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Everything But The Cake

Doubtless there are some for whom the word 'Kendal' cannot exist in isolation, not conjoined to "Mint Cake". If you are one such, prepare to be disappointed: for not a crumb is to be had in the following. Moreover, in the interest of fairness and equality, I must stress that I shall not be mentioning Christmas cake, Victoria sponge cake, Simnel cake, Battenberg cake; there will be no chocolate cake, no coffee and walnut cake, no carrot cake, no lemon drizzle cake. None.

So what am I going to talk about then?

Well, as many of you will have noticed, the blog supply has been a bit sparse this last year or so, despite things getting a lot closer to normal again after Covid. A large part of that was down to us needing to spend much more time with Amanda's mother in what turned out to be her final year, and since then, we've been having to do a fair bit sorting out her affairs. Technically the executorship was shared between Amanda and one of her sisters, but Dinah quickly realised she was out of her depth and agreed that she'd be more of a hindrance than a help, and took a step back.

Fortunately, amongst our good friends are an accountant (hi, Sarah!) and the right sort of lawyer (hi, Jan!), because while Amanda is a lawyer, this isn't her personal sphere of expertise. So we've done what needs to be done, collected the right information to send to the right people, and now Amanda has to sign some documents in person. Jan and Amanda were colleagues in London when they first met, but she moved to the Lake District many years ago and now works at an office in Kendal, so we are going to mix business with pleasure and spend a few days up there.

We think about driving up, and then very rapidly think about getting the train instead. Even though we have to make several changes: home to Waterloo, tube to Euston, main line to Oxenholme, local service to Kendal, the train is still noticeably quicker. It's a bit more expensive, but not hugely so when you consider it's the best part of a tank of petrol each way. And it's a lot more relaxing too, as the M25, M40 and M6 are all pretty horrible.

So, Friday morning, off we go. A few very civilised hours later, here we are...

Hmm... I'm not entirely certain his intentions are honourable! And it must be said that "magnificent" is not a word I would normally put in the same sentence as "golf". But let's try to be open minded. "Splendid walks" and "beautiful scenery" are good.

Jan's office is part of a renovated former factory. The Cumbria County History Trust tells us that "Hosiery knitting, established by E W Thompson & Sons, in 1878 at [...] Bridge Mills, Stramongate (‘the sock mill’)" was its previous life! (See web page.)

Bet you didn't know that there were awards just for probate law! I certainly didn't. But I think it means we've chosen wisely.

So to business: I had never realised how much paperwork it takes to die. I am now quite convinced that immortality must be easier!

Anyway, duty done, we will take a stroll along the river to our B&B.

A curiously ecclesiastical-looking terrace... Later digging reveals it was built as a chapel with almshouses in 1887. Seems a pity that it didn't quite manage its century, as services were last held in 1986 before it was converted into housing.

It's not quite so stylish on our side of the river: a somewhat run-down looking council estate!

Some fine gargoyles adorn Kendal Parish Church. We do like a good Gothicky bit. The church isn't open after 4pm, but we might check it out again tomorrow or Sunday.

And here's our B&B. It was surprisingly hard to find somewhere within reasonable walking distance of the town centre that wasn't already fully booked. Apparently, even though it's a long way from peak tourist season, spring weekends are very popular with those who would prefer to avoid the school holiday periods. Oh dear, that sounds rather like us.

Glenholme is clean and comfortable enough, and Glynis, the owner, is very welcoming. Don't be in a rush, though, because she does like to chat!

Jan's going to be picking us up and we're going out to a pub for dinner later. She thinks it'll be difficult to park here - and indeed it is - so she'll park just across the road in the College car park, which all works out fine.

Pub grub at the Hare and Hounds. They have rooms too, but were one of the many places we couldn't get into. That said, if we had we would have needed a taxi to get anywhere, as it's twenty minutes or so drive from town.

My beer is a pint of Lancaster Blonde, and I'm slightly disappointed they don't have a York Brunette for me to compare. Although, thinking about it, the Duchess of York is a ginger, and if nobody makes York Ginger Ale, perhaps they're missing a trick?

Amanda has a small pizza; I have a large one, which is just plain greedy as it turns out, but you never know quite what "large" and "small" mean until you see them on the plate. Jan's gone for a burger. It's all very tasty and decent value, and it's a nice location with good staff, so we could certainly consider a return visit in future.

