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SJ's log for 2007

There is always a flurry of LJ's before Sj leaves to visit us, 2007 was no exception.

Live Journal Post before she left

Friday, April 13th, 2007

2:50 pm Protected

I leave (for the bus, which leaves for the plane, which leaves for England) in just a few minutes and as always I'm a bundle of excited energy raring to go. My things are packed. Indeed rather a lot more than normal is packed as this year's trip involves the need for my hiking boots.

I'm particularly excited about this year's trip as we will be visiting the Lake District and seeking out the locations from Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. As a result in the last few days I've been flipping idly through the books and reflecting as to just how central these books were to my own childhood.

Indeed, as I charged my ipod and grabbed images off an external drive last night, I reflected on just how evident their influence is on my life even today.

Every machine in my house takes its name from one of the boats in the book.

Ship's Log - Spring 2007

As has become tradition, last April I spent a week in the UK visiting my father and my brother. Instead of puttering around as we typically do, this time we had a plan, namely to spend some time in the Lake District locating as many sites as possible from our favorite series of children's books (Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons).

As is also tradition, it's taken almost a full year for me to type up the trip report.

Friday 13 April 2007

No first period class so ended up going into school about 20 minutes late so that I could fret about my impending trip in peace. Not a bad day all told but hard to concentrate on much.

Ready to go the second the bell rang and made it home in record time. Quick shower, e-mail and into the car and off to the bus. Part way there, realized that the 5 minute grace period I gave myself was only actually good when compared to school time.

Ended up just behind the bus as it pulled into the lot and probably would have made it had the lot not been chock full. By the time I'd figured out the valet service and bought my ticket, the bus was long gone. No matter, only an hour until the next. Not too keen on the idea of leaving my car with a valet for a week and seriously considered taking it home and having a friend drive me to the bus instead. Probably best I didn't as I really couldn't afford to miss the second bus as well.

A guy about my age also waiting for the bus with a woman I assumed to be his mother in attendance. He was going to England she informed me, so was I. Oh, was I on holiday from school? Yes. I refrained from mentioning that I was a teacher and not a student.

Very quick trip to Logan, sneaking in a back way I would never otherwise have discovered. Signs seemed to indicate that the Air Canada flights now departed from terminal B as opposed to terminal C as my flight itinerary suggested. A tad leery as I disembarked and watched the bus drive off without me but if I was in the wrong place, so too was the guy from the bus station, who it turned out was on the same flights as me.

Checked in and discovered that in addition to listing the wrong terminal, my flight itinerary also had the wrong departure time - a tad concerned I might be cutting it a bit too close.

Through security without issue. Astonished at the security guy whose solution to his impending baldness was to paint his head black. He'd even managed to get the line over the top of his head perfectly straight so that from a distance it looked as if he was wearing some sort of a hat. Only when you got right up to him did you notice the moist droplets of sweat all over his head and realize that it was paint - clearly someone had told him that comb-overs looked ridiculous.

Onto the plane without issue, saying hello to the bus!guy (who had been joined by his girlfriend) on the way. Uneventful trip to Halifax, the entirety of it spent talking to my seat mate who turned out to be an excellent conversationalist. When beverages were served he was insistent that I try a favorite Canadian beverage called "clamato". Clamato, which turned out to be manufactured by Mott's was Canada's answer to tomato juice and, I was informed, was typically served with vodka. Not so mine, I did however get the can so I could see for myself that in addition to tomato juice and celery seed it also contained dried clam juice. Fortunately it wasn't nearly as dreadful as it sounds and I won good points from my seatmate for drinking the entire thing.

I confessed to my seatmate that while I had flown into Halifax before, I was most impressed with the Ottawa airport. He assured me that Halifax had a waterfall every bit as good as the one in Ottawa. I was not convinced.

Slightly early arrival in Halifax meant an entire hour to navigate immigration and customs as opposed to the 45 minutes my itinerary allotted. When I had checked in in Boston, I was informed that my bags had been checked through to London. "Great," I replied. The gate agent laughed and said that this meant the bags were tagged for London. I would still have to claim them, navigate customs and immigration in Halifax and then recheck them before heading to my next flight.

Despite the steps involved, I knew from experience that this was a fairly quick process in Ottawa. It turned out to be just as quick in Halifax. 15 minutes from gate to gate. Thank goodness I hadn't been routed through Toronto where 3.5 hours from gate to gate is the typical norm.

Just time for a quick hello to the bus!guy and his girlfriend then onto the next plane. As is typical for a flight booked by CJ, ended up in the very last row, in seats that didn't recline. Another chatty seatmate but eventually made an attempt at sleeping. May as well not have bothered as no sooner had I closed my eyes than the cabin lights were turned on and breakfast served. A bit silly as still 2.5 hours from London.

Even more than that by the time all was said and done as we circled the airport for quite awhile. No proper gate available when we arrived, instead a stairway to the tarmac and shuttle busses were produced. Both myself and the bus!guy ended up on the last one.

Don't think I'd ever had such a late arrival in London, quite pleased to see that it was so late that the immigration hall was almost empty. Clearly I'd missed the peak arrival hours. Luggage quickly collected, much to the consternation of a girl about my age who was sitting by the baggage claim with a look of increasing defeat. Waved a final goodbye to the bus!guy and headed to the exit.

Saturday 14 April 2007

CJ was waiting for me as I emerged so into the car and off to Catslide. Warm day but fairly hazy/foggy so no chance of viewing "the mark" from the motorway. RS and CJ off to the shops soon after I arrived, leaving me in peace to take a quick shower and collapse into bed.

Napped for a few hours and was woken up (at least briefly) when CJ wound the clock. Lunch of potato salad and cheese in the garden.

CJ quite impressed by all the random hillside letters and fake ancient monuments I'd visited in Arizona and of the opinion that we should see a few genuine ones here as well.

So off to visit the White Horse


by a circuitous route that took rather a lot longer than we expected.

The white horse


proved fairly difficult to view from close up leading one to wonder how in the world it had been created.

Not even the large man made hill just below the drawing provided a useful view


of the full horse.

