'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Real Life Interrupts This Blog

Very occasionally real life intrudes into this blog. This does not mean, please note, that the posts here are fiction - on the contrary they're personal reports on the charms, novelties, thrills and oddities of life in Cumbria. What they don't contain is very much about my own emotional or creative life - a deliberate decision taken at the start of this blog. However, News From Beyond is now on the move. I'm about to shack up with 'V' (as she's known in this blog). Which means that over the next ten days I'm moving house and reports of the process, for all sorts of reasons, will be few and infrequent. Expect posts about the rich and varied experience of Cumbrian life to resume sometime around the beginning of November - but by then the hurly burly of the Arkleby boheme will have been left behind for the deep pleasures of Beghan domesticity . . .

Bah Humbug Revisited

In the midst of Saturday night dinner at V's the doorbell rings. It's the first Trick-Or-Treaters of the year, a mere 10 days before Hallowe'en. How did we manage to evade their attentions for so long? Purely in the interests of keeping our cars unvandalised we sent them off with some small tokens. Debate now rages as to what would be appropriate for future importuning so far ahead of All Hallows. Laxative chocolates is the best we can come up with, but if readers have better suggestions, please make with the comments.
Note to international readers - Trick or Treat is a relatively recent novelty in the UK, its introduction being a mark of the relentless Americanisation of British culture (deplorable, imho, but American friends may like to convince me otherwise . . .)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Cumbrian Oil Rush?

Although inland, we have a spectacular view of the Solway Firth, and this afternoon, returning from a walk, I was astonished to see what looked like a four-mast ship of the line sailing up the middle of the firth. On closer examination, using the stylish naval telescope sported by my father at the Battle of the Atlantic, the object turned out to be an enormous eight-towered drilling rig, towed in stately fashion by a tug, somewhere midway between Maryport and the Galloway coast. This location suggests that it's there to begin work on the Robin Rigg windfarm. The Renaissance Man reckons that it's conducting a geological survey in anticipation of the Cumbrian oil-rush. Either could be true. If anybody can shed light, please comment . . .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The High Road To The Far West

Our return from the Canny Toon on Sunday afternoon took us along the A69 - Britain's sexiest highway - and over the high moors of the Pennines a mile or so south of Hadrian's Wall. As I've blogged before, this is a wonderfully bleak, beautifully desolate landscape, a genuine Empty Quarter of Britain. On this occasion our return to the west was made unutterably spectacular by the weather. It had been an unseasonably hot, balmy day back in Cumbria and as we drove west we saw the sun directly before us, hanging low above the road, a perfect red disc, enormously pendant, gloriously ablaze through the hazy air, as if it was the sole destination and object of our travelling.

Send In the Army. With Machine-Guns.

Cockermouth Town Council have put up the town's Christmas decorations today. Ermm, Ho Ho Ho . . .

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Canny Toon Revisited

We spent yesterday over in the Canny Toon, mostly at the Sage, Gateshead, from which we had a splendid view of a group of young Geordies abseiling from the side of the Tyne Bridge. We watched for some time, but sadly none of them obliged us by plunging to their deaths, so we had to look elsewhere for entertainment. We found this in the excellent Newcastle Discovery Centre - a free museum devoted to the history of the Canny Toon and its surroundings. Unfortunately, they've got a slightly shakey grip on the fundamentals of ancient history (Hadrian's Wall wasn't 'built to protect England from the Scots', Christianity didn't 'become the official religion of the Roman Empire in 312AD') but the galleries devoted to more recent events were rather good. If you must spend a day in Newcastle, you could do a lot worse . . .

Talkin' 'Bout A Reiverlution

At least that was what it said on a large improvised banner hanging by the side of the road into Carlisle early on Sunday morning. Are the debatable lands becoming ungovernable? Personally I doubt it, but I'm assuming that Piers may be able to shed some light on this enigmatic message.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Return Of The Small Beast

Readers may be interested to know that the Agricultural Graffiti Artists of Arkleby seem to have been at it again. Out in the fields Sheep-Fighting Man's flock now sport their autumnal identity markings - a splash of nicotine-stain yellow and a red or blue number sprayed upon their sides. So far we've managed to spot '35' and '44' (which is curious, because there's only 20-odd beasts in the field). The search is on for '66' or, better still, '666'. We'll keep you informed if any rough beasts slouch up to the bathroom window . . .

