Posts Tagged ‘Rivington Barn’


Rivington Barn

Friday, and a late lunch at Rivington Barn. It’s crowded, bikers slurping mugs of tea outside, and a clamour of woolly hatted conversation within, the place clogged with skewed  buggies and children whining as if it were a half term holiday, but it isn’t.

I order my egg and bacon butty and I sit, number poised clearly on the table’s edge. It is a long, raised, communal table, empty when I sit down but soon to be dominated by a nuclear family: corpulent dad, mute, invisible mum, and a pair of hyper-active pre-pubescent nitwits who enjoy banging about in their seats so the vibrations travel the length of the table and into the bones of any unwitting neighbour, such as myself. Notwithstanding this endless, tedious violation of my repose, there is also the threat of a sticky soaking from the pop bottles said nitwits take delight in shaking up into a fizz and from which they then squeeze off an ominous, hyperventilating hiss.

Oh, I know, long week and all that, and all I want is a bit of peace, sitting on the end of this table, first come, and already my body space is invaded by Corpulent Dad’s ever spreading bulk. Some people seem to take up much more space than others. It is a kind of biological imperialism. He pretends to take no notice of me, but he’s a nosy bugger and I can feel his eyes over my shoulder as I scroll the news on the delightfully ergonomic Washington Post app. Yes, I’m with Sheldrake on this one – the sense of being stared at is a reliable instinct.

I know, the Washington Post, it’s not your usual media for informing the rural north of England, but America appears to have gone mad and I’m trying to understand what archetypes are afoot here, if they bode ill for my retirement nest egg or not and if we’ll have Russian tanks across the Rhine again like we did in the bad old days, which curiously enough seem more and more like the good old days, days when there was at least a kind of certainty to world affairs, grim though they were. And my egg and bacon butty is taking an age, and my cup of tea is already half gone, and these kids are banging the table, cutting clean though my pre-weekend ease, and my desire to just settle in for a bit and think.

The Post, though earnest and informative is of no help to me, this lone Englishman, and only confirms his suspicion that even America cannot quite believe it. Jung would have had an insightful take on things, but voices like his are few. While the kids continue to fizz the life out of their bottles, I try Chompsky, a familiar guru in these troubled times, but there is little comfort there either. Corpulent Dad is talking, winding his kids up into ever greater heights of irritating behaviour. Mute mum says nothing. Neither make an effort to check their offsprings’ rudeness. I recall I made no effort with my kids either, but I could at least take them anywhere without worrying they’d annoy other people. But then again Corpulent Dad isn’t worried they’re annoying other people. We are the same then, he and I. We simply differ in our approach to life.


My egg and bacon butty arrives and I wolf it down to the point of indigestion. This is sacrilege. These are the finest egg and bacon buttys in creation, not to be rushed. But I am rushing, a voice in my head screaming for air now. So I head out to the car, relieved to be shot of my obnoxious interlopers. Such is the lot of the misanthrope, I’m afraid. Nothing is resolved. For all the seriousness of my intent to understand, all I have now is indigestion and the first stabbing throb of a headache.

The weather had been clear, encouraging of a certain optimism, but during my brief stay in the Barn, it has clouded, the air turned grey and cold. I am not encouraged to don my boots and climb the hill, so I drive to Chorley instead, to the Autofit place. I have two nails in my tyre. It’s been holding pressure, but clearly needs attention if I am to avert future calamity. I am expecting it to be irreparable.

The guy does his plucky best, but pronounces it goosed. There’s a tone of apology I read as genuine. My shed of a commuter-mule wears Michelin Premiums. They come at a premium price: one hundred and nineteen pounds each. These are supercar prices for a car that has proved itself to be anything but a super car. I really must get rid of this thing before it bankrupts me. It is becoming my own personal financial crisis.

“Is that fitting and everything, I ask?”

“Sure,” says the guy, “we’ll even put air in it for you.”

There is the ripple of a smile about his lips as he speaks, as if trying to winkle out the humour in me. The place is grey and February cold, overhung with a century of grime, his overalls seriously besmirched with his labours, but there is also something Puckish about him, defiantly irreverent. He mends cars.  He smiles a lot, and jokes. I drive a PC. And don’t joke much these days.

But, wait. There it is. My smile comes up like something fondly remembered. At times like these we need a sense of humour. It’s just a question of having the courage, or the sheer bloody mindedness to let it in. The lid is off. The trickster is risen from the collective and is laying waste to the convention of entire continents, destroying the perceived corruption of the world with a less subtle corruption of its own, and we’d better get used to it because I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride.

I’ll see you on the other side.





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Vauxhall Astra at RivingtonSo, I’d promised the car a clean up and a run out at the weekend. I don’t seem to have done any serious damage. The gearbox is noisy from cold but it’s changing gear okay and running smoothly once it’s warm. Hopefully this will be sorted when the new gearbox it fitted.  Anyway, the plan was to drive over to Southport around mid-morning for the annual Air Show, but I hit traffic at the little bottleneck village of Croston, still about ten miles out. I crawled for five miles before finally admitting defeat at Mere Brow, and turning the car around. I’ve never seen traffic like it! Maybe the publicity for this event was unusually wide reaching this year – I don’t know – but it seemed as if the whole of Lancashire was heading into Southport this morning.

No 2 son, (13 yrs) riding shotgun for the day, was understandably gutted and his expression broke my heart. How do you make up for missing the spectacle of the Red Arrows and other assorted jets flying flat out over Southport sands? Well, it’s not easy, but you could always head up to Rivington and go looking for conkers instead, followed by a deluxe hot chocolate at the barn. This met with unexpectedly enthusiastic approval, so off we went.

Rivington’s not the best place to head to either if you want a quiet run out – especially on a Sunday. This is a very special little place, and it’s on everyone’s list of R+R destinations, hereabouts, so, although I’ve yet to encounter a traffic jam heading into it, finding somewhere to leave your car when you get there can be a problem. However, a little local knowledge opens up a number of possibilities, and I rarely struggle. So, while the queue to Southport Airshow snaked for 10 miles across the plain of Lancashire, No 2 son and I donned our boots in the shadow of the Pennines and went in search of chestnuts.

Unlike the airshow, which we went to for the first time only last year, conker gathering has been an annual ritual for as long as I can remember, and is one the seasonal events I set my internal calendar by. I’m not telling you where we gather conkers because, as every lad knows, these are places that should be kept secret. You’re always a bit anxious approaching your favourite little location, come conker season because you never know if it’ll be a bumper crop this time or a famine, or if the locals will have stripped the trees bare before you’ve arrived.

chestnut rivingtonThe trees are just beginning to turn now, and the chestnuts, although not exactly abundant, were plenty enough to keep No 2 son happy. grubbing about in the undergrowth. Indeed at one point they were raining from the trees, already cracked open, and landing uncannily close, as if the squirrels were intent on repelling boarders. Having said this, it took a little while to find our first one, after which the pickings seemed to come easier. It’s hard to explain the satisfaction of finding that first chestnut – the rich brown colour, the freshly varnished sheen set against the pale green, and the smooth, sensual feel of it as you roll it in the palm of your hand. Lad’s stuff, I know, but it really does your heart good.

And the hot chocolate at Rivington Barn? 10 out of 10 as usual!

I trust those of you who made it to the air show weren’t disappointed. I’ll have to set off earlier next year – or I may just go conker hunting instead.

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