An unfortunate lack of convenient trees or bushes


on the well exposed hillside.


A nice walk however and CJ quite pleased to discover a walkie talkie that someone had abandoned in the field. As a quick call on it provided no answer, fairly clear it belonged to us. Now we just needed to find a second one.

Trip back to the house much faster due no doubt to the fact that SJ napped in the car. Home too late to do justice to the chicken so stir fry dinner with vitamin drinks instead. SJ started reading Swallows and Amazons aloud to RS who had never read it. SJ quite done in by the combination of gin and jet lag but remarkably her reading improved as she got drunker.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Clock ticked loudly


all night but SJ too exhausted to notice. As we'd visited a hillside drawing yesterday it was decided that a trip to the rollwright standing stones


would be the activity of the day.

CJ packed quite a good picnic lunch including a pot of pasta salad whose lid he cleverly duct-taped closed


A nice picnic which included more reading from Swallows and Amazons then a visit to the stones themselves.

The circle of kingsmen


is considered uncountable with nobody ever arriving at the same count twice. This likely because a few of the stones were no bigger than pebbles


and as such some debate


over whether they should be counted at all.


CJ insistent that they should so 81 stones on first count.

Watched the new age nutters doing readings or some such mumbo jumbo in the center of the circle. Ley lines! On second count both SJ and RS got 75


Back home and chicken put in to roast


while SJ given the full catslide tour


Said tour involved a visit to the attic


to see the underside


of the thatch,


the catslide


for which the cottage was named


and to the workshop


to see the door to the bread oven that CJ had discovered in the garden


Conveniently, said door was the actual door for the bread oven to the right of the main fireplace


Spent some time showing RS the Arizona pictures, then vitamin drinks and a few more chapters of Swallows and Amazons.

Monday 16 April 2007

Much harder to sleep through the ticking of the clock when you aren't as jet lagged. Up, packed, and off to the lake district just a tad later than we'd hoped to leave. As a result TW and LE made it to the meeting spot significantly sooner than we did. Car easily recognizable by the simple fact that it was the only one in the lot with kayaks on the roof.

The meeting place was a rest area on the M6 so brief lunch stop then back on the road. SJ switching cars so as to have a bit more room and more importantly, a break from the dog who had been quite insistent on breathing down her neck.

Made it to Ambleside in the late afternoon and checked into our accommodations


Quite a nice place, even CJ and RS in the dog's home staying in style.
Cars unpacked we headed down into town. CJ stopping to buy groceries while the rest of the crew set off in search of the lake. Lake proved initially elusive but soon located.

It had its beginning long, long ago when, as children, my brother, my sisters and I spent most of our holidays on a farm at the south end of Coniston. We played in or on the lake or on the hills above it, finding friends in the farmers and shepherds and charcoal burners whose smoke rose from the coppice woods along the shore. Coming to it we used to run down to the lake, dip our hands in and wish, as if we'd just seen the new moon. Going away from it we were half drowned in tears. While away from it, as children and as grown-ups, we dreamt about it. No matter where I was, wandering about the world, I used at night to look for the North Star and, in my mind's eye, could see the beloved skyline of great hills beneath it.

And here it is as phone posted by Sj: The same quote from Arthur Ransome

CJ showed up soon after and hands suitably dunked


we threw sticks for the ship's parrot


When the parrot tired of the water we headed to a convenient native watering hole


on the harbor and spent a lovely hour or so sitting at a picnic table and watching the water.

Back to the holiday cottage for a stir fry dinner and vitamin drinks served on the porch.

A few more chapters of Swallows and Amazons


after dinner then CJ and RS off to let the parrot out of his cage. Rest of the crew awake for awhile talking, eating chocolate buttons and listening to SJ attempt to make a simple phone post. This complicated by the fact that SJ was attempting to read the author's note from Swallows and Amazons and seemed incapable of doing it slowly enough to be understood.

You can get a flavour of what this waslike here: Phone post

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Alarm went off at 8am so that LE could go for a run. Sod it, back to sleep.

All stirring by 10am and a quick walk down to the village to acquire a day bag for CJ and a postbox for RS. Not much luck for either as the store CJ wanted was closed and nary a postbox to be found. RS stopped to ask two gentlemen having breakfast outside a small restaurant and they were in the process of directing her to the post office when a shout rang out from the rest of the crew. She was standing right next to a postbox.

Clearly they should paint them bright red so as to be more visible


Purchased a small day pack for CJ then the entire crew (including the ship's parrot) into a single car and off to the foot of the lake to catch the train.

Train yard closed long before we expected to be back so CJ parked around the corner leaving SJ the day pack. RS seized the opportunity to stuff the bag with all manner of things while he wasn't looking.

Admired the tank engines


and had a cup of tea and a scone while we waited for the train. Josie allowed into the cafe after all, "that's not a dog, that's a parrot".

"What a fantastic view", said the ship's boy just as the train plunged into a tunnel. Clearly the scenic railroad wasn't as scenic as it claimed.

Still good fun to watch the steam from the engine billow through the trees and see Roger bouncing up and down in anticipation of his first view of the lake. Perhaps it would have been quicker to walk.

It had been a long day's journey from the south, but the last few minutes of it were going like seconds. Already they were in the hill country where walls of loose stones divided field from field. Grey rocks showed through the withered grass. Grey and purple fells lifted to the skies. Titty and Roger hurried from side to side of the carriage, looking first out one window and then out of another.

A farm house not unlike Holly Howe, flashed into sight and was gone. The farmer's wife jumped up and began collecting her parcels. The train came suddenly round a bend and began to slow up.

'There's the lake,' Titty and Roger cried together.

Far below them, beyond the smoking chimneys of a village, glittering water stretched between the hills. The train was stopping for the last time.

Caught the steamer


to Bowness-on Windermere Rio at the foot of the lake and kept a sharp lookout for Cormorant Island. Photographed several likely candidates, including one that actually had cormorants before the real island came into sight.

All amazed at just how much like NH it looked.

