I looked out the skylight of my bedroom. The leaves on the grand oaks were yet to begin turning but wouldn’t be able to hold out for much longer. A blue hue rose from out the ground in the field opposite, suggesting Hell had in fact frozen over. I sighed. Thirty-six and back home living with my parents once again, digressing to adolescence, but without the beautiful, athletic, perked twenty-one-year-old girlfriend. I should be grateful, many thousands of other Britons across the land are being made redundant, scrambling for anti-social hour jobs paying anti-social wages. At least I managed to grab a 9 to 5 that was due to start in a couple of weeks. Not the most stimulating of jobs, but something to get me through winter.
Bobby, an old college friend who moved to London twelve years ago with dreams of making it on the West End but settled for a semi-successful pop-up restaurant business, was home for a few weeks holiday. He told me he’d be at mine for 11, it was now ten-past. We’d discussed going for a hike and I wanted to set off earlier, but he exclaimed he could only get to mine for 11 because that’s when his dad was driving through on his way to work. (If you’re wondering why he didn’t just drive to mine, it’s because he lives in London and the majority of Londoners don’t have cars. A fact that the majority of Londoners love stating for some reason). I suggested we should hike up the Langdales, but Bobby being a heavy drinker and heavier smoker voiced his concerns, suggesting something a little less vigorous may be better suited. We settled on Latterbarrow, a fell so small it doesn’t make it onto Wainwright’s list. It’s situated just to the west of Hawkshead, looking down onto the village on one side and the north shores of Lake Windermere on the other. At 11:25 Bobby arrived, dressed as if he was going Christmas shopping on Oxford Street. ‘Where’s your gear?’ I quizzed. ‘What gear?’ ‘Your hiking gear?’ ‘Mate, I live in London. No one down there wears hiking gear.’ ‘I suppose all the bankers in and around Bank wear their pinstripes whilst holidaying in the Swiss Alps too do they?’ ‘What?’ ‘Forget it.’ Despite his inappropriate attire he looked well. A little thicker around the edges perhaps, and his eyes had hardened somewhat, but he still had that babyface filled with mischief that you couldn’t help but smile at. ‘Did you honestly think maroon brogues would be acceptable footwear?’ ‘You not got any other boots I could borrow?’ ‘No.’ ‘Ah fuck it, it’ll be reet.’
We turned right off the A590, over the 5-arched stone Newby Bridge, past the Swan Hotel (that the local old boys swore cursed the area with regular floods ever since they were shown the door by new management and told to nurse their ales elsewhere) and over the railway bridge engulfed with smoke from the steam powered locomotive pulling its rhubarb and custard carriages. From there we drove under the looming trees leading to Lakeside, a few walls dented here and there caused by coaches too wide for such roads and drivers pulling the odd ‘five and drive’ who didn’t want to pay for taxis come closing time. Once through the ever picturesque Graythwaite and surrounding woodland we dropped down leading to Esthwaite, where a herd of panicked deer suddenly charged towards the road from the right. Knowing if I slowed or stopped the deer would hit the car, I dropped into third and sped on. Two stags at the front turned and ran parallel alongside us, slipping as they turned quickly as I veered to the left to avoid their magnificent antlers scraping down the side of the car. A call so close I can scarcely believe it happened.
