Coppermines in the sleet

Tuesday was Dave’s birthday and although the weather wasn’t great we decided to take the day off and go out somewhere.  ‘Somewhere’ proved to be Coniston, after an interesting drive avoiding fallen trees.  We hadn’t been for over a year (even though it’s only about 12 miles away) so it was great to see the place again.  First stop was a coffee in front of a roaring (and very welcome) log fire in the Meadowdore Café – an old favourite from days of yore when I visited the area with my parents.  And then we donned boots and waterproofs and set off for a walk up the famous Coppermines Valley.

The weather at valley level wasn’t great – cold, windy and spattering with rain – but as we climbed it deteriorated.  Coppermines (a hanging valley) isn’t all that far above sea level but as soon as we got up and over the lip, we met the wind.  In spades.  Howling straight off the snow-covered fells above, and bringing curtains of horizontal sleet with it.  You might say it was bracing.  It was also freezing, wet, and difficult to stand upright.  We struggled along the miners’ track for a few hundred yards, took some photos of a sheep (those Herdies are tough), and decided enough was enough.

We thawed out soon enough over a pub lunch at the Black Bull, but it does make you wonder how the miners managed – not only having to walk further in bad weather, but then putting in a twelve hour shift of hard work afterwards, in clothes that were quite probably soaked right through.

Here’s a couple of photos to show what it was like.  The blobs show how hard it was to keep the sleet off the camera lens!



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Archaeological riches?

Saturday morning was horrible – foggy and wet – so we headed for our nearest big town, Barrow in Furness.  It’s not the most romantic destination around, but it has all the ‘big stores’ to hit, plus The Dock Museum, which is great to poke round on a wet day.

The journey was interesting as the road south down the lake had flooded badly in half a dozen places after overnight rain.  We got through in our trusty 4×4 but I was glad we weren’t in something low-slung!

We got the chores out of the way first (tins of paint, grub from Tesco) then trotted along to the museum.  As ever there are all sorts of tidbits of information about Barrow’s history to while away an hour or so.  The shipbuilding industry, iron-ore working, Barrow’s sudden growth from small village to giant sprawl in the mid nineteenth century, and its role in the two world wars.

This time, we had the bonus of an extra exhibition.  Billed as ‘Archaeology on Show’, it celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society with an exploration of ‘the rich archaeological finds from Barrow and Cumbria’.

Sadly, although the finds might have been rich the exhibition wasn’t, terribly.  We’d expected more than about twelve separate exhibits: an aurochs horn, part of a stuffed reindeer, a few photographs of the county’s Anglo Saxon heritage.  It had the feeling of something put together by a village school rather than a premier society; the best word I can find to describe it is ‘sparse’.  We can’t complain too much as entry – to both the exhibition and the rest of the museum – is free, but I’d still have liked a bit more content from a county the size of Cumbria with a history of settlement dating back, apparently, 750,000 years.  A shame, as previous exhibitions have been really fascinating.


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Autumn colours – and snow!

I got cabin fever this afternoon so set off for a walk round the local streets – and because we’d had the first proper snowfall of the winter overnight, I took my camera with me.

It wasn’t sunny, but there were odd brighter gleams amongst the dark clouds, just enough to light up some of the last remaining autumn colours, and the snowy fells.

Here’s a couple of photos to show you the general effect.  Both are in/around Windermere, though neither show our house!



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For some reason we’ve kept missing all the good firework displays the last few years.  Either we’ve been travelling, or we’ve been double-booked to do something else, or we’ve missed seeing that they were on.

So we were really pleased on Saturday to be in the right place at the right time to head to Windermere rugby club for their annual display, which has a reputation for being good.  And boy, good it certainly was.  We arrived just after 6.30 pm (along with half the rest of south Cumbria by the looks of it) to find a huge bonfire blazing merrily in one corner of the site, as well as stalls doing food, hot drinks, sparklers, and plastic flashy things for the kids.

Dave had hoped to sneak a sausage from the barbecue but the queue was half way round the pitch (and never did seem to go down) so as we’d already eaten he showed great fortitude and managed without.

The fireworks were due to start at 7 pm but there was quite a lengthy delay, possibly because they were still trying to let people in through the main gate.  We reckon there could easily have been several thousand attending – quite amazing for a small rugby club in a very small town.  It was worth the wait, though, because the display was spectacular.  Not quite Madeira at New Year, perhaps, but then few places are.  And we more than got our money’s worth with fifteen to twenty minutes of colour, light, and above all noise.  Definitely better than scurrying around trying to light Roman Candles and Catherine Wheels one by one with a taper in the back yard!

The only slight fly in the evening’s entertainment was getting back out again.  Several thousand people converged on the main gate at once, and the lane outside was completely unlit and partly blocked with cars.  One lass had already tripped up and hurt herself, and the scene had all the makings of a nasty stampede.  Luckily we got through with nothing worse than a few accidental bruises, but we’re hoping they sort that out for next year because it would be a shame to see such an enjoyable event cancelled as so many others have been.

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Say goodbye to Necessity’s Door

As mentioned the other day, my novella Necessity’s Door is now out of contract, and no longer available as of today.  Sorry if you missed it but, er, it’s been on sale for over three years now so where were you?!

In the meantime I’ve taken the opportunity to re-vamp my website, since I was taking all the links to the book down anyway.  I’ve checked the remaining links, added a link to that story I rediscovered recently, and also included for the first time three of my previously published stories, to read free on the site.  You can choose between Come Friendly Bombs which was commended in an online contest, Huff and Puff which was published in Mslexia, or Peeping Tom which was published by Pill Hill Press before they ceased trading.

I hope you enjoy poking around, and I hope to have more new stuff to add soon.

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Ghostly pictures

Just in time fspiritphotograph3-720x1119or Halloween, there’s a fascinatingly creepy but ultimately common-sense article about the Victorian practice of photographing ghosts on the Hyperallergic blog here.

The article debunks some of the old myths surrounding ghostly photographs and is illustrated with some really good examples, as well as some that wouldn’t fool anyone these days.  But when the technology was new and people had no understanding of how it worked, it must have been only too easy to believe that the camera never lied.

Reminiscent of the perils of air-brushing and Photo-shopping these days!

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Story from the archives

What a nice surprise.  Like the historian I studied to be I’ve been digging around in old files and archives, and have just re-discovered a short story I had published way back in 2011, which I quite thought had disappeared.

‘Clones’ appeared in The New Flesh magazine, which ceased trading not long afterwards (although I’m sure the two events weren’t actually linked…  Ahem.).  I assumed that the magazine’s web site would cease to exist, took the link off my own web page, and promptly forgot all about it.

Just shows how wrong you can be.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet The New Flesh site is still accessible, and my story is there along with many more.  The story is more than a little strange – but perfect for Halloween, so if you want to read about a scientist doing dreadful things with a vat of goo in a laboratory, follow this link!  I hope you enjoy it, and if I find any more buried treasure I’ll be sure to let you know.

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