Monday, 10 May 2021

Don't blame The Townies

As lockdown restrictions finally begin to properly ease - hopefully for good this time - there will be some people dreading the thunder of a million feet heading towards the Lake District.  This is understandable, last year there were some dreadful scenes of people disrespecting the landscape, leaving litter, wrecking trees, parking inconsiderately and, sadly, leaving gates open that resulted in the deaths of livestock.  Hopefully things will be better this year but, if they're not, please don't collectively blame 'the townie'.

I was raised a townie.  I had no control over where I was born and raised and, as soon as I was able to, I escaped to greener pastures, but it was drilled into me at a very early age to respect the countryside.  (For anyone who knows the West Mids, Walsall Arboretum was our nearest decent sized area of greenery, trips to Sutton Park were a *massive* treat and Cannock Chase was like taking a trip abroad!)  

Closer to home we'd play in the rough strip of ground behind the house, making dens and swings and eating enough blackberries to make us sick.  Although we promised that we would never to go further than the end of the road, clandestine trips to Reedswood were the highlight of many a summer - untethered by phone calls demanding to know our whereabouts, or trackers to show where we were at all times, we explored and adventured far beyond where we were supposed to. 

We may have wandered beyond our boundaries, but we never left litter or caused any permanent damage - although there were no mobile phones, or CCTV, we all knew that our mums had eyes everywhere and would somehow know if we'd left an empty crisp packet in one of our dens.

Me, somewhere in Wales, circa 1977

I was lucky enough to holiday in Wales regularly, and that always included a daily walk somewhere.  I was taught how to dress properly and wear the right shoes and I was expected to observe 'The Countryside Code' at all times (as well as being sure to 'Keep Britain Tidy')

Because I grew up far away from the countryside, to me it is still a rare and beautiful thing and I still get excited every time I see lambs, or calfs, or birds, or the sea, or a million other things that I never saw regularly as a kid.  I am keen to protect it, plant the right flowers and bushes to encourage bees and butterflies and try to keep my 'footprint' as small as possible.

Grange Prom

Being controversial, in my experience, sometimes it's the people who grew up with all of that around them that take it for granted.  We live in a conservation zone and have neighbours who have lived in the area all their life, but they have ripped up every flowering plant and concreted over their entire garden, turning it into a natural desert.  Every leaf is swept the moment it touches the floor and jet washing of the paved backyard is a monthly event. A very few, select, green things are allowed, but they are strictly confined to colour co-ordinated tubs.  On the brightside it's inspired me to go a little bit 'wild flower crazy' to try and compensate for their concrete wasteland.

The point is that it's never as straight forward as blaming one type of person or another, that simply causes division where there doesn't need to be any.  We need to focus on doing more to educate everyone about what, I absoultely agree, should be basic common sense, such as taking your litter home, closing gates behind you and not parking like a wazzock.  

I don't have all the answers to the big questions, but I do know that there are amazing groups like the Lakes Plastic Collective who are doing fantastic work to keep the region looking beautiful - check out their Facebook page here and support them if you can - we can achieve a lot more by working together than we can by creating more division.  (You can also find them on Twitter here and Instagram here)




We don't cover the blog in adverts and rely on a steady sale of our books to fund the site.  You can find them all here - please feel free to have a browse. Thank you.




Tuesday, 27 April 2021

The best benches in Cumbria

Yes, I'm back blogging!  It's been a while I know but, to be brutally honest, like many folks, 2020/21 pretty much kicked the stuffing out of me and it was hard to find things to write about that were chirpy and positive when we were stuck indoors all winter, but now we are out and about and things are looking up (at least for now!)

What better way to bounce back than with a quick blog about benches?  I flipping love a good bench - who doesn't?  Actually, I'll tell you who, because benches are more controversial than you'd think.  One of the most important things we can do to help the older population is to help them keep walking - it's great exercise, plus it's a social activity, giving them a chance to meet and talk to other people, thus staving off loneliness. But, in order to encourage them out more, we need to give them more benches to sit on, where they can pause and catch their breath, and the problem with that is that in many urban areas they are actively removing benches as they are a natural gathering point for ne'er do wells and rowdy youths.

