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On a slippery slope…

Not one of mine, sadly

This week we’ve had some weather. Cold weather, to be precise. Nothing major, no severe frosts or anything but cold enough to have ice on the road. And no gritting. So every day when it hasn’t thawed, the ice has got steadily thicker in certain places down the lane. In particular, by Echo Rock [I know why it’s called that now] where our single track lane curves and inclines, there’s sheet ice for about 12 – 15 feet.

Now, I like to think that I’m developing a bit of expertise driving down our lane, even when it’s icy – as long as it’s not actually turned into a glacier. I know how to slide, how not to hit the brakes, how to take a run up without being suicidally fast. So this week has been okay because the road has mostly been dry, and me and my dirty car have bowled along happily, if cautiously.

Yesterday, on my way into work, I came across a lady with 2 very small kids in the back of her small silver car. Unfortunately, the car was sitting across the road at Echo Rock – at right angles to it – and kind of wedged across the lane….that’s what happens when you start sliding down the hill and jam your brakes on really hard, instead of calmly gliding down what is only a very little slope…

I parked a few yards away and walked up to the vehicle. Even with my fleece on, the lady driver knew I was a nurse – I could have been the AA from the rapturous reception I got, she knew I was all she was going to get and she was determined that I was going to get her out of this mess.

The 2 toddlers in the back were not happy…snotty, frightened and unsure…The second that grandma got out the car, they started bawling…

“There’s no signal!” she said, in shocked tones, as if her right to mobile phone coverage was inalienable, and waved her useless phone at me.
“I know – I live here” gesturing vaguely to the Tarn, hoping madly she wasn’t going to suggest that she used the phone at the house or needed a bathroom and drinks for the kids…

“Where are you going?” I asked. It was a stupid question – she clearly wasn’t going anywhere but I hoped that maybe she was local and she had someone nearby who’d come and sort her out and I’d do a 20-point turn and go back the other way….

“Just out for a drive with my grandkids…their mum’s poorly and wanted them out for a bit”. By this time the valley was echoing ironically with the sound of their wailing. I could understand a poorly mum’s desire to be rid of the little darlings for a few hours.

“You’ll have to move it for me,” she said.
I took a step back.
On the spur of the moment, I could only manage the very lame “I’m not insured for your car.” I’m a responsible citizen, for heaven’s sake. I don’t jump willy nilly into other people’s cars! Especially with 2 very upset toddlers in them…

She wasn’t taking no for an answer and thrust the keys into my hand. “You know how to do it,” she said ” You’re a nurse.” “And you live here!” Top trumps, obviously. I knew I should have kept my mouth shut and pretended I didn’t speak English.


“Maybe take the children out?” I suggested. “Just in case?”
She snorted derisively and moved to stand on the verge. The Tarn was looking lovely – and still deserted. I was going to have to do it.

I moved my car back another 20 yards, resisting the temptation to turn around and just drive…

In the interests of a clear conscience and actually getting to work that day, I got tentatively into the other car. The volume of the crying trebled and I realised that someone needed their nappy changing. Not me. It wasn’t me crying either. Yet.

The lady herself must have been 5’3″. I’m 5’10”.
I struggled manfully with my knees smashed against the steering wheel and tried to get the seat back.
“Oh, that doesn’t work!” she said, cheerfully “You’ll just have to do it as best you can”.

I was getting a bit sick of hearing “You’ll have to do….”.

By now, the smell was getting very strong and 1 of the children started coughing…I tried to turn to offer a soothing smile but my movement stalled when I spotted a giant green snot bubble coming out of a toddler nostril…it was growing like ectoplasm…and was altogether too close to the back of my head.

I managed to glide the car round the bend and down the hill and was about to get out…”You’ll have to turn it round and drive it back up that hill!” she ordered. Definitely sick of “You’ll have to..” now. But she was actually right – there was no way she was going to get round the rest of the lane or down the Big Hill…The sobbing and coughing in the back had not subsided and I started to wonder if one of them was going to be sick when he coughed. Lisa used to do that. I’ve been known to do it myself. I knew I mustn’t visualise the snot monster or I was doomed…

“Shall I give him a drink?” I asked.
She gave me a look that suggested that she wouldn’t be totally broken-hearted if she never saw their dehydrated bodies again. I was feeling a little bit that way myself and then felt instantly regretful. They were only little, it wasn’t their fault they were revolting.