After this, I suppose we could party the night away, but we don't. We're planning a bit of an early start - well, silly early by my standards, almost late by Amanda's - to go walking with Jan around Ullswater.

And so to bed.

Initially, we'd hoped for nice weather, and walking in the hills, but Plan B is to cross the lake by boat and walk back along the shore. Well, near the shore at any rate: we're told the path is a bit hilly in places, and apparently this sometimes surprises people who think the lakeside walk will all be at sea level. But since we reckon the Lake District is at least as hilly if not more than the Hilly District - err, sorry, I mean the Peak District - we are fine with this.

Our boat is called "Lady of the Lake", but that deer definitely looks a bit staggy to me. Not that I claim any particular expertise, but we have deer in our local parks and a bit of web research quickly tells me that "reindeer are the only species in which the females also grow antlers". Is this the work of a zoologically challenged brand manager or is it a noble stand for trans rights? I'm afraid I'm going with the former.

Ahead is Howtown, although "town" is definitely stretching the definition to breaking point. We're going to disembark there and walk back, and although there's another dozen or so people on the boat, nobody else gets off here. We know that at least one couple we've been chatting to are on a coast-to-coast walk, so they won't be going backwards like us, but I have a definite suspicion that a fair few of our fellow passengers are just going to stay on the boat to the far end and back again.

This, incidentally, is the sort of thing we should be seeing if JMW Turner is to be believed. Did he have better weather, or is a certain amount of artistic licence involved?

Howtown, here we are! That hut that looks a bit like a ticket office isn't. It's more like a bus shelter, except there are no buses. It's precise raison d'être is not clear.

Ullswater Way is calling!

We look back at our departing boat.

The boat company is called Ullswater 'Steamers', and the scare-quotes are for good reason: these boats don't have steam engines at all! But once upon a time...
Launched on 26th June 1877, Ullswater ‘Steamers’ Lady of the Lake is believed to be the oldest working passenger boat in the UK. 

[She was built as] one of the original ships of Ullswater Navigation and Transit Company, founded in 1859 to transport goods, mail, and passengers up and down Ullswater lake. [Her steam engines were] replaced by diesel Cummings Engines in the 1930s

So we learn from the company's page about their boats.

We all know our Wordsworth, don't we:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

Well first of all, there are no lonely clouds here. They are bloody well mobbing the place! And if that's a host, I'm holding a bleedin' soirée!

So I'm starting to get a bit of cognitive dissonance. Painting? Poetry? They seem to be needing some quite vigorous imagination. Perhaps fortunately, I can't immediately find any famous composers or compositions inspired by the Lake District, so I don't have to compare the sound of raindrops splashing on my jacket with the bassoon fantasia from Hildegard of Bingen's "lacus regionis boogaloogus". [I may have made that last bit up.]

More 'atmosphere', and those two little dots are paddleboarders. The weather may not be photogenic, but there's no wind and the water is offering barely a ripple. Yesterday we gather that the boat service had to be cancelled because of the strength of the wind, but today we're pretty much in millpond land.

Sheepie! With baa-lambs!

[You can tell we're proper grown-ups.]

More sheepies! With more baa-lambs.

[I know, I know, you're expecting me to be expounding on dramatic instances of philosophy and theology crashing into each other's realm, such as the Euthyphro Dilemma, and here I am distracted by Ovis aries. Well this deep stuff isn't as easy as you think!]

[And while I'm digressing, I've noticed that the more intellectually gifted amongst insistently religious folks will often say to the skeptical in a rather scathing tone, "You think you're the first person to think of XXX?" and refer back to some ancient work, such as Plato's Euthyphro. Trouble is, it doesn't seem to occur to them that if they've been thinking about something for literally(!) two and a half thousand years, and they haven't come up with an answer they can agree on among themselves, never mind persuade anyone else, that maybe it suggests that some underlying assumption might just be false...?]

Considering that the lake itself has been so still, it's a touch surprising how vigorous the many streams that flow into it are.

Apropos of nothing: we meet some people taking a rest from walking. They have a dog sitting on a rock looking cute. I'm sorry if you want to know more about the people.

This rocky slope wasn't a rocky slope until Storm Desmond in 2005, we understand.

