Libraries

Hello All

As I pedalled along last week (yes I am pedalling more than walk-ling now, impressive eh?) wondering what to write about in this post the word ‘library’ popped into my mind.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning will recall this blog started life under the moniker “Library Lady” as at the time I worked in the local library. Libraries have always been important to me. My mother was an avid reader. Forced to leave school at 14 and go out to work she always regretted not having access to higher education. Despite her reservations I think my mother’s spontaneous, autonomous reading and learning made her one of the most intelligent people I have known. She was always thirsty for knowledge.

When I was small we regularly walked through Kensington Gardens on a circuitous route – calling in at the swings – to the public library in Paddington. Once past the librarian sitting at the counter I was safely released into what answered for a children’s library – bit spartan in the early 1960s – while my mother spent happy hours browsing the shelves looking for books she had not already read. While she looked, stopped and read a few pages from here and there I gained the precious gift of time to idle, dream and read.

At university for the first time I was the only one amongst my immediate peers who had come from a comprehensive (state school). Most were public school (private) or grammar school (selective state school). My insecurities found their refuge in the beautiful Classics Library. I still remember the wood panelling and the serried collections of books comfortably congregated in cabinets behind glass doors.

I can even recollect the smell: polish blended with the slight mustiness of old books. Delicious. By the way don’t go sniffing lungfuls from very old books I have been advised by those that know about the construction of books that some toxic nasties may have been used to construct tomes of yore. The studious silence and access to such rare and wonderful volumes was a privilege and even today a library is my bolt hole of choice.

I always enjoy a visit to the local public library. Kendal has a wonderful Carnegie library,

built in 1809 courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. Thank you Kendal Civic Society for telling us all about Mr Carnegie:

Once inside you can find an author you have not come across before, borrow music, read about far-flung places, share books, songs and toys with your children and grandchildren, research the local area in great depth, study maps, use a computer and best of all pick the brains of librarians and library staff. They are a helpful and clever bunch worth their weight in gold.

Public libraries offer space to everyone and in these increasingly hate-filled times are a beacon of brilliance providing a thoughtful sanctuary for everyone. I am sure it was no accident that Andrew Carnegie also devoted his wealth to peace studies. The carving above the door says it all:

Public libraries have often come low down the list of priorities when cash-strapped councils have to make hard choices. Libraries are an investment in the unknowable future or in areas hard to quantify. Luckily many of us (sadly not all) have been fortunate enough to retain our public libraries where most of the resources are free to use. Kendal has a busy library that is a real hub for the community. I hope that Carnegie – wherever he is now – is happy that his gift is still being used and enjoyed over a hundred years later.

A slightly guilty pleasure for me is borrowing fiction. Books that I will thoroughly enjoy in the moment but have no need to own. Here’s what I checked out on my last visit:

An Ann Cleeves Shetland thriller perfect for the dark cold nights and a bit of Townsend humour to relieve … erm … the dark cold nights.

So feel free to gather some good books around you, cosy up under a blanket with a mug of tea (coffee? or chocolate if you prefer), lose yourself in the glow of a good lamp as your reading transports you wherever you want to go.

Happy times.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Bridges – Nether Bridge

Hello All

With all this walk-ling in the early hours I have become conscious of the ebb and flow of the River Kent which accompanies me along much of my route. The swift flowing Kent is a mercurial river prone to flooding during heavy rain but exposing it’s rocky bed when the weather is dry.

You can see the old river is quite frisky after recent downpours.

Historically most of Kendal lay on the west bank of the river but to the east lay the castle, farm lands and important arterial roads. To allow guaranteed river crossings – fords were only available in dry weather – bridges were a necessity. They stitched the town together.

The first bridge I encounter as I pedal along is one of Kendal’s oldest, Nether Bridge. The earliest reference is from 1421. Old enough you’d think but it is likely that a bridge has spanned the river at the same point from much earlier.

Peering under Nether Bridge (and getting funny looks as I peered … well I was hanging over the wall) shows the evidence of the bridge being widened twice.

I often wonder at the strength of Nether Bridge as large lorries roll over it taking up both lanes as they navigate the tight turn to travel south toward the motorway.

