'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

If you've come here looking for pictures of a camp Roman soldier - click on this link

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bulletins From Beyond The North-West

We're off for a week in Torridon - a place this blog has praised again and again. More News on return. In the meantime, on a clear day, you may be able to spot us on this web-cam

Friday, August 25, 2006

Dark Blondes

Cumbrian blogging has just got a lot more weird with the arrival of The Dark Blonde. Bizarre births, universal ladyboys & Wordsworthian cross-dressing can be found therein. I commend it to the readership.

A Doctor Writes . . .

The latest from Channel 4 News - top doctors in 'Mount Everest really quite high' shocker. Apparently those attempting to climb in the Himayalas run some risk of finding themselves at high altitude. The last thing they could have anticipated . . .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Funicu-La Funico-No

There's something deeply deeply wrong about the Cairngorm Funicular Railway that takes eager tourists up the side of Britain's 6th highest mountain, to a point about 120 metres beneath the summit. It's not just that it's an environmental disaster or an offence against good taste - the transport caff naffness of the Ptarmigan Restaurant where old Bee-Gees hits play non-stop is deliciously retro in its own very special way. It's the sheer effrontery by which its operators present it as having something to contribute to the management of the environment, including a voluntary £1 'carbon deficit' donation solicited from anyone driving their car up to the lower station.
Clearly the most desirable environmental consequence would have been if the operators had chosen not to build it in the first place. Though if just one of the obese hordes of T-shirt clad trippers are inspired to walk back up in designer Goretex the next time, I suppose it might be possible to claim the whole thing was worthwhile. On the other hand . . .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

3 Years On

A major anniversary: 3 years ago, on 15th August 2003, I signed a career break agreement with my former employers, the Cosmo-Demonic Airline, before departing to Cumbria to write fiction. The agreement expires at midnight tonight. Like Jim Hawkins, wild horses could not drag me back there. Life in Cumbria is altogether too good to contemplate a return to Heathrow. So it's so long suckers . . . and good luck with sorting out the 10,000 short-shipped bags you're currently struggling to reunite with their owners.

locus amoenus

Seen on the road north today, just over the border:
Welcome to Dumfries & Galloway - the natural place
Leaving aside consideration of the six-man copyrighting team who worked for 3 months to come up with that strapline, this begs the obvious question the natural place for what, exactly?
And if Dumfries & Galloway's the natural place, then where exactly is the unnatural place?
Dr Biswell reckons that it's probably somewhere in Manchester, but if you've got a better suggestion, please make with the comments . . .

Monday, August 14, 2006


I'm off up to The Deep North for a few days, as guest of the Lady Novelist and the Northern Professor. Which means even less frequent posting upon this blog, though it is possible word may reach these pages of adventures up there. If not, while I'm gone the Renaissance Man may entertain you with his pronounced views on Cumbrian life . . .

Are We Being Ironic Yet?

Satire's not dead - it's just not feeling very well. Driving out of Carlisle on the A595 this morning, not far from Morton School, I noticed that some idiot suburbanite has inflicted his taste in exterior decoration on the luckless populace. A 1930s suburban semi is now adorned with two pitch-black Hollywood High-Concept Gothique dragon's-head door stops, while above the front door are painted the words Fir Kew Hall. Laugh? I thought I'd never start . . .

Friday, August 11, 2006

Make No Mistake

The perfectionists amongst us will notice that inevitably a small mitsake will get posted with every blog. Why is it, that no matter how much we proof read, a word in the wrong place with a correct spelling will be missed. Have I become autistic or is it something to do with typing/use of the PC? Yesterday I typed good instead of could and your instead of you.
A thought! Wouldn't it be more accurate to spell mistake as mitsake? And why is dyslexia such a difficult word to spell?

Advertisement For Myself

A small pleasure: yesterday morning a courier arrived bearing a presentation copy of the new Chambers Dictionary, 10th edition, to which I contributed some expertise in IT-related words. Coincidentally, its Introduction is by the Greatest Living Cumbrian, who occasionally resides a few miles up the road from here. The Dictionary is a beautiful production, and whether you're curious to know the meaning of jobernowl, fizgig and wallydrag or simply wish to treat the logophile in your life, you can buy a copy by clicking here. It is not, as the saying goes, a book to be cast aside lightly. Indeed if you're elderly or infirm I'd caution against trying to pick it up in the first place. But it will provide hours of pleasurable browsing for the curious mind. One can only regret the absence of an index.

The Rise & Fall Of A Small Market-Town

Nearby Cockermouth is a town in flux. When I returned to Cumbria I was surprised to find that the small market town of my youth boasted more decent restaurants and cafes than most such settlements, its tree-lined main street was a continental pleasure and elegant Kirkgate an architectural gem. Then a major supermarket chain opened for business on the site of the former livestock market, and the psychological geography of the town entered a period of mild neurosis. Small locally owned shops went under or changed their character. The fishmonger closed down & fastfood outlets multiplied. Four years on the process is continuing. The formerly excellent Station Street deli Number XVI has turned into a rather naff alimentary gifte shoppe. But worst of all the wonderful Roots & Fruits, a one-off greengrocer's sourcing produce from local farms, has gone under entirely. Walking past its former site today I noticed it has been replaced by a financial services adviser, specialising in that essential aspect of Lake District life, the 'buy to let' market. O tempora! O mortgages!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Just a minute Clement - you are listing again.

And so! It’s the ragged end of summer. No two days the same. The grass is reluctant to grow, except for tall weeds forced from the cracks in the yard, their sustenance sucked from below.

Tuesday I drove back from Leeds and on a whim took the road via Lakeland Plastics, The Duck Feeding Pier, The World of Football, The Indonesian Furniture Warehouse, The William and Dorothy Wordsworth car park..........stuck in the train of cars behind the Mountain Goat Japanese Tourist Bus Company to Fleece Central (Keswick). At least the Japanese see the lakes and the mountains, albeit framed in their cellphone/ digi-camera/ mp3 screens. The queue outside the Pitlochry cardigan centre to root through the sale offerings was impressive.
I resolve to not go to the Lakes in August BUT to set fire to the World of Football and a curio shop and an outdoor clothing shop (or two) and the Stars of the Cars and any paintings of rocks by artists with inflated opinions of their own talent (though how would they know? - good point.. but hell I’m beyond caring). Clement you are listing. Surely this should be an interruption rule in 'Just a Minute'? I digress.
Somehow we must subvert what the Lake District tourist experience has become. How come I never noticed the tatty and sordid parts before? Has it been a sudden change? Maybe, when the development agencies have finished improving Blackpool, the tourists could go there and we could remediate the Lake District. I’m sure that Environmental Protection Act would insist on the removal of all ‘contaminated’ land. I’d start with the soil beneath The World of Football.
I bought some nice cleaning products in Lakeland Plastics by the way.