Friday, 4 November 2011

On the Road

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

It's not quite Jack Kerouac. But at my age, that is just as well.

After an absurd amount of sandwich-making, thermos-filling, and other 1950s flashbacks, I finally drove south. Right until the very last moment, The Pigeon was convinced she was not coming. From seven o'clock to eight-thirty, she went and sulked on the lawn. If I called her name, she turned her head away.

Then, then, there was the amazed delight when I called her into the car. She travels in the back seat, on a sheepskin rug and three blankets, like the Queen of Sheba.

I risked the Cairn O'Mount, even though the forecast was for fog. But it was quite lucid. The beeches were in high fig, and there were moments when driving along the road was like passing through a silent, amber tunnel. Everything was very bucolic. Farmers were loading up their lambs; tractors and trailers rumbled by; the keepers were up in the high heather.

There was a little fog at the very highest point, when you go past the treeline, and the mountains fall out into folding moorland. These are great, wide, rolling mountains, not sharp rocky ones, so that when you are going over them it feels very much like being on a moor. The heather and the bracken and the wiry grass change colours with each season; now they are burnt umber and pale stone and green and pewter with a little purple. The fog played over the road like a sinuous animal making up to you, a little coquettish even. Then it got bored and went away, and the sun came out.

Perthshire was dull and shrouded in mist; the Lake District was wet but, as always, still magnificent.

The M74 was closed from an accident, so we got off at Lockerbie and meandered through the B roads to Annan and Gretna and Carlisle, and then I was impatient on the final leg to Kirkby Lonsdale, wanting to get there.

In Lancashire, all was shimmering autumn sun. I took the Pigeon at once for a walk, after all that sitting. We went through the graveyard of St Mary's, with its leaning headstones and monumental sarcophagi, weathered by time and lichen, to the famous Ruskin's View.

I say famous. I've been to Kirkby Lonsdale about eight times, and I had no idea Ruskin had a view here. Anyway, there it was, a sloping terrace over a long, winding gorge, with the sliding River Lune at the bottom, green fields filled with sheep running away to the horizon, and the Lancashire hills beyond. It was a very good view indeed. Turns out though, it does not really belong to silly old Ruskin at all. Turner painted it first, then Ruskin saw the picture, said something like oh that's the loveliest view in England, and now it is his for all time, and poor old JMW is quite cut out.

Then I did a bit of shopping, which is all you can do when the entire world economy is about to collapse. It's a sheep and lamb thing, I think. I like shopping in places like this during a recession, because you know your cash is going to a small business (quite often literally one woman and a dog) rather than a heartless multi-national. So when I buy three delightful soaps smelling of figs and lavender and a beautiful dun blanket for The Pigeon (because you can NEVER have too many blankets) I feel like an actual stimulus package. The government should give me a grant.

Now I am happily in my sweet room at the delightful Plato's hotel, which is really more of a restaurant with rooms, and where the staff are so nice that they give your canine biscuits when you arrive. The new dun blanket is spread out on the bed, so my dear old Pidge may slumber beside me. I'm excited about my weeks away. I shall be homesick as hell by the end of it, but for now I find the idea of the south rather alluring.

And I am sorry. I really only started this because I wanted to say I had arrived safely and was not dead in a ditch, and I seem to have banged on a bit. Please forgive.

No pictures, as the camera was packed so deep in the car I could not physically reach it without unpacking the lot. But I found this nice shot of Ruskin's view from someone called Brooklyn90 on Tripadvisor. I hope they do not mind my reproducing it, so you can see what I saw:

Ruskins View (couple of minutes away)

This is the Turner painting:

Turner Ruskin's view

Don't you love the funny waving chap in the foreground? He's like one of those men on the news in outside broadcasts, who wave at the camera and mouth Hello, Mum.

This is the house overlooking St Mary's church for which I yearn. It is almost my ultimate dream house. Although I have always had a slight yearning for those clapboard numbers that you get in Connecticut:

house by St Mary's 04-11-2011 17-37-58.uk_-_744654

Photograph uncredited.

And St Mary's itself, a rather handsome church, dating back, in parts, to the 12th century:

ST Mary's

Photograph by Colin Smith, under a Creative Commons license, for Geograph.

And there seems now to be some kind of blog law that a day cannot go by without a picture of The Pigeon, so here she is, from yesterday, with her yearny, moony, please don't go without me face on:

4 Nov 1 02-11-2011 10-40-32

Tomorrow: across the Dales and into Suffolk.


  1. Don't apologise. I'd steeled myself to be without your blog for a few days at least, so that was SO WELCOME.

    And that face on the Pigeon: oh, bless her. That really is exactly what she's saying. Lovely to imagine her pleasure when she found she'd got it wrong.

    Find the camera soon.

  2. Don't you waste a worry about JMW, he never let anyone get in his way: not a view nor a person and certainly not Ruskin! But I LOVE the man waving in his painting: most unTurner-esque.

  3. If ever you even have a glimpse of a feeling that might lead to a notion that you might like..need..want a traveling companion...I am so there!
    think of the adventures we might have!

  4. I really liked the description of your trek south, and I'm so glad Pigeon could go too.

    But - not "silly old Ruskin"! He did the most wonderful pencil and watercolour landscapes, studies of villages, of the natural world and, most of all, studies of Venetian architecture. He had a very positive influence on art and architecture in the 19th century, and though I don't think he was much endowed with a sense of humour, was a great man.

    Anyway, have a really good and well-deserved time away. I always enjoy your blogs.

  5. Adore the house, almost finished with Great Expectations, image the house of Miss Havisham, to look something like that, before it became neglected. Always dreamed of one of those american wood houses with the big porches on them, and it should be close to a beach, where I a can go on windy walks with my dog!

  6. Cassie - so pleased you like that Pigeon face.

    Lillyanne - isn't the waving man hysterical?

    Jacqueline - what a lovely offer. :)

    Vivien - don't worry. I have a fatal tendency to use the ironical voice in about half the things I write. Silly old is an endearment from me. I am just as likely to write silly old Peel, or silly old Dizzy, or silly old Gladstone, even though I think them all great men. Although, I do confess that the excessive growing of the beard might just fall into the actual, rather than ironical, realms of silliness. But that is a purely subjective judgement, as I know some people admire the long beard.

    Erika - oh yes, yes, the porch and the dog and the beach. I too so dream.

  7. Wishing you a wonderful trip :)
    Don't forget to pop into church mouse cheeses to get a wedge or two of something lovely from John.
    This is where we got our epic cake of cheese for the wedding!
    Still no baby news from me, I love that you're thinking of us.
    Take care+hugs for you and the pigeon.

  8. Now show us the Pigeon's "oh boy, oh boy, I get to go!" look. Yes, you'll be homesick as hell in a month, but what a fun month you'll have had. Please keep up the travel reports ~ I need a vacation.


  9. Thank you for want of a better word which wont come to me right now - a picturesque post. You make me want to change my trip from Melbourne (tomorrow afternoon) and wing it to Britain! Thank you for exquisite photographs and pictures as usual.

  10. I just love your writing. Do not apologise for writing more.

  11. Have a wonderful trip! So glad the Pigeon could come too. Thank you for my Scotland fix... am always in need of those! I will be posting more of those lovely Connecticut clapboard houses soon, so you can have your fix.

  12. Oh lovely, we're coming on your trip too!
    I have a clear-as-day image of you driving along (in a hat, not sure why) and the Pigeon sitting up in the back atop a pile of blankets looking gorgeous. Have fun xx

    I hope you were nowhere near that terrible motorway accident... my geography is a bit sketchy.


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