Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lakes

Chapter 7 

The Lakes

After the departure of the happy pair it all went a bit flat so it was a relief to set off with Sarah for the Lake District.  I had saved some money and Sarah was earning so we decided to treat ourselves to a bed and breakfast instead of camping or staying in youth hostels.  Mum and Dad recommended Mrs Lawson’s B&B in Ambleside.  It was a typical local house, built of grey Lakeland slate, close to the Police Station. Mrs Lawson was motherly and Mum said she was a good cook so we were persuaded to have our evening meals with her. 
After exploring Ambleside I took Sarah to see our old haunts.  The camping ground  now had a few caravans - but the enormous tree, by the edge of the lake, which had been struck by lightening and uprooted, was still there.  Evan used to call it his castle and on the lake you could still see the rocks where we use to tie up and fish.  We wandered round the town and admired the super boats moored there.  One was called ‘The Girl Pat’. 
The Lakes were busier than pre-war, but their beauty was unchanged.  I never tired of gazing at the shimmering lakes garlanded with dramatic mountains - so different to the sea-side scenery I had grown accustomed to over the last year.

  I couldn’t find the little shop that used to sell lime milk shakes – such a treat in war-time – so we discussed what to do next over a cup of coffee 

“Sarah I think rather than tackling a mountain straight off on our own - especially as I’m meant to be the experienced one –how would it be if we spent tomorrow in the Langdales?  There are lots of little sugar loaves. We can potter up and down at our own speed and break ourselves in gently.”

“That sounds like a plan – especially as the weather is so gorgeous. There can’t be too many days like this up here I imagine.  What’s a sugar loaf by the way?”

“Little grass and rocky pinnacles just crying out to be climbed.  You’ll love ‘em!

Next day we bussed to the Langdales, climbed a couple and had our picnic lunch.  The third one was more like a grassy knoll and – intoxicated by the fresh air and the sunshine - we ran down the last one like a couple of kids and collapsed in a heap at the bottom.

“Sarah do you know Littolf’s piano concerto thing?

 Lah dee da dada da da da de dada “nodding my head vigorously in time - but Sarah looked blank.

“It doesn’t ring a bell.  Why?”

“Every time we run down a hill I hear it in my head and I just want to fly.”

“Steady on luv!  There’s a caff down the road – lets go and sober up with a brew.”

The weather was unusually balmy we were hot and tired and the cool shady tea-room with a flagged floor was a welcome oasis.  The seating arrangements were trestle tables with wooden forms to sit on – quite matey.  Most of the tables were occupied so we chose one with just three chaps sitting there.

“Do you mind if we sit here,” I asked politely?

“By all means – do join us.  This is my brother Ben, our friend Tony and I’m James.”

“Hi!  This is Sarah and I’m Pat.”

We quickly sat down as I could tell they were about to stand to acknowledge that we were young ladies.  Once we had drunk refreshing mugs of tea and scoffed hot buttered toast my natural curiosity got the better of me and I discovered they came from Ripon, had been in the army and were about to start at University - rather like my new brother in law.  They seemed really nice chaps – James who I found quite attractive was the chatty one, Ben his elder brother had an ‘other world’, aesthetic look about him and Tony was a little shy but good natured and friendly.

They had been climbing and had lots of useful information about the area so conversation flowed easily.  I realised time was running away with us and started to look up the bus timetables to get back for Mrs Lawson’s supper..

“We have a car and we’d be happy to give you a lift to Ambleside” said James.  They were quite a bit older than us, there were three of them but they were polite and charming and were climbers so I knew we would be safe.

  James was driving – I was sitting in the back with Sarah and Tony and we could see each other’s faces in the mirror.  We all seemed to get on so well it seemed a shame not to see more of them so I told them we were going to a local dance after supper and they said they might join us.

  We didn’t linger over Mrs Lawson’s excellent supper but both paid a great deal of attention to our toilette that evening.  Sarah was more grown up than me – well she was older, had her mother’s dark good looks, a shapely figure and beautiful deep set eyes.  My hair was all over the place but at least it was clean and shining and the sun had bleached it a little.  We decided we would abandon our shorts and be girly in dresses.  I had an old cast off from Maddie - a blue silk – more her colour than mine with little rosebuds and a heart shaped neck.  The silk on my skin felt heavenly and we set off for the Village Hall in high spirits.  The hall was already crowded and before long the chaps turned up.  We found a place where we could sit and took it in turns to mooch round the dance floor.  It was as if there was a magnet between James and I and when he suggested we went out for a breath of air I agreed.  It was a beautiful summer night and we followed the stream up a little way until the sound of the dance hall faded.

