Jan 22 2014

Casual racism and excellent cannelloni in Coniston

I hate the word ‘staycation’. You don’t actually give a flying fuck about the environment, you either can’t afford to go to Croatia but are too middle-class to admit it or you can’t cope with the thought of taking a weekend somewhere without your bloody canoes. Either of which, I pretty much loathe you.

Now don’t get me onto glamping, you Eurohike snubbing wankers happy to fork out five hundred quid for some battery operated LED lights wrapped around a sheepskin rug and a cafetiere in the morning. It is not Glamping. It is not glamorous. Especially if you need a poo at four am and you are in a field. You will realise that you are a moron. And I will smile. Except I won’t because that would mean I was there and that would be genuinely unpleasant for everyone concerned.


To make a refreshing change from me writing about being in a pub somewhere vaguely local, Unicycle Emptiness is on holiday!

On holiday somewhere an hour away from my house! One day my loyal readers will all get together and pay for my passport to be renewed but until then, you have to put up with me being withering in possibly the exact same terms I have used before about the price of a large house red in the North West of England.


If it makes you feel better, I will not talk about the price of a large house red in the terms I would normally use if writing about somewhere in the Morecambe Bay area. ‘FUCKING HELL’ is not normally shouted aloud, repeated more quietly yet rapidly whilst the head slowly shakes and then repeated again in a swoon and a sweat in the early hours of the morning.


We are in the Lake District, Coniston to be precise and it is utterly utterly gorgeous.


It is nestled quietly on a valley floor with mountainous crags, fells and hills so luminous and close I am suddenly back looking through one of those red 3D viewers of my childhood and thus am suddenly concerned a T-Rex might burst through the over-vibrant shrubbery.


The hotel we are staying at due to the kindness of in-laws and and a promotion on an internet voucher website is lovely, faded regal grandeur, over five pounds for a single G and T, tartan carpets and a sense of guilt for being here for such a reasonable price.


It is the last time something is a reasonable price. If anyone reading this has spent time at a festival or motorway services,  I am sure they identify with the prisoner shock of the outrageous price, then the  slowly used to it then the Something that  would normally  also be an outrageous price but slightly less so, seems like a almost bargain. Supermarkets also do this. The Conservatives do this but with policies.


£12 is the standard price for a normal pub meal in Coniston and over £5 for a glass of house red.  As we are vegetarian, we don’t get the heady thrill of a whole tasty dead thing in some flattering sauce, but some cubed sauced vegetables with garlic bread. As we are vegetarian, it’s our own fault for not eating meat completely and it is also a happy thing to see rural pubs actually having a vegetarian option rather than ‘fuck off’ or ‘you can have the vegetables instead-same price though’ (Uffculme, Devon-1999 ) plus excellent cider makes up for well pretty much everything ever.


And pretty much everything in the world becomes a minor quibble when you walk through a calendar landscape, late January becomes a glorious thing here without aggressive Volvo drivers with their precious canoe cargoes barging you off the road, the sun’s reflection on the mountains make them dark and sombre, then a sudden luminous gold in the space of a second, every pub has a fire and a dog and every path leads to beauty.

The Green Housekeeper cafe (all cheese scones as big as your head and old ‘Private Eyes’) has a supper club with 15.99 for two courses and byo wine. We venture in and it is wonderful, cosy, unusual and friendly with superb food (including vegetarian)  an outside loo clad in damp maps, and a pleasing amount of fairy lights and fake grass.

After leaving full of genial chat with lovely staff and customers, to a pub on the way ‘home’, it is surprising to suddenly hear in the actual middle of nowhere, people being cross about England being too full.

‘In Malaysia yeah, the mother can’t afford food, the child dies. But here, we’re a fucking soft touch- it’s true, a man from Malaysia said it to me.’


The welcoming beauty of the Lake District surround this little town of Coniston ensnared between lake and hill, where about half the houses are holiday houses, the other half probably worth over 200 grand. But still the delighted terror of the prospect of a mosque on top of the Old Man of Coniston.

Another pub has a cat which follows me to the loo. All pubs should have this option. It could save a fortune on loo roll.

