Sunday, 29 April 2012
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Monday, 16 April 2012
I chose this challenge because it was just one of those things I’d always been meaning to do. Every time we drove along the A65 past Settle on our way to see my dad in Grasmere we’d say “We must go on the Settle-Carlisle railway one day” and that would be all we’d do about it. So given the opportunity to stay for a few days at a friend’s converted barn in nearby Dentdale, we decided to finally seize the opportunity. Although Dent was our nearest station on the line we decided to do the full route, as travelling from Dent we wouldn’t have been able to go over the Ribblehead viaduct, which once you’ve seen it from the road just has to be done. Two further massively impressive viaducts cross the end of Dentdale which you would also miss if you only travelled from Dent station. (Although that said, the viaducts are often scarcely noticeable from the train itself.)
We had a week of very mixed weather, but our journeys on the day were mostly clear, and torrential rain only set in once we were safely back in Settle. We boarded the 9.50 to Carlisle and returned on the 14.04, with just enough time for a quick stroll around the remarkably sunny Cumbrian capital and a very bad lunch in Pizza Express (having a serious off day) in between. And the railway journey really was stunning. It is beautiful every inch of the way, and totally worth the steep £22 return fare. From the forbidding peaks of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, through dry-stone walled limestone valleys, past remote sheep farms (“Look at baa-baas!” said Charlotte, between readings of the Gruffalo), over the aforementioned viaducts, and then through the lush Eden valley, with the Lakeland fells in the distance, covered in snow like Alpine peaks.
It would be wrong not to pause and remember all those navvies who gave their lives building the Settle-Carlisle railway in terrible weather and working conditions, armed with only their brute strength and the occasional stick of dynamite. We must also give thanks to all those who devoted their lives to sparing the railway from closure in 1989, and who still help run and maintain it as a partial charitable organisation today.
Thursday, 5 April 2012
Conveniently, the Queen decided to visit York today for the traditional handing out of the Maundy money in the Minster. York's celebrating 800 years as a self-governing city, she's celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Micklegate's decided to reinvent itself as a nice place to be - so all in all, lots of reasons for a party.
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
My friend Beth phoned to ask if I could use a spare bean plant from her back yard improvement project. It seems as good a “something new” as any.
I haven’t grown vegetables since I was in the Brownies. The highlights of my vegetable patch back then were a row of wimpy lettuces that couldn’t thrive as my dad had allocated me a corner at the very bottom of our garden where the sun never shone, and a pumpkin that looked quite impressive until I turned it over and realised half of it had been eaten by slugs. My brother subsequently annihilated the patch by digging a giant hole, the reason for which I can’t quite recall, but it was probably something more scientific than merely trying to escape from the clutches of our family by burrowing to Australia. Anyway, eventually we buried our dead cat in the hole when he got hit by a bus so it came in useful in the end.
So back to the bean plant. Beth couldn’t remember if it was a broad bean or a runner bean plant. Maybe someone less novice than me will be able to tell from the photos, but I think it will be exciting just to wait and see. Either will be most welcome, should it thrive. Our back yard gets about as much sun as my childhood vegetable patch so I can’t hold my breath on this one. I’ve also had to cover the tub with an improvised cat deterrent, since our boys Ingo and Otto have a habit of using my flower tubs as litter trays.
After Easter, I may try and get some tomatoes under way as well...
On March 17th, I volunteered for a day in the cafe at the NCT Bump And Baby Fair. I baked some orange and poppy seed muffins (which I assure you tasted better than my icing makes them look). I piled these and other cakes onto plates, priced them all at 75p and then completely failed to remember my 75 times table (the trick of being good at the numbers round in Countdown) when it came to adding up customers’ bills. I also forgot what people had ordered in the first place as soon as I turned away from the queue towards the hot water urns. "I'll have three teas, two coffees, two chocolate brownies and three slices of carrot cake, please." "So that's er, two teas, how many coffees, one muffin and a which cake?" I was spectacularly useless, and this only added to my fears that my brain will never recover from having a baby.
However, I’m not sure that the day really counts as doing “something” for charity since I was only there because I was selling piles of Charlotte’s old clothes and all sellers have to volunteer. And I made £82.55 on the day, which I get to keep. I’ll come up with something less mercenary as the year progresses. But this is just in case I don’t.