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Posts Tagged ‘leyburn’

man strolling in a wooded landscape - detail - A A MillsAmazing, how quickly the cosy glow of one’s holidays fades, isn’t it? Mid morning, first morning back at the day job and there you are, things settling upon you once more, a million crabs nipping and nagging at you, something slithering over your skin – that all too familiar cold slime of responsibility. Then it’s out into the near stagnant commute, arriving home some indeterminate time later, brain-fried and grumpy, then bed by ten, waking at six thirty a.m. feeling totally unrefreshed, and getting up and doing it all again.

But we would be much worse off if we didn’t get that two week break, if like in the olden golden times of arch Conservatism, the labouring masses got no holidays at all, but for Christmas day, and we worked a six and a half day, sixty five hour week until we dropped dead, never having climbed a step from poverty – a regime we’re heading back to if our young are to have any hope of living off the wages that are paid in these enlightened, tightened times, these times of grim austerity.

I can’t believe I am still hearing that word.

Surely austerity was for the nineteen fifties, after the world was nearly ruined in a storm of war that lasted five years – not this, this financial crisis, this money game, this accounting fraud that has already lasted much longer than a world at war, laying waste to the less fortunate of nations as surely as if they had been invaded by tanks and guns.

The black tide of Nazism was defeated in less time than this. And the only strategy against the tyranny of the money game that the money captains can come up with is to convince us there is no alternative to an eternal free fall into a future of less and less, into an austerity of eternal midnight.

Alas, it is the banishment of all hope, all ye who enter here.

But for a weeks I flew. I climbed the little road from Malham in a lovely old car with the top down. I flew all the way to Leyburn, I left the bustling market square at Masham early one Saturday morning beneath a deep summer blue sky and with the birds singing, and I flew all the way to Scarborough. There, I walked the long front from north to south bays and back, explored the steep and narrow of the old town, and breathed a different air. And the gulls were not the killer gulls of the bonkers press. They were the snow white fisher-birds I have always known, and there were only ink-dirty fingers pointing blame where blame there was none, creating a story, where story there was none, while steadfastly ignoring the real story of our times.

In the creed of Nowness, the past is unimportant, but the recent memory of a positive experience can sustain us, at least for a little while, as we nudge ourselves back into the material reality of our dayjobs. It creates a bit of space. The darkness of the first week back after one’s holidays can then be punctured by a gentle reflection. But I fear in my case, after thirty seven years of nine to five, I am already growing out of work, my mind turning far too soon to other things. I would as soon eschew the looming golden watch, escape instead, travel the length and breadth of my United Kingdom in that little roadster with a light bag and a box of books, and a little tapping pad on which to muse and write of what I find along the way.

Sigh.

It’ll be a while before I can realistically do that, but there it is:

The dream of flight.

Of escape.

But what if what we are trying to escape from is a state of mind? one that constructs cages for itself, and the cage is on castors, so we cannot help but take it wherever we go? What if it cannot be escaped by running? To be sure the snares of the material world are myriad, and the thing with snares is the rabbit strangles itself by thinking it can get away, by resisting, by struggling. But by resisting, the noose only tightens all the more. It is the evil efficiency of the snare, that it uses one’s own energy to bring about our destruction.

Thus it is the creed of Nowness teaches us the art of escape through stillness, by creating space within ourselves so we slip through unharmed, like a slippery seed, clean through the arsehole of the world, to bloom elsewhere, upon another plane. And so, even amid the nine to five, we walk a kind of inner freedom, and we do not mind the world as it is any more. Even the bumbling blather of austerity talk and money tyranny melt into the background, into a meaningless Muzak.

Or so the theory goes.

It troubles me only in that all of this sounds a little defeatist. Surely if we are trapped we should fight with all our might, and at the very least do something? Seeking instead our escape within we might as well be wishing an early grave, for both things are liberating in a sense, but hardly what one might call living. I suppose it’s just this feeling I have done my time at the work face, my nose pressed against the dirt for too long, and would leave the struggle to others now, to those who still can – struggle on. For as the saying goes, those who can do, while those who cannot do teach, and those who are not for doing any more, and cannot teach, can only write.

I don’t know if I’ve returned, post trip, with a straighter head or not. It feels a bit wobbly to me. Do you think?

Graeme out.

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Mazda MalhamBreakfast is slow at the Buck, the dining room dominated by one overlarge group of family and friends who manage to monopolise, confuse, and run ragged our genial host while the rest of us wait our turn. It is irritating to me, this proximity to the assertiveness and the voluble presence of others,  and I wonder what part of my shadow I am revealing by it. That I am not assertive enough in establishing my own presence in the world perhaps? I don’t know, but at least this observation of human nature, in the wild so to speak, provides rich mining for the writer.

