8 September 2018

How do you like your eggs in the morning...?

I've never been a great fan of Bed and Breakfast. Spending the night in a stranger's back bedroom and chatting to them over breakfast is not something I'd choose but as long distance walkers we have to take our accommodation where we find it. A five mile detour is nothing if you're travelling by car but a different matter at the end of a long day on the trail so we stay where we can and over the years that has included B&Bs. Like the time we came down to breakfast to find two bowls of cornflakes and a bottle of milk on the kitchen table with a note from the landlady saying 'Gone to work. Let yourselves out.' Or the landlord who cried for an hour as he explained that his wife had just left him and could I show him how to wash sheets. Or the woman who met us at the front door saying 'You're soaking. You can't come in here like that.' and made us strip in the porch before setting foot on her cream carpet.

No, I enjoy a bit more independance. Whether it's fending for myself in a bunkbarn or hostel or enjoying a night in a pub or hotel I like to feel like a customer rather than a guest in someone's home. Times are changing though and a new sort of accommodation is emerging. Something more akin to a holiday cottage or a motel. A place to stay for a single night on a walking holiday with a bedroom and bathroom and some sort of kitchen facilities. 

We stayed at such a place recently. Braeside Studios in Burneside on the route of the Dales Way. Two studio apartments have been created in a building to the side of the landlady's house. They each have seperate entrances, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette and table and chairs. Trish, the owner was just a step away across the yard if we needed anything but left us alone to enjoy our little cottage holiday.

We ordered in a takeaway in the evening (phone numbers and menus provided) and ate it with a bottle of wine from the village shop and made our own breakfast from the fruit, cereal, bread and spreads that were left for us. There was even a note saying 'Don't wash up, I'll do it.' Now that's my idea of a B&B.
Homemade cake. That's what I call a welcome!

13 August 2018

Raindrops on kittens

It's all very well deciding to do more things for fun, just for the sheer joy of doing, the pleasure in being. But what are they, those moments in a busy life that make me happy, make me smile? 
I'm ok on the big stuff; family, friends, reaching the top of the mountain but what about the little things?

I've been having a think and here's my Julie Andrews list:
  • Going to the pictures in the afternoon
  • Sherry. Not the trendy dry stuff but good old Harvey's Bristol Cream
  • Leftovers for breakfast, especially bendy chappattis from last night's curry
  • Katharine Hepburn or more accurately the feisty women she played in films like The African Queen
  • Just William stories, read by Martin Jarvis on Radio 4 on a wet afternoon
  • Daffs. I'll take a bunch of spring flowers in a blue vase on the kitchen table over the smartest of handtied bouquets any day 
These are a few of my favourite things. What are yours?

5 August 2018

Many More Mountains to Climb

When two of my loves come together - textiles and the fells - in a picture I've made for a very dear friend, and called Many More Mountains to Climb.

25 March 2018

Onwards and Upwards

I've been on a bit of a learning curve recently. Last week I learnt it was ok to take pleasure, pride even, in enjoying things for their own sake AND I learnt it was ok to share that vulnerability. Not just to present a polished version of myself to the world but to go for it warts and all. Yesterday I climbed a bit further up the parabola and realised how comforting and reassuring the familiar is.
Occasionally I go out to groups to give a talk about our long distance walk, A Dales High Way. I chat a bit about growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and the gulf that existed between us, the farm kids who treated the fells as our back yard, and the hikers who came searching for the countryside that we took for granted. 
I confess to my own damascene conversion when I realised that fell walking was the way back from my adult life as a townie to the landscape that I love so much. And finally I take the audience on a whistle stop tour of A Dales High Way itself, 90 miles in about 19 minutes, a slide show of the best views of the walk. 
Normally I look forward to these events. I enjoy them very much. But yesterday nerves got the better of me. I spent several sleepless nights convincing myself that I had nothing to say, no pictures to show, that my audience wouldn't have heard or seen before. That they would know far more than me and at best they'd be bored and at the very worst they'd think I was a jumped up imposter who had no business being there. 
And I was right in a way. Yesterday's audience were very well informed, very experienced. They were people who had walked or farmed or lived in the Dales for decades. They did know more than I ever would but when I looked out at their faces all I saw were smiles of recognition and nods of agreement and I realised that we don't always want to be entertained by the novel or the new. Sometimes we get great pleasure from the comfort of the familiar.  
Onwards and upwards Chris. Onwards and upwards.

22 March 2018

If something's worth doing it's worth doing badly

'If a thing's worth doing it's worth doing well.' Do you remember that? 
It was the mantra of my childhood. A worthy sentiment designed I imagine to urge small children to try our hardest, to do our best and give it our all. But it had a dark side. A hidden message that it's not ok to do things badly; to bumble along cheefully singing bum notes and coming last in cross country and that has had an impact. A lifetime of avoiding the community of choirs and missing out on the joys of fell running, of saying, 'No, I can't' when I should have been shouting 'Yes, I'll try.' Of trying and failing and loving it anyway.