Reading Andrew White’s description of the bridge in his “A History of Kendal” I find I am right to wonder. The bridge may have been a principal route but it was so narrow that an ordinance of 1582 banned vehicles with more than one horse. Something needed to be done. Fast … ish.

In 1772 – things up here like to take their time – the first widening of the bridge was made on the downstream side. Unfortunately this was washed away (eek) after a few weeks – we do get a lot of rain…I may have mentioned that before – and the widening was moved to upstream. A further widening took place in 1908 and I assume this has left us with the bridge we can see today.

Should you wish to stop and traffic watch (does anyone do that?!) the bridge comes with seating:

All creature comforts don’t you know.

Of course during dry spells the nearby ford could still be used. I tried to capture the location of this ford but am not sure I have because buildings have vanished and the banks are now steeper. Here’s where I think it lay…

But then again it could be …

…here?

In any event after the tragic drowning of a chaise driver in 1806 the ford no doubt lost some of it’s allure and was better used as a place to water cattle.

As the temperatures here are set to drop over the next few days looking at the cold waters of the River Kent sent me indoors and to the warm wonderfulness of felting.

Working on my wall hanging I decided to start livening up the sombre dancers by needle felting onto the piece.

Very satisfying. A little like Nether Bridge the additions have been a long time coming but I will get there in the end.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Having a play

Hello All

Just as we were appreciating the auburn, rustling leaves of autumn along came the heavy rains. Once more I hear on the radio people in other parts of the UK must leave their homes as the flood waters rise. My heart goes out to them.

Walking through town I skipped – tricky at my age and with my lack of coordination – over streams, the pavements disguised by rivulets of water, trying to keep my toes dry.

Yet Kendal was surprisingly busy. Hardy Cumbrians are not going to let a bit of wet put them off their Saturday market and shopping trips (if we did we would hardly ever venture out). Nor were we going to miss the annual Comic Art Festival.

Children scampered from stall to stall becoming crazier and crazier cartoon incarnations of themselves. T-shirts and bags were being made at the numerous stands in the shopping centre and despite the inclement weather a good time was being had by all.

As for me? A quick nip to the library followed by buying my veg on the market was swiftly followed by a bus home. As soon as I was in the door the kettle was on, the pot warmed and a steaming mug of tea was soon being enjoyed. Softie that I am. Good time to think about my piece of felt wall-art.

As you can see I have completed the back-stitching:

Now I need to do something to liven up those dancing figures. I can’t remember why we went for black. Perhaps it was a nod to Peter Pan’s mischievous shadow as we were a jolly outfit. More likely it was because they stand out from the background, we were nothing if not bold! Feeling less bold now I am trying to come up with something to soften them.

I am presently working on flowery project so had a play with those needle felted flowers. I think I may be on to something. Making smaller, leaf-less flowers and in colours to compliment the swooshy bands of felt along the bottom of the banner may be just the thing.

Once that is done I will turn my attention to the rest of the hanging…any felty ideas folks?

Hope you are all keeping your feet dry.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Bags of Goodness

Hello All

Just home from a quick shop in town and at the risk of looking like a short rations edition of BBC1’s “Eat Well for Less” * here are my purchases:

Kendal is a little foodie heaven these days. I remember when getting a Wimpy burger bar was BIG NEWS! Nowadays we have wonderful eateries catering to all tastes and today as I was on my lonesome I popped into one of the latest where I could have a super vegan lunch whilst I picked up a few essentials. Food Nude only has a few seats (bar stools) but the goodies on the menu can also be taken away.

Yum what to pick?

I went for the vegan ‘tuna’ sandwich. It was SUPER delicious. The tea with oat ‘milk’ washed it down perfectly.

Did you wonder? Here is what came out of the bags.

Top ups for my muesli, red lentil and buckwheat jars together with a good bowlful of cashew nuts. With the help of veggies and fruit that’s a few breakfasts and suppers sorted.

