Saturday, February 28, 2015

In praise of local museums

We'd hoped to go to Fleetwood today (for a complete change since neither of us has visited the town before) and visit the fishing museum.  Sadly the weather didn't play ball.  Grey skies, diagonal drizzle and strong wind don't add up to the best conditions in an exposed seaside resort, and today we got all three.  So we took a rain check (literally) and headed to Kendal Museum instead.

We've been here before, once for a proper look round and several times to meetings of the local Astronomical Society, but it's an eclectic mix of history, archaeology, local geology, art and stuffed fluffies and always good for poking about on a wet day.  This time we concentrated on some of the natural history displays: lots of taxidermy which these days would be frowned upon, but because the exhibits date from Victorian times actually seems quite educational.  Neither of us had ever realised just how huge an albatross is, for instance, until we saw the pair they have here.

A nice way of losing an entire hour - and better still, it's free!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Great exhibition

Saturday morning was sunny for a change so we hopped in the car and enjoyed a spectacular drive over Kirkstone Pass (not long re-opened after the snow) and alongside Ullswater to the Rheged centre near Penrith.

We've never been here before, having thought it was a typical tourist attraction without much to recommend it.  It certainly is a glorified coach stop, with a handful of shops, two or three cafes, a large car park and a petrol station.  However, unlike most motorway services, it also has workshops, frequent events, and exhibition spaces, and it was the latter we were headed for, to see those Herdwick photos.

Rather remarkably, both the centre and the exhibition itself are free to enter.  The photographs on display are truly sensational, many with an odd almost 3D effect, and all capturing the changing seasons within an unchanging landscape that sums up the central Lakes so perfectly.  There were far more pictures than we expected, lining the walls of three or four separate 'rooms', along with sculptures and extracts from the photographer's own book, so it took us a good half hour to look round the whole thing.

The book looks amazing, and there were also some lovely prints and other general Herdwick-related merchandise available in a small shop nearby.  Sadly, the prices were astronomical.  Much as I'd have loved a framed print or a signed copy of the book, I simply wasn't prepared to pay £225 or £125, respectively, for either.  Needless to say, the minute I got home again I rather wished I had...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I rather like Herdies, or to give them their formal name, Herdwicks - the semi-wild native sheep of the Lake District.  They're stocky, staggeringly well-adjusted to their mountainous home, and seem to wear a permanent smile.  A recent television programme about England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, revealed that the Herdwicks love the open fellside so much that if the farmers try to keep them in lowland pasture too long past the breeding season, they will happily chew through fences and kick down walls to get back to the tops.

And now there's an exhibition of photographs dedicated to these characterful little creatures, based at the Rheged centre near Penrith.  And if the sample on this BBC web page are anything to go by, they're absolutely stunning.  We're going to try to visit at the weekend.  I'll let you know if it was worth it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Arctic blast

We're stuck in a cold snap at the moment, with daytime temperatures struggling to get above freezing and night times plummeting to around minus 8 or 9c.  Brrr!  The upside is that we have unbroken winter sunshine most days, which looks stunning when combined with heavy snowfall on the fells.

On Sunday we made the most of the conditions for a walk at Coniston.  The route we'd been thinking of, across the fields to Coniston Hall, proved to be ankle deep in mud, so we plodded over a little bridge and followed a lane to a different portion of lake shore, with a Victorian (style?) pavilion, a tea shop (which we rather remarkably stayed out of) and lovely views across the lake.  A path followed the shore past piles of canoes, a boat yard, and open fields, all against a backdrop of snowy Coniston fells, and the weather was so amazing and the views so special that we took simply tons of photos.

It's not the longest walk on the planet, and our ears were the colour of woad by the time we got back to the car, but we really enjoyed the trip and the chance to get some good fresh air into our lungs.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Concrete Jungle

I'm delighted to say that I've just re-established contact with my short story Concrete Jungle, which I quite thought had vanished into the internet maelstrom for ever.  It turns out that, like Philae, it was balanced on a cliff-edge in outer space somewhere just waiting for a ray of sun, and now that sun has arrived in the shape of a new, updated and very nice website over at Ink, Sweat & Tears.

The magazine accepted Concrete Jungle several years ago, but in its old incarnation was almost impossible to search for archived stuff once it had dropped off the main page.  I shrugged, assumed the story was lost to time, and took the link off my website.

Now, thanks to that new site and a very good search feature, I've unearthed it again and you can read the story at Ink Sweat & Tears right now.  It's a lyrical, surrealist piece of prose-poetry about love, which was inspired by the surreal concrete gardens at Las Posas in Mexico, and it's always been one of my favourites.

I hope you enjoy it (again)!