Engine on and I managed to get it up the hill and round the corner to the car park. It had the pulling power of a small lawn mower. I wondered briefly how she was going to get them home – they were still crying and I felt sorry for them – but I was already late and had discovered a miraculous new vocation… She saw me looking at them and rummaged on the floor in the back and inserted a dummy into each mouth. Magic. Silence. It crossed my mind that she was at least 10 minutes too late with this emergency procedure – but manage to stop the sarcasm.

But I couldn’t stop myself asking why she was up here – it’s a bit out of the way, after all…
“Thought they’d like the view,” she said.
Not for the first time in our short encounter, I found myself staring in disbelief. I didn’t know what to say – the eldest couldn’t have been much more than 18 months old.
I nodded very slightly like one of the posh ladies in Downton Abbey, “Yes, it’s lovely isn’t it.” I’m so polite sometimes but in my head, I was wondering what kind of views they’d be needing for their amusement by next year – the Millau Viaduct, perhaps? In my head, my voice sounded like Basil Fawlty.

I got into my car, leant back against the seat, wondering what the hell just happened – and felt something on the back of my fleece. It had just been washed and dried, clean on that day. I realised that it was a boiled sweet which had been in someone’s mouth long enough to be seriously sticky. Deep, deep joy. Better than ectoplasm, though…

I originally posted this on 10th Jan 2018 – we’d only been here 2 months. Big learning curve that winter. (I’ve edited it a little).

The Hug

It’s been a funny old week on social media. First of all we had the tragic suicide of the beautiful Caroline Flack. It’s a cliché to say that the loss of her life is senseless but it absolutely is. I’m so sorry for her friends and family who will also be grieving in the public eye – the worst imaginable place for private distress.

Facebook, Twitter & Instagram et al exploded with a million cries of ‘Be Kind’ and ‘You don’t know what anyone else is going through’ etc etc etc. All true, for maybe about 2 days, before normal service was resumed. Back to Katie Price whose house is apparently a bit mucky, the ungrateful royals who are emigrating blah blah…I honestly have no idea why people seek to be famous when it is clearly a horrible place!

In the midst of all this, it became apparent that some of my friends were on the wrong end of social media bullying tactics themselves. I’ve been on the receiving end myself in the last few months and it’s horrible & unacceptable. The ‘unfriend’ button is, ironically, your friend.

And yet, even I despaired, I love social media – I love the power of the written word, the reach of friendship across huge distances, the immediacy of contact, the laughs, the joys…It’s a wonderful, multi-coloured and fragrant world out there and yet, it’s all at our fingertips, fast and furious, exciting and intimate.

I have made and maintained many friendships over the net, one way or another. I am, by nature, a communicator. I’m friendly and curious, interested and sociable. Social media fulfills my needs for news and gossip, and plain old keeping in touch. Hoorah!

And yet, even when it’s wonderful and not behaving badly, it’s just never going to be anything more than a substitute for personal contact. It might help combat loneliness but it isn’t a cure. The personal, in-person touch is where it’s at. For me, at least.

I was reminded today of just how important physical touch is. Obviously, I’m talking about touch which has mutual consent not uninvited groping or violence… As humans, most of us need the comfort afforded by a hand squeeze, or a hug or even a casual pat on the arm. There’s tons of evidence about the therapeutic benefits of touch between patients and carers, parents and children, in every loving or caring relationship…

Of course, context and timing are crucial – we don’t want any misunderstandings or embarrassments, or worse…

Today, I helped care for an elderly man undergoing a personal procedure. He needed help standing up and with turning / rolling onto his side. He had carers attending to his physical needs and was accompanied by a lovely young man who was very efficient and obviously very kind.

It took 3 of us to move the old fella, who’d had a stroke some time ago, from the procedure table back into his wheelchair. Whilst my lovely colleagues pulled his underpants and trousers up, and positioned the chair, I held him upright and steady.

I had my arms on his shoulders and our faces were only inches apart. We looked at each other and in the moment that our eyes met, I saw a man who needed comfort.

“Would you like a hug?” I asked.

“Yes, please.”

Whilst his shirt was being tucked in and his jumper straightened, I gave him a proper hug with the sides of our heads gently resting against each other. It only lasted a few seconds but it was pure magic.

“Was that okay?”

“Oh yes, it was lovely. I haven’t had a hug like that for years.”

