Inside Lowther Mausoleum
On our way back to London, [ profile] wintrmute and I visited a mausoleum, two churches and a castle, which had even more scaffolding than the last. Details of these have already begun to fade in my mind, but fragments that I do remember include strawberries for breakfast; the suggestion of sticking glow-in-the-dark stars to the mausoleum; being amused at the similarity of our toothbrushes; imagining the Swallows and Amazons still on one of the little islands on the lakes; the first night we spent in Arkham - a moonless night with a full array of stars.
Waterfalls are trickling down from the mottled hills, down through the wisps of mist and drifting sheep, and past the third highest pub in England, the Kirkstone Pass Inn.

That morning, she applied [ profile] turnedoffneon's Spider-Man tattoo to her leg, as preparation for hill-walking, as she thought super powers might be able to help with tired feet.

The boy with the long dark red hair scrambles up a nearby slope and she follows him as he begins to disappear into the thickening fog. The gusts of wind make even a brief walk up the hills seem somehow exhilarating, but she shivers slightly, despite the thick coat she wears that reaches down to her ankles. There is no spectacular view, there is nothing to see here, as the fog has enveloped the valleys.

In the car, when the voice of Tim or Ken is quiet, he tells her tales of takeaways and teenage romances, and she remembers the last time she was in the Lake District, more than a decade ago now, and how strange and magical kissing felt back then, and sometimes even now.

And then there are more lakes to gaze at and scones to eat, and boat-rides to go on past little islands dense with trees, while eating ice-cream and holding each other's hands.

And later still, there is a pub in Arkham, decorated with hunting memorabilia and a solitary old man sitting at the bar. The boy with the red hair and the girl with the Spider-Man tattoo sit slouched in the corner and she tries to avert her eyes from the deer head on the opposite wall, and instead look into his eyes, but then she notices the deer head above them, and it is creepy and unsettling.
Penrith Castle
Penrith Castle
At the edge of Derwent Water, she waits for children to have their photographs taken by their parents, with the lakes and the fells in the distance. The children smile momentarily and then disperse to climb across tree roots, trying to get down to the lake.

When she stops waiting and looks through her camera lens at the lake and the speckles of islands covered in trees, the scene doesn't look as beautiful as in the pictures she's seen. In the future, instead of remembering what she actually saw at the lake, she will choose to remember someone else's photos, when the sky was a richer blue and the water twinkled in the sunlight.

They walk up hills and over streams and past some lambs and only get a little bit lost before they reach Castlerigg Stone Circle. The stone circle is situated amongst breathtaking scenery and although the stones are a lot smaller than those at some stone circles, it is still impressive. It is very windy and cold and crowded there, and she wants to hug him tightly and hide behind a stone to keep warm, like many of the other people seem to be doing. Instead they walk in opposite directions around the circle trying to photograph stones that no legs or arms stick out from.
Derwent Water
Derwent Water

Back in Keswick, they drink coffee in a café that sells chocolate shots in chocolate cups and joke about going to the nearby pencil museum to see the world's largest colour pencil and then after that going to see everything that claims to be the "world's largest". Outside there is a congregation, singing loudly because it is Easter.

After that, they visit the Bowder Stone, which is a large boulder that appears to be peculiarly balanced. There are wooden steps up it, so they walk to the top of the rock and then back down it. There isn't much to see at the top of the rock, apart from more rock, since it weighs about 2000 tons and is about 30 feet high, 50 feet across and 90 feet in circumference. There are people trying to climb up the sides of the rock with ropes.

At sunset, they head to Penrith and wander around the castle as the sky turns pink and blue, before ending the day drinking sangria (not at a tea-room though, so not quite 'the finest wines available to humanity.')
In a verdant field, dotted with sheep and ancient trees, stands a reddish-pink shell of a castle, once resplendent with stone turrets and gothic arches and reputed to have been frequented by distinguished guests. Now, it has fallen into great decay and scaffolding towers above it. Daffodils on occasion emerge from the grounds, but they do little to mask the gloom.

As dusk fell, the unreachable and rayless void in the centre of the castle seemed to my mind, abhorrent and I recalled the ghastly tales of the Earl of Lonsdale and his wicked ways.

My curiosity was piqued as the emerging shadows caused a shudder, and I began to fumble with the locked gate to no avail. I noticed a crumbling ledge beneath the thick outside wall and cautiously stepped onto it, hands twisted into the tiny cavities caused by weathering and body pressed flat against the stone.

My elevation was insufficient to peer into the murky castle grounds, but I raised my camera so it could look where I could not, and what it saw, was this: boarded up windows, overgrown tangles of insipid plants and warning signs remarking on danger, so much danger.
Tree near Aira Force
The tree trunk lies still on the ground, leafless and branchless, but not bare. Tuppences and wishes glint in the sun, just slightly now, as the light begins to dim.

A girl who arrived in the Lake District just a few hours before, stands near to a guy clutching a tripod, and they both pause to look at the trunk studded with coins for a few moments.

She thinks the embedded coins look a little like scales and then she wonders about the fallen tree, what it would wish for, if it could wish.

They walk further into the woods and there are more unusual trees to stare at, some striped and mossy and some looking as if they were struck by lightning. When they reach the waterfall, they find it roars in places and trickles in others, and they step from rock to rock to get closer to the pools of water. Later, when they look at the photos they took, the waterfall itself seems to be perhaps a bit forgettable, but there is a slight dreaminess about the streams that flow past the moss-covered stones and the tangles of tree roots.

Nothing stirs in Arkham when they get out of the car they had been zooming down motorways in earlier, listening to CDs they'd forget to change, so the songs would repeat over and over again; listening to the voice named Ken or sometimes Tim, that gave them directions every now and then; listening to the beeping noise warning of speed cameras, that she'd hear rattling around in her head for days after that.

But Arkham, Arkham is quiet at the moment, as they try to find the 17th century cottage they are going to stay in. After the motorways and after being in London just a few hours before, the village green with stone cottages around it, two pubs and a post-office all seems far too still. There is no answer at the cottage when they knock on the door. There is no answer to the phone that they can hear ringing inside.

They stand by the green and wait, and maybe she's just tired, but Arkham doesn't seem like a real place, even after Londa arrives and leads them in to the B&B with hunting scenes depicted on the bedroom walls.

They leave again soon, to find Ullswater, and watch the silhouettes of boats drift across the lake.


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October 2017



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