Tis true, I found out about it a few years ago when I was working just outside Preston.  As per usual I'd packed my sarnies and headed out at lunchtime to a nearby park, planning to sit and eat my lunch in the sunshine, but this lovely park didn't have one single bench - so I asked why and that's when I found out about the conundrum.  Scary isn't it?  I wish I had an answer, but maybe highlighting it so more folks are aware and talking about it is the best first thing I can do.

And now - onto my favourite benches in Cumbria... (Yeah, I know you'll disagree, but that's part of the fun.  Plus I am not including *that* bench on Friar's Crag as it's already too popular by far! 😀 )

1. The one with the view of Blencathra


A friend recently stumbled upon this bench and reminded me of this fabulous walk - it's pretty out of the way but the view is utterly spectacular.  Don't be fooled by the idyllic image though, after we left this bench we got a little bit lost in a very big bog, and I had a proper dodgy old pair of walking boots on and had to wring my socks out at the end.  Still a great bench though!


2. The one on Scout Scar



I love Scout Scar - it's utterly perfect for a family walk with free parking nearby and an easily accesible walk along the ridge.  You can just do a tiny toddle to a bench for lunch, or wander around the scar for the entire afternoon, admiring the far reaching 360 degree views.  There are loads a juniper bushes up there too, in case you fancy brewing your own gin.


3. The surprise bench


If there's one thing better than a bench, then it's a surprise bench - a beautiful bench that pops up when you least expect it.  I pretty much literally stumbled across this one on an 'off the beaten track' kind of yomp around the hills near Millom.  The town often gets a bad rap, but I have a huge soft spot for it, and who wouldn't with benches like this?

4. The one that requires a bit of effort


How's this for a bench with a view?  You can find this beauty half way up The Band, and it was absolutely flipping perishing the day we took that pic.  We'd been testing out a small stove that was supposed to brew up water in super quick time, but took so long that I half froze to death and vowed to only travel with flasks of hot tea in the future.

5. The Royal Bench


This bench was so good that we took William and Kate to see it, and they loved it too!  You can find it above the shores of Ullswater, although it is a little off the main path.  You get amazing views of Helvellyn and the boats tootling too and fro along Ullswater.  I can't promise that you'll always bump into a member of the royal family up there, but you never know.


Buy our books!

If you're planning your perfect post lockdown escape to the Lake District then what better than one of our books to guide you around?  We're always happy to sign them and promise to pack them with love and skip to the post office to send them off - now you won't get that offer from anywhere else!  CLICK HERE to check our bookshelves and place your order.  Thank you!



Sunday, 10 January 2021

Keeping things on the lowdown...

Another year, another lockdown, and we're as fed up and frustrated about it as everyone else, but it is what it is.  As someone who walks, writes and shares photos about our Cumbrian adventures I feel it's important that everything I do and share is in line with... well, I was going to say 'government guidelines' but the reality is those guidelines should be common sense by now.

I'll be honest, I'm running out of patience with the endless debates amongst some of the outdoors community who are quoting and re-quoting their interpretation of government guidelines as if to find a loophole that allows them to race to the top of Scafell Pike.  The way I see it is this: we all know what's going on, by now we all probably know someone who has been affected by the virus, so we all know that even though it's a pain in the ass, the best thing we can do is stay low, stay local and stay safe.

And it's not just me saying that - Mountain Rescue are also facing enormous challenges.  They are all volunteers and many of their members are fronline NHS workers - the last thing they need is to be called out for fully avoidable incidents.  None of us set out with the express aim of having an accident and calling Mountian Rescue, we all think it will never be us, but the reality is that accidents can happen even to the best prepared of folks, but by staying on low, safer, local routes, we can vastly reduce the chances of that happening.