Set off to find the steamboat museum only to discover that it was closed for refurbishment for the next year or so. Pity, we had been looking forward to seeing Amazon.

Headed up into Rio proper after first having to walk through a gaggle of swans. SJ quite terrified to be in such close proximity to so many of the beasts. TW amused, at least until he got a look at the next stretch of the path which included a comparable number of pigeons. Ship's parrot taken well around as she rarely appreciates mingling with other birds.

Large sign by the road informed the viewer that "swans have no road sense, for their own safety please feed them on the beach." SJ all for buying bird seed.

Ploughman's at a pub for lunch, the ship's parrot quite happy to sit under the table and mop up the day's crumbs. More reading


CJ in search of a cash machines so the exploration of Rio continued apace. TW and LE lagged behind, CJ quite convinced this was because they'd gone into a jewelry store. SJ spotted a butcher that specialized in game and a (frozen) rabbit was duly acquired. Noticed a Peter Rabbit and Friends store on the way back to the docks.

Requisite photo


of SJ and TW under the sign with the dead rabbit duly taken.

LE got a glimpse of an ex-boyfriend as we were crossing the road. TW full of all sorts of ideas of what she could yell at him including, "Oy! You gave me syphilis".

Watched a small child tormenting the swans while we waited for the boat. Bets taken as to which eye the child would lose first.

Was this the M/s Mount Washington or the Sophie C. come to fetch us? Wandered up to the top deck and sat in the bows. Moved to more sheltered area soon enough however as the temperature had dropped while we were in Rio.

Quite impressed by the couple sitting across from us in short sleeves as we huddled under our jackets. Turns out they'd forgotten their coats in the cafe. This was particularly funny as they admitted that they'd come to the lakes totally unprepared for the weather and had bought the clothes they were wearing only that afternoon.

A nice trip to Ambleside, disembarked and CJ and RS and the parrot went to fetch the other car while TW started dinner and SJ and LE took turns using the good shower.

SJ had attempted to shower that morning only to discover that the shower in her room not only lacked sufficient water pressure, it also alternated between scalding hot and ice cold without any prompting. Indeed it was a bit like showering in a sine wave with the water cycling through from one extreme to the other and back again in 10 second intervals.

CJ of the opinion that the lake district had the softest water in the country so SJ hopeful that her hair might be somewhat more cooperative than it had ever been before in the UK.

SJ decorated


the lasagna in a very Swallows and Amazons fashion before putting it in to bake.

A nice dinner


left overs destined for the parrot until LE spoke up, seems she was a tad leery of the impending rabbit pie. TW, LE and SJ up quite late talking about all manner of things. Finally driven to bed by the knowledge that they were expected to climb a mountain in the morning.

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Crew quite relieved that an early start was not required so off to Coniston to climb The Coniston Old Man Kanchenjunga. Parked in town and headed up a farm track. Passed over a cattle grate, the ship's parrot taking one look and opting for the style


instead. A beautiful hike that wended its way up past the copper mines and a hydro electric dam installment (which TW paused to drink out of) before setting off across the moorland


through the remnants of the slate industry


and eventually to the craggy top of the mountain.

Stopped for lunch halfway up


and note that while we'd reached the halfway point milewise, according to the GPS we were nowhere near it. CJ and TW of the opinion that clearly this meant the GPS was crap. LE the most sensible of the lot pointed out that if this was halfway it was going to have to get a lot steeper.

CJ had brought the pemmican


so a lovely lunch of bread, apples, pemican, salami and cheese was consumed before we headed up once more.

John opened a tin of pemmican, and the explorers had a simple and well earned supper, just a scrap of pemmican for each of them, and some bunloaf after it, and a bit of chocolate, while the expedition's one mug was refilled again and again with milk and a little tea and went round and round.

Oh no, CJ had forgotten the chocolate. No matter, he'd brought the fly biscuits and insisted on referring to them as bunloaf.

Noticed a recently pregnant woman hiking with her husband and what appeared to be a fairly newborn baby. RS not impressed.

Passed a number of ramshackle slate buildings and the remains


of what had to have been a lift system


to get the slate on and off the mountain. A good number of caves and mine entrances


also in evidence. We kept climbing, eventually arriving at a small lake in which we refilled our water bottles before starting up the steepest section.

"In the books, it only took them a chapter to climb this mountain," SJ remarked to RS.

At the start they had been scrambling up beside the tiny mountain beck that was now all that was left to remind them of the river far down below them in the valley. But as soon as they had come to a place from which they had had a clear view of the summit, Nancy, the leader, had turned directly towards it, and within a minute or two everybody had learnt how useful it is on a mountain to have four legs instead of two. Sometimes Nancy turned left or right to avoid loose screes, but when she came to a rock that could be climbed, she climbed it, and the rest of the explorers climbed it after her.

'The really tough bit's still to come,' she said cheerfully.

The tough bit came when nobody expected it, and the explorers were very glad they had rope in spite of it being such a bother from a talking point of view. They had come to a steep face of rock, not really very difficult, because there were cracks running across it which made good footholds and handholds, but not a good place to tumble down because there was nothing to stop you and there were a lot of loose stones at the bottom of it.

In real life it took significantly longer. But we made it to the cairn that marked the summit eventually.


With Wild Cat Island,


visible far below


Sj took the opportunity to set a waypoint on her GPS.

All this time the explorers had been climbing up the northern side of the peak of Kanchenjunga. The huge shoulder of the mountain had shut out from them everything that there was to the west. As they climbed, other hills in the distance seemed to be climbing too, and, when they looked back into the valley they had left, it seemed so small that they could hardly believe that there had been room to row a boat along that bright thread in the meadows that they knew was the river. But it was not until the last rush to the top, not until they were actually standing by the cairn that marked the highest point of Kanchenjunga, that they could see what lay beyond the mountain.

Then indeed they knew that they were on the roof of the world.

Far, far away, beyond range after range of low hills, the land ended and the sea began, the real sea, blue water stretching on and on until it met the sky. There were white specks of sailing ships, coasting schooners, probably, and little black plumes of smoke showed steamers on their way to Ireland or on their way back or working up or down between Liverpool and the Clyde. And forty miles away or more there was a short dark line on the blue field of the sea.