There’s a place for social media in our world. But it’s not real life. It can be helpful and constructive but it can also wound and frighten. Hugs are way better. And they’re still free. I’m an old hippy at heart. Love conquers all ❤

Sisters

I remember the day our baby sister, Juliet was born. She caused a bit of a kerfuffle – what with it being a month early. We lived in the sticks in Cornwall, no car, no phone…Mum made it known that she was in labour and a panicked dad was duly despatched to call for the ambulance from the public call box half a mile away. He ran. The tiny baby was transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit – no-one had ever heard of this, it was a brand new kind of care setting. Mum later said that the baby “weighed less than 2 bags of sugar!” We were suitably impressed with this meaningless fact, not having a clue what size babies were meant to be. After a glorious couple of weeks where dad was in charge of everything – bedtime when we wanted, no school, sugar in everything – mum brought the baby home. Rosie and I were invited to look at our new sister. Mother gave us the distinct impression that the baby was beautiful but what we saw was a red, screaming, skinny thing waving stick-thin arms and legs. And it was ugly. “Oh, she’s lovely!” we lied and went outside to play. We didn’t have high hopes for this mewling monster but after a few months she grew into a placid, gorgeous, bonny, blonde baby with big round eyes and fat, chubby arms and legs who smiled at everyone.

Many years later, Juliet is still generally good-tempered, beautiful (of course) and reckons she’s still blonde…We don’t see so much of each other these days so we were very pleased when she arranged to visit.

Juliet arrived at Blea Tarn on Sunday – the start of what is our weekend. Our critters don’t care what day of the week it is – they just love Juliet. All of us Waugh girls are the same – if it’s got fur or feathers, pads or paws, woofs or whines, whiskers or wings – we love them all. And so they all descended upon her for cuddles and attention. To be fair, though, they had all forgotten that this comes at the price of their dignity…

….and so it was that Tommy Top Cat ended up as the slightly astonished recipient of kisses on his face and nose, when he’s used to giving nose bumps on his terms…After the initial shock, he didn’t seem to mind too much….Daisy, who doesn’t like to be picked up was rather taken aback when she was swooshed up off the back of the sofa and snuggled up to….Paddy came in for an exploratory chat and ended up having smooches before he headed upstairs for safety.

A surprised Daisy Bengal

In the meantime, the Delighted Doggies also piled in – Luna got lots of attention as she pranced around the room. Flash didn’t know what to do so sat on his dad after Dukey squashed us by insisting on sitting on Juliet’s lap. It was a bit bonkers but brilliant fun.

And then, fluffy old Fred the Red rolled up – and also wanted petting! Our wee, shy boy who wouldn’t come out from under the bed for a long, long time came out and sat on Juliet’s knee and purred his little head off. And then allowed himself to be lifted up and cuddled. Sometimes animals just know they’re in good company….

We decided that a trip to the pub was in order. “Let’s walk!” said Juliet. So off went, into the gloaming, down the Big Hill and into the ODG. It’s always great when you walk round the bends and see the warm lights twinkling up at you…We only stayed for dinner and coffee before stepping back out into the night (it gets dark quickly here) and discovered that the rain which had been forecast for later had arrived early…Onwards and upwards we went, anyway, getting wetter and colder. Thank god it’s only just over a mile! Dukey Boy was a good lad and he pulled me up, as usual…Luna bounced up with Juliet …and Flash fretted about not being in front…At home, we hung our dripping clothes on the old meat hooks above the fire and then headed for hot showers. Bliss.

Langdale buildings tucked into the mountainside

Monday morning probably dawned bright and early and sunny but I was asleep and missed it. Juliet brought me a coffee in bed. Let me say that again: Juliet. Brought. Me. A. Coffee. In. Bed. *Gasps all round* This may be the first time this has ever happened. Seriously. Must be time to get dressed!

We were aiming for brekkie at Chesters but by the time we set out, it was lunchtime…no surprises there. But we didn’t care, we weren’t in any rush – it was a lovely day and the views through Langdale were wonderful, as we headed over to Elterwater. It’s only a little walk over to Skelwith Bridge from there but it is beautiful and always interesting. The water was still running high – the Force was so powerful that the water was turquoise as it boiled under the mighty influx. No wonder, there was a water mill and gunpowder works down here in the past. Lakeland wasn’t always this quaint chocolate box painting – there were mines, quarries, factories, mills. A lot more people lived in the valley even in the 1930s. I don’t know when tourism really took off but it’s had a massive impact on the community. Still, things change – that’s the nature of our society – so there we were, heading towards lunch in a vegetarian cafe which the Victorian mill workforce might have found a little bit surprising….

