Saturday, 18 February 2012

On the road: status update.

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Because of course you must have a status update, otherwise I don't know what might happen. Lions lying down with lambs before you can say winking.


The Pigeon and I left as the sun was rising. We slid over the Grampians, to the south. The mountains of Perthshire were looking particularly stately and blue. Into Cumbria, the green hills had a covering of snow. The winter sun dazzled off them and everything looked clean and beautiful.

The Pigeon, bored after five hours in the car, bounded into the Tebay hotel, and marched straight behind the reception desk, where she bonded fully with the receptionist.

'Does she want to help?’ said the receptionist, laughing quite a lot. ‘Shall I get her a name-badge?’

This is one of the lovely things about the hotel at Tebay. It is strictly called the Westmoreland Hotel, but it is part of Tebay, and that is the name any traveller to the north knows. For my readers abroad: Tebay is the only motorway service station in the country which is family-run, has a farm shop, and gives one delicious food cooked by smiling humans. (As opposed to disgusting faux-victuals, heated in a microwave.)  It is so special and rare that is has become famous with anyone who ever has to make the long drive from Scotland to England. Its very name can make people smile, involuntarily.

Anyway, not only is this a motorway hotel that does not want to make you claw out your eyeballs; not only do they charge the same as a Premier Inn or Travel Lodge but decorate with lovely muted colours instead of searing orange and purple; not only do they have a soul, unlike the heartless chains; but they are nice to your dog.

There is a really bizarre thing about dear old Blighty. We are supposed to be this great nation of dog-lovers, but you try actually taking your canine anywhere. The awful expression Pet-Friendly returns a paltry amount of results on The Google. Almost every door has a no dogs allowed except guide dogs sign. I love guide dogs and revere those who train them, but I sometimes feel a bit sad that the poor Pigeon is treated as a second-class citizen by comparison.

Not at the Tebay hotel. They are nice to the dog; they make jokes about the dog; they seem genuinely pleased to see the dog. My dog, sensing adoration, wanders about, wafting her tail in slow circles, sniffing the air and making friends, which is her great talent, after chasing sticks.

‘What a confident, happy dog,’ says the receptionist. I have to restrain myself from hugging her, it is such a perfect compliment.

Then we go to my room and watch the racing. I do my usual shouting, which makes The Pigeon do her usual barking, until I suddenly remember I am in a motorway hotel, and the walls are thin, and fellow guests might not appreciate roars of ‘come on, my son’, accompanied by frenzied woofs.

I back three losers and two winners, the last of which gets me out of a very great deal of trouble. I was suddenly convinced that the spirit of my late father had possessed me, even though I do not believe in spirits and I do not believe in possession. But he was always having to ‘get out on the last’ and here I was, getting out on the last. (Thank you to the very talented trainer Alan King, and his sparkling run of form.)

Now I am eating the chicken sandwiches I made for the journey and eating watercress soup from a flask. I can’t work out if it is nerdishly sad, or chicly retro, but I now set out on the road with several sandwiches, crusts cut off, wrapped in neat foil packages, and one thermos of soup and one of coffee. It’s a very new austerity picnic, anyway, and as the Prime Minister likes to say, we are all in it together. Very, very lucky that lovely Giles Cross won the big race with my tenner on him, or it would be no sandwiches at all. I should have to eat grass. As it is, I live to fight another day.

Off at dawn for the second leg of the journey. There are gales outside my window and The Pigeon is slumbering on her special blanket. Only another two hundred and fifty miles to go.


Pictures of the day are of the views from my motorway hotel. I am half a mile from the M6. Can you believe it?:

18 Feb 1 18-02-2012 18-30-47

18 Feb 2 18-02-2012 18-31-02

The light kept changing in the gloaming, moment by moment. This sky is extraordinary:

18 Feb 3 18-02-2012 18-31-12

18 Feb 4 18-02-2012 18-31-12.ORF

18 Feb 6 18-02-2012 18-31-31

18 Feb 7 18-02-2012 18-31-36

18 Feb 7 18-02-2012 18-31-4518 Feb 7 18-02-2012 18-32-0918 Feb 7 18-02-2012 18-32-25

I put this one in black and white so it made me think of something from before the Great War:

18 Feb 8 18-02-2012 18-32-13

That little red lorry is charging up the M6 to Carlisle and all points beyond:

18 Feb 9 18-02-2012 18-32-04

The Pidge, on a mossy hummock, checking about:

18 Feb 15 18-02-2012 18-33-32

Just finished reading The Racing Post:

18 Feb 16 18-02-2012 18-37-39

Looking very regal indeed on her special Johnstons of Elgin travelling blanket:

18 Feb 17 18-02-2012 18-38-57

And also, pensive:

18 Feb 19 18-02-2012 18-39-34.ORF

Actually, that look is because I am holding out my hand with a biscuit in it, and she is hatching a cunning plan to get me to give it to her. The plan, you will be amazed to hear, worked. It involved sitting and looking so enchanting that I gave her all the biscuits. And now she is fast asleep.


