The weather suddenly turned cold on Saturday, with clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and a wind straight from the Arctic steppes. Even at midday there was still ice on the roads above 1200 feet, but it was so pretty we decided we couldn't possibly stay indoors. So, after a brief foray into Ambleside for cold-weather walking gear, and a slightly less brief stop for yummy pub grub in Glenridding, we set off into the foothills near Helvellyn for a walk.
Mind you, 'walk' is a bit misleading. The first few hundred yards were fine, and then the path plunged off up a slope that was steep enough to have us hanging on by our eyebrows, heaving and puffing and heaving some more. Gradually, it got steeper. Gradually, it got wetter underfoot, until it was more like a stream bed than a path. Gradually, it got rougher and stonier. And the sun was so low it was shining straight into our eyes and we couldn't see where we were putting our feet. After a few more hundred feet of struggling, we decided it was simply too dangerous to carry on, and found another path that led in a loop down a somewhat gentler slope further up the valley.
Part way down that, we bumped into a family of south-east Asian tourists, coming the other way. Could we help them, they asked. Could we point out where they were, and how far it was to the tarn they were trying to find. Sure, we said, and grabbed the 1:25,000 scale map we'd been clinging to for dear life for the last hour. Oh, no, they said, we can't use one of those. Show us on our map. And produced a tiny, roughly printed leaflet on pink paper with a sketch plan on the front cover - the sort of thing that's sold for about £2.50 in all the local gift shops.
Well, we tried. But those maps are for guidance only, not to be taken literally. The scale is ridiculously small, with half a mile compressed into something the size of a child's thumbnail, and they're also notoriously unreliable. With the aid of our map and our local knowledge we managed to put them on the right path, having told them not to trust their map because it wasn't suitable for the terrain - something we're still not sure they understood. And it was only when they'd wandered off, in roughly the right direction, that we noticed they were wearing trainers, and presumably had no map, no compass, no torch, no whistle... and there's no mobile phone signal whatsoever in that valley.
We haven't heard that Mountain Rescue was called out, which is good, but afterwards we were kicking ourselves for not being responsible adults and telling them forcibly to abandon their walk and head back to the village....
By Sunday the weather had changed completely, and it bucketed down all day. We headed towards Lancaster to visit a vast antiques centre I recently saw featured on a tv antiques programme, because we needed a new standard lamp. All the modern ones are made of metal, which I don't like, and far too short, so the light only reaches the floor, so it made sense to look for something older. And we came up trumps. The centre is indeed huge - roughly the size of an aircraft hangar with stall after stall after stall of antiques, collectibles, retro stuff, vintage stuff, and (if I'm honest) just plain junk, and we soon found half a dozen standard lamps that were suitable. We chose the nicest, with a turned wooden base and 'pole' (and a hideous pink faux silk shade), forked out the huge sum of £36, wrestled it into the car boot, and drove straight to the nearest Homebase to find a better shade. The end result is a little... unique, with a modern snazzy shade on top of a vintage lamp base, but it gives out a really good light for reading, looks eclectic and interesting, and cost about half what we'd have paid for a modern one in the shops. Which is always nice.