I haven’t yet mastered the art of integrating photos and words; the WordPress iPad app is not entirely self-explanatory; but perhaps by the time we reach Grasmere I will have figured it out. I’m also still just learning to use my new camera, so bear with me!
It’s been a lovely day. As night fell, we walked in the rain to the beach in St. Bees and then dined (fried haddock with mashed peas, baked veggie pasta) in an old inn/pub, “The Manor,” in the center of this tiny town, where it felt as if we were in someone’s living room. Throughout the day, I’ve been struck by the affability of all the people we’ve met. In the airport, on the train, at our b & b–we’ve already talked with all kinds of people, all of whom have been delighted to learn about our walk and to share stories with us. The passport control man at the airport greeted me sweetly, quietly, “Oh, so you’ll be going to St. Bees,” he said when I told him we’d be walking on the Coast to Coast.
The Northern accent is thick and beautiful; one teenaged boy I was talking with on the station platform in Barrow was surprised that I could understand him. He wanted to know about New York, and he and his mates complained about how dull it is in Whitehaven, their hometown just north of here. The train along the beautiful coast from Barrow passes through Sellafield, the site of England’s major nuclear power plant disaster in the 1950s, and still a functioning plant that employs a huge number of people. It’s a grim and disturbing reminder that all is not fantasy-land here along the coast and even in the Lake District. My past-time on the plane reflects the two levels on which I’m experiencing things at the moment: I watched The Hunger Games and then re-read the first two books of the 1805 Prelude. But Wordsworth too was aware of these unsettling juxtapositions.
When I asked someone at the Manchester Airport whether we should stand to the right or the left on the moving platform in order to let people pass, she answered me this way: “In London, people get mad if you don’t stand on the left They’ll walk right over you. In the North, you can do what you want–left, right, middle, it doesn’t matter.” This reminded me of the differences between people in the South of France (Montpelier in particular) and Paris. There’s a great pride among those who live outside of the metropolis. But it’s a welcoming pride, a pride that brings you in.