Sep 29 2012

About Not Going To Kendal

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.

Sep 23 2012

Blackpool in September

‘I’ll turn Hitler on while you take the photo,’ my boyfriend smilingly says to some strangers.  They are delighted by his kind offer and pose in front of the Fuehrer, as his arms raise and an electronic voice shouts ‘nein, nein, nein.’

This is definitely the best fun it is possible to have in Blackpool.

We are at the Grundy Gallery, which is currently running the Crazyland Golf exhibition, a fully interactive crazy golf course designed by artists including The Chapman Brothers and David Shrigley. Saddam Hussein is also immortalized here, a statue in perpetual fall, arms held aloft in perpetual victory.

Outside and the drizzle of summer has disappeared and it is a bright blue mid September morning-not yet half eleven yet the pubs are busy and several men recumber outside topless and clutching their mid morning beers which is probably the second best fun it is possible to have in Blackpool.

Look behind you and you can see tattered filthy perennially closed curtains, empty industrial cooking fat containers and the general detritus of urban squalor.  In front of you lie modern sculptures, bleached sands, glittering sea and the far away blue hazy promise of mountains.

People are desperately trying to squeeze this last little swansong of summer dry, licking ice creams with furious intent and spending spending spending on kids carousel rides and lager. Everyone is smoking with cheekbone chiseling intensity.

Two creosote tanned middle-aged women sing an old fashioned sounding song gently to each other at a bus stop, three female generations of a Glaswegian family tumble off a bus and into the Metropole loudly looking forward to ‘an enormous Baileys in the sun’.

We too enter The Metropole, a grand old hotel, all ambitious curly wurly Victorian plastered glory through the high grand foyer, all collect your own cutlery and meals for under £3.95 in the conservatory bar area. An elderly couple pristinely ironed, smile at each other over a coffee. A punk is talking about stabbing someone at the bar. Oh Blackpool, I do have a soft spot for you.

The Victorian penny arcade on the North Pier with black duct tape over half the coin slots is enough to make anyone’s heart sing as a tattered hundred-year-old ghost half heartedly flutters to life when I place my genuine Victorian penny in the slot of the Ghostly Tales machine. A few metres away in the modern arcade, urgent orange lights tell you to NUDGE!!! or KEEP!!! and shimmy upwards in ever increasingly bright orbits. I like my flaccid grey and silent ghost best.


My heart does not sing to wannabe upmarket tourist resorts, desperate to appeal to the Farrow and Balled and cutesy, chintzy and over-priced. Blackpool is the only place not to attempt to sell ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ tea towels and overpriced oversweet over-embellished cupcakes. Blackpool has poppers, Willy lollypops and chips with gravy and cheese. For which Blackpool, I salute you. Blackpool has genuine Victoriana with duct tape or ‘Danger’ emblazoned across it, not a ‘Victorian Experience’ costing seven quid a head and all the chaos, malfunctioning, unmarital sex and working class people removed from the equation.


Blackpool with its hideous aura of post war surburban houses has two quid a pint lager overlooking the best view in the world and is not selling aspirations, anything polkadot or anything pastel. Blackpool is a place to have dirty cheap neon nylon fun and maybe be a bit sick into your full English breakfast.

There is no pretence or aspiration here. People from all over the country who are either ignored, hated or pitied come here and have a fucking brilliant time, like they did a hundred years ago.

And be a bit sick in their breakfast.

Sep 21 2012

Shameless Begging Post

I have been nominated for the Blog North Awards and if thus if you like, you can vote for me babbling on about ghosts and cheesy chips instead of a more deserving, better punctuated,  professional more regularly updated blog. 🙂 Other people will have real life friends voting for them, I’m stretching out a hand to all my loyal spammers-Canadian Pharmacy, vote for me! RedHotRussianGirls, I’m looking at you! To show my technical expertise and commitment, I cannot even make the link work apart from when I put it in the blogroll list down the side. Quite frankly, even I am now too ashamed to vote for me.


Sep 21 2012

On inertia, luxury crisps and buddhists.


Pics might follow.  

I happened to be at the bestest most unusual place in the North recently. As someone who writes a blog about about unusual and bestest places in the North, this was of course a Very Good Thing. I strode about making sarcastic, flowery or erudite sentences in my head. And as this place was actually unusual, I did not have to search for new and good words about for example, standing stones which are all spellbinding, grey and aloft and stuff but you really need to be there to witness a megalithic portal to a lost past and thus reflect upon life, death and mortality and other pleasant concepts  you can dwell upon on a Saturday morning rather than look at slightly reduced ties in TK Maxx.


But every time I tried to write about this place, this really interesting unusual place, the blank Word document danced and mocked me-with every attempt to describe this place, all adjectives and excitement disappeared.

I felt like I had lost a child.

I am generally pretty shit at everything. My maths development stopped at the big number eating the little number, in fact that might be when I became vegetarian. I am dyspraxic, thus clumsy and forgetful. But I was ‘always good at writing’.

Now suddenly I am not. I have tried to write about the best place in the North but suddenly words are just symbols to stumble and trip on, there is no flow. I killed my beloved old laptop with a harsh spill of Pepsi Maxx oil and I feel sitting bolt upright on a charity shop dining chair, my head stretching upwards to the monitor as a sunflower is to the sun does not help. No one has ever written well with good posture in mind.

Anyway, the best place in the North I have never written about shouts at me whenever I am in an upmarket supermarket. You see posh crisps. I see Buddhists…

I will try and write again.


It is summer. I see a leaflet for Coniston Priory in a supermarket or somewhere and I am a glutton for leaflets detailing tourist attractions I would rather die than go to. Sometimes I am so bored with my life I laugh at the errant apostrophe in ‘wellie’s for hire’ (surely the worst thing to ever be amongst a star feature at an attraction?)  I mock the cartoon pigs wearing an article of clothing and wonder if a tearoom has ever not been ‘award winning’. And then re-evaluate my life.

We go to Coniston Priory because it is an intriguing mixture of an old manor house and a Buddhist retreat and temple.

A Glaswegian monk serves us English Lakes ice cream at a pound a cornet. And I wonder about his life and how he came to be here. Here in this crumbling Gothic building where gargoyles are silhouetted against the sky, orange robes and shaved heads walk stately through tangled gardens, the grave of a dog called Satan lies in a pet cemetery snarled and poignant in woodland.

I have not previously been in a Buddhist temple. I expected to take my shoes off and look at shining gilt statues. I did not expect to see dotted around the temple in attractive positionings, offerings to these deities that consisted of premium crisp brands.

We are talking Tyrells tortillas here, in understated yet pleasing middleclass flavours I had not previously witnessed before. Bottles of Belvoir Press are also enticingly displayed, one with a Ferrero Rocher neatly placed on its lid, which delights me more than it should. There are no Wotsits or small forlorn Smart Price ready salted crisps in this religious sanctuary-Mature Cheddar and Chive in upright confident oblongs lounge smartly on shining surfaces. It is utterly fascinating. I imagine golden gods in the darkness of night gorging on Thai Red Chilli and Pepper discs as owls swoop outside and a forgotten ghost from the old manor house opposite peers quizzically through the window.

I yearn to know what would happen were this sanctified place be besmirched by inferior potato based snacks and imagine the resultant rioting featured on BBC News with images of flapping orange robes and blazing placards with angrily painted pictures of NiK Naks with a red line harshly slashed across it.


I decide it’s probably time for another pleasingly priced ice cream.