So,… checked out, bags dragged to the car, which has survived the night unscathed. Slept well, comfortable bed. The morning tastes fresh.

It is 10:00 am and a cold start to the day for July. Grey clouds. I wear a coat and drop the top for the sporting run to Kettlewell, across the bleakest of moors, a long and lonely road. Change comes but slowly here. A photograph taken in the 1940’s would look no different to one taken today. I recall I have driven this road before, long ago, did it in an underpowered Mark 4 Cortina, but recall nothing of this narrowness, this zig-zagginess, this up and downness. I meet only two cars, going in the opposite direction. Both are fat four by fours, in the middle of the road, and going too fast. My how we moderns like to armour ourselves against the world, and in particular against the wild.

A topless roadster renders us more vulnerable, and appreciative. The sound of birds as I drive is as memorable as the dynamic, buttery light illuminating both the near and far distance.

Kettlewell is a coffee stop, the coffee not worth a mention beyond the odorous, Lycra clad cyclist with whom I share the tearoom. My anosmia can pick the most inconvenient windows into the world of scent.


kettlewell church glassKettlewell is also the Parish church, St Marys, which is definitely worth a mention, and a visit if you should be passing. Original construction is around 1120, but nothing of that founding Norman architecture remains, the whole of it being flattened in 1820. The whole of it was flattened again, excepting the tower, and rebuilt in 1883. Most striking about this church are the stained glass windows, by William Morris (but not that William Morris). Both Morris’s were good at stained glass. One achieved celebrity, the other did not.

After Kettlewell it’s the long run up the higher Wharfe, over the tops and down into Wensleydale, and finally Leyburn. Leyburn is the charity shop for books – a Paulo Coelho for 50p! Then the ubiquitous Cooperative store for this evening’s dinner, and finally a welcome return to the welcoming Grove for tonight’s bed, and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Leyburn is looking festive this afternoon, making preparations for its 1940’s weekend. I’ll be in Scarborough by then, and wish I’d timed my visit a little better.

The Voyo crashes within a few minutes of settling down to write. I am definitely auto saving every minute now, so lose nothing. I tickle through the Queen of Carrickbar (not sure about that title now) while overlooking the market square. Also, I recount the day in the journal, comb it for impression and meaning: lonely farms, quiet lives, a lonely land toured by armoured cars for the insulated rich to eat the roads.

I note the picture illustrating the Times (2) supplement is of a well heeled, nicely suited gent (with six figure salary) and his squeeze, a dauntingly posh looking woman in a figure hugging dress (who has a PhD and her own company). It’s a feature on an upper class dating site. They are posed to exude an air of aloofness. “You want to be like us”, they say, “but you aren’t affluent enough, darling”. I wonder if they are in love; undoubtedly they present a sexy aura, but I wonder if their lovemaking is as premeditated and utilitarian as their search for a suitably dynamic and wealthy match. We know the foolishness in this but we just can’t help ourselves indulging in it. Perhaps Ouspenski is right and we are indeed doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Is it because most of us are in life for what we can get out of it, rather than for what we can give?

So, day 2, and a spectacular drive, top down all the way, ending in a sunny Leyburn, a pretty little market town that is fast becoming my second home.

I retire early, and write.

The house was up the hill he supposed; he’d not bothered to seek it out yet, and would not be bothering unless his mood improved in the next half hour. Instead he had pulled in here by the promenade where he remembered being raised upon his father’s shoulders, on the evening of the last day of their holiday.

“We’ll come again, Finn? Eh boy? We’ll come again next year.”

Finn could hear him now, the enthusiasm in his voice, something durable, heroic even, and the firm feel of his father’s shoulders beneath him, and the certainty the man would not let him fall.

“They say you can see all the way to Ireland from here, Finn. Well, do you see it boy?”

And Finn replied that he could see it clearly, and that they must come again. But they did not return; his father was dead by winter, taken by a sickness that must already have been eating him hollow, even as Finn sat tall upon his shoulders, and it was just a myth that you could see all the way to Ireland from here. Words were just words and mostly empty. And on a day like this, you could see no distance at all.

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mazzy interior

The weather turned cool and showery by week’s end, making for a wet and windy drive up Wharfedale. Mazzy did not enjoy it as much as her first trip here, back in July. That day the sun shone and the air shimmered with a high-summery heat, and the moors had about them a sluggish, humid quiet. With the top down one could smell the hedgerows and meet the gaze of passers by – share greetings with them as we motored leisurely on. Now though, great curtains of rain pressed in on either side of the valley, spilling over the fells. It had me fumbling for the wipers I’ve not used all year, and of course the top was up, so the world passed remote to all but my visual senses.