Interesting fact:  Hardknott Pass is technically a national speed limit road.  That means that, if I wanted to, I could tear along it at 60mph - but we all know that's a bad idea.  I should imagine that "But, your Honour, the sign said I could do 60mph!" will carry little merit as a defence after I've embedded my car deep in the Roman fort...  I don't need a sign on every bend telling me precisely what speed I should be doing, instead I will revert to the guidance in the Highway Code that tells me something like I need to be in control of my vehicle at all times and be able to anticpate hazards.  For me, it's the same with this guidance, just because, on a technicality, I could justify a hike up the nearest snowy peak, doesn't mean I should.



I fully appreciate that we are supremely blessed at being locked down in Grange-over-Sands with stunning Morecambe Bay on our doorstep and Hampsfell just across the road, and I never, even for one second, take that for granted but, wherever you are, every walk can be made more interesting and beneficial (I grew up as an urban kid on a council estate so I absolutley know what it's like to live with limited greenery).  To try and help a little, here are my top tips for making every walk more interesting, plus some ideas for those with kids (or those of us who refuse to grow up!)

  • Walk with all 5 senses - take the time to see, hear, smell and touch (where safe) your environment.   Run your hands over a tree  trunk, a wall or a rock.  Take some deep breaths to truly smell the air, listen to your feet and the different noise they make on different surfaces.  Look for the small details on houses, street signs etc.  Taste is tricky at the moment, especially since they reclassified a cup of coffee as a picnic, but take a chocolate with you, pop it in your mouth halfway around, and let it dissolve slowly on your tongue as you take in your surroundings.
  • Spot something different on each walk - make it your mission to find smething new every time you go out - doesn't matter how big or small it is.  We've spotted fossils in the prom wall that we'd never seen before, and noticed dates and initials on different houses. We've also watched closely as the seasons have changed around us and spotted lots of tiny details that we would otherwise have missed.
  • Tool up and do a litter pick.  Obviously we have to be a lot more careful now, but a pair of Marigolds and a bag should see you in good stead; there's still plenty of litter that needs clearing, including far too many face masks blowing around...
  • Make up stories as you go!  I honestly thought that everyone did this, but turns out they don't.  Invent stories about people you pass - maybe they're spies, or brilliant scientists, or a world famous opera singer that you just don't recognise because they have their mask on.  Is that just a tree or is there a door around the other side leading to another world?  Perhaps there's a spaceship inside?  And that hut at the back of the park - just the workman's hut or is it covering the top of a stairway that leads to a secret subterranean hidden world?  Yes, I know it's all a bit bonkers, but it takes your mind off the here and now.
  • Build up a photo story - take a picture in the same place, of the same feature, each time you go out.  Watch how it changes over the months.  It will be great to look back on when you put them all together.
  • If you can get off the beaten track with your kids a little,  collect leaves, twigs, or other bits and pieces to make a collage when you get home.  Or, if you feel more comfortable, photograph them then draw, paint to model them when you get home - and then make up stories about it.
  • Learn about your local history - there are loads of fantstic online local history resources  so have a dig around and learn about your neighbourhood.  Find old photos online and match them up to today's view, find out who built where you live and what was there before.
Please join me in staying low and staying local - I'll only be walking from the door until things change and I'll only share posts on social media where people have done the same.  It feels like forever right now, but I can guarantee that during the summer of 2025, we'll be sat around in a pub garden, enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine with our friends and family, and someone will say "The pandemic?  Wow, I can't believe that was 5 years ago."

And if you have any other ideas and tips for making local walks more interesting, please feel free to share them below!

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Be careful what you wish for...

I feel that 2020 may be all my fault.  One year ago today I wrote this blog about how 2019 had gotten away from me and how my wish was to spend more time at home in 2020.  Boy, did that wish come true.  After a couple of mini adventures in January, February and March, everything screeched to a rather dramatic halt.  I dug out my old work handbag the other day and found my final train ticket in there, dated 12th March 2020 - for someone who used to rack up intergalactic mileage on the trains every year, this has been quite a change of pace.

The mini adventures

Before lockdown hit work took me to Dublin and Littlehampton

Cliff walk near Bray (Dublin)


Littlehampton

As usual, I tagged on some extra time for exploring, which was all very lovely, but still rather at odds with my plan to spend more time at home.