We took our time over lunch and looking round the shop, so walked back the same way. The views from Elterwater over to the Langdale Pikes were stunning. There were lots of other doggies about and Luna had a lovely time making new friends. Juliet went back home later that afternoon after communing with the chickens. I don’t see enough of my lil sis – need to do this more often. See you soon, Juliet x

Mud Month

According to Wikipedia, the Old English for February (before the Julian calendar carried all before its logical,Roman domination) is Solmonath which means Mud Month. And to be fair, January went out on a prolonged downpour which has left us surrounded by thundering waterfalls, bursting rivers and the perpetual sound of water crashing over rocks and down hillsides…Our little beck in the front garden became a raging torrent on the verge of spilling over onto the lawn, even where it’s normally 4 feet lower in its wee ghyll. Majestic and magnificent. And very loud. The sort of white noise that helps you sleep very soundly.

Our water supply comes straight from Lingmoor’s summit via several over and underground streams, eventually joining Blea Tarn after it’s left us. It’s normally a mild-mannered creature but is currently rather giddy…

Tuesday

Back at work after a week off with Mr Pat. As per our new plan (go to bed early, get plenty of sleep, up for a quick walk before driving to work, get home and repeat) we were up at 5am and ready to hit the lane by 5.30a.m. I don’t know who was more surprised but we met the milkman en route and he did look like he wasn’t expecting to see anyone on foot…

It was one of those cold, very dark, damp mornings where you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Vladipuss followed us, meowing all the way up the cattle grid…And then all the way back home. We were only out for 20 minutes but I could have floated to work on my halo…

It was dark and horrible when I got home. I was so busy making me go to bed at 10pm, I forgot to put the chickens to bed. Luckily, Mr Pat did the honours when he came home at midnight.

Wednesday

A late half day at work so had the luxury of a lie-in which meant that we could walk in daylight – we didn’t even get wet! Still damp, still claggy but at least we could see where to put our feet. Vladipuss and Tommy both followed… A ray of bright light – I daren’t call it sunshine – hit the Tarn momentarily. All 3 doggies were damp which didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest.

I did a big shop on the way home from work, made sure everyone was fed and watered and even remembered to put the chickens to bed. It was chucking it down when I got back -even the doggies didn’t want to stay out. By the time I’d finished my chores, I was soaked. I didn’t even bother lighting the fire, had a lovely hot shower and went straight to bed instead. The doggies looked a bit puzzled…

It was a bit chilly but not that cold!

Thursday

9am start at work so a 6am alarm call. It didn’t go off – but my hero woke up at 6.30 so we rushed out for a very hurried walk up to the cattle grid in the half-light. It was cold. More snow had fallen on the tops and the wind was bitter. We didn’t hang about.

I was home late after a busy shift and it was absolutely tipping down. Proper Lake District rain. I went through a lot of very big puddles in all the usual places. I aquaplaned along some of the lanes – the water was pouring off the fells and there wasn’t much traffic around after Ambleside which is a bad sign…The water had found its way into the barn but the chickens were all snug and warm in their coop. Despite the weather, since the days started lengthening they’re laying well. It was my day off on Friday so instead of going to bed uber-early, I went to pick Pat up. It was an interesting drive – the lanes were flooded in parts and it was like fording a river down by the campsite…

Middlefell Farm ahead with the Old Dungeon Ghyll to the right. Lots of water in front 😂

Friday

It stopped raining at some point – just light rain which we almost didn’t notice! I had a mooch round the garden to see how things were doing – I wasn’t sure just how much of it was left…I was thrilled to find that the snowdrops were doing really well and the hellebore had started flowering. It’s such a beautiful flower.