Despite the fact that Susan had specifically forbidden


Roger from doing any such thing in the books, TW and LE insisted on climbing the the cairn


so that they could experience, as Roger had not, the feeling of being "a few feet higher even than the top of Kanchenjunga".

They were startled by a shout from Roger, 'Look, look! What's this?'

In his hand was a small round brass box with the head of an old lady stamped on the lid of it. Framing the head of the old lady were big printed letters: 'QUEEN OF ENGLAND EMPRESS OF INDIA DIAMOND JUBILEE 1897.' Roger had found a loose stone at the foot of the cairn, had pulled it out, and seen the little brass box hidden behind it.

'She must be Queen Victoria,' said John. 'She came before Edward the Seventh.'

'She really is awfully like Bridget used to be.' said Titty.

'There's something inside,' said Roger, shaking the box.

'Let's open it,' said Nancy.

'I'll open it,' said Roger, and he did. Inside was a folded bit of paper and a farthing with the head of Queen Victoria on it.

'Take care,' said Titty. 'It may be a treasure chart. It might be a deadly secret. It may crumble at a touch. They often do.'

But the paper proved strong enough. Roger let Nancy unfold it. She opened it, began reading it aloud, and then stopped. Peggy took it and read it aloud, while the others looked over her shoulder. It was written in black pencil that had scored deeply into the paper:

August the 2nd. 1901
We climbed the Matterhorn.
Molly Turner.
J. Turner.
Bob Blackett.

That's mother and Uncle Jim,' said Peggy in a queer voice.

'Who is Bob Blackett?' asked Susan.

'He was father,' said Nancy.

Nobody said anything for a minute, and then Titty, looking at the paper said, 'So that's what they called it. Well, it's Kanchenjunga now. It's no good changing it now we've climbed it.

'That was thirty years ago,' said John.

'I wonder how mother and Uncle Jim escaped from the great-aunt to come up here,' said Peggy. 'She was looking after them you know.'

'Probably father rescued them,' said Nancy.

'Why did they put the farthing in?' wondered Roger.

'Let's put it all back,' said Titty hurriedly. 'They meant it to stay for a thousand years.'

'Has anyone got a bit of paper?' said Nancy suddenly.

Nobody had, but Titty had the stump of a pencil. Nancy took it and wrote firmly on the back of the paper on which her father and mother and uncle had set forth their triumph of thirty years before.

August 11. 1931.
We climbed Kanchenjunga.

'Now she said, 'we all sign here,' and she wrote her name. 'You next, Captain John. Then the two mates, and the the able-seaman and the ship's boy.'

Everybody signed. Then Nancy folded up the paper, put it back in the box with the farthing and gave it to Roger.

'You found it,' she said. 'You put it back, and then perhaps in another thirty years...' She broke off, but presently laughed, 'Shiver my timbers,' she said, 'but I wish we had a George the Fifth farthing.'

'I've got a new halfpenny,' said Roger.

'Can you spare it?'

'I''ll give you another if you can't, said John, 'when we get back to camp.'

Roger dug out his halfpenny. The box was closed and pushed far back into the hole at the foot of the cairn. Roger wedged the loose stone firmly into place.

'Nobody would ever guess there was anything there,' said Roger. 'I wouldn't have found it if the stone hadn't worked loose.'

'And now perhaps it won't be found for ages and ages until people wear quote different sorts of clothes,' said Titty. 'Perhaps it'll be more explorers just like us.'

Spent a few minutes looking for the notes


of explorers who had come before us, quite convinced there ought to be some. No luck. Fortunately we were prepared with a small container, a scrap of paper and a new coin.

April 18th, 2007
We climbed Mount Olympus, Mars

Chris, Rosie, Sarah, Tom, Louise, and Josie (ship's parrot)

Placed a few coins and our note into a plastic egg and placed it inside the cairn.


CJ now a little worried that the meter would expire in the car park so an advance party of TW and LE sent on ahead to take care of it. They galumphed the entire way and made it down in only 45 minutes despite missing the patteran and having to go a different way.

The rest of the ship's company proceeded at a more leisurely pace. SJ even using her patented knickerbocker breaker method a few times when she didn't think CJ was watching.

Ship's parrot,


who wasn't allowed off the lead due to her bad habit of chasing the mountain lions


proved the wisdom of this restriction by sneaking up on one that CJ hadn't noticed.

TW and LE waiting at the pub at the foot of the mountain.


They'd been shopping and were working on their third beers by the time the rest of the crew made it down.
CJ nipped into the grocery to acquire the non-meat portion of the rabbit pie, including a bag of frozen peas for SJ's knee (which was not impressed by the day's activity). Beer purchased as well and the shop keeper informed that the ship's boy would be sent to fetch it. The shop keeper assured CJ that he'd be able to recognize the boy by the parrot on his shoulder. "Not likely," said TW, "that parrot is bloody heavy."

Drove by Holly Howe


on the way back to the cottage. Apparently it is now a youth hostel.


CJ started making the rabbit pie as soon as we made it back to the cottage. SJ a tad worried he'd notice she'd been squishing the peas as they thawed on her knee.

Turns taken with the good shower then a very good pie also decorated


in proper Swallows and Amazons fashion) with wine and vitamin drinks. Too tired to even clean up, a very early night as all exhausted.

Thursday 19 April 2007

Slept in a bit then into town for a bit of shopping. SJ and LE both decidedly sore from the previous day's adventure so some care taken walking down the hill. TW and LE in want of some (rock) climbing shoes and as Ambleside had a disproportionate number of such shops, this was the place to buy them.

Visited a number of places including a discount/remainder sports outfitter that only had a single pair of shoes. Amazingly they were LE's size, "make me an offer," the shopkeeper said. £ 2- suggested TW while LE tried them on. They didn't fit, must be a cinderella complex the shopkeeper assured us.