In March, the week before lockdown, we finally got away together in Delores for a week in Clitheroe - it really is a lovely spot and well worth exploring - the sculpture trails alone make it worth the trip.

Sculpture Trail - Clitheroe
Lessons from lockdown

Since March we've barely left Cumbria - we took one trip to Wolverhampton to see my elderly mum during the lockdown reprise over the summer, and a couple of trips to Morecambe for some flat walks after I stuffed my leg in July.  Have I missed all the travelling?  Not one single bit of it.  I have had zero lonely nights in hotels, zero unapetising train picnics, loads more sleep and have spent tons more time with Steve (which I have absolutely loved and I'm hoping he's enjoyed it too! 😁 )

Not that this year has been easy - far from it - we lost our entire income and were firmly in the group that qualified for zero government support - but I'm a stubborn old mule and by working incredibly hard together (another big plus, we have dug deep and worked our collective socks off together this year) we are still here.  As with any tough journey, lessons have been learned along the way, so I thought I'd share the things we've learned during 2020 in case they are of help to anyone else.

  • Focus on "can" not "can't" - I keep banging on about this, but it is absolutely at the heart of everything we do.  There have been an enormous amount of "can'ts" in 2020, but there have been plenty of "cans" too.
  • Ask for help.  Honestly we would not be here if it weren't for each other and the support of family and friends. In April, May and June we had absolutely nothing and I was utterly humbled by the way our friends stepped up to offer help and support, They even sent gin!
  • Learn new things.  We have learned countless new tech platforms this year as we completely reinvented our business.  There were some very long weekends, lots of tears of frustration and several entertaining mishaps - like the time I pressed the wrong button and kicked every single delegate out of a training session mid way through.  Ooops!  We survived though!
  • Set firm boundaries between home and work - if you work from home, that's not always easy, but try changing clothes at the end of the day, going for a 'fake commute walk' before you start and after you finish, hide your work stuff away when you're not using it, and avoid saying "Just this one more email" - it will still be there when you log on tomorrow.
  • Be nice to yourself - we have all had a crap year and we're all feeling pretty fraught just now, so ease up and quit beating yourself up for not living up to your impossibly high standards.  I've always hated the expression 'guilty pleasure' - just take time out to indulge in what you love, whether that's The Times crossword or bingewatching the every episode of Friends.
  • Accept change.  This is a toughie, but things won't magically 'go back to normal' - we've all been changed by this.  One of my favourite quotes on change comes from the "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman: "The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Of course I've also learned to enjoy flat walks, thanks to my slow healing leg, and have enjoyed watching the seasons change on my many (many!) walks along Grange prom.









Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year by buying books, sending gin and/ or buying us a virtual coffee - we really do appreciate it!  Here's hoping 2021 is a little less eventful - and I hope your new year is a peaceful and happy one.


DON'T FORGET - we still have all our books for sale right here - perfect for a virual escape or for planning your next Cumbrian adventure!




Friday, 27 November 2020

10 Great Gift Ideas for lovers of Cumbria

It's that time of year again!  And this year this blog is more important than ever - so many of our wonderful small business are facing massive challenges due to the continuing COVID restrictions - even if they're allowed to open, so many regions near here are in Tier 3 that few people will be able to travel.

BUT we can still support them by shopping online. Trust me, Jeff Bezos won't be worrying about where his Christmas lunch is coming from, or whether he'll still be in business next year, but plenty of small business right across the country will.

Here's my pick of some of the finest gifts and ideas from around Cumbria:

1. Grassmere Gingerbread

How about an absolutely unique taste of the Lake District delivered right to your door?  Grassmere Gingerbread is legendary and as well as tasting great it always arrives perfectly packed too!

Click here to visit Grasmere Gingerbread

2. Go Your Own Way


The guys at GYOW offer a wonderful range of quirky and interesting hand made gifts - everything is made with love and imagination and each gift will be guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of whoever is lucky enough to receive it.