Such an unexpectedly beautiful flower – head bowed modestly until all is revealed when you tip it up

Our beck was like a wild thing – I had a good look at it and enjoyed its watery flamboyance. It wasn’t getting any higher which was a relief. Water in full spate carries all sorts of debris including big rocks and branches …once it’s properly down again, we’ll check for damage and see what gifts the water gods have left behind…

I dropped Mr Pat off at work and took Luna for a walk up Mickleden. I didn’t want to leave the pub – the fire was blazing in the range but a girl’s gotta do and all that, so off we tootled …It was magnificently moody – a thousand streams showered off the Pikes into the valley, tumbling and splashing noisily. When the tops are shrouded in the swirling mist and the mountains loom upwards as guardians of the spirit world, it’s easy to see why these slate rocks were part of an ancient sacred landscape. The Norse settlers were more pragmatic and less inclined towards the nomadic lifestyle. They enclosed the valley with drystone walls and divided it up into farms…these walls have been added to and rebuilt many hundreds of times by succeeding generations of farmers…I love their sinewy lines as they trace the contours of the valley.

Most of the paths were underwater – but my old, well-dubbined boots miraculously kept my feet dry. Stoical sheep gave us a stare before carrying on noshing – they’ve seen it all before. There weren’t many people about at all but the rain started coming down again. We passed a couple of likely lads who’d obviously been standing around for some time- they were friendly and fancied a natter but Miss Luna was having none of it and barked her head off, from a safe distance.

Even though it was a short stroll through water, mud and more water and a bit of rain, it was wonderful to be out there. Even so, I was happy to see the pub again – I do love to be warm and dry 🙂

The pile of rocks behind the sheep pens is from Langdale prehistory – the valley has many of these if you know where to look
Downstream from the weir

Fog and friends

The day started well…

Anita messaged to say she was going to be an hour late. Which was just as well because I’d only just woken up myself. I was still getting dressed when she arrived. Why it takes so long to take my tablets, drink my cuppa and eat my brekkie I don’t know but, these days, it takes me 90 minutes to emerge from my pit before I appear bright and shiny and ready to face the day…

Miraculously, the Cumbrian clag which had been wall to wall all morning (well, the bit of it I’d been awake for) withdrew back to the hillsides as Anita and Rufus arrived, almost as if it was waiting for the performance to start…

There are times when the mist ebbs and flows like a curious but shy lover…first it flows over the mountain tops and pours itself over the bracken-covered sides, before retreating upwards again as if the valleys were unsuitable for its needs…and then it surges forward again, then more tentatively rolling over the land before evaporating, fearing a rebuff…

One of the joys of walking along this lane is the moss-covered stones
Five minutes later

As it happens, we all love it when it’s like this – atmospheric, mysterious, quiet and completely beautiful – so out we went for a walk round the Tarn 🐕🐕🏞🌫🐾🌲🌳🌲🌳🚶‍♂️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

Back at the house at 4pm, it was time for lunch…And it was a team effort – a cracking all-day breakfast provided by Anita & cooked by me, on trays on our laps, watching Harry Potter 🥓🥖🥖🥚🍽 🧙‍♀️🧙‍♂️

All in all, a perfect day.

Fred the Red …

Fred the Red arrived as a terrified rescue via our fab vets Oakhill (The Windermere branch) and thanks to Jules Allwood and Becca Myers).

He was a little lad, traumatised after an RTA with a car in Bowness, emergency jaw surgery and a month at the RSPCA shelter in Kendal. He weighed in at 2.5 Its and couldn’t be picked up for a cuddle

That was just over a year ago.

He’s now 3.45kgs, has a magnificent mane and can be cuddled – he’s still shy but he behaved very well at the vets and sat very nicely for his exam and injections.

Friendships & food, gardening & going out

Our week off together is going very well, thank you. On Tuesday, Jo and Kate came for a flying visit and today, we’ve had a bit of a slow gardening day & a night out. And the sun shone!

Victoria sponge to die for – and I didn’t even make it. But I ate the lot 🐷. Thanks, Kate!

I used to work with Jo and Kate at St Martin’s College – before it became the University of Cumbria – and all our work lives changed. We lost the sense of small college intimacy and informality when we ‘upgraded’ but the friendships have endured and for that, I’m very grateful.

For her sins, Jo spent many happy hours trying to explain the rules and processes of AP(E)L to me and still managed to retain a sense of humour despite much bad language. And I don’t know how Kate did it but her gentle encouragement & support to run got me into my first competitive event for years, despite terrible nerves, and I stuck with the sport until the knees finally gave out.

Choc chip brownies also courtesy of Kate. I haven’t eaten a single one. 🙊🙉🙈

Women with kids to sort out after school don’t mess about! I should have remembered that. Jo and Kate arrived punctually and left when they said they would after lunch. Except they didn’t get any lunch because we went for a walk round the Tarn after a cuppa and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer & because I’d totally lost track of time, there was no time for eating. I am obviously the worst / most disorganised hostess in the world 😢 but it was bloody wonderful to see them. And the furries thought they were in heaven.

