a sound like a gunshot at random intervals.

Sure enough, Monday saw the arrival of many birds. Starlings and pigeons in the main, but also crows. Lots of crows. The birds could sense that the fruit was ripe enough for them to eat, but it was not yet ready for harvest and sale to the juice manufacturer. Ted remained edgy. “This is the crucial time, boy. We have to keep them bloody birds off until harvest time soon. Those buggers will ruin the crop, given half the chance”. He told me that the netting was enough to protect the fruit from the smaller birds, but the large crows would hang onto it, and tear it with their beaks. That’s why he needed the scarer. Even with that, the crows could become accustomed to the noise, so a large part of my job would be to keep a presence in the fields, to frighten them off. I was even excused the afternoon repairs for that.

After hauling the scarer and its long cable out into the fields, I set it up and switched it on as he had shown me. The loud bang made me jump, and sent the flocks of birds flying out of the trees where they sat waiting. But not for long. They circled for a while, and then returned to their perches. After a dozen or more of the bangs, less and less birds left the trees, so I made sure to patrol the rows so they could see me.

Over dinner, I suggested to Ted that it might be a good idea if he patrolled with me the next day, as two men in the fields could cover more ground, and distract more birds. He put down his knife and fork, shaking his head. “No boy, not me. Got a thing about them birds, especially the big crows. Sounds silly to tell at my age, but they terrify me, with their flapping wings, and squawking. I’m likely to piss myself with fear if they get around me. You’ll have to do your best”. Cutting into my chicken pie, I smiled.

So that was his fear.