3. Witchmountain Cards & Gifts


Honestly, how pretty are these?  Kim at Witchmountain has a wonderful array of cards, gifts, prints and soft furnishings availbable.  She also offers gift kits and workshops so you can learn to make your own - the perfect gift for your crafty friends!



4. Shed 1 Gin


Zoe and Andy at Shed 1 gin are great friends of ours, which could make you think I'm biased, but it's not just me that loves their gin.  This year they have won another armful of awards, launched their new gin experiences AND found time to support the local community.  Their shop is brimming over with great gift ideas!

Click here to visit the Shed 1 shop

5.  Jo's Little People


At Jo's Little People you can find the perfect little person for anyone in your life - paramedic, bride and groom and a whole host of others, as well as lots of cute little animals to choose from too.  All personally handmade with oodles of love!

Click here to visit Jo's Little People


6.  Unsworths Brewery


So many of us have missed visiting the pub this year, so how about bringing the pub to you?  Unsworth's Brewery were a HUGE support to us when we were writing the Brewers Loop book (out spring 2021) - a bottle of Last Wolf was definitely a big treat for me at the end of a long day!  They have plenty of beers to choose from and they are all made in the heart of Cartmel village.

Click here to visit Unsworth's Brewery

7.  Sam Read Books


Yes, we all know that there's another big website where you can buy books, but how about supporting a local bookseller, selling local books?  Sam Read is in Grasmere village and has been selling books since 1887 - so they know a thing or two about it and would be delighted to give you some expert advice if you're unsure just what to buy.


8.  The Twig Pen People


The lovely folks at The Twig Pen People are also great friends of ours, but I wanted to tell you how they've 'branched out' (you see what I did there?) and now offer lots more gifts!  Take a look at their shop where you'll find a range of gifts, cards, notebooks and, of course, their infamous twigpens!


9.  Top Trumps Birds of the World


You know how hard I try to learn my birds, and you know how I fail...  In my defence, swans and egrets are both white!  These are the prefect way for me to learn more about my birds and have a laugh at the same time, and who doesn't love a good game of Top Trumps?  There are loads of British birds in there too so there will be no excuses for not knowing your house sparrow from your blue tit AND quoting their wingspan to me next time we meet!


10.  Our books


Yes, we still have all our books for sale, and yes, we'd still be delighted to sign them as a Christmas gift.  We offer free postage on orders over £20 and I can personally guarantee that I'll do a happy dance and skip to the post office with each order.  (Video available upon request!)






Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Surprising Hills of South Lakeland

Lockdown, sensible precautions and a stuffed up leg has meant we've been exploring some very different parts of Cumbria recently.  To be fair, we started out in January with the intention of "not walking anywhere we've walked before" and that was all going rather well, up until mid March...  For a few months we kind of stuck to that theme by exploring all the paths we'd never taken through Eggerslack Woods - just over the road from us - then we gradually explored further afield and were about to hit the big hills again when 'leg-gate' stopped me in my tracks.  Literally.

So, low hills and easy toddles have been the order of the day.  The thing that we've noticed is that each time we pop out on the top of a local hillside is how surprised we are with the views.  I completely understand the draw of the high fells, but there is much joy and beauty to be found in the smaller hills, not to mention a lot more peace and quiet.

The other big plus is that many of the smaller hills have benches - very handy for resting dodgy legs as well as making perfect picnic spots.  And on top of all that, there's a lot of limestone in the South Lakes so, even where benches are scarce, there's still somewhere to sit.

Anyway, enough waffle, here are five of our favourite small, local, hills.

Whitbarrow Scar



Whitbarrow Scar was one of the first hills I climbed in the area.  When we were camped up here and looking for a house we were staying nearby and often tootled up to the summit.  There are several routes to the top and, once you're up there, there's a long undulating ridge of craggy limestone with extenstive views of the fells from the northern end and stunning views of Morecambe Bay from the southern tip.  Plus plenty of perfect picnic spots.  Honestly, we love it so much we were even up there on Christmas Day 2019 and enjoyed a turkey sandwich on the top.  Perfect!

