With the new school year just about to begin I decided, at quite short notice, to take myself off to the Lake District for a few days. I’d been working on an art project involving torn maps and so I’d been going around the local charity stores to buy ordinance suvey maps I could tear up. A few of them happened to be maps of the Lake District, and as I used them in my torn paper art project I saw that several were of the Lake District. I’d first gone there as an 18 month old, and stayed in a converted bus with my parents. This memory is my first memory and when I described the inside of the bus to my parents much much later, not believing that it could possibly be correct, my mum had assured me that it was right. The bus had been converted into a caravan and I remember my dad saying that if I didn’t stop crying the Old Man of Coniston would come – and sure enough he tapped on the door soon afterwards! (The Old Man of Coniston is the name of the extict volcano that overshadows the small town!) My mum had spent some very happy happy times in the Lake District with various hiking groups and I have photos of her at Youth Hostels there in the late 1940’s.
The first vacation I had with just my mum was Youth Hostelling in the Lake District when I was 14, I think. Somewhere in a storage unit in California is my journal that trip! Then in 1984 Colin and I hiked the western half of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk, hiking over some of the toughest terrain in England from Richmond to St Bees – yes, over Striding Edge on Helvellyn and up to the top of Great Gable. Again, we’d stayed at Youth Hostels.
So on this trip I was to stay in an independent hostel, though on inquiry I was told that it had once been Kendal Youth Hostel. It’s part of a collection of buildings in the centre of the town that had once been a brewery. It’s now an arts centre, cinema, theatre, exhibition area, bar and cafe – and hostel in an imposing Georgian house. The perfect spot for me! Though it had taken me three trains to get from Hebden Bridge to Kendal it had only taken three hours, and I kept wondering why, in the almost two years that I’ve now been back in England, I hadn’t been up to the Lake District before.
The covered entryway, part of a network of over 100 alleys leading off the main street traditionally to artisan workshops. Many of these alleys have buildings above them, and are now colorfully painted with street scenes, portraits, pop icons – you name it, it’ll be there. It all reminded me of the place Rachel and I stayed at in Iceland where the alley was painted with a giant kitty and ball of wool.
My room had a lovely view of the arts centre and garden, and I hoped that before I left I’d be able to sit and admire the garden. As it was, it had rained incessantly on my journey and the sky was heavily laden with more rain clouds. I’d been sent the check-in code and my room number through the AirBnb site and when I arrived I had the whole place to myself. There are 16 rooms, a large dining room, self catering kitchen, with free tea, coffee, milk, and a nice lounge with TV, snooker table and piano. Oh yes, and also a lovely kitty who visited me in my room from time to time!
I unpacked, had a cup of tea and set out to explore Kendal. Nothing was familiar, though I think I had been there with my mum.
I wandered through several of the artisan yards, wishing for better light for photos, explored a shopping area called Wainwright’s yard after the man who wrote ‘the’ book that we’d followed on our coast to coast adventure, and soon I found myself by the river Kent, one of the fastest flowing rivers in England. The tapestry museum was close by and Jane had recommended that I take a peek. I had expected a collection of tapestries, ie woven designs, but this was tapestry as in Bayeux tapestry – embroideries. “Journey through the Quaker influence on the modern world: explore the industrial revolution, developments in science and medicine, astronomy, the abolition of slavery, social reform, and ecology; and delight in the detail of the stunning needlework and the craftsmanship involved in its creation.” 77 panels, 15 years and 4000 people were involved in this. What impressed me the most about the work was the sense of movement in the panels, both in people’s clothing and in the furs of the animals depicted. I would love to take a lesson (a distinct possibility) and learn the stitches involved to make such flowing images. Beside these cross stitch seems very angular.
Dinner was a Chinese take away from a shop along the street and later as the lights came on at the arts centre it all looked very pretty from my room. I’d discovered that Mrs Lowry and Son, a film that I wanted to see, was playing at the arts centre the following night, and on Thursday night a well know standup comedian was performing. I booked a ticket for the movie and was added to the waiting list for Ardal O’hanion who made his name staring in Father Ted, a program beloved by many Brits, but one I’d never watched.