After I finished school in 1988, my father and I agreed we'd spend a week on holiday in the Lake District. I'd never been there before, and I knew some quality r&r would be forthcoming for us both. We headed up the M6 with trepidation, and arrived at our first night stopover in Hawkshead. Being the middle of August the small town was packed with tourists, and also being August, it was raining. We'd decided to stay at a quiet pub right in the town centre, and that evening after dinner we took a walk around the lake where apparently William Wordsworth sat and penned his poem Daffodils (something I found out was not the case, more like misinformation from my father to make me learn culture). After a pleasant night's sleep we headed down to the side of Lake Windermere, and caught the ferry across to another American tourist infested haven, the main town that is Windermere. Checking in bright and early we set off to explore the area. We decided to head up to Carlisle, and even Lockerbie via Gretna Green. It was at the point we came across our first mountain pass. Kirkstone pass is one of the steepest roads in Britain, and as we started to snake down the side of the mountain road, the road sign gave us fair warning. "Average gradient 25%" and then added underneath "You have been warned." We took a walk up to the top of the ridge above the pass, and I remember a photo being taken of me standing on the edge of the sheer drop to the valley floor, something I couldn't even begin to do today. That evening we found a (relatively) quiet pub, had a spot of grub, and then ended up in an arcade on the waterfront. We must have spent an hour, me beating my father at one game or another, and him trying to teach me how to ride a motorbike by playing Super Hang On.
The following morning we moved north, to the even bigger town of Keswick on the edge of Derwentwater. The done thing on Derwentwater is to take a slow steam boat around the lake and take in some of the mountain scenery. So, we hired a speedboat. In the one hour, we did the entire length and breadth of the lake. We annoyed the tourists on the shore. We annoyed the captains of the pleasure cruisers. We even annoyed the local population of birds (of the feathered variety). But did we care? We went out that evening and found a pub in the back of a hotel. The place was completely deserted when we got there, being relatively early, and a nice evening of drinking too much and chatting was had. Another yank was smoking a big fat cigar across the restaurant from us, and my father's blood pressure slowly increased until he proclaimed "I wish he'd put out that f**king cigar." It was the first time I'd ever heard my father use the f word, oh how times have changed. We drove home, and I remember that at 4 pints, I was quite pissed. We both had to stop halfway on some mountain road for a pee, and when we got back to the hotel my father found the bar. Feeling a little too far gone to drink any more, I crawled into bed. I don't remember much else about that night.
The next day we arose early, and agreed to find a mountain bike hire place. There seemed a highly regarded hire shop in Ambleside just down the road, and after paying a big fat deposit we now had 2 brand new Muddy Fox mountain bikes. I can't remember the route around the green hills, but at one point a couple of hours in, we stopped next to a field to have a drink and a rest. I took off my sunglasses and promptly forgot them. We plummeted down a short 1:4 hill nearby, and reaching car park by the river at the bottom, I realised my new sunglasses were still at the top. After a bit of arguing about who'd go back and get them (I won...) I then cycled back up the 1:4 hill to reclaim them. The second time I took the fast descent back down the hill, only this time a fly decided to cross my path en route. I sat at the side of the road coughing and spluttering, half expecting the fly to reappear from my mouth and fly away. It didn't and I was strangely less hungry for the day. On the return to the bike shop, we were running late. They shut at 6, and it was now nearly 10 to, and we had one road we could take. Road, in the loosest sense. The track was made of football sized boulders and large pebbles, and my father was "oofing" and "owing" as we tried to negotiate them. I realised that the bikes were a lot more fluid at higher speed, so I took off at the usual 30mph, loving every pitch and bump. I screeched up in front of the shop as the two owners sat there mellowing out. I told them that my father would be along soon, and some 20 minutes later he arrived looking like he'd gone 12 rounds with Ali, and lost. Our last night was spent in another pub, and the following morning we headed home. I have returned several times since, and the strange thing is, as vivid as my memories of that week, I can't remember anything of the area really. It looks so different today, being the holiday of choice for so many walkers.
Still, when are holidays the same as your youth?
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