I do not want to leave here- I want to stay sitting on my gritty mini-beach overlooking a mountainous Nirvana and a sweep of water stretching as far as the eye can see. I hope one day a mosque will twinkle at me. Just out of spite really.


Jan 12 2014

A cairn, an ambiguous stone circle and the hum of the motorway.

I have been craving a wintery landscape for a long time. Since the episode of the broken foot, I have looked longingly at the black spidery outline of trees against the bleak sky outside my badly double glazed window and yearned yearned yearned to be outside battering against the elements feeling the chill in my face before accidentally  eating more Wotsits and passing out in front of a Poirot I have seen a concerning amount of times before.

The cast has just come off- I have a strangely immobile unflexible foot like something badly grafted onto me by a freelance student doctor from the past or the NHS of the future and have been told to take it easy but I have been immersing myself in history books and folklore (along with Wotsits and obsessive Facebook refreshing ) and am resolute on going to the alleged site of a ruined stone circle and cairn near Carnforth.


I have not been out for a while so dress the part in a see through Calvin Klein peasant dress with attractive boots underneath. I have sadly forgotten how fucking cold Outside is and the look is ruined by the running nose and pronounced limp.


Yealand Conyers is the sort of little higgledy piggledy village from the past that makes you smile to think that Real Countryside still exists until you see that the darling tiny cottage on the road is up on Rightmove for nearly 300 grand, you can still vaguely hear the motorway but also the monotonous bang  of some wax clad wanker killing an animal somewhere nearby. Still love it though- an architectural mishmash of centuries ambling pretting along a winding road with a backdrop of hills, fields and the Lake District mountains. People smile and say hello and the village school looks like the mystical sort of primary school which doesn’t feature a crudely etched ejaculating penis somewhere in the vicinity.

The Quaker Meeting House is the closest I have ever felt close to embracing religion with its trusting open bookshelves to borrow from in an empty room. The graves sadden me though with their disrespect for mawkishness and base thrills. Just a name and the dates. Far too respectful and tasteful. Every graveyard aficionado knows the greatest pleasure is the occasional gravestone pronouncing ‘Murder!’ or ‘Drowned at Sea’. A grisly guilty pleasure for those who refuse to read ‘Pick Me Up’ but a few  hundred years makes an badly timed death romantic and scholarly.


The stone circle and cairn on Summerhouse Hill is exciting in its ambiguity. It looks like a stone circle but it has been disputed and depleted. The views stretch for miles, the sea combining into sky- at this distance Morecambe looks romantic.  The cairn is definitely a cairn despite the surprising inclusion of a few red bricks and the stone circle a gap toothed Shane Macgowan grin.


I am so cold I want to die and the many divots in the soil have caused anguish, pain  and confusion to a foot I had decided was definitely healed.

I  peer and scratch in the many molehills in the hope the past will be opened up to me by a helpful mole. The helpful moles just give me stones and the terror I missed something and then will maybe see someone smugly gurning on the front cover of the Westmorland Gazette holding proudly aloft one of the pieces of stone I chucked sulkily away.

This is not helped by seeing some men definitely not wearing see through Calvin Klein metal detecting the area with a fast decisive sweep whilst I am peering at a cowpat and shivering with my boobs hanging out.


I decide to go to the pub.

The New Inn at Yealand Conyers is the sort of pub that used to exist in the countryside before they were all bought out, Farrow and Balled and almost impressively over-priced.

Fortunately the New Inn seems to have resisted this- my child’s hot chocolate comes with more chocolate and lollipops on the side than he had on Christmas day with the occasional bar of Cadburys Fudge casually plopped on his saucer. Polite well behaved dogs eat the complimentary dog food by the roaring wood burner and there is a pleasing amount of animal skulls on the wall and some excellent looking vegetarian meals on the menu for well under a tenner.

I go as usual for the chips and wine option but will be back to this little cosy place where history abounds, the sky streaks across Morecambe Bay  and a nut roast and trimming comes to 6.99.

Next time I shall wear a cardigan and find some treasure.