We were delayed near Kilnsey by a collision between a camper van and a road sweeper. The camper was a terrible mess, its side torn open and the remains of some poor souls’ holiday spilled all over the road. The queue inched by as best it could while policemen jabbed fingers in ad hoc traffic control. They must have to deal with many such incidents on this stretch, and I don’t envy them the task. The road along the valley of the Wharfe is as narrow and twisty as it’s always been, but the vehicles we’re driving are getting noticeably bigger. Mazzy’s a low slung, narrow slip of a thing, perfect for threading her way up and down country like this, but she and I are moving against the tide which insists what country like this needs is a pumped up four-by-four with the assertive beam of snowplough.

I stopped off for a brew at Buckden, then made pilgrimage to Hubberholme – pronounced “Ubberam”. Hubberholm is a tiny hamlet in upper Wharfedale, beloved of generations of walkers, also home to St Michaels and All Angels, one of the loveliest of our Norman churches. Though the increasing secularisation of society has led to the diminution of moderate religious congregations everywhere, England’s churches retain their potential as foci for binding communities, and in a more prosaic way provide a statutory and timeless continuity with their records of births, marriages and deaths. The church at Hubberhome dates to the 12th century, and has the look of a place that was not actually built at all but rather that it grew organically from the soft earth, here on the banks of the Wharfe. Its pews bear the distinctive adze marks and the unique rodent-motif of the celebrated Mouseman. It has about it the scent of old churches everywhere, and rests in the profound silence that pervades these remote valleys, a silence reinforced for me that morning, stepping out of an old roadster after seventy miles in the pouring rain.

hubberholme church

Saint Michaels and All Angels – Hubberholme

St Michaels and All Angels is the resting place of J.B.Priestly, native of Bradford, novelist and playwright, known to me through his work on the relationship of man with time. I think a lot about the nature of time, and more recently have tied myself in knots with it almost to the point of despair in wrestling with my current work in progress – a work that takes only halting steps forwards these days. For my trip I had packed my toothbrush, but left my laptop behind, thinking to let the story rest for a bit. In making pilgrimage to Hubberholme and JBP, I wasn’t expecting a synchronistic finger pointing to the way out of my literary cul-de-sac; it was more a case of stoking the boiler of imagination, and hoping something would emerge in the fullness of “time”. All the same, my pilgrimage bore fruit, I think, or at least I came away feeling more philosophical about the dilemma. I self-publish to a small audience, for nothing; I write novels like I used to do Origami, for the personal satisfaction of completing a puzzle, rather than labouring for coin. In my current game, as with Origami, there are no deadlines – only pleasure in the folding and unfolding of lines, hopefully winding up with something self-standing at the end of it, and all from a blank sheet of paper. I sometimes forget this, but the timeless peace at Hubberholme, proved a timely reminder that time has no existence other than in its relation to man, and that all deadlines are ultimately defeating of the self.

aysgarth upper falls

Aysgarth upper falls

I stayed the night in Wensleydale, in the pretty little market town of Leyburn, passed a pleasant evening in the Golden Lion and woke on Saturday to a brighter morning. Then I drove to Aysgarth, to the falls. At Aysgarth, the River Ure is rent by a series of dramatic steps over which the waters thunder, all peaty brown, like stewed tea. There is an upper, a middle and a lower falls, spread over a kilometre length of the river, and all accessible by well maintained walkways and viewing points. The National Trust have set up camp here, providing decent car-parking and a visitor centre. It costs £2.50 for a couple of hours, which I didn’t think was too bad, and the falls of course are worth it. Then it was on to Hawes, and from there the long, bleakly spectacular run of the B6255, to Ribblehead. We managed this bit of the run with the top down, Mazzy’s humour lifting enormously, making her roar with the pleasure of it, and lending to the sun-splashed, blue-skied scene, at last, a moving connection that brought a lump to my throat.

It was a weekend of thoughts then, about the nature of time, about writing, and even of Origami. It was also a weekend of waterfalls and old churches. And it was a weekend of roads, the best in England, roads that make driving still a pleasure, a pleasure I had largely forgotten on account of long decades spent behind the wheel of a car merely commuting. But as that accident near Kilnsey reminds us, these roads can also exact a terrible price for a moment’s distraction. They are beloved of many, but struggling now to accommodate the sheer variety of transport they nowadays carry. Along the way I encountered vast lumbering peletons of MAMILS; I came upon huge farm vehicles hauling skyscrapers of hay; then there were the wide-beamed Chelsea tractors, the caravans, the motorhomes; and there were entire squadrons of ton-up motorcycles, a half glimpsed minuscule dot in one’s rear view mirror, then roaring past your ear like a jet fighter barely a second later,…

Even in remoteness these roads can at times feel terribly crowded. Now and then though the way simply opens, and it’s just you, and the freedom of the Dales.

That’s the magic of it.

Footage: Mazzy’s  dashcam. (Mr Happy was along for the ride)

Drive carefully.

Graeme out.

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