Near the end of the trail, looking back at the path behind us. We've actually had a very fine walk, despite the weather: it's not been great, but it's not been totally horrible either. Ullswater and the surrounding hills manage to look good even despite that.

You can't easily read it here, but the text is:

Three artists
J M W Turner
Ann Macbeth
John Glover
were inspired by this landscape

I can almost imagine the less well known Ann and John crying out, "Shift your ass, Turner! Just because you're famous and we're not doesn't mean you're not in the way!"

I'm inspired to be artistic. I think I might call this, "Composition with dry stone wall and moss (hills in the background)", or is that too literal? Perhaps, "How my mother cooked eggs", or, "Oysters don't watch Netflix", or am I getting my Romantics mixed up with my Surrealists now?

Our heroes descend from the mountains through Side Farm, which modestly describes itself as "Perhaps the most scenically placed campsite in England". There are more sheep here as well, but you'll have to use your imagination. No more sheep pictures (unless they are really really good sheep).

Funnily enough, on the 7th of May we shall be getting ready to go cycling, but there'll only be two of us, and it will be in Spain, in that well-known-for-being-flat part of the world called the Pyrenees.

Jan drops us at the parish church I mentioned earlier, so we can take a look inside, and we then plan to have a little stroll around town and up to the castle. A sign outside the church proclaims it to be the widest in England! On entry, we're accosted (in the nicest possible way) by a little man whose job appears to be welcoming tourists and telling them about the place.

The building dates back at least as far as 1190, as the list of vicars attests. (In that year, in the reign of Richard I, the vicar was the rather splendidly named Acard de Kirkebi-Kendale. I note also that John Bryant, who became vicar in 1439, got through no fewer than five kings! Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III and Henry VII. Their reigns can't have lasted much longer than Shakespeare's plays about some of them.)

This stainless steel sculpture is a bit more modern, though, 1968 in fact, and dedicated to the memory of some 16th Century chappie called Bernard Gilpin. According to Wikipedia, he was "an Oxford theologian and then an influential clergyman in the emerging Church of England spanning the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane, Mary and Elizabeth I". They certainly whipped through their monarchs a lot faster than we do these days. Oh, and "He was known as the 'Apostle of the North' for his work in the wilds of northern England." I think Kendal is rather less wild now than perhaps it was five hundred years ago.

It's a sign!

Merilyn is running the London Marathon tomorrow, and will be hoping to keep up with the 3:45 pacer, whose name is... Jeremiah! [Spoiler alert: she does. Well done!]

The church has an excellent website, with much interesting detail about its history which you can find here.

On the other side of the river is Kendal Castle.

Ah, it's definitely seen better days. Oh well.

Wikipedia tells us that "Rinteln is a small town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located on the banks of the Weser river above the Porta Westfalica." While I'm sure you don't need to be told what and where New York and Mount Everest are, the town's connection with them is less clear. The fourth arm is for Scafell Pike, 21 miles away, which is the highest mountain in England, so I suppose there's some kind of symmetry there. (For reference, the peak of Scafell Pike is 978m above sea level, while Everest is just a tad higher, at 8849m.)

Unfortunately, it seems the actual directions are completely wrong and the town council have not seen fit to explain the logic, if any, behind it.

We do a little shopping and head back to the B&B. We've decided we probably won't have the energy to go out to dinner by the time we've showered and put clean clothes on, and in any case, we've not seen anywhere nearby we really like the look of that much, so we've just bought a selection of sushi from Booths to eat in our room. Glynis provides plates and cutlery in a drawer, so clearly it's not an uncommon choice for her guests.

And look what I found. Local gin with local tonic: the company is based only a mile away!

And in the morning, it's back to London. The trip is uneventful except that I manage to lose my smartphone, which is annoying, However, since I am not a Millennial or Gen Z and clinically dependent on it, it's not a disaster. I call Northern Rail to make a lost property report, and we'll see if it turns up. Wherever it is, nobody's answering it. [STOP PRESS: Friday afternoon, I have just received an email saying it's been found and they just need to work out how to reunite us.]

Anyway, that's our short trip to the Lake District done, and it's April and the first blog of 2023! [Chile is filed under 2022 although it did spill into the new year.] How time flies when you're doing probate!

Love to all,


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