Greg Wallace and Chris Bavin* would be proud!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Trusty Steed

Hello All

New job, new place of work, new transport. Those of you that regularly visit me here at Casa Moke will know that I am very fond of a bus journey and failing that a train or perhaps even Shanks’ Pony. Prepare to be amazed. The easiest way for me to travel to work will be by …..

bike! Sorry if you were expecting a horse. Neigh! It is a two-wheeled steed that will see me hurtling to early starts come September.

Thanks to No 1 Daughter who left her bicycle behind and thanks to Bike Ranger Steve who took it away for a service I am almost road-worthy (just fitting the lights) and ready for a few test runs. Oh my lor’…they do say you never forget. Let’s hope ‘they’ are right.

I feel my (oops No 1 Daughter’s) bike is female and while No 1 Daughter did not give her a name I am toying with calling her Hecate. Hecate was the Ancient Greek goddess of crossroads who protected travellers from evil on the road. I am hoping that there is not a great deal of evil on the road from home over the couple of miles to work but being at a crossroads resonates. Let’s give Hecate a whirl.

Remaining pedestrian at heart I strolled into town yesterday for a little bit of shopping and look what you see when you are walking:

The Vegan Is Kind website set my mouth watering. What a fab idea hope I can try the supper club soon.

Inspired by the Heathen Vegan, hungry after the walk and topped up with the necessary ingredients from town I trundled home to make an asian themed supper of Tarka Dal, Saag Aloo, and Roti together with a simple salad of onion and tomatoes mixed with lemon juice.

Delicious if I say so myself. Making the roti was particularly satisfying! With heaps left over I am hoping it will taste even better today. Infact I am getting a little peckish as I type. Best dash.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Short walks and flying visits

Hello All

Funny little week this one with a veritable variety of small delights. The weather and remnants of the ever-lasting flu bug has limited my walking recently. With yet another forecast of f-f-f-f-reeezing high winds accompanied by a deluge (think BBC Weather marks it with charming two raindrops under a too fluffy cloud, its a deluge to me) the intrepid three J, JF and me decided that perhaps meeting for a cuppa would be enough for this week’s walk day. But we are not intrepid for nothing and decided on a short walk before the luxury of a warm coffee shop.

When I say short I mean short. Today’s walk was along one side of Kendal’s main shopping street Stricklandgate. For a Kendal walk we of course turned to Mr Nicholls and in this instance his Exploration No.1 Around Stricklandgate. To reduce the need to refer to Arthur Nicholls’ book in the everlasting downpour I made a quick (ie not very good) sketch of our half-a-street walk with all the highlights jotted down which I could preserve in a waterproof ‘envelope’.

For such a diminutive amble Stricklandgate (one half) packs a historical punch. Kendal Town Hall is presently being restored after the damage wrought by Storm Desmond (2016) so a little interior shot is all I have to give to an idea of its grandeur.

Passing up the opportunity to burst Maria-like into song we girded ourselves for a walk on the wild side of Cumbrian weather (I begin to wonder if there is any other type!).

We quickly trotted to the top of Finkle Street.

There has been much conjecture about the name Finkle. I like the old Kendalian story that it is from the Norse word meaning elbow as it does have a dog-leg as you walk downbank. My extensive research (I Googled it) is not entirely supportive of this theory and whatever you do don’t look up the definition of ‘finkle’ in the urban dictionary …. you have been warned.

Moving on. What has always intrigued me is the fact that Stricklandgate was lined with buildings on both sides (remember we are only looking at one half…) and the Pump Inn which lay across the top of Finkle Street fascinated me. I was imagining something grand like the Pump Rooms in Bath but the reality appears to have been a far cry from this. The fact that a fish market ran down Finkle Street behind it should have given me a clue. We are lucky that there are archive photographs of the Pump Inn. Here is my representation of one of them. I am afraid as it was all grey even my grey-heavy palette gave up.

Doesn’t that fish-wife look familiar?!

Tootling on we wistfully wandered on past Farrers Tea and Coffee. Ahhhh the smell of freshly roasted coffee that comes from this old coffee house is amazing. If you are up this way it is a must to visit Farrers with its wobbly timber floors and stairways. The coffee and tea are tasty as are all the home baked treats. You can also pick up Farrers’ goodies to take home. The building is fronted by the iron doorway which was put in when the building was refronted in the 18th century. Prior to this Farrers was a hostelry called the Waggon and Horses Inn.