To be fair, the Tarn was magnificent. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the reflections of the hills were just amazing. Dukey and Luna had a fantastic time – she barked at him constantly as he chased after his ball (which he later lost in the Tarn)…

By evening time, after even more fun outside, all 3 dogs were sparko in front of the fire. Result.

Today’s skies were incredible…

Days like these we both have good intentions of doing jobs – and there are a lot of them to do…The gales have blown bits of tree down all over the place. It’s my job to gather these up so that over time, after they’ve dried out, they can be used for kindling. Did I do that? No. The pots need sorting out and tidying up ready for the bulbs to come through. Did I do that job? No. The bit of garden in front of the kitchen needs a serious overhaul. Mr Pat and I have made plans. Did I do any of the prep work? No…

What I did do was have a lot more fun doing a Blea Tarn House version of Ghyll scrambling which involves wading up the beck collecting up big bits of wood and assorted debris which clogs everything up.

Nope, couldn’t be bothered to tackle any of this lot
Much more fun
Ended up with a big bag of rubbish, too!

The other thing I did was help Mr Pat a lot by pointing out the digging which needed doing, then taking pictures of him doing said digging. He wouldn’t take his shirt off, though. I also, very helpfully, took lots of photos of the sky and a few of the house…

My hero
Getting down deep & dirty…and rocky….
An unimpressed Princess

I also enjoyed clocking some colour emerging – these little changes are wonderful. But too soon. Winter has not finished with us yet I’m absolutely sure…

Rhubarb!

Tonight we splashed out on a meal deal / cinema ticket at Zeferellis in Ambleside. Such a treat! The food was wonderful – I had Mozzarella-stuffed arancini, followed by baked canelloni, and then the most fab fig & raspberry frangipane. Yummy.

Alas, I hated the film – The Knives Are Out or something. I’m trying to forget it, frankly. Big plot holes, appalling acting, and about 90 minutes too long. The sets were great and the dogs were superb. Avoid it like the plague.

Still, who cares, we had a very lovely evening out after a very good day at home.

I forgot to mention another high point. The plumber came this morning. We’ve only had a dribble of hot water coming out of the tap in our bathroom for over 2 years. No-one had managed to fix it. So, for 2 years, we’ve washed our hands in cold water post-loo. When I say cold, I mean bloody freezing. And today, he fixed it! Okay, you have to run the tap for 5 minutes before the hot water comes through but hey, hot water!! Life is good.

#viewfromtheloo

Skelwith Bridge bimble

I had school stuff to do today (Monday) – a meeting in the morning and a Full Governing Board at 4.30pm. Well you can’t say I’m not committed…But I also wanted to spend some time with Mr Pat inbetween times so we headed off for lunch at Chesters with Miss Loopy Luna 🙂

Before it was Chesters, it was Kirkstone Galleries – a prestigious outfit where you could refit your kitchen or floors. There was also a great coffee shop which sold slate mementos, pictures and the like. My classy friend, Mary Moor, first introduced me to this piece of heaven and it’s her I blame for my love of good things – she also initiated me into what was the Liberty factory shop in Burnley, the delights of Boundary Mill, and the sheer magic of Skipton Market on a winter’s day….

I digress, Chesters is now terribly chic and sells many lovely things. I love the food and the oat milk cappuccino and the cakes are truly cosmic. You wouldn’t know the history of the building or the area – but there are clues to a more industrial past, if you look. I love that the old salesroom is still there at the back with all the different types of work surface which were available.

Skelwith Force in full flow (top) and a view towards Elterwater.

There are lots of articles and resources that tell you about life in the Langdales – farming, obviously but also slate quarrying, gunpowder works and fine linen manufacturing. Man has had a big impact on the landscape…

Top – the unfortunately named Tiplog next to Park House. It has a lovely front elevation with rear aspects overlooking Elterwater and the River Brathay with views of the Langdale Pikes, Wetherlam and Loughrigg.

We headed up on the path through the woods at Skelwith – after Sunday’s enforced bed rest, it felt unbelievably good to be out. The air was cold and fresh and invigorating – every lungful was a joy and felt like freedom.

We only walked as far as Park Farm before we turned round. The views in just that small distance were brilliant.