I'm a writer. I write short stories and poems and this blog. Once in a while I share something that I've written with my writing group and occasionally
with the outside world. But only if I think it's good enough. Everything else gets binned. I have no middle ground. No sense of 'just ok' or 'it'll do' or even 'it's a work in progress' and I think that stems from the long held belief that if I'm not doing it well I shouldn't be doing it at all. 

So I've taken up sewing. Stitching little patchworks and embroidering pictures that I can do in front of the telly just for the fun of it. 

There, I said it - JUST FOR FUN. The results aren't great. I'm fighting the impulse to pull out the wonky stiches and abandon the failures. It's not the end result that matters and it doesn't need to be perfect. 
What matters is that the selection of coloured thread and the piecing together of fabric is a tiny burst of joy. That the in and out of the needle is calm and soothing and that the concentration needed is just enough to allow me to watch Master Chef at the same time. 

Finally, I'm learning that if something's worth doing it's worth doing. Full stop. Not well or badly - just doing - so I'm going to stop being so hard on myself and fish some of those poems out of the bin. Look out Shipley Writers' Group!

After The Snow (one from the bin)
Back to work to a flurry of photos, a swirling of stories, a whiteout of words
Drifts of dramas and igloos of images
Banks of boasting and graupels of groaning
Anecdotes in avalanches slipping and sliding
An endless blizzard of snow, snow, snow.....

23 January 2018

A Guest Post from Colin Speakman

Today we've got a guest blogger. 
Colin Speakman, creator of the Dales Way long distance route writes about A Dales High Way.

The popularity of the Dales Way - soon approaching its half century - has grown to such an extent that around a dozen walking tour operators now include the Dales Way long distance walk as a package walking holiday with luggage carrying facilities.  This means it can be difficult to book accommodation in villages along some sections in the summer months. Great for the Dales and Lake District economies, but less good for independent walkers looking for a bed.

That’s just one of the reasons why its younger sister, A Dales High Way, is so welcome and important for walkers. This 90-mile route between Saltaire and Appleby was created by authors and publishers Chris and Tony Grogan in 2007.  
Whilst the Dales Way is essentially a valley route, in contrast A Dales High Way crosses high moorland, fellsides and even summit peaks, and is more physically demanding.  If the Dales Way is the perfect beginners’ long distance walk, A Dales High Way is the ideal next step up in terms of physical difficulty – and is less busy with walkers even in the height of summer. 

The Dales Way follows the river
A Dales High Way heads for the hills
It has a very distinctive character that is totally its own.  Starting in the World Heritage village of Saltaire on the edge of Bradford, it crosses Ilkley and Addingham Moors, through the Aire Gap and into the Craven limestone country, winding its way above Malham through Ribblesdale’s Three Peaks into Dentdale where for a few miles, in one of the most beautiful of all the Yorkshire Dales,  it joins the Dales Way. It then heads due north from Sedbergh across the magnificent Howgill Fells to Newbiggin on Lune, then over the Orton Fells to Great Asby and finally to the historic Westmorland capital of Appleby in the Eden Valley.  If the Dales Way joins two National Parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes, A Dales High Way explores the new northern extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and is the perfect introduction to this beautiful newly protected landscape.   A further advantage is that A Dales High Way parallels the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway, making transport to and from the start, central sections or the end of the walk far easier than using cars or taxis.
This new 2018-updated edition of A Dales High Way Companion by Chris and Tony is published by their own Skyware Press. 
A beautifully produced book, it reflects their enthusiasm, knowledge and skills as joint authors, photographers, cartographers and publishers.   Whilst the Companion does contain detailed instructions, if you are walking the route you also need the accompanying detailed maps contained in the Dales High Way Route Guide. This means the landscape interpretation and history can be kept dry in the rucksack and enjoyed at leisure in the pub or B&B at the end of the day's walk, while the Route Guide in it's waterproof cover takes you from stile to stile. If you buy the Companion and Route Guide together for just £15.99 there is a significant saving.    
Full details on the Skyware Press website www.skyware.co,uk.
A Dales High Way Companion (ISBN 978-1-9-911321-002) Tony & Chris Grogan, Skyware Press 112pp price £11.99
Colin Speakman

15 December 2017

Katie Calling

‘Ooh I’d love a week off’ thought Katie as she hung her wet coat on the back of her chair. It was months till she was due any leave. Not having kids she always got last dibs at the holiday rota. 
Fancy Spring Bank in the Lake District? 'Sorry Katie that’s half term and Gemma’s off'. August in Brid? – not a chance, all the mums are away in August and as for Christmas... Katie hadn’t had Christmas off in years. She got Christmas Day of course but that was all. She was there till after six on Christmas Eve and in at eight on Boxing Day because ‘Christmas is all about the kiddies so Katie won’t mind.’ And she didn’t. Not really. She liked to keep busy.

