Kendal is slippery. So slippery. And uphill. So uphill. It has not been gritted. Well, the pavements and pedestrianised bits (i.e. most of it) haven’t. Heaven forbid you waste grit on a steep uphill busy town just before Christmas filled with old people and families. On the day that we are there, laughing at people skidding and sliding as we skid and slide, a young man slips over and dies. All for the want of a bit of salt.
Kendal is generally very picturesque and the snow renders it ludicrously so, Enid Blyton adventures in the snow crossed with pound shop Christmas cards-the terror of death as we slide slowly up the main street nullifies the beauty somewhat. Although as the last thing to see before you die, it’s a view that can’ t really be beaten. A thought, which somehow still fails to soothe. I bet there are really cross letters to the local paper next week about the lack of grit or snow removal. I thrive on local angry letters. I am annoyed at where my council tax has gone and I don’t even live or pay council tax here. I bet somehow cyclists and immigrants and/or dog poo are to blame. They always are.
Kendal has many individual little shops and boutiques, think Islington with kagoules and sensible footwear. Although I have just realized how hellish this sounds. We buy a loaf of bread from the Staff of Life bakery-it is £2.90 and in my head my mother is fainting in horror and disbelief. But it is exceptionally good bread and will be at least two main meals. The bag is so heavy I can barely hold it up the Dickensian little alley (if Dickensian alleys had delicatessens called Baba Gounash on them selling organic fresh tit-bits for seemingly, according to the accents present an entirely Islington crowd, who amazingly seem to be wearing heels. I suspect a helicopter pad.
There is a chocolate shop which makes me hysterical as it is historically themed, unknowingly kitsch being belief and amongst other hysterically named chocolate produce (anyone for a cup of His Majesty’s Eminence?) sells a hot chocolate with the most gloriously un-pc name of The Slave Trader. Teenagers in nylon pastiches of Tudor costume look embarrassed as they serve it and (white) Americans look delighted. The hot chocolate is really not very nice at all, faux pineapple and powdery hot chocolate should never ever mix but the building is quaint, overwarm and oh so clichédly English.
There is the crappest charity shop in the world where faded unfashionable velvet evening wear is daringly priced at ten pounds or more near a shop which sells darling little chairs at four hundred pounds. There is a terrifying pub, which looks quaint on the outside, but inside is a bare cold room selling foul tap wine at four quid a glass to drink as you are either ignored or stared at nastily. I do love Kendal. The outdoor market is selling chilly Brussels sprouts and frozen jumpers.
We normally go to the Riverside café, an excellent little vegetarian café by the wide clear shallow river but have to resist this time, as we are skint. And I can’t deal with the thought of downhill. It is a wonderful place though wholesome without being earthy, friendly without being overfriendly, well priced and a meal there (which comes with a choice of buckets of salads that alone could sustain life in the individual for several months) is about six quid. And they have strong cider.
The ruined castle overlooks the town and is a steeply pretty treacherous walk-it’s a very well groomed ruin but the other side of Kendal shines through with its empty bottles of cheap cider stashed in little open to the elements rooms and in the glass of booze bottles shining prettily and lethally as we walk back down that have been thrown off the top of its tiny turrets. Bet it was fun to do that though, I think guiltily.
The high street is your usual high street but prettier and today slidier and with a splattering of independent shops-I buy a pretty and impractical dress from Oxfam-it’s a tenner-a lot for a little dress made of lace but it seems cheap in Kendal and I want to escape from all the waterproof and wellies of the hearty people around me. Still not many local accents can be heard but this is no complete oasis-council houses surround, this is a bigger place than it initially appears and in the local papers, there are many fights documented in the quaint looking little pubs on the high street. There is a licensed Home Bargains, pioneer of cheap pleasing random crap, a McDonalds and the like and a rather forlorn indoor market. There is Kendal mint cake everywhere. Well, in the shops. A variety of Kendal mint cake is sold and I wonder at how the marketing skills required to try and make one slab of sugar with peppermint oil in sound different and exotically so from the next.
We slide precariously to the Brewery Arts Centre, a veritable complex which has a cosy snug café filled with spilling leather sofas and serious people on the latest apple Mac, a cinema, an exciting looking restaurant which we still can’t afford (although if I had not bought the silly dress, we could have had starters and tap water) and the brewery itself, which excitingly has big hops barrels with seats inside like some big fun fair ride where nothing actually happens. Nothing is going to spin around when wine is £4.50 a glass (a large one to be fair and according to the leaflet on the table, the wine is supplied by a local wine merchant with awards and all that sort of thing one positively expects in Kendal-well apart from in certain pubs in town that one is too scared to be openly be snide about even on a blog in case They come and get me and drown me in a vat of deep frozen garlic mushrooms and cheesy chips -and this is from me, who has openly laughed at hells angels hairs and beards at a hells angels festival. And actually, I am very partial to garlic mushrooms and cheesy chips being forced down my throat)
We step out less gingerly, bravado and locally sourced wine fuelled to instantly fall over. Hard. It’s going to be a long hazardous yet oh so pretty walk to the train station.