“Shall we sit on the wall and see what stars we can recognise,” asked James?

“Good idea – OUCH!”

“What’s the matter?”

“These stones are really sharp!”

“That’s alright Pat.  Sit on my lap.”

So I did and we stared at the stars and James gave me a lesson in astronomy which wasn’t boring in the slightest.  He would reach up to the sky to point something out and I would put my arms round his neck so as not to lose my balance – my dress was really slippery – and then I would be encircled in his arms again.

“Ah! La figure,” he murmured as his hand traced my outline.

“Actually ’la figure’ is the face,” said Miss Clever Clogs,” I did French for School Cert.”

James released his hold.

“Pat how old you?”

“Seventeen.  And a half!  Now I’m old enough to go to the main Hospital to start…”

James deposited me on the path and suggested we got back to the others.

“Well how old are you James?”

“Twenty seven.”

When we found the others James announced baldly,

“Pat’s seventeen!”

“And a half,” I added.

Well the good news was that I at last looked older than my age.  The bad news was that somehow my age had stopped that delicious spooning which had never interested me before with boys my own age. 

“Is it NEVER going to be the right time for me,” I asked Sarah?  She comforted me by saying it hadn’t put him off altogether because the chaps had invited us to spend their last day with them when they would drive us to a part of the Lakes we weren’t familiar with – Coniston.

  Next day - armed with our excellent packed lunches - we met the chaps in the village and had a pretty, scenic drive to Coniston – about 9 miles away.  Coniston Old Man looked quite tempting but it was another rare hot day and we were content to drift round the village - visiting the Victorian Sage and Art critic John Ruskin’s Gallery and Museum and his grave in the Churchyard.  Coniston was more remote and we had another lovely day of sweet scented meadows, shimmering lakes and gentle flirtation.  It was a rare experience to sit in that beautiful spot with perfect weather in the company of four attractive and intelligent people and just talk and talk and talk. 

 Time flew and it seemed criminal to dash back for supper, especially as the chaps were leaving the next day.  I had a brainwave:  we could phone the police station from the inn and ask them to pop over to Mrs Lawson’s to tell her we wouldn’t be back for supper.
  It was magical by Lake Coniston in the early evening and the lake - about 5 miles long was flat as a mill pond.  We were surprised to see quite a lot of people.  I suggested we had a skimming competition where you find flat smooth pebbles and see who can get the most bounces on the water before the pebble sinks.  The chaps were brilliant at this and we were rubbish - which pleased them no end until two officious looking blokes came up.

“You must stop that at once.  You’re disturbing the calmness of the lake.”

Feeling a little chastened we DID stop at once.  Disturbing the calmness of the lake?

What on earth was going on?  Why were we being berated for skimming stones on Lake Coniston?  

  Sarah was the first to spot him.  We all recognised him.  Those beaky, aquiline features were unmistakably those of Sir Malcolm Campbell.  His easily recognisable daughter was with him but not his son.

Sir Malcolm had broken the land speed record on nine occasions between 1924 and 1935 both in a Bluebird, which raced on land and a Bluebird that raced on water.  In 1935 he reached 301 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats, in the United States and now here he was waiting to do a run on our lake and we were causing ripples.  Red faces all around. 
  In the end, although the lake looked like glass to us, it was decided that the conditions were not ideal and the people drifted away.  We felt privileged to have seen him.  A year later he died. 

 Seven years later I met his son Donald, whilst on a modelling shoot.  He had continued his father’s pursuit of speed records and did 400mph in Bluebird, which now reclines in Lord Montague’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, UK.  Donald was charming and was interested to hear of our experience at Lake Coniston.  Tragically he was killed in 1967, aged 46 in a re-engined Bluebird K7. It flipped and disintegrated at a speed in excess of 300mph on Lake Coniston. 