Continued down the road and visited a number of bookshops where maps and some biographical Swallows and Amazons books were acquired. All surprised by just how little Swallows and Amazons stuff was in the offing. Everyone was nuts about Beatrice Potter, but the Swallows and Amazons books felt like an afterthought. Weren't the natives even the least bit aware that a good bit of adventure was going on right under their noses?

Acquired a sausage roll and kept shopping, visiting a crazy number of climbing stores, eventually running into CJ, RS and the parrot.

Success at last at the first climbing store we'd visited on our arrival in Ambleside. Even then a good long time for TW and LE to try them on and purchase shoes.

Visited a small restaurant for tea and biscuits. Slightly too cold to sit outside so inside, the parrot once more overjoyed to get to sit under the table. Scones for the ladies, squashed fly biscuits for the men. Only problem was the waitress didn't know what they were despite being on prominent display in the window.

More climbing shops after tea and some temptation to buy a set of panniers for the parrot. Eventually TW and LE decided they should look at climbing harnesses and SJ, RS and Josie headed off to find more interesting stores. SJ quite amazed that the parrot was allowed into every store we encountered. One final sausage roll then off to drop our shopping in our rooms and head to Grasmere in the car.

CJ a tad disturbed by the advancing age of the Grasmere crowds and quite determined that you'd never catch him visiting Wordsworth's grave. "Not even to be sure he's really dead?" asked the crew.

Our main purpose in Grasmere was to acquire some of the world famous gingerbread


made from a secret recipe


passed down through the generations and locked away in a bank vault.

Also acquired five very nice bottles


of gingerbeer grog and sat to enjoy them.

Decided to take the kayaks down to the lake once we got back to Ambleside so drove down to the harbor to find a suitable launch site.

Only two kayaks so TW and LE took the first turn,


kayaking them round to the park where the rest of the ship's company met them. LE a tad uncomfortable in the boat and even TW a tad leery


as these were whitewater kayaks and as such quite hard to steer on the lake. SJ taking the next turn, just a short paddle


then back to the beach to give CJ his turn. Ship's parrot quite happy to play fetch with whoever was waiting on shore for a turn.

TW and SJ both quick


to grab their cameras


when CJ headed out


onto the water but TW soon distracted helping RS into her boat and SJ looked down for a moment to locate the camera zoom just in case CJ should go over.

This distraction was just what CJ was waiting for and while all eyes were diverted he started feeling overconfident and over he went




Fortunately SJ had only blinked for a second and she was quick to make up for this by


snapping away with the camera.

"Where's the zoom?


where's the zoom?" she shouted excitedly.

What luck


Three years in a row she'd managed to capture CJ's accidental dunking on film.

and reported it to LJ.

Sj proclaims that she is having fun

TW, the good child as usual, ran off to the car to fetch towels while CJ walked the kayak


to shore exclaiming loudly that he just couldn't believe it.

"I thought he'd done it on purpose until I saw his face," said LE.

RS not about to venture out now she'd seen what had happened to CJ so kayaking expedition quickly cancelled and back to the cottage so that CJ could take a nice hot shower.

While warmer than the canal, Lake Windermere in April isn't quite suitable for bathing. Really it was good that CJ had gone over, otherwise he likely would have complained about having to sit in the front seat with a soggy parrot.

TW, LE, and SJ headed down to the shops to buy groceries as soon as we made it back to the cottage. Opportunity to buy thank you presents for CJ and RS in the form of wine, chocolate and Old Man Ale

"000rkyzp", duly seized.

CJ made pizza for dinner and TW provided the home brewed gingerbeer


and then more Swallows and Amazons was read, everyone chuckling quietly over the references to owl calls which when read at great speed (SJ is incapable of reading slowly) sounded like "owl-cah-hol".

Another early night as LE was exhausted, but not before button pudding was eaten and a fairly triumphant lj phone post was made.

Friday 20 April 2007

Hard to come away from the lakes, but slightly easier due to the light drizzle that was falling. It seems that Cumbria's yearly allotment of three days of good weather had all been used.

Packed up and headed towards Kendall to visit the Museum of Lakeland Life. Some trouble finding the place but eventually discovered it located in a factory outlet mall. Seemed like an odd place so CJ went in to double check only to discover that they were closing for renovations at the end of the day and wouldn't reopen for two years. As they'd already put all of their exhibitions into storage, once wonders why they'd bothered to be open at all.

Ship's company parted company, CJ, RS and the parrot off to Oxford. TW, LE and SJ headed south to Birmingham.

LE napped for awhile, awakening briefly as we passed Lancaster University due to the reek of manure that enveloped it.

"Hold on," said TW soon afterward, "let's have a think about this. Why in the world are we heading south?" Quick discussion revealed that really there was no pressing need to return to Birmingham so early in the day.

"Is there was anything else we wanted to do in the lakes?" asked TW.

"Do you want the crazy answer or the sensible one?" asked SJ.

"Both," said TW.

"Sensible, no. Crazy, hire a boat and sail to Wildcat Island."

TW and SJ all for returning to the lakes at once and even went so far as to call a boat hire company.

LE a tad more pragmatic. Perhaps a visit to Chester so we could walk along the river. SJ not so interested in Chester, though willing to entertain a detour to North Wales to visit Conway Castle or Angel Beach as an alternative to Wildcat Island.

Stopped at a petrol station to acquire food while we debated the relative merits of each plan. LE not at all interested in hiring a boat, after all it had been raining when we left the lakes but eventually a compromise was reached. No hire boats, rather we could drive along the shore of Coniston Water and attempt to locate Wildcat Island. As previous to this the only sight of Wildcat Island we'd had had been from the top of a mountain, turned around and headed North again.

Made it back to the lakes in under an hour and eventually located the windy one lane track that made its way up the east side of the lake and passed so close to the fields on either side that had you held out your arm the cows would have drooled in your hand.

Eventually we found it and after a quick turn around we found a place to park and set off through the forest to the bank for a better view

Tw offering LE assistance


over the muddy ground.