People talk about the secret of happiness – everyone wants and needs different things but there is no magic formula. Maslow pretty well nailed it for me in his Hierarchy of Needs. We are so privileged to live where we do. Getting here has been no easy journey but it was the best move ever! I don’t care that we don’t have fitted carpets, or that the cobwebs are taking over, or that winter is long and hard – none of those things matter. A walk in the winter with Mr Pat, a doggy and glorious views pretty well do it for me.

Still 20-something…

In my dreams, I am in my 20s. The good bits of my 20s when I could play netball all day, go for a cross country run, go out and party all night, and still get into work on time…the 20s where I could walk 10 miles up and down mountains every day for a week and still be full of beans. Unfortunately, although my spirit is young, optimistic, and energetic, my physical body is about 90 years old. I’m actually only 60…I’ve definitely packed a lot into my life – netball, trail running, half marathons, more netball, cycling, netball, hiking, ice skating, netball…Oh and that healthiest of jobs – nursing.

I’ve paid the price for mismatching my mental and physical ages. I frequently forget that I need way more sleep than I used to – 3 hours a night just isn’t enough any more. I have to make myself go to bed and be under the covers before midnight, and definitely before 2a.m. Sounds easy – but I’m a night owl and as soon as the dining room clock strikes midnight, it might as well be an electric shock to the back of my head because suddenly, I’m wide awake and wanting to read and write but definitely not relax.

I’m also very good at ignoring all my other physical limitations when I’m planning things or when I’ve got my mind set on something. A few months ago, I planned a walk for a walking group I’m in – Lily Tarn and Todd Crag. Me, Pat and some friends had a practice run last weekend – I wanted to make sure all the paths were walkable and nothing had changed. It had been a while since I was last up there and occasionally, things change – paths are diverted or fenced off – so always best to check first. Last weekend the weather was pretty grim – low cloud base, drizzly showers, no sun. There was lots of mud, lots of surface water and almost no views. Still, it’s always good to be out and in excellent company and we had a very lovely lunch afterwards in the Copper Pot in Ambleside. The halloumi burger is really good, if you’re asking…

So, I was really looking forward to the walk which was planned for yesterday (Sunday). I ignored the warning signs – I did a week’s work, feeling steadily worse and worse…My day off came on Friday and I slept all day. Friends messaged to see if I was ok and still happy to lead the walk on Sunday. Of course I was ok, just tired, and yes, I’d be doing the walk. Of course.

Saturday came along and off I trundled to work. It was a busy day and we didn’t stop all day – no time for lunch, just a few minutes standing up in the kitchen snatching a few mouthfuls of coffee and handfuls of nutritious Bombay Mix. On the way home, I popped into Asda for a quick shop, followed by a stop at the ODG for a quick drink with friends and Mr Pat. By the time we got home, I could barely speak with exhaustion. Still, I ignored the signs…I was not only in bed early, I was asleep well before midnight.

The alarm went off at 8am. Which is a pretty good lie-in after a week of getting up at 5a.m. I’m so very, very definitely not a morning person. I often can’t tell you anything first thing in the morning – I can open one eye after 5 mins when the first snooze alarm goes off, and sometimes I can even open both eyes after the third snooze alarm. I can just about sit up in bed after 20 minutes and after half an hour, I have been known to attempt an actual standing manoeuvre. This doesn’t always work. It’s often 45 minutes before I’m actually out of bed which leaves me just another 45 minutes to shower, get dressed and get out. Even then, I’m not always capable of speaking in whole sentences…

….but on Sunday morning, I knew that something was very definitely not right the second I opened my eyes to the start of a beautiful dawn over Wetherlam…I had a massive headache which started off somewhere in my left brain and then powered down my face, through my jaw into my neck and then up through the back of my head to join the start…

The first sunny day on a day off in weeks! The first day of Mr Pat and I on our week off together! I wasn’t having any of it!

Despite the searing pain in my head and neck, I could see that the dawn was leading swiftly to a beautiful sunny day on a cold and frosty morning. I drank half a cup of tea, popped some painkillers and headed outside…I got as far as downstairs, sat in a chair in a kitchen, holding my head in my hands:

Mr Pat: What are you doing? Me: I’m going to go outside and see if I’m okay. It’s sunny – I don’t want to miss it – I’ll be fine when I’m out! Mr Pat: *snorts*. Well…I headed outside and it was breathtaking – the sort of morning I’ve been waiting WEEKS, if not MONTHS for! There are snowdrops in the garden! Woo Hoo! The sky wasn’t blue, it was turquoise, the air was clear and frostily crystalline, the mountain tops were covered in snow and the sun was shining. My heart soared into my mouth at the sight of such inspiring beauty – which was the moment I realised I was going to throw up….