His body wasn’t recovered from the deep lake until 2001 and today he rests in the churchyard in Coniston.
  It was time to say goodbye.  The chaps drove us back to the B&B, we bade them a fond farewell and James and I exchanged addresses.  Mrs Lawson was waiting for us in the hall and we could see at once she was not happy.  It was not so much that she minded our missing supper but to have a bobby come knocking on her door, in full view of the whole of Ambleside was not something she relished.  Oh dear!  We had brought her a little gift and when she saw we were really sorry to have upset her, she melted and when we told her of our adventure she admitted she would have

done the same - without the help of the policeman. 

  The next day we went to Keswick and found the other field where I had camped with Mum and Dad.  It had been occupied by gypsies and I remember being fascinated by a tiny girl with black hair and a red velvet dress trimmed with white fur.  They all seemed so friendly.  When we got back from climbing one day we found there was a large hole cut in the wind screen of the sidecar.  Dad took one look and said. 
“Right!  Pack up, we’re leaving.”
And off we went to the more hospitable Lake Windermere.  Maybe it wasn’t the gypsies but they must have seen something.  We never returned.

    I found Sarah to be the ideal companion and we agreed our holiday had been a success and decided we should try Scotland next year.  We spent a night at home regaling Mum and Dad with our doings - well some of them - and then it was back to the Convalescent Home. 

 Returning on duty after a holiday is always a bit daunting but going back there was less so.  It was such a welcoming place: the staff were like family, the children affectionate and the sea, sand hills and sky were always alluring.  In a few weeks I would be leaving for good and starting training with a vengeance.  Thank goodness Annie would be with me.  It wouldn’t be nearly so frightening with two of us.  Although the Convalescent Home was meant to prepare young girls before they started training proper at the main Hospital not all of them made it.  All we heard and saw of the Hospital filled us with awe and trepidation.  The training was very intense and the discipline of the strictest but this was the next part of my five year plan and I knew that the children would help to make life bearable.  I was in for a shock.


James said...

Just read your latest, Pat. Full of interesting detail as always. I don't think one could get away with making use of policemen to relay messages nowadays! Are you still glad you look older than your age? (Only joking!)
- James.

Kim Ayres said...

“Good idea – OUCH!”

“What’s the matter?”

“These stones are really sharp!”

“That’s alright Pat. Sit on my lap.”

:-) :-) :-)

Pat said...

James: how cruel! Glad you appreciate the detail:)

Kim: I knew you wouldn't let that pass without a murmur:)

Exile on Pain Street said...

It speaks volumes about his character that he didn’t pursue you any further once he found out how young you were.

Yelled at for skimming stones! How quaint. I’d have given them a little sass for their trouble. I Google mapped Lake Coniston. It seems so remote.

kenju said...

I looked older too, when I was a teen. I keep thinking this would make a great movie, Pat!!

Pat said...

Exile: yes wasn't he a sweetie? Unfortunately I didn't behave too well in Chapter 8 - as far as he was concerned. Drat!.
Honestly dear - Sir Malcolm was held in such high esteem-he was a hero - one couldn't object to being told to desist the skimming.
Yes Coniston was remote and brooding and so romantic. Ah me!

Judy: a movie - wouldn't that be fun. If only:)

angryparsnip said...

As I read this I was wondering if this was the part where you met James.
You have posted some photos I think ?
Wonderful story so far, can't wait to see what the "shock" is.

cheers, parsnip

rashbre said...

Wow - such a lot packed into that one adventure. Never a dull moment!

Pat said...

Parsnip: I'm confused. Have I mentioned another James? I do get muddled because I sometimes change the names to protect people's privacy. But James, Ben and Tony were their real names. I have posted some photos on Face book as I'm finding difficulty posting on my blog but will keep on trying.

Rashbre: that's what life was like sometimes at 17. No lolling around watching telly and all the stuff we do these days. I'm sure the lack of instant communication changed quite a few lives one way and another.

Anonymous said...

You have lived a wonderful life Pat

Pat said...

Helen: as Forest Gump said:
"Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get."

AndrewM said...

He was a pukka geezer.

Pat said...

AndrewM: great link thank you. James was also a pukka geezer.
Pukka geezer sounds like Jamie Oliver speak. Where did it originate?

About Last Weekend said...

Love this!
everything our writing tutor says to do: action, conflict, scene!!