Browsing Tag



Fried Bread and Silver Shred

As a Yank I cannot abide
Beans in morning, even on the side
But when staying in the Lakes
Fried bread for breakfast I embrace

Bacon fat and lemon rind
Transforms mere grain to food divine
Layering of fat and tart
‘Tis a culinary art
Echoed in things much esteemed:
Fruit compote and foie gras terinne Golden toast and tangy ‘lade
Coin in which I’m gladly paid
For my labour up fell and crag
Richly fed I shall not lag


Terror Firma

Husband and I are sitting on a hill outside the Wainwright Inn, a pint of Wainwright ale and a packet of scampi fries (seafood flavoured “cereal snacks”—so British, so processed, so good) in hand. Husband has also just produced two packages of sandwiches from his backpack that he has squirreled away in case of a mountain top emergency (nevermind we are both are packing “natural” calorie stores I’d estimate conservatively at 1 week+). He is laughing now, but a short hour ago he was on the brink of a full-fledged panic attack.

As we headed back over the crag following our soothing paddle around Lake Grasmere, I was impressed by my newly adventurous husband. Rocky brooks were crossed with nimble bounds as we made our ascent, no sign of the panic-stricken shell of a muttering man wondering around a dried stream bed in Topanga Canyon who had made an appearance during my one and only mountain hiking experience with him years earlier. As we “summitted” the crag, the tone shifted. He consulted other walkers for advice on which of the three forks to pursue (admittedly the map only showed one). The sheer drop in front of us was ruled out and after a few minutes following another couple along a ledge, the path to the right was also abandoned. We headed left, which wasn’t exactly a trail but given the bright sun, a multi-network bar displaying BlackBerry, and legions of other walkers, including small children, in sight, I felt confident.

Husband on the other hand was starting to flap. Literally. He interrupted an elderly couple mid-sandwich to enquire, with a noticeable vibrato and pitch-elevation in his voice, if they knew a gentle way down. I hung back, hoping not to be associated with my high-strung husband, as the country gent advised him with the non-chalance of a seasoned fell-walker to continue left. No, elderly country gent did not need to consult husband’s map (yes, husband asked him, wanting to be very sure about the advice so casually dispensed). Elderly gent informed husband that he did not have his glasses and so could not read a map. I thought it unwise to point out to my husband that this man was so unworried about “getting down” he didn’t even bring his glasses.

To be fair, husband did not like me spend childhood summers at Camp Merrie Wood in North Carolina’s Sapphire Valley where opening day included a camp-wide romp up Old Bald with Guinevere the Saint Bernard, followed swiftly by a week of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Neither did husband have a grandfather who took him around the foothills of San Bernardino on a neighbor’s Palomino horses or hiking in Forest Falls. Instead, the quintessential summer outing for my husband and his brother was a car trip to Parbold Hill (forever parboiled hill in my head), culminating in a thermos of luke-warm coffee (yes, coffee for kids) and a Cadbury Club bar. While still sitting in the car.
Husband’s early outdoor life is summed up in a snapshot of him outside his childhood home, Seaview Terrace. He is grim faced, in full scout regalia, and holding a duffel bag as big as him, packed by a fretting mother for his one and only Boy Scout camping trip. He describes it as four days of certain ridicule and an introduction to alpha male posturing. His entire scouting career was over in six months.

In this context, our successful descent along our makeshift mountain goat path is somewhat miraculous. Following elderly gent’s advice we were safely to the Wainwright Inn within an hour, which takes its name from a famous Lake District fell walker. If you complete a Wainwright hike, it’s called “bagging a Wainwright.” Suffice it to say I do not think I will be bagging any Wainwrights with husband in tow. The gentle undulations of the Cotswolds hills are infinitely more suitable for this lady-man of mine.


On Lake Grasmere

I am writing this blog from Lake Grasmere, specifically a lavender coloured, double-skinned fibreglass row boat called Annie. (I would have preferred Theodonia or even Norma, but this didn’t seem like the kind of whim the 18-year old who took our money and prepped the boat would cater to, so I didn’t bother to ask. Plus I was too busy avoiding an aggressive signet intent on my shins).

I have the most network bars on my BlackBerry since arriving in The Lake District yesterday. This fact along with the Wordsworth association makes it seem an ideal spot from which to blog while my husband rows me ’round. The mix of high-tech and nature is echoed around us. Low clouds draw shapes on the hillsides. A ram scratches his rump on a fallen branch whose shape seems custom designed for the task. A cobalt blue firefly dances on the rim of our boat. And all the while fighter jets in training sear the sky above us.

Despite spending most of yesterday comparing the Lakes unfavourably to the Cotswolds, the rugged beauty of the North has now worked her charm on me. It started at about 2am when I got up to use the loo and stopped, startled at the sight of the moonlit lake out of the bedroom window. Elterwater, where we are staying, is a Norse term for swan lake. Staring out the window that’s exactly what I thought of: the last scene in the ballet Swan Lake, specifically the Kirov Ballet production I saw years ago in Covent Garden.

This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced before, and I shall christen it “facsimile first.” It’s when you experience the replica before the real thing resulting in an eerie sense of dejavu when you finally do encounter the authentic article. It happened to me in many an English country church graveyard having been raised on the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. It happened to my husband in Venice where much to my dismay he kept feeling like he was alternately visiting Las Vegas and a Baz Luhrman set.

My protests to explore the outer edges of lake Grasmere are going unheeded. Risk adverse husband has been scared off by the 18-year old’s mention of a were (I think that’s a miniature waterfall but husband is envisioning Niagra Falls) and we are heading back to the dock. I shall post this now and focus my remaining minutes on this most definite not-facsimile experience.