Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Liverpool to Glasgow

After staying in such a wonderful old hotel in Liverpool, filled with a charm and level of appointment which spoke of it seeing grander days, we left Liverpool surprised at what it had to offer. Often visits can surprise you when your knowledge of a place is linked to certain moments in time or characters who lived there but then you find out there is so much more to it than that. Liverpool is such a place.

The day started ominously, with grey skies threatening in the first half hour and then delivering on their promise for most of the morning as we drove through steady rain up into the Lakes District. 

Created by an uplifted central core, the Lakes District was was initially eroded by ice flows which gouged deep u-shaped valleys and then left terminal moraine for subsequent rainfall to back up behind. The lakes, at their bed, are deeper than sea level. It is delightful country, with vestiges of the Norman dry stone fences and evidence of Vikings still to be found. Poets have always lived in its villages: Colleridge and Wordsworth being just two.
At Grasmere

Our first stop was in the small village of Grasmere, principally to see the grave of William Wordsworth, his wife Mary and his sister Dorothy. The three lived together for most of their adult lives and were the best of friends. Wordsworth dotted on his sister, who never married. Also buried in the old graveyard are his brother, a son and his wife. Many other headstones, most of them representing residents who have been there for at least a hundred years, are dotted about the back of the church, sitting snugly beside the River Rothay, which flows down to join Grasmere Lake to the south of the village.

A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags, 
A rude and natural causeway, interposed 
Between the water and a winding slope 
Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore 
Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy:
And there myself and two beloved Friends, 
One calm September morning, ere the mist
Had altogether yielded to the sun,
Sauntered on this retired and difficult way.

It was raining still as we sauntered through the village, settling in for tea and treats as the Rothay divided Wordsworth's resting place and our spot perched on the opposite bank. Our friendship with Amanda and Kevin has blossomed and we had morning tea together, tucked in under an awning, out of the rain, with the Wordsworths just on the other side of the stream.

It was an odd coincidence that Grasmere is the name of the suburb where Dad lives near Camden.

From here we went north again, under increasing sunshine, to cross the Scottish border near Gretna Green and lunch at the Famous Blacksmith's Shop, which gained it fame not for the quality of the ironmongery but for anomalies and impatience. The anomalies lay in the disparity between English and Scottish law in regard marriage and the impatience - often by lustful necessity - was the purview of young couples from the south. In England, the marriage process required permission from parents and officialdom, whilst Scotland needed only a minister and a well known town identity. At Gretna Green, just over the border, a minister left without a church after time in prison but still with the power to conduct ceremonies, was imported to do the hitching and the village smithy was good enough to be regarded as a local identity. Therefore randy young lovers bypassed law and parents and came to Scotland for rapidly arranged nuptials and the rooms offered by the same blacksmith.
The lovers, Gretna Green

A small statue of a slight young man and woman, naked and in an embrace which included soon to be consummated kiss, sits on the grass in the centre of a small courtyard. It had overtures of Rodin's "The Kiss", without any comparable skill.

This was also lunch.

An early start and a glass of red with lunch helped me sleep off much of the trip to Glasgow which followed. I have been loath to sleep on the coach for fear of missing something but the combination was too much to resist. As I was dozing off. I have a vague memory of an announcement that we were passing Lockerbie, the site of one of the world's first acts of mass terrorism. I regret not showing it respect.

Before finding our hotel, we were taken on a coach tour of Glasgow, the highlight of which was the central square where royalty again has the spotlight in a country which has resisted the rule of England at every chance. Odd. Central to the square and on a tall column, was Robert Burns but more of him tomorrow. It is one of the most impressive squares I have seen: neat, ordered and with public figures important to the city appropriately recognised by the city fathers and pigeons alike.

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