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wedding Preparations In the Country

To Surrey on Saturday to celebrate the nuptials of my cousin's daughter. These took place at a big posh hotel in what used to be known as the stockbroker belt before the stockbrokers moved to Docklands and the Cayman Islands. It was a beautiful day and for reasons never satisfactorily explained there was a row of eight Morgan sports cars lined up in the hotel carpark. One crashed Porsche & a damaged Ferrari later, the nuptials passed off without incident. For some reason they took place in the rather alarmingly-named 'Lytton Strachey Suite'. When the just-cause-or-impediment moment came I was half-expecting someone to leap out and attempt to place themselves between the bride and groom. Thankfully, no-one did. Long life and happiness to Richard & Zoe.

Boy Racers

Note to the person driving the red Fiesta at 85 mph south of Penrith on the M6 on Saturday morning. Your habit of veering backwards and forwards across three lanes of traffic without signalling, so that you could take each curve and bend as tightly as possible, was a unique & challenging contribution to contemporary road safety.
Get a life.
Then turn yourself over to Cumbria Constabulary while you're still in possession of it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Traits . Do you have traits?

I stayed in Glasgow this week and did some people watching as I was dining solo. R-woman says that me dining solo is a good thing due to my inability to 'hit the mouth'. At the next table a family celebratory dinner was about to take place. The father ushered everybody to their seats and then prepared to make a wee address to the gathering. I was forced to listen. He thanked his family for their attendance at his wife, Margaret's birthday supper. He droned on in a middle class Glaswegian accent, which I will not attempt to phoneticise(?) but think Taggart. He had known Margaret for 46 years and they had been married 44 years. 40 of those years had been very happy .. but 4 (he didn't specify which 4) had been less so. However things were now satisfactory and he hoped that they would continue to be happy, now that he had gotten used to her traits. The dinner went by in silence. I can only assume that one of Margaret's traits was the strange look she gave her man.
Retired to my room in search of Zantac.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Career Opportunities

To St Bees, accompanying V's elder daughter to her school's careers fair. This being West Cumbria, the careers most visibly on offer involved the nuclear industry in some shape or form. I soon found myself talking to someone who turned out to be the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency's brand manager. No, you didn't mis-read that. I'd better be careful what I say here, because the Renaissance Man's an expert in these matters, but as ever I'm having trouble relating the idiotic tropes of the free market to the monolithic relics of a planned economy. I mean, if you want to decommission a nuke (& I pause here only to remind the readership that in 1984 Lord Marshall assured us that the full costs of decommissioning the nation's nuclear reactors were 'on the books of the CEGB') - how many government agencies are going to be competing for your business? And what exactly is the value of having a decommissioning brand? I only ask . . .

The Orange Revolution Comes To Arkleby

It seems it's compulsory for the younger members of the Arkleby boheme. Sooner or later, you have to own a van. The moment of truth arrived this week for the Wandering Minstrel, and we suddenly found the yard graced by a large M-Reg Transit. There was only one problem with it - it just wasn't orange enough. In fact it's orange perfection was disfigured by a series of Prussian blue polka dots down its side. But it was splendid none the less. The Wandering Minstrel's project - to transport his yurt down to Kent atop the van - soon ran into fundamental difficulties. Jump-leads were required. Luckily I have a pair. There was much rubbing of chins and scratching of heads. Eventually, the envanned Minstrel headed south. We've not heard from him since. This was several days ago. We're imminently expecting the phone to ring and a voice to fade in over the crackling ether . . Arkleby, we have a problem here ....

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Youth & A Bad Haircut

In the appalling Cockermouth Sainsbury's this morning, I noticed the check-out boy was sporting the sort of self-consciously hip barnet - cropped close on one side, long and unkempt on the other - which I first encountered in 1978 and which has since been notably sported by Phil Oakey and that dude who played the dead assassin in Lexx. Evidently retro-chic is the next big thing in retail Cockermouth, because the rest of the checkout crew all seemed to be sporting Funky Afros and mutton-chop sideboards as if they were the unlikely offspring of Angela Davis and Sir Rhodes Boyson. And as for the men . . . .