Monday, 23 May 2011

There's a thousand things I should be doing right now...

But isn't that always the way?  To be honest there's not so much excitement in my life right now so there's not so much to write about, but still it seems a shame not to keep tabs on what's been going on.  I think it's fair to say that the honeymoon is over weather-wise!  When we got the keys to the house the weather treated us to a glorious few weeks of sun, I even became convinced that Grange really was the "Torquay of the north" (as someone told me), but over the past week or so the weather has reverted to what I assume is more normal and today, as I type, there's a gale blowing outside and rain lashing against the windows - perfect spring weather.

Since living here we've been getting used to the pace of life, it's definitely a lot slower than down south.  We need our driveway sorting so contacted the local builder for a quote, he came and took a look right away but we're still waiting on the quote - that was nearly 4 weeks ago.  Then we contacted the local tree surgeon regarding some out of control trees in the garden, he promised to get back to us - that was over 2 weeks ago.  Even when I needed the garden shears sharpening (not something I've ever done before moving here) I went to the shop in town with the big sign outside telling me I could get my 'Tools Sharpened Here' - but apparently that part of the business has been closed for over 2 years and they just haven't gotten around to taking the sign down yet.  Undeterred I headed for the next village and found out it will take over a week to get them done.  I'm not complaining at all, in fact I rather like the laid back approach to it all (although the drive really does need doing quite soon), but it does take some getting used to.  Shopkeepers will usually stay and chat a while, even if there's a queue, and the only people who appear to get wound up are the tourists, it really is a lovely way of life once you get used to it.

Grizedale - I swear there's a red squirrel in thispic
We've also been getting out and about.  Since I last wrote we've explored Grizedale Forest, including a short hike up Carron Crag.  Grizedale Forest looks like an excellent place to take the bikes back to once the apocalyptic deluge has finished (hmmm - maybe the Rapture *did* happen on Friday and Satan has figured out the best way to torture the British is with wet rainy weather?).  We've also set ourselves a target of a "Wainwright a week" but we are including all of his walks here and not just the really big hikes so there shouldn't really be any reason why we can't achieve it.  We worked out that if we did one major Wainwright peak a month it would take us nearly 18 years to complete them all, you have to admire the man and everything that he achieved.  We've no interest in simply "bagging" the peaks; we're more interested in using the books to make sure we discover the whole Lake District and not just the main tourist bits.  We've also signed up for historical town walks and a hike across Morecambe Bay, so we really are doing our best to immerse ourselves into Cumbrian life and culture - though hopefully we don't get too immersed on the cross bay walk.

View from the quarry on the Old Man
Last weekend we headed for the Old Man of Coniston as I've a big soft spot for the lake and wanted to get a better view of it.  The walk starts out well enough; a very pleasant stroll along the beck out of Coniston but then quickly gathers momentum after a major intersection of paths.  The last part is part walk and part scramble as you make your way to the trig point at the top.  Luckily for me we stopped for a breather close to the summit and got a magnificent view of the entire lake below us.  I say 'luckily' because by the time we reached the summit the clouds had descended and there was nothing to see, still we sat huddled behind a wall in a howling gale eating our pies and bracing ourselves for the hike back to the car.  On the way down the heavens opened and we got to try out our waterproofs properly for the first time, by the time we got back to the car everything was dripping wet, but we were still warm and dry underneath it all.  Not sure I'd ever set out for a hike in torrential rain, but I certainly won't worry about getting caught out now - the only thing that was sodden were our gloves and they soon dried out when we got home.

As for Monty, well he's pretty much back to his old self now and wandering in and out of the house again, although we have noticed he doesn't tend to go too far these days and he actually comes when he's called - not something he's ever done before, so maybe he learned a few useful lessons on his big adventure.

Anyway, one or two of those "thousand" things I mentioned earlier really do now require my attention, so as the rain hammers down against my windows I shall wish you a "Happy Monday" and here's to next week's Bank Holiday!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Return of the Prodigal Cat

Did you miss me?

