This was to be my day to explore Kendal itself but the unexpected sunshine made me want to jump onto an open top bus. But I stuck to my plans – at least for the morning. I chatted to the owner and her daughter – the first time I’d met them. She’s planning a trip to Las Vegas and I recommended she read the book that I recently finished: Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas.
I decided to visit the church – which is ‘not to be missed’ according to the Trails of the Unexpected. It’s one of the widest parish churches in England. To one side is the Parr chapel, built in the 14th century. A tomb with a much disfigured marble effigy is reputed to be that of Catherine Parr’s grandfather.
Behind the locked door of the rood screen was a very old bible, complete with its chain and an ancient bible box. It’s possible that this bible belonged to Catherine Parr herself. The light in the church at this early hour was wonderful, casting wonderful colours through the stained glass windows onto the stone floor.
I was struggling to get a good place to take photos of the bible from when the assistant priest came over and offered to go and find the key so that I could get into the small chamber. Very obliging. The helmet hanging above the Vestry door could have belonged to a member of the Bellingham family, but tradition has it that it was the helmet of Robert Philipson (Robin, the Devil) knocked off his head after riding into the Church one Sunday on his horse in pursuit of his enemy, Colonel Briggs, and being chased out of a lower door by the congregation.
I decided to follow one of the online Trails of the Unexpected and set off towards the castle. Though set on a hilltop you can’t see the castle from the town because of the all the trees on the hill slopes. The first part of my walk passed through an enormous cemetery, one of the largest I’ve seen
, and then climbed steadily upwards, still through dense forest so it wasn’t until I reached the now dry moat that the remains of the castle came into view.
I saw people preparing for the big art installation of giant inflatable figures that would be displayed and floodlit around the castle and was sorry that I’d miss the actual event which starts tomorrow. A couple of families were exploring the grounds with its rampart which is almost two metres wide in places. The old wine cellars with their arches ceilings are still in place. From the top of the tower I could see distant hills but the area around Kendal itself is very flat and I wondered why the castle hill exists. Thankfully an explanation board answered my query. It is a drumlin – scoured by glaciers. I still remember my O level geography, at least the physical. I found that I was much more in touch with the feeling of history in this place since I was alone, rather than chatting to someone as I explored.
Back in town I crossed the bridge over the river Kent and saw some inviting looking tables on the river’s edge. Tea and a toasted teacake beckoned. I didn’t reckon with the wasps though! It was obviously a popular place with mums of preschoolers and 6 baby buggies were parked outside.
I followed the Riverwalk, which is an ancient track though now it’s lined with ugly 1960’s flats and made my way to the Abbot Hall Art Gallery. The exhibition I’d come to see was ‘Ruskin, Turner and The Storm Cloud’ which I’d missed seeing in York by one day. Now, on this trip, I’d already been immersed in Ruskin and Turner for several days, including visiting Ruskin’s house, playing his piano, and seeing his collection of Turner’s paintings.
Dr Richard Johns, from the University of York’s Department of History of Art and co-curator of the ‘Ruskin, Turner, and The Storm Cloud’ exhibition, said: “Taking Ruskin’s ‘Storm Cloud’ as a point of departure, this new exhibition explores the importance of the work of JMW Turner for Ruskin’s understanding of the natural world.With Turner’s vibrant landscapes running through his mind, Ruskin encouraged his audiences to pay close attention to the world around them, and to consider the impact of human actions on the environment at a local and global level.”
I returned to the hostel to decide what to do for the remains of the day. It was now 3 o’clock as I set off again determined to get an open top bus when it wasn’t pouring down.
I decided that my destination should be Bowness-on-Windermere, perhaps the most touristy town close by. And sure enough the boat launching area was packing with people taking advantage of the dry weather.
There were lots of food stands and bars and I contemplated taking a short 45 boat trip. However, while on the bus I’d had a call from the Kendal Theatre to say that there was now a ticket available for the stand up comedy show that I had been on the waiting list for. So I headed back to Kendal, collected a frozen lasagne from Iceland and after dinner headed over the 20 steps to the Arts Centre. I’d no idea who I was seeing, but a sign in the foyer told that this was the last of 4 shows today and that tomorrow he’d be doing 7 shows! It was crowded as I waited for the doors to open and collect a beer that had actually been brewed at that brewery. I’d certainly lucked out on my seat – second row. I asked the man sitting next to me where the performer was from.
“Ireland, of course! Don’t you know him? ” I shook my head. “It’s the star from Father Ted – Father Dougal.” Now I’d heard of Father Ted, a British sitcom about 2 catholic priests (1995-1998) and so I just about knew who he was talking about, Ardal O’Hanion. As I chatted to my neighbour he mentioned places that he’d visited around the world. ” Think I’m getting too old for Machu Picchu,” he quipped. I really enjoyed Arlan’s humour. He was trying out new material for a world tour beginning in the Spring. Part of it centred on Bucket lists, and how young people as well as old now make bucket lists, though young people often prefer to go glamping than traditional camping on the cheap. My favourite line of his is that rather than make a bucket list, he’s made a Fuck-it list; Learn Mandarin? Fuck-it. Climb Macchu Picchu? Fuck-it! It was great fun . . .and I was back in the hostel to catch the latest Brexit mess: Boris Johnson’s brother resigned.