Monday, 31 March 2008
It was Anne the Gumrat, in Geneva, who drew my attention to the CityDailyPhoto site, and inspired by this I’ve set up a supplementary blog as a companion to this on, devoted to painting, through a daily photograph, a portrait of Barrow.
In honour of the esteemed local delicacy of meat and potato pie, mushy peas and gravy, it’s called Pie ‘n’ Mushies.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
It wasn’t a very promising morning, chilly with a brisk wind eben in Barrow. Mind you, 8.30 was really 7.30, according to my body and that’s an obscene hour for a Sunday. So I was resigned to the C walk. Actually I’m getting to enjoy the company on C walks. Anyway today, if we didn’t do all that much vertical ascent we did do a significantly longer horizontal walk than the A and B teams, who started in the Portinscale/Braithwaite area and took direct if severe routes to Buttermere via high fells still bearing pockets of snow on their tops, and at 10.30 draped ominously in cloud.
We, on the other hand, started from the top of the Whinlatter Pass and made first for the Kirkstile Inn, in Loweswater village, via the Vale of Lorton, a tranquil and comparatively little-visited valley where the Lake District gently decays towards the old mining communities of West Cumberland and thence to the sea. Which I find unbearably sad because I don’t want the Lake District to peter out into pastoral greenery, however beautiful. I WANT THE WHOLE DAMNED COUNTRY TO BE LIKE IT!
That took us until lunchtime (a splendid opportunity for a snifter of Grasmoor Dark Ale, brewed on the premises). There’s something about walkers and climbers – you can’t get a decent draught beer in Barrow but the Lakes is swimming in the stuff, with a handy pub everywhere you look which is welcoming, old-fashioned and mercifully free of pool tables, wide-screen TV, and all the other tat that blights the twenty-first century pub. And many of them – this one, the Black Bull at Coniston, the Drunken Duck near Ambleside, the Wasdale Head Hotel and others brewing beer on the premises. Thirty years ago there were only three pubs doing that in the whole country.
Anyway, we hadn’t even started the walk proper, but now the weather had turned glorious. From Loweswater we climbed an old track skirting Mellbreak, a fearsomly steep climb on the south shore of Crummock Water, and round the back into Mosedale. The views were splendid, the ground boggy underfoot and the becks buoyant with the joys of spring. Spring – ha! There might have been some snow on the high tops but most of last week’s had melted and was filling the becks and sending them dancing friskily down the slopes and filling the boiggy bits making the becks hard to cross and the bogs very squelchy indeed. But at least it’s clean water. We passed the lonely holly tree in Mosedale – so isolated in this treeless wilderness that it’s even marked on the OS map – and so round the back of Mellbreak and down again to Crummock Water via Scale Beck. Yes, Crummock Water, the first real encounter with a lake in four outings with the Ramblers in the, er, Lake District. And get it right – local lad-made-good Willie Wordsworth rhymed ‘water’ with ‘matter’ and that’s how it should be. Mind you, Willie did write an awful lot of dross, IMHO! Give me S T Coleridge every time if we must have Lake Poets.
Where was I? Oh yes. More boggy ground above Crummock Water leads us to a sheep drove road leading into Buttermere village (which is on Crummock Water, not Buttermere, although one day they may be one lake again as they once were) to the Fish pub, which we eschew as being much too chichi for walking boots, to the Bridge Hotel, which serves a very palatable Buttermere Bitter, brewed not in-house but in the nearby (as the crow flies, not otherwise) village of Hawkshead. There we sat, awaiting the A and B teams who, unbeknown to us, were already on the bus waiting for us.
That felt like a real ramble, if not a true fellwalk, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Oh, and I had hoped to see a red squirrel or two, as this particular area is one of their last redoubts in England, but I didn’t. On the other hand, they do seem to be little buggers for tearing round the local twisty lanes…
Not many photos this week I’m afraid. I have them hear waiting but my Flickr account has lapsed, I can’t afford to renew it at the moment, and my bandwidge allowance for March has been used up.