The island itself proved somewhat elusive and when we climbed to the top of what could only be the peak of Darien


we were quite surprised to find it nowhere to be seen


Continued onward and eventually we found it, just as we'd imagined. It wasn't too far off shore and SJ and TW spent a few minutes grinning maniacally


and contemplating a short swim.

In the end it was decided that the kayaks would be an infinitely better exploration method so back to the car to fetch them.

Swapped out the memory card in SJ's camera. All a tad nervous after CJ's example from the day before, so SJ and TW into more suitable kayak clothes. Kayaks a tad heavier than last time, perhaps CJ's needed to be drained more thoroughly. SJ and TW each carrying one end of each boat and LE bringing the paddles. All of the opinion that a slew of native porters would have been just the thing


LE not so sure she wanted to visit the island so she settled down


with a book while SJ and TW paddled out. Kayaks still hard to steer


but both improving with practice and made it to the landing place without issue. The weather had cleared by then and the sun was shining by the time they made it to the landing place


Disembarked and pulled the boats well up (in case of a tidal wave) and headed off to explore


the island. Conversation was sparse for awhile, consisting mostly of gasps of amazement and exclamations of delight. No doubt, we'd just landed on Wild Cat Island. Went north first and came upon lookout point. TW climbed the lighthouse tree then we ventured inland and discovered that Ransome was right


it was the very best camping place


that any explorers


could ever hope to have.



we discovered the harbor and our delight increased a hundredfold if such a thing was even possible. No doubt about it, this wasn't just any harbor, this was THE harbor.


Every description, every sketch could be talking about this and this alone


He knew there was nothing that would do for a harbour on the north end of the island, or on the west, because there the rock dropped down like a wall of stone into the water. On the western side, except for the landing place, it was much the same. But there was just a chance that he might find what he wanted at the south end where the island broke up into smaller islands, bare rocks sticking up out of the water, some of them lying so far out that he had not thought it safe to come very near when they had been sailing round in Swallow.

He took the easiest way through the undergrowth and the small trees. Almost it seemed to him that someone had been that way before. He walked straight into the thing he was looking for. He had been within a yard or two of seeing it when they had first explored the island. Yet it was so well hidden that he had turned back without seeing it. This time he almost fell into it. It was a little strip of beach curving round a tiny bay at the end of the island. A thick growth of hazels overhung it, and hid it from anyone who had not actually pushed his way through them. Beyond it the southwest corner of the island ran out nearly twenty yards into the water, a narrow rock seven or eight feet high, rising higher then dropping gradually. Rocks sheltered it also from the south-east. There was a big rock that was part of the island, and then a chain of smaller ones beyond it. It was no wonder that they had thought that there was nothing but rocks when they had sailed past outside.

For 20 years we'd been dreaming
of this island and there it was suddenly solid land beneath our feet. Our shit eating grins grew wider.

And really, it was all too good not to share so back to the landing place to tie the kayaks together so that TW could ferry the second boat back to fetch LE and the chocolate. Pemmican would have bene better of course but there was none to be had.

SJ was ecstatic to be marooned alone on the island for even a few minutes but TW had forgotten his shoes and LE was happy on the mainland so her isolation was over quickly.

Back to the beach and both SJ and TW into the boats with the plan of taking them round to the secret harbor.

If you know it's there, the harbor entrance wasn't too difficult to find, though even so TW managed to scrape his kayak along the rocks at the entrance.

White cross on a large boulder served as one leading light but uncertain exactly which tree branch we were looking for so brought the boats in the old fashioned way.

The crunch of gravel

under the bow of the boats more triumphant than any shout of glee. We'd just brought two boats


in through the rocks to the secret harbor on Wildcat Island.

Captain John unshipped the rudder, and put it in the bottom of the boat. Then he began sculling over the stern, gently, enough to make Swallow move slowly in towards the line of rocks. Titty, with the other oar, was ready in the bows.

'There are rocks on each side under water,' said Titty.

'Sing out if there are any right ahead,' said John. 'Don't let her bump one if you can help it.'

He sculled on, Slowly Swallow moved in among rocks awash. Then, besides the rocks awash, there were rocks showing above water. These grew bigger. Then there were high rocks that hid the eastern side of the lake, while the western side was hidden by a long point sticking out from the island. It was almost like being between two walls. Remembering what he had seen when he had climbed out on the big rock above the pool, John kept the Swallow as near as he could to the eastern wall, Titty with her oar fending off when the rock seemed too close. If they had been rowing in the ordinary way their oars would have touched the rocks on either side. Still Swallow moved on with the water clear under her keel.

At last the green trees were close ahead, and Swallow was safe in the pool and ran her nose up on the beach in the tiny bay, sheltered by the trees from the north, and by the walls of rock from any other wind.

Eventually discovered the branch we'd been looking for, cut down on the shore and the stump long since gone. Neither quite as sad as would be expected after all it had been almost 80 years since the books were written, in that time harbors change and new markings become necessary.

Continued our exploration awhile longer, SJ taking off her shoes and walking out to perch


on "Titty's rock" and look for dippers. Eventually, we looked up to find LE shouting from shore, we'd been on the island for several hours and she was beginning to worry.

In all the island was everything we could possibly imagine and we went away from there as contented explorers who had just fulfilled a life's dream.


Portaged the kayaks back to the car and continued north to Coniston where postcards were bought and fish, chips and mushy peas eaten.
Meanwhile, LE insistent that TW and SJ not tell RS and CJ that the nicest day of the holiday was the one without them

Saw a sign for "yeat", which SJ found suitably amusing


and properly contented we headed south once more, pausing only to briefly wave a last good to Wildcat Island.

LE slept on and off for most of the journey leaving TW and SJ to amuse themselves with talk of the island and random observations about the people and places they passed. On one corner was a sign proclaiming that over 740 people had died there in the last 5 years, What makes this particular noteworthy is that fact that a similar sign is located just down the road from Catslide, the sign in question notes that 7 deaths have occurred there in the last 5 years.

The sign near Catslide had seemed a bit silly and now in comparison to the one in Cumbria, it seemed rather unnecessary indeed.

