Published: August 13th 2011August 4th 2011
30 years. It’s a long time. Days before I was born, MTV was first broadcast. Days after, IBM released the very first personal computer. Imagine a world with no computers and no music videos. It’s almost unthinkable. That’s not to say that these monumental events have added unlimited perfection to our lives, after all would the world really miss the vision of Lady Gaga humping an inflatable dolphin? Probably not. More to the point, would anybody care about Lady Gaga’s bland generic hip-hop if it wasn’t for her controversial imagery and style that make full use of both the internet and the music video? Again, I really do wonder. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that these two events created much of the world as we know it now. In between these two massive occasions, though, was something much smaller and inconsequential. I was pushed from the darkness and into life. The world of 1981 was filled with riots, in London’s Brixton, Liverpool and Leeds, there were deep threats from Libya’s leader, Colonel Gadaffi, and the Prince of Wales got married. We’ve seen seen good times and bad since then, but some strange sense of purpose seems to have bought us full
circle; once more, the Prince of Wales has married, Colonel Gadaffi still poses and major threat to the world, and the nation’s youth have taken to the streets, although perhaps fittingly for the purpose of greed and selfishness that dominates their lives in 2011, as oppose to the racial tensions and feelings of injustice 30 years ago.
Those feelings of things going full circle seem to have surrounded my own life as well. In 1981, I was fresh, pure life, everything was new and, though I wouldn’t have understood the phrase at the time, everything was exciting. Right now, new life surrounds me. Everyone is having a baby all of a sudden, and the new house and its surrounding troubles after it more or less collapsed, alongside our weekends away have given me such a flux of new experiences and places that, in short bursts around the dull everyday happenings of life in the working world, things haven’t seemed so fresh and exciting for a good many years. With new life comes a sense of change though, even in something as straightforward as a weekend in the Lake District. Two-thirds of my most regular travelling companions, Faith and John,
are having a baby. It is exciting news. It was exciting news when they told us back in June, while we were on our way to Edinburgh, but things were still in the early stages and we had to hold back on telling the world. If you go back and read the Edinburgh entry, you may notice some odd references and missing details. When I spoke of John breaking wind and how I told him he could have waited until we were in the lush surroundings of the Scottish capital, I meant of course that he was breaking news.
The impending life meant a change of plans for the Lake District; I had originally envisaged the ‘monkeys’ part of the song to refer to us swinging through trees. We could leave Faith on the ground while we were swinging, for want of a better phrase, but it seemed a little unfair when there was little else to do down below. One thing that thirty years has taught me is that there is always a Plan B, and in this case, Plan B probably worked out even better than Plan A, with the added bonus of keeping everyone entertained, but
that was all to come on the second day.
The morning began with birthday surprises. I rushed to open all of the presents, though when you are thirty years old and living alone the rushed opening is less to do with the excitement of the moment and much more to do with getting out of bed late and only having ten minutes to spare before you need to be on the road. If I needed any proof, the gifts from friends and family showed how well they know me; mostly it was a consolidation of gifts for the new home, alongside personalised memories of my travel experiences, coupled with shining examples of my other passions in life, music, reading and drinking. With gifts opened and packaging carelessly discarded, I headed for mom’s house, where more presents and a fried breakfast were waiting. The day was already shaping up nicely.
By the time breakfast was done I knew there was going to be no repeat of the hotel in Edinburgh fiasco; the owner of the B&B, Pauline, had already called to make sure she was ready for us by the time we arrived. She did ask us to bring the sunshine with us though, which gave me the impression that the weather by the Lakes was pretty bad. I promised I would give it my best shot and not long after John and Faith were knocking the door, ready to make a move. Though Lyndsey is rarely ready on time for anything, the four of us were soon on the M6 and heading straight into the rain. The wet was our constant companion for the journey, watching over road accidents and toilet breaks alike, but we weren’t put off: a weekend in the great outdoors wouldn’t seem right without a bit of water. Even so, we gave the rain looks of disdain all the way, and by the time we were a few miles from Keswick and more interested in the signs for a local stone circle, the bad weather took the hint and cleared off.
Before checking in to the bed and breakfast, we stopped and parked by the mining museum for a quick walk around town. The museum didn’t sell itself too well, the imitation klondike-esqe rail carts complete with ‘danger – explosives’ painted on looking more like something from a looney tunes cartoon than the edge of one of the Lake District’s main market towns. We had already passed the pencil museum on the road in, which had at least lent itself to the inevitable mysterious question of ‘what can you possibly say about pencils that would warrant an entire museum?’
With a museum or two in mind if the rain drove us indoors at some point, we took a walk around the town. Keswick is rather pretty, largely filled with shops selling hiking equipment and pubs, with its famous market running up the middle. The market was clearly gearing up for the peak of the tourist season, which was only days away, as barring the odd fruit and veg stall, it was mostly things like slate plaques and chainsaw art (very common in these areas I believe). There was also a man cunningly slipping leaflets to unsuspecting tourists, and within a few short minutes we had two adverts, complete with 25% discount, for the Royal Bengal Indian restaurant. The smell of fish and chips at the top of the street was luring John like a vinegar-tinged love potion, and though the morning’s breakfast still sat heavy on my stomach, I knew that the weekend would not be one where there would be any major consideration for healthy food.
The Craglands Hotel turned out to be one of the better choices of places to stay this year. It was a mile or so outside of the town centre, but who comes to the Lake District and doesn’t expect to walk? Pauline was waiting for us as we parked, and soon warmly greeted us, thanking us for bringing the sunshine as I had promised, then pointing out a few of the local walks before taking our orders for breakfast the next day. Though we hadn’t done much all day barring watch John navigate the wet stretches of the M6, we were relaxed enough to lie back on the bed and put the kettle on. The relaxing went on, but the kettle didn’t. We fiddled with it for a while but it seemed to be broken. Luckily, this was John’s kettle and the one in our room appeared to work fine so I simply slipped out of Scafell Crag and into the neighbouring Pikes Crag for a brew up (our rooms were all named after the cliffs of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, which was the kind of nice touch and departure from the standard numbering that continued to warm me to our residence over the weekend).
I’m sure the others could have carried on relaxing for longer, taking in the views of the neighbouring hills from our bedside, drinking more tea and talking about weddings, babies and house hunting, but, as ever, I couldn’t go far beyond an hour of doing nothing without getting a little itchy. It was time to test out the walk into town and find us some food, and as there was a third leaflet for the Royal Bengal lying around in John and Faith’s room, it seemed as though fate was guiding us in their direction.