Sunday 13 November 2011

Reunion in the Lake District

It was long overdue but, thanks to the organising efforts of Richard A Brown, the Paisley boys finally met up again at the weekend. Only Jim was unable to make it due to a late change in work plans, but the rest of us congregated in an isolated part of the Lake District to celebrate, well, nothing really! Forty years since most of us started Primary One together at Bushes Primary school in Paisley, with a couple of blow-ins from Lochfield Primary admitted in the interests of embracing diversity.

I drove down on the Friday night, through slashing rain on dark and winding roads. Had I known how close the road around Ullswater was to the lake itself, I may have been a bit more circumspect. As it was, my petrol guage decided to jam at "full" after one particularly steep dip and bend. This is not a useful feature, especially at the end of a long drive in the middle of nowhere in the dark and rain. I drove slowly round the tiny hamlet of Hartsop looking for the cottage Richie had booked. It was very reminiscent of the film Withnail and I when they head for a weekend in the Dales. I could not see the place we were supposed to be staying in and turning and reversing between stone walls and up steep drives was no fun. Eventually I stopped alongside another creeping car and got out in the rain. It was Richie. We retired to the local pub, the Brotherswater Inn, about a half mile up the main road and there we got directions to Brothersfield Cottage. I'm sure comedian Simon Evans came between us to get drinks from the bar. Mind you, it was Richie and I who were comical looking. I was limping a bit from gout and Richie could barely walk due to some orthotics-related leg injury. The farce continued as we tried in vain to get the keys for the cottage from the key safe in the pouring rain. I eventually tried the front door handle and the door opened! In I went to wave to Richie through the window, thinking the place looked a bit basic. On my way out, I suddenly noticed a girl huddled by a coal fire in the sitting room. I explained we had trouble getting in but she seemed non-plussed. It was then I spotted a noticeboard which indicated this was evidently some sort of fell-walkers' bunk-house. We should have been in the house next door.

We duly relocated and found a much more comfortable cottage thirty yards along the road. It was just Richie and me on the Friday night so we got first dibs on the beds. I had a poor sleep though, feverish and gassy by equal measure. At least I got a lie-in for once: our boys always seem to pick Saturday morning for their earliest, most boisterous start of the week. As I was sure I needed petrol, Richie and I drove in convoy over to Windermere up a pass that was 1 in 5, fog-bound and with sheep on the road. With my car replenished we had a cup of tea in Windermere then picked up some essentials for the 24 hours ahead - late night snack food and early morning fatty foods. Vegetables didn't feature high on the agenda. although some tomatoes and mushrooms did make it into the basket. We returned to Brothersfield for a peacful read of the papers before the rest began arriving after midday. Greenie drove in with Niggy and Eggy, at which point we headed along the road to the Brotherswater Inn. Soon Hunter's distinctive thatch of hair was visible above the wall as he and Chubby elected to walk along from the Cottage. The lunchtime crowd ebbed away from the Inn leaving us to get reacquainted and pile in to the beer (I was on tap water). The jukebox was raided a few times and the conversation got a bit lively. We decided to head back to the Cottage about 7pm, with several deciding to walk along the road and path in the dark. I almost ran over Hunter as he stumbled over a wall and almost fell into the road as I drive back.

Once back in the Cottage the guitars came out, were tuned up and old songs were tortured beyond the limits of reasonable adaptation. Food was cooked, Food was eaten. More songs were dredged up until, at two in the morning, everyone was in bed. Some lasted better than others. No-one seemed too bad the next morning but the smell of bacon, Lorne sausages and eggs did set a few jaws trembling and caused a few pairs of cheeks to be puffed out. It was a fine morning as we posed for a group photo and bid our goodbyes. It was good to see everyone again and relive a few moments of our youth, with the school holiday to Austria in 1983 always a source of memories.

I was keen to make the most of the day so Chubby and I parked up at Glenridding and went for a ramble round a rather muddy circular path for an hour and a half before having a tea. It was interesting to hear what he had been up to in his time with National Grid as we've hardly seen each other in the last 25 years, having been frequent playmates in our schooldays. Afterwards I stopped in at the Sun Inn in Pooley Bridge for some lunch, a rather bland and chewy pork belly, before cracking back up the M6 to rejoin the family.