This of course sparked the question of just how the statistics were updated and introduced what shall here after be referred to as the 100-car-pile-up-dilemma.

Supposing a large car accident occurred in which 200 people died. Those 200 people greatly inflate the numbers on the sign, so after 5 years what happens? Do they reduce the number and in so doing the road becomes safer almost overnight or do they simply increment the number of years of the count.

A very disturbing statue


of a pig/sheep creature just before we reached the Motorway then south to Birmingham at high speed. Halfway there, SJ quite amused by the sign reminding driver's to keep two chevrons distant from the car in front of them. The signs were talking about the chevron symbols painted on the pavement but SJ misunderstood and mistook the term "chevron" to refer to a particular type of car. "Just why did they decide on that one?" she demanded.
Quick stop at Tesco for milk and oranges then to TW's place to unload. Honda had trashed the place on Monday night and promptly locked himself out. The resulting chaos a bit more than SJ could take.

Off for a curry at the usual place then back to the house for the evening. Amazingly nobody in want of a vitamin drink, a first for the entire week. Time spent transferring photos, all quite pleased with the images of Wildcat Island.

SJ unable to stomach the idea of sleeping in the living room so TW and LE giving up the bed.

Saturday 21 April 2007

SJ of the opinion that TW and LE shouldn't bother taking the bed with them when they move to their new place as all springs and no mattress. Not to worry, it's not theirs anyway.

Slept till almost 11am then off to the university (by way of the sausage roll shop) so that TW and LE could check their e-mail. Returned to the house and headed out to Sainsbury's in the car so that SJ could do her shopping.

LE had decided not to go to Catslide and so took the opportunity to buy groceries as well. SJ of course stocking up on all the things that you just can't get in the states such as branston pickle and chocolate buttons.

A little leary about buying cadbury's drinking chocolate after the last time but willing to give Air Canada one more chance (but only because SJ's wasn't flying home by way of Toronto).

Packed the car with food and headed off to drive by the house that LE and TW are in the process of buying. LE and SJ pointing out every single postbox along the way. Next stop the £ 1- store, which proved more elusive than you'd think. Eventually the thing we wanted from the £1- store was acquired somewhere else for 88p.

Another sausage roll for good measure on our way to the car. Strange alarm going on in the car and several of the maintenance lights flickering on and off.

Unfortunately the lights in question not very useful. One simply said "stop" and the other was the "!" typically used for indeterminate problems of every type. As the lights and alarms were growing increasingly insistent, figured we had to do something about it.

Stopped at the house to load up our stuff and then dropped LE off. Next stop, the garage that TW usually uses only to find them closed. The specialist Citroen mechanics similarly closed and just turning around to go home and google the problem when SJ spotted something that looked like a mechanic.

TW a tad embarrassed to have to go in and inform them that a mystery light had come on and he didn't know why. Fortunately the guy seemed to get questions like that all the time and the problem was soon diagnosed as low brake fluid.

The guy filled it for free and TW promised to go there for his next MOT. He retracted that promise the second we drove off however as he had no intention of returning to the scene of his very dufferish embarrassment.

Made it to Oxford without issue but no car in the drive, was there nobody home? Headed around back to see if they'd left a door open only to find RS and the ship's parrot in the garden.

Unpacked the car and SJ broke a stair when she stood on it with all her shopping. Quite nice outside so sat in the garden chatting and drinking beer while SJ wrote out her postcards.

CJ home just as she finished so vitamin drinks prepared and SJ set the task of transferring photos while CJ and TW attempted to fix the computer which seemed to be stuck permanently rebooting.

A walk to the Chandros Arms for dinner of steak and ale pie then back to the house where CJ started a fire and TW set up the monitor in the living room so that we could flip through pictures in style.

All impressed to realize that we'd taken 400 photos in the course of the week, so much better than similar trips in which we'd taken 10-12.

Ended up watching Swallows and Amazons and SJ and TW quite pleased to discover that it had been filmed on the real Wildcat Island. Both pointing out the various places they'd been and how everything fit together. SJ quick to point out that she'd done something on Wildcat Island that the Swallows and Amazons never had. "Peed?" asked CJ. Yes, rather.

Lake much lower in the movie, exposing far more of both the landing place's beach and the rocks outside the harbor. Otherwise, 33 years after the movie was made, everything was exactly the same.

Flipped through old photos and discussed previous trips when the movie was over. Didn't make it to bed until nearly 3am. SJ cleverly stopping the clock on her way up the stairs.

Sunday 22 April 2007

Slept till 10am then TW and CJ continued trying to fix the computer (an activity that actually resulted in them making it worse) and SJ packed. An hour later she had somehow managed to condense a lot of shopping into two small bags.

Bunloaf for breakfast then time for a few more chapters of Swallows and Amazons in the garden with RS. Only two chapters left by the time it was time to leave for the airport.

Said goodbye to RS and piled into the car. Made it to Heathrow in record time, parked and began to navigate the airport. Going first to -1 in one elevator and then walking straight through another.

Quite a labyrinth, beginning to think we'd never find the check in desk. Short line to check in with a ticket agent but staff seemed insistent that it would be quicker to use the self check-in. Not a particularly easy interface but SJ eventually succeeded in acquiring her boarding pass.

Next task was to check luggage and where there had been no line before, a hoard of high school students now made it impossible to get anywhere close. Clearly the self-check in had not been a good option.

Polite inquiry revealed that the students, who had no idea what they were doing, weren't even in line at all so luggage checked, we headed upstairs to acquire sandwiches and say goodbye.

Tearful goodbye as always and CJ and TW back to Catslide and SJ through security. This somewhat more complicated than usual as CJ had given each member fo the crew a 1930's era ginger beer bottle that he'd acquired on ebay.

As SJ has bad luck getting things home in one piece, she had cleverly packed the ginger beer bottle in her carryon and not her checked luggage. Unfortunately as it was a very nicely shaped ceramic bottle it literally screamed "contraband liquid" at every security checkpoint she passed.