Back inside in the kitchen, I sat in the chair again. Mr Pat: Go back to bed now. Me: But…But…OK.

And so I went back to bed and I slept nearly all day. I missed all the sunshine and all my lovely friends but I did wake up to 4 cats snuggled on the bed with me and Princess Maisie looking very cute in her igloo. And lots of very kind messages from said friends.

This morning I woke up feeling a lot better – dizzy but not in agonising pain. So, today (Monday) will count as Day 1 of our holiday instead and I’m going to pretend Sunday didn’t happen 😎

January blues….

Wonderful pencil drawing of the back of the house in winter – artist unknown 2001

I can’t wait for January – and February come to that – to be over. I’m tempted to add March to that list but at least March is generally making a serious attempt at change… Every fibre of my being longs for warm sunshine, blue skies, and meadows full of flowers and birdsong. I can’t wait to see bright colours and butterflies. I want to be back in shorts and t-shirts and seeking the cool interior of the house because it’s too warm outside….Dream on…

I know that spring will eventually be sprung – however, long it takes, it will arrive…But once the excitement of Christmas and New Year have passed, winter drags its heels like an old man crossing the road – you know you have to wait for him but it doesn’t stop you muttering for him to get a move on, and short of running him over in full view of many people who actually like him, there’s absolutely no way of shifting him out of the way faster….

Inevitably we get the ‘excitement’ of snow at some stage. I have mixed feelings about it…If I have the luxury of staying at home and sitting in front of the fire, snuggled up and cosy, I don’t mind it at all. Except for those bits where I have to go out and sort the chickens out or venture outside to the washouse to do a spot of laundry…Mr Pat just hates it. It doesn’t matter how pretty it is, and it really is beautiful, Mr Pat does not like cold feet, and he especially hates cold, wet, slushy feet…

There some horrible things which happen after snow. For a start, one or both of us has to go to work. So, the drive needs clearing, the road needs clearing, salt must be spread. Some of us are better at this than others. And some are just better left to do other things…I wish. Mr Pat does most of the hard graft and I show willing…

Only very rarely do I caught out by a surprise snowfall these days. Our winters are punctuated by a constant check of the weather…Met Office (accept no substitutes) and the Mountain Weather Information Service. We’re halfway up a mountain at nearly 250m (depending on where you are at the time) – not far off 1,000 feet – so we definitely fall somewhere between the Met Office forecast for normal people and the MWIS one for proper winter walkers…The most frequent question in the house over the winter is not “Is the kettle on?” or “Where are my slippers?” (though these can be heard repeatedly) but “What’s the weather forecast?”

So the car is usually nestled into a cosy parking space at the bottom of the Big Hill – where it stays until we head down. I’m never sure what’s worse – leaving it behind, getting geared up in the car, strapping my head torch on and heading upwards slowly in the dark, or treading cautiously on the white stuff and risking a long slide downhill on my backside…

As is the way of things here, the snow either gets washed away by torrential rain ☔️ or it freezes solid. And then we’re all in trouble…The lane turns into an ice rink for which the average driver is majorly unprepared and we await the arrival of distressed drivers who have suddenly found themselves facing the wrong way or settled nicely into a drystone wall or, worst of all, have gone over the top cattlegrid and seen the abyss at the other side and thought better of it. I once came home from work and found a man in the barn – he was searching for a shovel and some grit. I thought that was a bit cheeky, to be honest – it was his entitled attitude I took offence at, he just thought we should have what he needed lying around and that it was okay to take it.

Mostly, though, things are not that exciting…winter is dreary, dark and dismal. I try to take heart from the splendour of the views…

…they are incredible. And they are life-affirming in a grand and eternal kind of way. Mr Pat took this picture of a Herdy the other day on his way to work. Whose day could not be cheered by the sight of this glorious, stubborn breed standing boldly and prettily in front of Bowfell? Even on a muddy, grim afternoon, the landscape breathes life into us.

I still wish spring would appear soon…but in the meantime, I’ll keep looking for the good stuff.