Scout Scar


While we're on the subject of scars, the next one along from Whitbarrow is Scout Scar.  The big plus for us this year has been that Scout Scar requires very little effort for very big views.  The car park is an easy walk from the main ridge and many's the time we've stopped off there on the way home from somewhere else to finish our flask of tea on one of the perfectly positioned benches.  It's also 'juniper central' with dozens of juniper bushes scattered around the limestone scrub.  It's a popular local walk but there are plenty of criss-crossing footpaths and wide open spaces, so plenty of room for everyone. 

Hoad Hill


Certainly the most popular of all the hills in this blog, but it's the only one that has a scale replica of a lighthouse on it, so how can I miss it out?  The thing with The Hoad is that most folks go up and down the same route at the front, which is all well and good as the views are superb, but they miss out on a very lovely, and gentle, descent around the back.  Honestly, it's really easy to spot on an OS map and very easy to follow - it will lead along a lovely enclosed path and past a fabulously detailed infoboard telling you all you need to know about the area.  Not that my life revolves around tea and cake, but around the foot of the pepperpot (as it's known locally) there is plenty of seating so you can put your feet up and enjoy the view.

The Helm


Sorry for the rubbish photo, but the weather was very grey that day.  The views, however, were still stunning!  The Helm is tucked away to the south east of Kendal, just above Oxenholme (look for the station on the map and you'll soon spot The Helm!).  There's limited parking along the tiny road alond the base of the hill and plenty of paths leading up to the summit.  Once up there the panoramic views will definitely take you by surprise - even on a cloudy day there were perfect moody views of the Langdale Pikes, the Howgills, Hutton Roof Crags and Morecambe Bay.  I'd have to mark it down for picnic spots, but with Kendal on your doorstep you'll not be far from tea and cake.

Dixon Heights



Remember the end of lockdown, when everyone went a bit nuts and Cumbria was absolutely rammed with people?  Well, we went off for a full day hike around Dixon Heights (just before I stuffed my leg).  It's just above Lindale and is open access land with plenty of paths as well as lots of opportunities to make your own route.  We spent over 6 hours wandering around in the sunshine, enjoyed a long lazy lunch and generally had a fabulous time and didn't see another soul all day. Call me antisocial but, for me, that was pretty much a perfect day.


We absolutely LOVE exploring hidden away corners and finding out more about them.  There are loads of great stories and ideas for places to visit in our books - please feel free to browse our bookshelves here.  I know they are available elsewhere online, but we are a small local business and would really appreciate your support. Thank you.



Friday, 11 September 2020

How the other half live

North Walney

“Will this do for a lunch spot?”  Amanda pointed towards a nice sandy spot in the middle of the dunes.

“Looks good to me!” Chris smiled and slipped off the tatty old backpack, depositing it onto the sand with a gentle thud.

“Eeewww – sweaty back!”

“I can’t help it, it’s a hot day – oooh that feels nice.” Chris’s t-shirt billowed out as a cool breeze caught it. 

Amanda was already busy unpacking the picnic – sandwiches, tea, cake – she lined them up in the sand between them.  “Where are the crisps?”

“Front pocket”

“Got them!”

They sat together eating lunch and taking in the view.  On a clear sunny day like this North Walney had a hint of the Caribbean about it, with light sandy beaches stretching off into the distance and sparkling blue sea surrounding the dunes. 

An aeroplane passed overhead, descending on its way into the local airport.

Chris squinted into the sky, staring intently at the plane.  “A Gulfstream G500 – nice.  Very nice.”

“You are such a plane nerd!” teased Amanda.

“That,” said Chris “is one of the most exclusive private jets in the world.  The whole of the interior is lined with leather and wood, with made to measure seats – it even has marble floors; and all for just £44 million or so, depending on the finish.”

“Forty four million pounds?”  Amanda watched as it flew by.  “ I think I just saw a face at the window – couldn’t see who it was, must be someone famous.  Imagine having all that money.  You’d never have to worry about paying the mortgage again, or fixing the car.”  She pulled at the sleeve of her t-shirt, studying a fresh hole that had appeared there that morning.

