Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Lakeland weekend

The Brothers Hodge
Holehird gardens

The rock garden at Holehird

Crinkle Crags and Bowfell from Lingmoor Fell.

It was the May weekend and I drove down to Oxenholme station to collect Aileen, she had been looking after the grandchildren for a few days. I had been clearing the garage and sorting the garden for putting the house up for sale. We had been invited to spend the weekend with her three male cousins and their wives in the Lake District. The family connections stemmed from a brother and sister growing up in Dunfermline in the pre-war years. The cousins were sons of a Scottish doctor who had practised in Morecambe. They had become a businessman, an accountant and a policeman and were all now retired and scattered across England. It would be chance to hear stories of post-war lives during the social and economic changes of our generation.

The heatwave had meant the Virgin train from Euston was late for whatever reason the Virgin random excuse generator had thrown up. No surprise there, apparently the air conditioning had not been working and Virgin had to give out free water bottles to the passengers who were wilting in the heat on the crowded train. Typical Virgin, water is a lot cheaper than having to compensate the passengers who had paid premium rates for the bank holiday travel. When the train finally arrived in the late afternoon heat we scurried across to Hartley's, the local ice cream vendor in the station yard, and treated ourselves before the short journey to Newby Bridge,

I did not know what to expect from the weekend but had been warned that no-one would want to be dragged off on a fell walk. This largely defeats the purpose of going to the Lakes in my mind. We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a bottle of Prosecco, ate a three-course meal and listened to the brothers who berated each other in what is sometimes called brotherly love. Their wives seemed nonplussed by the display and I was soon made the victim of their taunts. I took this as a compliment for a while but eventually was compelled to let rip at Daily Mail readers, Brexit voters, the Police, accountants and greedy businesses. They were good sports and I enjoyed challenging a captive audience who privately, if not publicly, could identify the accuracy of my comments.

The next morning we decided to visit a the Holehird Gardens near Troutbeck. I was not looking forward to it but it turned out to be a magical place run by the Lakeland Horticultural Society. There were superb views over Windermere and to the Langdales. A tarn provided the backdrop for some photos of the family grouping before we retired to the Mortal Man in Troutbeck for a pint and a lunch in the thunderstorm. In the afternoon we had a coffee in the recently refurbished Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge that sits alongside the river Brathay and I walked up Summer House Knott above Lakeside at the foot of Lake Windermere. 

The following day took us to Elterwater where the main party enjoyed the walk alongside Great Langdale Beck and Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge and back. I managed to persuade Eric to walk up Lingmoor Fell and we were treated to some fine views over the fells. We met the others for a pint in the Britannia Inn, a place that makes any day feel special. We sauntered round Hawkshead where I was tempted to buy a seascape from the gallery by the Spanish artist, Marc Estave. I wished I had and when I looked at the gallery online the following week it had been sold.

Marc Esteve seascape
The next day we visited an old friend from Preston whom I had climbed, cycled, gone drinking and on holiday with during student days. He had settled in Ulverston after a career in teaching and then as a special needs adviser. He was still looking healthy and fit; he climbs, cycles and had lost none of his down to earth and egalitarian values that were acquired growing up in a small terraced house adjacent to the greyhound track. We reminisced about shooting at the electric hare with an air rifle from his sister's bedroom as the dogs chased it round the track. We managed to hit it one day and the hare stopped, the dogs were flummoxed and all bets were off. Happy days.

The long weekend ended with a lunch near Kendal, Eric's daughter had driven up from Manchester with her two young children and we heard snippets of life from the next generation. The diaspora had colonised different locations in Yorkshire, Lancashire, London, Norfolk, the Scottish Borders, Stirling, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Norwich, Manchester, Glasgow, Aviemore, France and Hungary; their jobs were just as diverse. We had enjoyed listening to the lives of the Hodge baby boomers. The cousins had shared stories and memories of their common ancestry and everyone listened with rapt attention.

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