thing 20: ‘welcome ye treasures which I now receive’: first swim of the year

For weeks now, being in the Cumbrian countryside has been like walking through a 70s Flake ad, only with no innuendo and barely enough chocolate. The meadows are extraordinary this year. I’ve never seen so many buttercups, such clover and poppies, never mind the numberless others I can’t name; and I can’t remember seeing a farmer, one man, mowing a meadow (sorry) for hay, so early. But on this hot Bank Holiday Monday the freshly-cut fields were corduroy-striped with (read more…)

thing 19: ‘…but thinking makes it so’: wall talk

“This is a magnificent piece of walling which shows off the expertise of the men who built them. Note that the wall has horizontal courses, while the top stones slope with the hill and are built with the wall rather than simply sitting on top. There is a strong wall end above the gorge”. Well, who knew? She who hath eyes to see, and all that.

The wall thus celebrated features in a walk round Coniston and the Old Man, given in a booklet produced by the Cumbria Dry Stone Walling Association (from which that description is taken). My friend Jenny suggested (read more…)

Things are getting out of hand…

You know that thing where you blithely promise something, knowing it is safely far enough in the future not to feel real, and may perhaps not even happen anyway? Well, here I am, having promised to help my goddaughter’s sister raise some money, and now finding myself with a definite date when I’m going to be doing so. Buying from her stall at the church fair? Yes, done that. Abseiling from the church tower… no. Not so much. And yet, it is happening. And it’s happening next month.

The fact that, in the event of something going catastrophically wrong, I’ll be handily placed for the funeral and committal of my remains is, it turns out, insufficiently comforting. (read more…)

thing 18: ‘kissing the joy as it flies’: a bluebell wood

Like Bach, wild swimming and my sister’s home-made blue cheese and mushroom pizza, spring soon exhausts my superlatives, so I’ll simply go with Hopkins and say that ‘Nothing is so beautiful as spring’. On a day like this, who could possibly disagree?

I discovered this tiny nature reserve only last year—a friend recommended it—and by the time I got there the bluebells were already on the wane. Ever since, I’d been looking forward to this spring and (read more…)

thing 17: a long weekend, part (ii): ‘out over our own fathoms’: Charney Manor

‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken’. This is the final sentence of number 17 of the Quaker Advices and queries (a key text in Quakerism). Is there anyone, anywhere, any time (pass the Martini!) who couldn’t benefit from sitting with that idea for a while?

Here I was, arriving from Oxford at Didcot Parkway on the way to a Quaker Enquirers’ course at the splendidly-named Charney Manor. I was emotionally exhausted after the morning’s encounter with lost youth, and physically exhausted after having a run (flatter than Kendal, but muddier also), wandering round town for miles, and lugging a large backpack whose hipbelt, I discovered too late, was no longer operational. And friends, there’s a lot of train stuff at Didcot Parkway. I mean, a LOT. What with that, and (read more…)