Already a number of people tagged for extra screening ahead of her so almost 45 minutes before she made it through. To the gate and onto the place without further issue, once again landing in the last possible row. Inability to recline not quite as frustrating on a daytime flight.

The gaggle of students from check in all ended up on the same flight and as a result the flight attendants made an announcement specifying that due to the limitations of the oxygen system, no more than 3 people could sit in a row of 2 and no more than 5 in a row of 4. How they expected that many to fit in a single row remains a mystery.

Seatmate less talkative than usual so the entire flight spent writing the log. Made it to Montreal without issue and underwent the whole process of Canadian immigration, claiming luggage, canadian customs, US immigrations, US customs, checking baggage and security.

Once again the security guys less than impressed with SJ's ginger beer bottle but all told only an hour from gate to gate.


Its always nice to get comments and this post elicited quite a few which are presented below.

If you have a child, you should consider Titty for baby names. ;)

we threw sticks for the ship's parrot.
Looks more like Gibber to me.

The pencil museum in Keswick is worth a visit as well.

Good you did this in time before we start on the next one!!!!

Except THIS YEAR i am NOT going to fall IN

But it's a tradition!
In fact, if we go and look through every ship's log we have (from my trips to visit you guys) with the exception of the year that Matt visited (and fell in for you) in every single one of them you fell into (or had just fallen into) something...

27 August 1993
Hit Lapworth locks, hard. Moored before bridge 18, almost touching it, CJ fell in twice. Met Alan...Said goodbye to Alan (thank goodness from Tom)

28 July 1995
Late Evening (Midnight) - At Ann and Jim's CJ walking talking on mobile phone in an attempt to get a better signal. Mistook the pond for the path. Following conversation... "$%e@!!!! I have fallen in." "what did you say?" "I-H-A-V-E-F-A-L-L-E-N-I-N" "In what?" "I-H-A-V-E-F-A-L-L-E-N-I-N" "In what? The canal?" "NO the FISH tank."

26 August 1999 Started down Aston flight, alternator fell off, had to pull boat down 2 more locks by hand, in rain of course. MPC slipped and fell in canal. Luckily held on to boat so only wet up to knees. SJ very upset to have missed this event.

28 December 2001 I can't find the actual quote, but this was the evening that you were putting things in the stern in preparation for my visit and fell in, fortunately managing to grab the rail and hang on long enough to pull yourself up.

22 April 2005 Rounding the next bend, SJ quite pleased to see the bridge from the picture postcards she'd purchased earlier in the day. Bridge now SJ's favorite Oxford landmark as CJ, attempting to correct his course as he traveled under it, reached out to grasp the bridge and in doing so fell overboard. Conveniently SJ had a camera in her lap. Laughter and photographs always take precedence in this family, so CJ abandoned to cling to the underside of the bridge.

Meanwhile the fate of the pole far more dire, so CJ left to scramble to shore while SJ using the only paddle to chase after the escaping pole. Paddling a punt not quite the same as paddling a kayak but pole and CJ rescued in short order.

CJ not so graceful getting back in and actually manages to knock himself overboard once again. SJ not as quick with the camera this time so no photographic evidence. Not to be taken unawares again, SJ readies the camera, very upset when RS just barely saves CJ from his third dunking by catching his ankles.

Punting is great fun.

16 April 2006
Further down the canal we met a Polish couple who were quite interested in canal boating. As CJ and TW were quite interested in the woman who had, "legs that went on to infinity," offered them a lift and the opportunity to experience canal life first hand.

Our offer of beer and vitamin drinks accepted, CJ headed to the galley to russell them up As he was returning to the stern with the beer however, a most unexpected thing occurred.

He slipped!

TW, ever the good child rushed to his aid while SJ grabbed her camera. TW unable to rescue him due to CJ's steadfast refusal to let go of the beer. So CJ into the cut for a "refreshing" swim. Passerby on shore most alarmed, a woman who rushed to help him and offer a hand. "Take the beer," said CJ, thrusting it into her hand and proceeding to scramble out of the cut. Obviously, this is, "not to go in the log".

19 April 2007
TW and SJ both quick to grab their cameras when CJ headed out onto the water but TW soon distracted helping RS into her boat and SJ looked down for a moment to locate the camera zoom just in case CJ should go over.

This distraction was just what CJ was waiting for and while all eyes were diverted he started feeling overconfident and over he went. Fortunately SJ had only blinked for a second and she was quick to make up for this by snapping away with the camera.

"Where's the zoom? where's the zoom?" she shouted excitedly.

What luck! Three years in a row she'd managed to capture CJ's accidental dunking on film.

Now I want you to be sure that just because it MAY be that I MIGHT have got the bottom of my trousers damp on occasions in the past, this is NO indication that the same thing may happen in the future. AND as proof, I append for your consideration this warning that is used by the financial sector.
The price of shares and investments and the income derived from them can go down as well as up, and investors may not get back the amount they invested.
Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance.

Yes but we'd be so dissappointed if you didn't stay true to form.

At this point, I have to say that I would also be disappointed. The falling-in is one of the best parts of the story!
I ordered the book from the library. Neither I nor Scottish DH have heard of it before; clearly my schoolmates were negligent in indoctrination (I had Biggles and Narnia).

Because of this post?

Yes indeed because of this post. :) How could I not want to read this book now that I have seen pictures of the actual places? Oh, extremely cool! The photos add a great deal to it, too. Next time, you should cross the Pennines and drop by here. (Find the A66, go to its eastern end, then keep going another three roundabouts.)

One of the most memorable weddings (technically, a handfasting) I ever attended took place at the Rollwright standing stones. You can imagine, can't you?

April 18th: you are only a set of GPS co-ordinates away from having laid a geocache. You're not the first to think of it, though...

The pig/sheep is almost certainly a wild boar
ie one of the indigenous wild pigs which roamed Britain until a couple of centuries ago. It is rumoured that they are again roaming woodlands in southern England having escaped from farms.


I loved it! and I am sooooooooooooooooooooo jealous of you for landing on Wildcat! Now I have to figure out a way to do the same before I shuffle off this mortal coil.


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