I am nervous and insecure. I am scared to do things in case I fuck them up. I rationalise my fears, make adjustments, plans and safety nets but still things fuck up. I give up trying to be independent and stick to ambling around Lancaster, looking in the charity shops so frequently I am slightly embarrassed at myself.
But I am 33. I am a mother. I can Do Things.
And I Am Going To Kendal.
I think about and am excited by the thought of Staff Of Life artisan bread sold from the genial Dickensian shop in an alley. I cannot sleep for fretting over whether to have lunch in the cosy wholesome vegetarian Riverside café or have feta cheese pizza in the slightly more stylish Brewery. Or to just have a pasty because I cannot really afford to do either but it is the last Friday at the end of the month which means riches, sweet riches for a day.
6,00 am: I plan things meticulously, packing a bag of chocolate, nappies and mascara.
My friend and I are meant to be getting the later straight train at 11am
8.00 am. I am so bored and nervous and sick of Mike The Knight on Cbeebies, I text my friend and we arrange to meet an hour earlier and change at Oxenholme.
9.30 am. I am so stupidly earlier due to fears about being late despite us being able to hear the train announcements from our house,thus the toddler is already bored and threatening to revolt. The train I meant to get is late so we hop on the one beforehand.
I try to keep the toddler quiet with threats and Cadburies Buttons but a man grabs his can of Carling and moves to another seat like its not bloody 9.57 in the morning. I feel somewhat wronged in the whole social etiquette of the scenario.
But everything is going to be Ok because I planned this operation with meticulous efficiency.
Far before we need to stand, I stand, gathering pushchair, bag of bribes, baby and friend to hustle them towards the door. We wait, I can almost taste the Elderflower sour dough bread.
Oxenholme speeds by.
Kendal speeds past.
Wrong fucking train.
I am shit.
10.20: I am swearing at the pushchair as Jay Rayner walks surprisingly past.
10.37: Nothing good is going to happen in Penrith because it has All Gone Wrong.
But I like the under embellished red brick castle opposite McDonalds and I do like these little twisty grubby old alleys and charity shops so busy, the filthy Button smeared toddler is parked in corners left to poke at unflattering tweedy Per Una dresses as I delight in a ‘10p table.’
More places should have a 10p table. It makes kings out of paupers.
11.30: It is lunchtime because the grimy toddler who due to sweaty desperate train bribes is now covered in a light coating of cheese flavoured dust and chocolate has now furiously fallen asleep, still clutching the side of his pushchair in a grim comatose rictus grip.
The red brick streets of Penrith throw up No 15 -art gallery, bar and café where a vegetarian mezze featuring from memory, garlic oven baked mushroom, sweet potato cakes, falafel, olives, Turkish salad, flatbread, tzaiki, potato salad, sundried tomatoes and something with courgettes is £7.50 and I still have half of it left leaking pleasantly and herbily into my handbag.
I read today’s newspaper, a rare and exotic treat until a primal roar resounds from the pushchair and we swoop into the sudden rain to leave the other quiet good customers to continue to enjoy sanctuary and such wonderful, fresh and decently priced food I want to take a picture of the menu and clutch it to me at night on my damp and Basics instant noodle sodden pillow. I might even gently weep at the sweet sweet memory of it all. At least I will still have my handbag to sniff.
1.30: I have been to a posh grocers shop in an intimidating embossed grandiose shop on the square and now paper bags leak Good Oil into my handbag. I have a leek, blue cheese and mushroom pie for £1.65, a £1.10 treacle tart and a £1.75 sun dried tomato foccaccia-and I have possibly moved up a social scale.
2.30: An ancient charity shop up a little side street. The two elderly women behind the counter are chatting. ‘I think I might have just heard a car beep there,’
“Oh dear, people are so impatient these days.’
3.00: Another little charity shop and I buy a lovely wooden truck for a tantrumming toddler trying to fling china saucers about as people try to be polite about his vile behaviour. It is £2.00. Upon arriving home I see the original price of £30 is still on the bottom. I suspect another Bad Toddler only wanted Fisherprice.
3.15: The rain has cleared and what a staggering beautiful place Penrith is. Its Tolkien country with forests looming over the little staggering town and mountains looming beyond. But it still has a Bargain Booze. I like Penrith. Not entirely cutesy chintzy prostituting itself to tourists, not entirely four drinks for the price of two in a bar that flashes a cocktail glass every two seconds.
It has a Tapas bar featuring a tiny diorama of bulls being killed with toothpicks. You can spend 10p on an unpleasant plate or £10 000 on a nice ring within minutes in this shambolic town, neither here nor there, neither posh or not but where nature surrounds and the trains stop more frequently than at Oxenholme Lake District.
4:00: The toddler is screaming, a bag full of charity shop bounty swings him in the face every time I try to pick him up/smother him/quietly swear into his evil ears. I cannot get down these steps and then up those steps to get the train. A group of about five loud girls in loud clothes surround me. They then fight about who is going to carry the pushchair for me. I nearly weep in gratitude and embarrassment as they shove to carry the pushchair aloft even when there is a flat surface it could potentially be rolled upon.
4: 12: Then I realise I have automatically chosen the platform I arrived on to go back to. The wrong one. I am so scared of upsetting, annoying or confusing the lovely loud girls on platform 1, the antithesis of what you expect you expect loud girls in velour to be like and what my response to their benevolent actions turns them the other way?
I told you I over think things and am nervous.
4:18: So back down the stairs, smack smack smack smack.
Toddler has a tantrum. Headwhack, headwhack.
Back to Platform 1, smile guiltily at the teenagers, open the train door, close the train door, nowhere to put pram, thank fuck for Cadburys Buttons, apologise to people with iPads as the toddler is very keen on them, give him to my friend, sweat heavily.
4.45. I’m Not Going On An Adventure Again.
But it was worth it.