Katie worked in the office of a large supermarket. She’d been there since she left school. Perched high above the shop floor she was the person that everyone went to when things went wrong. Her official title was Communications Assistant but everyone called her the Bing Bong Girl. Managers would rush by hissing instructions as they went ‘Quick Katie, call the cleaning team. There’s a family sized Wash n’ Go spilt on aisle 5.’ ‘A freezer’s down again’ Katie. ‘Tell customers the dessert section is closed.’ ‘Push the specials Katie, they’re on BOGOFF’  and Katie would sit in her glass fronted eyrie looking down at the customers and colleagues – they didn’t call them staff any more - and press her communicator.

Bing Bong Bing Bong. Katie calling. We have a special offer today on our own brand wholemeal pizza bites. Mmmm, all that delicious pizza topping on a base that’s actually good for you. Sandra is waiting in aisle 9 with samples to tickle your taste buds.

Katie was good at her job.

The run up to Christmas was always mayhem. And it got earlier every year. Bottles of Baileys slipping from arthritic fingers and smashing on the floor, small children lost and hysterical. Katie could never understand why people brought their entire family. It was a supermarket not an attraction. If she had kids she’d take them for a run round the park while Paul did the shopping.  But Katie wasn’t one to moan. Even when the hormone injections had made her feel like murdering someone she’d kept on smiling. That was Katie. Always cheerful.

But by the end of the first Saturday in December even she was exhausted. All she could think of on the way home was a hot bath and an early night. She hoped Paul had got chips on his way back from the match but if he hadn’t there was a tikka masala at the end of its sell by in her bag. He could have that. All Katie wanted was hot bath and a mini magnum. And maybe a foot rub if Paul's  team had won. 
She could smell cooking as soon as she opened the door.
‘Paul,’ she called. ‘Is that you?’
‘In here’ he shouted. ‘I’m in the kitchen.’
And there he was, stood at the counter wearing a paper hat and adding chicken legs to plates piled high with sprouts and roasties and pigs in blankets.
‘Merry Christmas Katie’ he grinned. 
Her quiet, smiley husband who lived for his rugby. Who’d held her head as she vomited every day of the pregnancy that only lasted six weeks and her hand the day they were told she was too old for another round of ivf.
‘It’s not Christmas for 3 weeks’ said Katie.
‘I know’ he said ‘It’s come early this year. Get your coat off. I’ve something to tell you.’

The next morning Katie was first in. She wanted to catch her manager before anyone else arrived. Jason would understand. He’d worked there nearly as long as she had.
‘The thing is’ she told him. ‘It’s a week in Lanzarote flying out on Christmas Eve, 5 star, all inclusive. That’s the prize and my Paul won it. In the rugby club draw.’
‘I’m sorry Katie’ he said. ‘You know how I’m fixed. All the mums have got that week off. The kids are off school and Christmas is all about ....’
‘....the kiddies. Yes, I know’ said Katie. ‘But is there nothing you can do? I’ve been here over 20 years and I’ve never once asked for time off in the holidays. Not once. Please Jason.’
‘No chance Katie. Head office agreed the rotas months ago. You’d better get back to work. There’s 4x4 blocking the delivery bay needs a Bing Bong.’
As she turned to leave his office Jason called her back.
‘Oh, and don’t think of calling in sick Katie. You’ll be out of a job if you do.’

‘And that was it.’ she told Paul that night. ‘Off you go Katie. Just like that. As if all I was asking for was an early lunch.’
And this time it was Katie who held Paul while he cried.
The next few weeks were as busy as ever. Katie and Paul didn’t mention the holiday again. They were used to dealing with disappointment. It was better to just get on with things. On Christmas Eve Katie was up before Paul was awake.
‘I’m off Paul’ she called out as she left the house. ‘Don’t forget you’re picking me up. I’ll text when I’m ready to leave.’
By 2 ‘o’clock the store was heaving.
‘Just how many cans of lager did people think they’d drink between now and Boxing Day morning’ wondered Katie as she straightened her reindeer ears and switched on her microphone.

Bing Bong Bing Bong. Katie calling. On behalf of the management I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas. And to thank you all for being such wonderful customers we’d like to offer you a FREE 10 minute trolley dash. Just fill ‘em up ladies and gentlemen and head for the doors.

And with that Katie grabbed her coat and ran down the stairs to find Paul waiting in the car with the suitcases she’d hidden in the boot that morning.
‘Quick Paul’ she said. ‘Drive. Our plane leaves at 4.’