Yes, we have killed the fatted Whiskas!  The good news is that Monty finally returned home exactly 2 weeks after he left and we are, of course, utterly delighted.  All he's done since he got back is to eat and sleep, but he's been given a clean bill of health by the vet so we just need to look after him while he regains his weight and generally recovers.  He was covered in tics and very thin when he got back, but appeared otherwise fine, and over the past day or so we've begun to see signs of his old mischevious self returning so not long now until we can put this whole thing behind us.  Where he went is anyone's guess but the top theory is that he first helped the Easter Bunny out with his deliveries then headed down to London for the wedding and a party at the palace before joining a covert US military mission somewhere near Islamabad - but of course he's saying nothing.  Military training and all that.

Ullswater from Howtown
He now enjoys a sort of celebrity status in Grange-over-Sands as everyone knows about him and has been watching out for him.  When Steve went to take the posters down he was continually stopped by people asking if Monty was OK and whenever we've met new people we've been able to introduce ourselves as the people who lost the cat.  In fact I've just got back from the Docs (where I've been diagnosed with a shocking case of shin splints) and when he asked if I'd been doing more hill walking than normal I began my reply with "well, you know that cat that went missing..." and he completely understood.  I've now been grounded alongside Monty for at least the duration of this weekend - boo hiss!.  I would like to add that if anyone reading this is unfortunate enough to lose a pet I can strongly recommend the people at Animal Search UK - absolutely amazing support and lovely people too.

A hidden away lake - but which one..?
It's hard to remember what else we've been up to since the last post - most of it has involved looking for a cat - but inbetween times we found time to sneak off and discover more of our wonderful surroundings.  We took a drive up to Glenridding last week then caught the steamer to Pooley Bridge and walked the whole way back along Ullswater.  A stunning walk, but a little longer than expected, my overly optimistic view of how far we could walk in an afternoon was largely to blame, but it was a glorious afternoon and we stopped for a picnic along the way - and isn't that what adventures are all about?  We also had another adventure back at Rannerdale where we actually got to see the bluebells in full flower this time, if you're ever in the Lakes in bluebell season it's somewhere you really must try and see.

Rannerdale Bluebells
Talking about people visiting the Lakes we've been quite puzzled by the movement of tourists around the area.  Cumbria is the third largest county in England, each year we get somewhere in the region of 12 million visitors and pretty much all of them head for the same places - Bowness, Ambleside, Keswick, Glenridding and Scafell Pike.  No wonder they think the place is crowded!  You can barely breathe in Bowness on a sunny Sunday but a short drive away you can find yourself next to a peaceful lake with barely another soul in sight.  I can't quite understand why people pour out of cities at the weekends to escape the "hustle and bustle" then all wedge themselves into the same small lakeland towns.  Of course I'll not mention here where all the best spots are because then everyone will go there instead and they won't be the best spots any more will they?  Mind you, most people seem of the opinion that a day out isn't complete without a trip around the shops and as most of my favourite spots don't have shops, I'm probably quite safe.

We've even started to give our own names to places, there's so many peaks around here that it's hard to remember which is which was you go by, so we've invented a few of our own.  As you drive along Thirlmere (a truly gorgeous lake but one that just gets driven past as people whiz from Ambleside to Keswick) if you look up you can spot "thumps up mountain" sitting just behind it, the top of which looks for all the world like a hand giving a thumbs up sign.  Maybe when I discover the real name for the peak I'll find out that it's an ancient norse translation of "thumbs up"...  There's also the memorable path we took down from Rannerdale Knott, which wasn't really a path at all and which I came down largely on my backside, earning it the nickname "Bum Plummet".  Steve came up with that one and I think it's truly one of the finest names for a descent I've ever heard and I may well mention it to the chaps at the Ordinance Survey.

So here we are back at the weekend again.  Luckily for me the weather forcast is pretty grim which means I won't be chomping at the bit quite so much to get out and about and my leg may just get the time it needs to heal.  Or is it 'heel' when it's shin splints?  Either way I am destined to drive Steve to distraction as I have the patience and attention span of a gnat and am not at all easy company when I'm confined to quarters.  Perhaps I'd better behave in case he takes a leaf out of Monty's book and heads off into the woods for a few days to escape me, although I'm pretty sure I could lure him back quite quickly with a bowl of custard.  Hmmm - I wonder if those nice people at Animal Search UK can help finding lost husbands..? Worth a go, although until I get him microchipped there's probably not a lot they can do to help.