“I’m sure they have their own worries.”

“Yeah, but money wouldn’t be one of them!”  The plane disappeared out of sight behind the dunes and down into the airport.  “What would you do if we had that sort of money?”

“It’s almost impossible to say – I can’t really imagine it.  We could get a swimming pool for a start, although I’m not sure where we’d put it.”

Amanda snorted “Where would we put it?  With that sort of money we could get a whole new house!  I’m thinking two pools, one indoor and one out!”

Chris poured another mug of tea from their blue flask, battered and chipped with the scars of previous adventures. “We could get a bigger flask too! Or push the boat out and get two!”

“Sod the flasks – we could fly to India and buy our own tea plantation!  We’d make sure all the workers were well paid and looked after, of course.”

“Of course” Chris smiled.

“And we could buy a massive woodland somewhere and protect it – but still let people come and visit so they could see the birds.  Maybe we could have a café with the best cakes in the world – I know, we’ll get Mary Berry in to bake them all!”

“I’m not sure she’d agree…”

“Of course she would, she must be bored now she’s not on Bake Off any more.”

“And just how do you plan to get all of this money?  Got a rich relative you’ve not told me about?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  We could buy a lottery ticket on the way home.  I’m feeling lucky!”  Amanda snuggled up next to Chris who draped a protective arm around her shoulder, pulling her in close.

Chris kissed the top of her head and smiled. “I think we’re both pretty lucky as it is. Do you want the last swig of tea?” and handed Amanda the mug.

****************

The plane taxied to a halt.  Princess Margareta uncrossed her elegant legs and slowly stood up; she smoothed down the creases in her white linen skirt and walked over to the mirror in the private bathroom suite.  Peering at her reflection she twisted her head to see if any grey hairs were showing, then stretched the skin around her eyes to hide the few wrinkles which had begun to grow there.

“You look gorgeous.”

She turned to smile at Sarah, stood in the doorway.

“You always say that.”

 “Short red power jacket or comfy green coat?” Sarah held up the two options for Margareta to choose from.

“Let’s go with the red, I need all the help I can get today.”

Sarah hung the green coat on the back of the door and handed over the red jacket.

Taking the jacket with one hand, Margareta brushed a hair from Sarah’s face with the other, allowing it to rest for a moment on her cheek as their eyes met. 

Sarah reached up and covered Margareta’s hand with her own, pressing it closer to her cheek, before removing it from her face and gently kissing her palm.

Margareta sighed. “I am so tired of this.  Why can’t I just be me?  Why can’t we be together like normal people?”

“Because we just can’t.  It is what it is. Can you imagine the headlines?  I could never do that to you or your family.”

“Times were different when we first met, I could understand it back then, but the world has moved on, surely they would accept us now?”  She squeezed Sarah’s hand, still locked tightly in her own.

“The press would have a field day.  ‘Gay Princess Never Loved Late Husband’ –  that’s just what they’re like.  Archie was a good man, we both know that.”

Margareta sighed. “You’re right; I know you are, it just feels so unfair.  Did you see those two women on the beach as we flew over just now?  Cuddled up close, enjoying a picnic in the sunshine and not a care in the world.”  She let go of Sarah’s hand and slipped on the red jacket, scooping her hair out from under the collar and allowing it to tumble around her shoulders. “What I wouldn’t give to be just like them – we could go anywhere and do anything and no one would give a damn.”

“I know, but we still have so much.”

Margareta sighed and gently kissed Sarah’s cheek.  They stood for a moment, foreheads touching, no words needed. Then, turning, she took a deep breath, pulled back her shoulders and made her way to the plane exit.

She paused at the cabin door, looking backwards to Sarah for one last reassuring glance.  Sarah bobbed out her tongue causing Margareta to giggle, before quickly composing herself.  She then fixed her smile and stepped out of the aircraft and into the bright sunshine to greet the officials awaiting her arrival on the tarmac.


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