Upon entering Hawkshead we turned into the primary school car park that offers parking at weekends, all they ask is that you pay into the honesty box by the gate. I had nothing less than a £2 coin on me so slipped an ‘I owe you’ into the box. Once out of the school grounds, ready to embark on our small adventure we were chased down and accosted by a perturbed young woman who turned out to be a teacher informing us that it was in fact a Wednesday during term time. After this slight hiccup we parked in the main car park in the centre of the village and tried again. We strode out of the car park with purpose, turned right onto North Lonsdale Road, then left at the junction onto the B5285, over the unapparent Pool Bridge and after 50m or so took a left onto an unnamed B-road through Colthouse. At this point we stopped briefly so an out of breath Bobby could roll a cigarette. ‘You walk too fast pal, I can’t keep up. In London we ride the Underground everywhere, so I’m out of practice.’ ‘There’s an underground in London?’ ‘Funny.’ He rolled his cigarette so poetically that for a second he looked more like an automaton than a human. ‘You want?’ he asked, pointing his perfect rollie at me. ‘Nah, I can’t stand them anymore.’ I replied, knowing fine well I’d be gagging for one as soon as I had a couple of scoops inside me. We walked through a peppering of postcard painted archaic houses, one of which was a Quaker meeting house. ‘They make porridge there?’ inquired Bobby. I couldn’t tell if it was a moronic question or a shit joke so didn’t bother answering. After a quarter of a mile we came across the footpath that led us up through Spring Wood, followed by Fishpond Wood. Eerily shaped trees either standing forlorn or beaten down from decades of punishable winters resembled a defeated army. The sound of the tranquil beck meandering through clashed with the sight, adding an unease to the scene. We walked on in what would have been silence but for the sound of smooth soled brogues slipping on moss carpeted rocks, followed by the occasional ‘Fuck sake’. After a short climb the path split into two. We veered north(ish) following the path that ran alongside a section of woodland fenced in for protection, until we came to an opening revealing The Fairfield Horseshoe, Wansfell, High Wray, the distant peaks of The Langdales and of course the northern shores of Lake Windermere. ‘I’ve never missed home so much’ gasped Bobby, either mesmerized or exhausted. It might only be a small summit, but the views certainly pack the punch of one of the heavyweights. We continued, following one of a number of paths that appear to merge together at one point or another, dropped down slowly looking like a desperate two-man conga line at a dire fortieth, as Bobby held my hips to prevent himself from falling, that ended with us both falling. Finally, we could see the summit, the stone path looked almost luminous with the dark, damp grass either side. At the cairn, the wind picked up, attacking our sweat patches. An uncomfortable experience to say the least. We hung around long enough to take a few snaps of a woman trying to contain her excitable, slightly disturbing looking dog, refusing to sit still for a picturesque photograph. As we were leaving, we shouted out ‘Top of the world Ma’, despite being engulfed by the surrounding National Park and briskly walked back down another path that led onto the previous B-road and eventually into Hawkshead.
Sat outside the Kings Arms in a pocket of sun, both our panting down to a minimum with a couple of pints of blonde ale and a bowl of fries a piece, we reminisced and retold the same stories as always with Bobby contemplating moving home, as always. ‘You should just bite the bullet and do it.’ I encouraged. ‘I know, but I’ve got into acid quite a bit recently.’ ‘Oh yeah? What’s that like?’ ‘Amazing, you’d love it.’ ‘I’d be the poor prick whose trip keeps on tripping for years and years.’ ‘Nah, they’re just tall tales designed to scaremonger.’ ‘Consider me scared.’ After a second pint I got Bobby to roll me a smoke, leaving my fingers tingling and head drifting. ‘Anyway, why can’t you keep taking acid up here?’ I asked, picking up the conversation once more. ‘Because if I moved home, I’d have to stay with my Dad for probably six months until I got myself sorted and I don’t think he’d react too well to me licking the tv when the KFC advert comes on during the halftime of the football.’ ‘I thought you were vegan?’ ‘Not on acid.’ ‘You could always take it in the great outdoors if we went camping etcetera.’ ‘Did you not see those trees in that wood before? I’m sober and I still fucking shit myself.’ I laughed, closed my eyes and basked in the low sun, taking in what would surely be one of the last doses of Vitamin D for the year. The combination of exercise, fresh air, sun, food, ale and nicotine made me weary. Fifteen minutes of napping sat in the front of the pub overlooking the village square would have been idyllic. Alas, Bobby broke the serenity, ‘Mate, what’s the wingspan of a badger?’ I dropped my head, shielded my eyes with my left hand but still squinted as if I hadn’t and faced Bobby, ‘They don’t have wings.’ I answered, somewhat perplexed. ‘Oh yeah. What am I thinking of?’ ‘It literally could be anything with wings.’ I answered curtly. ‘It’ll come to me.’ he pondered. ‘On second thoughts pal, maybe it’s time you started thinking about giving up the acid.’ ‘A Canadian Goose!’ cried Bobby, ‘A fucking Canadian Goose! I knew it’d come to me!’