In the morning I awake / My arms, my legs, my body aches / The sky outside is wet and grey / So begins another weary day.
The nutty boys in surprisingly serious mood. Except, of course, that there was always more to Madness than novelty party tunes. (The video for Grey Day is however, reliably nutty.)
We’ve had a long run of grey days here. It’s dreich. We’ve managed to get out a couple of times none-the-less. We dragged the kids down to the Cove and across the Lots on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day, with my in-laws minding the fort, TBH and I had an afternoon turn around Eaves Wood. The following day we walked to Arnside for a very late breakfast. At lunchtime. That was a particularly grey day, with Arnside Knott hidden by cloud and not visible even from Arnside Tower Farm (i.e. very close by).
It was good to get out though and for our return to Silverdale it had even stopped raining.
Having a walk together without the kids gave us a really good opportunity to talk, and, it being this time of year, to start making some plans for the year ahead. I recently picked up ‘In Your Stride’ a book by A.B. Austin, published in 1931. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but it has really had me thinking. It’s called ‘The Art of Loitering’ . (As luck would have it, you can read it here.) In it Austin advocates exploring Britain over the course of a year, dedicating one month to exploring, divided between eleven monthly weekends and one week’s holiday. It’s hard to find a passage to quote, but he makes an excellent case – I recommend that you read it. In a similar vein, TBH had been chatting to a friend who ‘does’ one city each year. With those ideas in mind we began to think about our year ahead.
The first thing that struck me – considering the year ahead in this way – is that I don’t do too badly as it is. Put in our regular annual get-togethers: the highlands in March, Nether Wasdale in May, a week at Towyn Farm in the summer, the ‘Adults’ weekend in the Autumn and our pre-Christmas bash in a Youth Hostel and we’re almost halfway there already.
One section of Austin’s ‘The Art of Loitering’ covers the potential cost of his suggestion:
That, you may protest, is rather a tall order, for who has leisure to go exploring all the solitariness that is left in England while he has to find the means to spread butter on his daily bread ? The question may be answered by asking another. How much do we spend on holiday comings and goings every year, including not only our annual exodus to sea or countryside, but all our odd motoring, sporting, walking, climbing, butterfly-catching escapades ? How much, in other words, does our leisure cost us ?
He goes on to make some suggestions as to how to make savings: travel over-night to save on one night’s lodgings; sleep out or in barns (this was 1931); visit popular places out of season. I’m surprised that he doesn’t advocate camping, which is our favourite for many reasons, one of which is cost. Most of our regular trips work out pretty reasonably. We’ve added a couple more weekends to that list, booking cheap accommodation via a source which Austin might not recognise: Travelodge’s winter rooms sale. I know – not an obvious choice for getting away from it all, but functional, and in the sale potentially very well priced. So far we’ve booked a weekend in Tadcaster and another in Wakefield. Again – perhaps not places which immediately spring to mind, but there is method in our madness. Tadcaster was cheaper than York and is only a few miles down the road. York will be this year’s city. Lots to see: the city walls, Jorvik, the National Rail Museum, York Minster (if you have other suggestions please pass them on). Wakefield, meanwhile, has the new Hepworth gallery and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the doorstep.
So where else should we go? I fancy a look at the Shropshire Hills, TBH wants to go back to the Forest of Dean. I have some other vague plans and wild aspirations, about which, perhaps, more later.
Aside from the obvious places where would you recommend?
The old maps and Ruskin’s drawing of York Minster are here because I don’t have any photos from our walks and I don’t like my posts if they don’t include any pictures. Yes – I really am that shallow. Oh – and because I like maps and drawings.
Which brings me to another point, a guilty pleasure I suppose, does anybody else find themselves looking back over their old posts when they really ought to be doing something more constructive, or is that just me?
* Another title might have been ‘Making Plans’ which instantly puts the tune ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ into my head. An alternative to the Madness to leave you with.