Thursday, 20 December 2007

Season's Greetings

My Dad's Christmas, over half a century ago. Those were the days. When men could survive two and a half years in the Antarctic and grasp the finer points of icing cakes as well.
Have a good one, wherever you are.

A festive run

Eden Runners once again took to the streets of Penrith to admire the festive light shows on display at this time of year. This house was one of the best. There were though, mutterings that things were a bit on the tasteful side this year. Maybe the credit crisis had hit the sales of "Santa in a helicopter" lights in Penrith. Anyway, a good run in cold, dry conditions.

Saturday, 15 December 2007


Storm boulders, the Cumbrian Coast

You may have noticed something about this blog of late...a distinct lack of hills. And that, dear readers (I am using the plural cautiously), is because I have been grounded. By my chiropractor, if the truth be known. Now it's a long story involving a festering yoga injury, much burning of cartilage at both ends, and a Welsh heirloom of a tendency to endure pain. But the long and the short of it is I have a stuffed knee. And I have been instructed not to go "up or down anything". Pretty bad news for a fell runner.

Still, we have to be thankful for small mercies. It's about as good a time as any to be out of action. And I can still do things on the f-l-a-t. And I'm not as yet crawling up the walls in frustration as could have been the case.

Today's f-l-a-t bike ride took in one of Cumbria's finest tea rooms. Allonby, a tiny, salt-washed collection of houses on the edge of nowhere, was the unlikely setting for what I can only describe as a mystical experience involving a scone. Yes, a scone. One hot summer day, we alighted outside a tea room set back slightly from the usual melee of ice cream joints and chip shops. A fat labrador was laid out on the grass, snoring. To one side of the large dog, a table was set, bone china glinting in the sun. We ordered tea and scones.

And then out came the silver tray. Scones, puffed to perfection alongside a glinting chalice, brimming with jam, and another of heavy cream. Sculpting great pyramids of jam and cream onto the wonderful substrate, we could almost hear angels. They were that good. It was what could be described in the language of Physics as a Scone Singularity: the coming together of antique bone china and Sheffield silver cutlery, flour, raisins, butter, jam and cream into a oneness.

But maybe we had just cycled a bit too far...

Anyhow, in homage to the great Allonby Scone, we stopped and ate another.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Ritual and Meaning

It happens every year, at about this time. As the weather becomes colder, windier and wetter, we find ourselves face-on to the winds battering the small isle of Lindisfarne.

Quite rarely for us, we don't go there with any particular objective. We don't take kayaks, climbing gear or any of the usual accoutrements. We just go there to raise the drawbridge for a while. We wait for the tide to cut the island off from the mainland, and we wander.

We stare at sand, watch in wild amazement as the tide pushes arcuate shapes over sandbanks. We laugh at the way the sandpipers run with a thousand little footsteps.
For such a tiny scrap of land, an afterthought of geology, it never fails to surprise and delight. We can wander for hours, and not get bored. With each turning year, we unearth new things to gaze at whilst making simple pilgrimages to see those we already know.

In St. Mary's church, we found Fenwick Lawson's great sculpture for the first time. It is arresting in its scale, sombering in its mood. And here it was, resting in a pool of soft, winter light.

The sculpture represents the journey of St. Cuthbert's body, taken around Northumberland after his death. It is extraordinary.

And so it is that we have spent another year together. In this, the simplest of ways, we stand, battered by wind and rain, knowing that we couldn't have enjoyed ourselves much more. It is a ritual with great meaning.