The Lady of the Lake
The early morning light over Lake Windemere in Cumbria is enough to turn anyone all Wordsworthic, (Wordsworthy?) especially too if you’d been hanging round with his mate Sam Coleridge who wrote The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner and Khubla Khan, reportedly, while he was completely off his head on opium. Today there’s not a host of golden daffodils anywhere, nor, thankfully, any shot albatrosses, but autumn’s in all its full paint pallet of tones and reflecting in a perfectly still lake that disappears off into the mist like dragon’s breath. The air is crisp and clear and it really is a sensational view.
A sleek, teak and brass traditional style lake cruiser called the Muriel II is tied up at the jetty, its stack smoking lazily, and just waiting for us to clamber aboard, so we don’t disappoint the old girl. It’s not a long ride, thankfully, as boats, like steam trains, are only romantic looking as long as you are not actually riding on them. Al and I are at the bow, again with the cameras running hotter than hot as the morning light is astounding. Within a few minutes I can fully understand Mrs Potter, Beatrix, not Harry’s mum, using the profits from Peter Rabbit to retire at a young age to come and live here and eventually buy up most of the farm land throughout the Lakes District. She spent the rest of her life breeding rare sheep, not rabbits, and became all famous all over again as a farming expert. Luckily for England, when she died in 1943 she left her property, including fifteen farms, to the National Trust, who have preserved it. And luckily for the tourist sharks, they can make a bigger killing here than any dose of Myxomatosis with the area’s association with her. There’s the Beatrix Potter Experience, or is it the Peter Rabbit Experience? I was too astounded at shear ugliness of the building that has been built to house the Experience to really notice. But it sure is huge and the parking area has room for lots of coaches. And that’s a very bad sign.
The Muriel takes us across the lake where the only two other passengers get off, so on the way back, the captain, seeing how enthusiastic we are about the scenery, detours the boat along the far shore so we get the best shots. It’s full of small coves where large white yachts are moored, all reflecting in the still mirror–like water. I suspect, like in Perth, most of the yachts spend 99% of their lives tied up and unused, and judging by how green it is here it must rain a great deal, so that too could put you off boating a tad. Yachting on Lake Windemere in the rain? You’d need to be dedicated. Then there’s also a proper winter up here in the mountains, so perhaps the non-use rate of the boats in the Lake District must be more like 99.9%, or perhaps I’m completely wrong and Noel Coward was right, mad dogs and Englishmen do go out …
Our hotel down by the water is doing a deal on dinner, bed and breakfast so we book in for dinner reasonably early as I think we missed lunch. We’d been on a motor way tearing through the Midlands, dodging lorries and high speed sales reps, to get here at a reasonable hour and only an idiot would stop at Services for anything other than petrol and a pee. At the hotel you would have thought one of us may have seen the bright yellow coach parked across the entrance to reception and suggested we move on, but no. Later we walk into the restaurant, a room the size of Subi Oval, and it’s full of old folk, most not talking to the partners and obviously in a hurry to finish dinner and get back to their rooms in time for Coronation Street. I kid you not. The stampede out of there at 7.55 was straight out Rawhide. We order dinner and before it arrives the place has all but cleared. I remember a similar experience once at Exmouth at the Potshot Inn. The grey nomads had used up every single table in that barn of a place too but by 8pm I was all alone with my steak and chips and several shell shocked waiters.
Jetlag hits Al just as he’s finishing dinner and he fades away very quickly and I find myself all alone in the middle of this vast restaurant. Perhaps he was faking it and he too wanted to find out what was happening to Ena Sharples. The manager comes by so I ask if he has a newspaper I can borrow as there’s nothing worse than staring at the wall like some sort of deranged mental patient. Instead of The Times or The Sun he brings me his latest copy the wine wholesaler’s catalogue for restaurateurs, which turns out is very much like Playboy except the photos are bottes of wine and pictures of vineyards from around the world. Like Playboy, though, I’m only interested in decent sized articles. I thought I was good a drivel but the wine writers in this magazine are past masters. Repeat after me, cherries, chocolate, earthy tones, terrier, or is that terrior, fruity after effects, full bodied, cheeky, tradition, new world… and I’m still on the first paragraph where the writer is describing the chateau’s mistress. He hasn’t even been into the cellar yet.