26 june 2018






school photos







           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin



School trip to the English Lake District. I sat at the back of the coach playing the harmonica - Duane Eddy's Theme from Dixie among others. Was acutely aware that my harmonica had no semi-tones and hoped no-one would notice. Suddenly everyone went silent. The radio declared that the US had succesfully launched a man into space - Alan Shepherd. It was a poor second as he only went up and back down again. The makers of chewing gum were dismayed too. They'd have to put on hold the launch of their new brand - Orbit.

So began my love affair with the Lake District. It would take in warm water, washing up water, lake water and rain water, lots and lots of rain water.

The sea water was warm, yet it was the Irish sea. The gulls knew why. They'd worked out that the cooling water from various Windscale reactors was warm and they sat in it till it cooled down, then flew back to the outlet. It was a vac. job. A few of us from the hostel at Holmrook would venture down to Drigg for a swim. That day we were accompanied by a young girl, not particularly attractive until, that is, she put on her yellow bikini. We were young and consequently at the mercy of the opposite sex . . . .  What is it about girls, bikinis and yellow? I'm still not sure many decades later.

One weekend I went to Ambleside and was idly watching the world go by when a school friend and his mate disembarked from the big ferry on Lake Windermere. They'd been working on it for a summer job!  His mate's girlfriend had a sister . . . .

A friend recently recounted a tale from his youth involving a testosterone-fuelled trip on his moped to see a young girl at the other end of the earth. I was in the Lake District with a moped. Got me thinking. (Mine was a Norman NIppy. At least it wasn't called a Norman Conquest or a Norman Wisdom.)

So some evenings I'd drive on the moped over the fell through Eskdale, past the Eskdale and Ravenglass narrow gauge railway, via Ulpha and down to near Lakeside at the southern end of Lake Windermere. Quite a trek on a moped and the return trip was quite scary in the dark. Nearly hit a few sheep in the road on a few occasions and never even considered what would happen if I broke down or had a puncture.

Another summer I found they were looking for staff to drive passenger boats on Lake WIndermere. Mine carried about 40 and I soon learnt that they would have perfect trust in you if you had perfect trust in yourself. One evening cruise, just as it was dropping dark, I returned with a boatload to a hotel jetty. As I hit reverse to bring the boat to a halt, the prop-shaft broke and we started drifting away from the jetty with no power. Time slowed down. I quickly tied ropes together and threw one end to a guy standing on the pier who was able to pull us back alongside. Phew. I acted as though that was normal and I think I got away with it . . . .

After recounting that story, a fellow driver told his. He'd been down the other end of the lake when his engine failed. "Ha" he thought. "There's an anchor, let's chuck it over the side." So he did just that and watched, initially with satisfaction and then with growing alarm. He hadn't tied the other end to anything and, along with the anchor and chain, it all disappeared over the side!

On another occasion another girl was working in a cafe. The proprietor was only too happy to let me into the kitchen with her and help with the washing up. He didn't pay me of course, and I think he got the better of the bargain.

Some years, and children, later we'd return to the Lake District and one day climbed Great Gable and Scafell Pike. After a gruelling day we were hungry, thirsty and tired. On our way down from Scafell, we turned a corner and there, down in the valley at the head of Wastwater, the deepest lake in England, was the Wasdale Head Inn. Suddenly our party was reduced in size by one. Wife had the bit between her teeth and had disappeared in the general direction of the Hotel. It was only much later that we caught up and all sat down, round a blazing fire, to the best meal and beer we'd ever had. Until the  other ones not long after . .

On another trip we camped by Lake Coniston, (or Campbell’s soup as someone called it - could have been me . . . ) It was a beautiful site and reasonably quiet. Then the predictable happened. Another family roared up with a trailer full of everything, plus speedboat, and stopped right next to us. It looked like they'd just won the football pools. They unpacked carpets, TV, fridge and kitchen sink, roared up and down the lake in the boat sending wash everywhere, and then settled down noisily by their tent with beers and record player blaring.  

Then it rained. (There is a god . . . ) It rained and it rained. and then it poured. Being the Lake District it chucked it down and didn't stop for hour after hour. Next door became subdued. You could hear them huddling quietly and moaning gently. The speedboat filled up and overflowed. The record player sparked and fell over. The trailer bogged down to its axles. The fridge defrosted and the contents started to rot.

After an eternity, the rains stopped, Noah put his ark away and next door began the mopping up operation. It took all five of them to haul the sodden carpets out of the tent. Then what to do with them? They bailed out the boat. They jacked up the trailer. They lost the jack in the mud. They dumped the fridge and its contents and agreed never to do the pools again.

We smugly looked on after retreiving the plates with caked on baked beans, that we'd earlier put outside our tent in the rain, and which were now sparkling clean.

The Lake District. Home of Beatrix Potter, the highest peak in England, an abandoned yellow bikini top and anchor and chain, and Kendal Mint Cake, which Michael Portillo famously thought was made of cake.