  1. God bless the web that you can give us this live update. I love the sound of your service station; what a rarity! I can't think of a parallel anywhere. Do they know how special they are? Glad that the pigeon is so happy and confident, you couldn't ask for more? I took the pup today to my mums for a family lunch. He too behaved beautifully and I felt...proud! So dogs are just like children to a mother! Lou x

    1. Lou - oh, oh, the dog pride. It is absurd but I know it so well. So agree about miracle of the web. Another of the lovely things about the Tebay hotel is they give you free, fast wi-fi. Unlike some very fancy London hotels, which ruthlessly charge you for it.

  2. What a fabulous hotel. We have just spent three days at the delightful Combe House in Devon, which is very dog friendly, although we left Quin with my parents. He is finding stairs quite tricky, and we felt he would be happier somewhere he knew. It's super to be home with him again. He has just done the ' 13 year old starving Greyhound needs a Digestive, dance,' and naturally received his reward.
    Your photos are wonderful, and I now want to plan a country house hotel break in Scotland, stopping at Tebay on the way.

    1. Trifle Rushed - love the sound of the Digestive dance. Making me laugh.

  3. I wish I were driving north just so I could stop there. It sounds wonderful. (We will be in Edinburgh in April and I can barely contain myself, but we're doing strictly trains-- and that may not be "north" enough!). The dog-friendly thing is fairly widespread in the US-- sort of. Chain hotels will let your dogs stay for a fee and they often have to be very small dogs. My friend with a 100+ lb labrador has trouble, though the only thing her placid dog wants to destroy is his latest stuffed squeaky-duck. In Austin, many restaurants have patio seating and most patios allow your dog. Nice for dog owners and those like me who aren't owners but love nothing more than other people's dogs.

    The Pigeon is looking very fine. If I were the receptionist I too would think nothing could be more charming than to have a dog come right up to greet you behind the desk, and such a lovely dog too.

    1. Ellie - the Austin dog patios sound so civilised. And you are so kind to say lovely things about The Pidge; you know that nothing really make me happier than that. (Although I must say I was very delighted to win sixty quid on the big race this afternoon and am still reliving it in my mind.)

  4. Even your adventure is an adventure. I called it road food when I travelled with sandwiches and a thermos. Sadly, no dog. He was always waiting at home and jumped straight in the find the crumbs.

  5. Wonderful travelogue! And a big thumbs-up to the Tebay. 'Pet-friendly' at US hotels so often means only for a (substantial) price. By the time you add in the wireless internet, you might as well buy the place, LOL.

    Thought of you today when a flat racer I like made his four year old debut after eight months off. He is special not just because he's won the big ones, but because he's pure talent, raised and trained right, handled with consideration. I want to see him do well simply because of who he is and what he stands for. And he did---beautifully.


  6. Love the countryside colours from the photos, quite beautiful! Don't tell the Pigeon, but I think we have her twin brother living with us- he's called Hoover Dog (for obvious reasons!). Love the mental picture of watching the racing, with you and Pidge yelling them on...!!!

  7. Beautiful landscape photos - lets you see how varied and mysterious the countryside of the British Isles is. Hope they don't plaster wind farms over it.

    Loved the "goofy" photo of the Pigeon - very amusing! Have a good break. Vivien

    Your "Comment as" section used to have a word verification and place for a name. Now I can only do it through "anonymous".

  8. Dear Tania,re: your query - Chicly Retro,definitely.After reading your previous tales, I seriously considered a detour via Kirby Lonsdale on the way back home from Cumbria with the children earlier this week.We didn't actually manage to do it this time, but next time we absolutely will.(And you are right about Tebay).Have a wonderful trip.Sue

  9. I preface my comment by saying this: I LOVE DOGS. Love them. Love your Pidge, especially. Love, love, love.

    However. If I am traveling, and paying full price for a room, and that room has dog pee in the carpet, I am not a happy person. Not all dogs are as well trained or well behaved or healthy as yours, and so...

    During the hurricane last year, we were mandatorily evacuated from our house. We took our two kitties with us, to the only hotel we could find that accepted animals (four hours' drive). We were so happy to have that room, but honestly? It smelled of animal pee. Ew.

    Some animals may be able to travel happily and remain continent and well behaved, but most of them are not.

    Your hotel sounds wonderful, and friendly - like most of the places I stayed in during my two weeks in heaven (Scotland). Glad you two had the best of everything, and I love your "retro picnic"! Only I like my crusts on. 8-)

  10. Oh oh! Watercress Soup sounds amazing - I don't mean to be a pest, but is there a particular recipe you can recommend?

    And Pigeon's travelling blanket is almost as nice as she is!

  11. I love Tebay. I remember when we stumbled upon it years ago on a trip to Edinburgh, now it is a destination sought out to soothe on the trip north. I am so glad they were nice to Pigeon, if not I would find it hard to square with my image of the general nature of the place, and the fact you can have fresh baked cake and proper tea while looking at ducks on the lake.


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