Saturday, 29 March 2008
This is a rum old thing: as big and sprawling and ramshackle as only a Russian film, and especially one from the days of communism, could be. Not that anything much shorter would have done justice to the big sprawling themes, or to the snse of brooding insanity haunting the survivors of the kind of Heath Robinson space station you might just expect the Soviet Union to put into orbit around a planet that seems to have a sentient intelligence all of its own, and is probing the minds of the cosmonauts to the point of dementure by sending them three-dimentional hallucinations drawn from their own memories.
Kris the psychologist is sent to the station, clad only in a grubby string vest, to find out what is going on, only to be drawn into the game himself when his ten-years-dead wife Hari appears in his bunk. Trying to blast her off into space doesn’t help, she just comes straight back. Just to make it worse, the apparition starts to get more and more human, and then things get seriously weird.
At nearly three hours, with not an awful lot going on, this might seem a bit of a grim prospect, but this is more psychological thriller than space opera and the tension is maintained very well. There’s nothing glamorous about it, which is refreshing in a way. The space station looks like my bedroom after a bad day and everybody looks so terribly Russian. In places it ought to be sexy and doubtless a Russian might find it so, bit like Anna Karenina it somehow manages to bypass sexiness whatever its merits.
An evening well filled then, but I have just one gripe about the DVD – or rather DVDs because it comes on two and I’ve had to wait for both to be here together. I did try to get it to play with original Russian dialogue with English subtitles, but somehow it’s all been bodged. Dialogue was mostly dubbed into English that sounded silly, but now and then it would lapse into Russian. I felt much more comfortable when it was in Russian – I’m not strong enough in the language to follow it wthout subtitles, but I hate dubbing and at least when the dialogue was Russian the actors looked and sounded a lot more natural.
Saturday, 29 March 2008
On a sudden whim to be the Sweeney & Todd of the North West, I made a batch of pies today. Chicken, ginger and spring onion, which isn’t as far as I know, a Sweeney & Todd line. I made it up. I ate one for my tea and it was delicious. Even if they do look a bit lumpy and inelegant – well, they take after their maker!
Friday, 28 March 2008
BBC continuity announcer Charlotte Green is normally a consummate professional with an exceptionally mellifluous voice, but she has on occasions fallen over on the job. She did it again this morning. She does it so beautifully too.
Footnote: in North Carolina you can join the Charlotte Green Party, although I don’t think this has anything to do with the lady in question, somehow.
Friday, 28 March 2008
My young friend Louisa, from Pennsylvania, wants to be a singer. She has a gorgeous voice. Well, I think so anyway, she reminds me a bit of the late Sandy Denny, and that can’t be bad, can it? See if you agree. For some reason (because I’ve never frequented such places much) I think she’d go down a storm on the UK folk club circuit.
Let’s hear a big round of applause for Louisa. She has heaps of talent in all kinds of spheres, but not anything like enough self-confidence. Tell her – you know you want to!
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Even in Iceland, where a man can set off into the wilderness and never return, and nobody asks too many questions, the past has a habit of coming back to haunt the present. And so, when new housing is being built to satisfy a booming and ravenous Reykjavik, a skeletal hand is uncovered, reaching out in desperation.
I found this slow going at first, but eventually the intertwined stories wrapped themselves around me and I was hooked. The central story was gripping, and even if the outcome was predictable there was some gratification to be found in a denouement as bleak and yet fiery at the country itself. It’s particularly satisfying to read about a country so very different from those generally found in English language fiction, and I’ll be looking for more of this author’s work.
This book won the CWA Gold Dagger. Talent not writing in English doesn’t get much exposure in British bookshops, which is shameful. Awards like the Gold Dagger play an important part in getting exposure for a wonderful writer who would otherwise go unnoticed. Or they did: this was the last such book to win the Gold Dagger before the sponsors decreed that the award was to be for work written originally in English. This kind of insularity is, frankly, a disgrace.