Monday, January 05, 2009

Exceedingly Fine Lakes

Level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Amount of creative activity achieved today: 0, am on admin time today
Reading: Just finished the elegaically heart-wrenching 'The Diving Bell and The Butterfly'
Hair Day: flyblown

Last week we blazed down our very own Route 66 (well, the A66), our ticket to the Lake District for a week-long escape from London's Burning Bonkersness. I made us miss a turning when I looked sidelong and yelped as a ridge of stonking mountains appeared from nowhere, the colour of peaches and cream; you couldn’t tell where the rock ended and the opaque clouds started. Our self-catering cottage - lurid tartan carpet, log fire, no central heating (agh!) - was in Braithwaite, an unassuming village looked benevolently down upon by layers of fells, with the nearest of 4 pubs a rather hazardous 10 whole steps away.We spent the whole week rising spectacularly late, pulling on voluminous layers of clothing and braving the freezing but thankfully beamingly sunny weather, then collapsing at home for DVDs and long games of outdated Trivial Pursuit. Highlights were:

1) A walk up to Winlatter Forest, our breath-clouds expanding with every ascending step, the cold air giving me an ice-cream headache. We came down the other side through mossy trails past rocks glazed with ice and icicles good enough to lick like lollipops. Which I did.

2) Climbing the rocky paths of Skellgill Bank on the west side of Derwent Water, our nearest lake, and awakening muscles that had until then been in a blissfully unaware slumber. We descended on a path so treacherous with frost and loose stones that we scrambled our way down mostly in an incredibly inelegant human sled position, tumbling down into Brandlehow Park, where the moss was a stately Georgian green in the frost, where old trees failed at hurdling each other, and becks fell over themselves to get to the lake. The lakeside was a Hollywood epic of lumbering fells and vast silken water.

3) Trailing up the far western Solway coastline, a dead-end landscape of tumbleweed villages, stoic houses and factories, all leached of colour by the wind, mist and frozen sun. The eerie, resolutely unglamorous beaches that were a treasure trove of skimming stones: Andy, Winter Olympics Champion Skimmer of The NorthWest, plimplamplettered one as thin as a 10p piece a world-beating 12 TIMES!

4) Leaving behind chocolate-box Grasmere village for a circular walk around ‘Wordsworth Country’ lakes Rydal and Grasmere, passing monumentally dramatic granite caverns which would make perfect amphitheatres for adventurous juice concerts. By the time we got to Grasmere the day was fading fast and it was if the lake, a pale gunmetal colour, was holding its breath; a huge ghost.

5) Wearing paper hats and eating a five-course NYE menu at the only local restaurant that could squeeze us in. After our amuse-bouche of bucks fizz sorbet etc, we hot-tailed it to The Royal Oak, so close you could take three Ministry of Silly Walks steps and be in our cottage, for the bells. We were ushered outside for absolutely hilariously over-the-top fireworks, lit nonchalantly at an incredibly close distance by the landlord, and were served cheap sparkling pink wine as the detritus rained down on us. Hurrah!

6) Hosting my Mum for a night and walking by Bassenthwaite Lake in my spanking all-new-oh-yes-I-am-definitely-30-and-not-cool-anymore walking boots, purchased in hikers' shopping mecca, Keswick. Bassenthwaite was iced rigid, bordered with thick gorse and snaking boardwalks, and offered up plenty of harking-back-to-childhood larking about trying to be amusing using only ice and sticks. Yay.

'Tis now crashing back to about a million London things once more, but here's two poems to leave you with:


moss swallows sound in one gulp

it presses close the raven’s confession
hoards the whole-tone song of the ice as it forms
and the low samurai groans of the rowans as they fall
the tree shakes itself loose
its scattered jet-shards use the wind
to unhook their shadowed corners
folding out leaf over edge,
turning on the air, unblading
until they are little black deaths
gashing their throats to pull out
cursing tongues, cries like sparks
as they dart devildark
flick knifing the sky
as the light looks back
the fells are just-made bruises
bruises they wanted
back inside
the fire will not let me forget
the fell-blush, the crow-spits
and the great cracking trees


with his back to England
he tries to stare out the sea
until his eyes prick

the air is so still
but life is wizening from everything

there is weeping behind windows
as the pigment is quietly lifted from houses
and the ruddy farm-reek fades to old roses
there is a sigh as the sea finally leaches to ash
and seeps into the sky

only one boy snarls fuckyous into the sand
on his cheap motorbike, scudding dirt
in the face of the rheumy-eyed sun
as it spills its own last last rites

he watches wheeling reaper gulls,
the thought-stealers, unravel his dreams
until they are webs waltzing above
the waveless water; still the gulls pull
until he begins to loosen,
loosen and unwind
threading into the pallid air
over the mute sea
thinning to nothing

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