Farrers had whetted our appetites but we carried on paying our respects to Kendal’s historic past: the buildings that survive – like the Working Men’s Institute and Globe Inn – and those long gone – like the Corn Market Hall with its grim prison named the Black Hole underneath. Further down the road (but not much further) we gave a nod to the old yards and burgage plots that now lie long forgotten under the modern Westmorland Shopping Centre which at least has hung on to our old County name.

Almost at our destination we skirted Blackhall Yard which originally housed a 16th century mansion for the first mayor of Kendal Henry Wilson and later became Hodgson’s Black Hall Brush Factory. There is a replica of the hog with bristles sign still hanging near the yard but one of the original wooden hogs can be seen at the Museum of Lakeland Life at Abbot Hall.

Finally Charlies and that long (er-hum) awaited cuppa but before we could enjoy the delights of an Earl Grey tea or three there was one last historic footnote. Charlies cafe is sited in the old house that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have stayed in on his retreat from Derby in 1745 and is where he was cared for by the Misses Thompson (make of that what you will). Ironically the house is said to have provided the same bed to the Bonnie Prince’s pursuer the Duke of Cumberland the very next night. Hope they changed the sheets … were there sheets…?

Amazing what a short walk can reveal. The same is true for a flying visit.

Yesterday I was in Carlisle to meet up with friends at Tullie House museum. I love this museum and the fact that I picked up a season ticket for £6.50 on my last trip has helped me appreciate it even more.

Having had a super catch up and lunch in the museum cafe I enjoyed an hour looking at the Percy Kelly retrospective. The work of this amazing artist is right up my street. Driven to draw everyday he generally had a linear and angular style with all those clean lined edges I find so satisfying. In addition to the drawings, paintings and prints I discovered textile prints and multi-media examples of his work. All wonderful but for me the most beautiful exhibits are his letters. He was an inveterate letter writer writing in a clear copperplate hand around the drawings he incorporated into his correspondence. His letters are erudite and incredibly illustrated how fortunate were his friends to receive them. No wonder so many survive they must have been treasured. If you have a chance to see this exhibition (which I hear is now staying in Tullie House until mid-February) I would thoroughly recommend going.

Understandably no photos were allowed of the Percy Kelly exhibition however elsewhere in Tullie House you are generally allowed to take snaps and I grabbed one of Tullie House’s latest acquisition, Driggsby.

Sadly Driggsby a rare Fin Whale was found in 2014 by a dog walker at Drigg in West Cumbria. The young whale had already perished but has been kept in the county to illustrate the wonderful sea life we have around our shores and to act as a reminder to care for the environment that sustains these amazing creatures.

Lest I leave you on a sad note here is something that made me smile. Having completed our walk down Stricklandgate J, JF and myself trotted into Kendal Library and popped our heads into the colourful children’s library where we were bowled over by our talented friend AW’s fabulous display.

Hope her hard work leaves you smiling too.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Three go to Castle and Cemetery

Hello All

Those tricky weather gods were out and about so when deciding on our last walk we played it safe and went for a couple more explorations of our home town taken from Arthur Nicholls Explore Kendal. Keeping to the east side of the River Kent JF, J and me set off along the canal path.

Don’t get excited as there are no pictures of jolly barges and cosy boathouses to show. Our canal was filled in many years ago and while it has often been mooted that it will be reconstructed we have yet to see the diggers move in. Instead the canal provides a wide foot path, a ghost waterway still spanned by bridges from its mercantile past.

Despite the lack of loveliness the canal walk is a useful way to amble, jog, cycle or dog walk away from the busy main road. And being a canal path it is flat …. flat I tell you flat! …. yahoooooo. For me a perfect walk allowing me to get into my stride before puffing up the steep slope leading to the remains of Kendal Castle which sits atop an impressive glacial drumlin.

Described in Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England Cumbria as lining the horizon like ‘broken teeth’ Kendal Castle was apparently already falling into disrepair by 1572. Nonetheless it retains a romantic charm:

It also offers a good spot to rest your thermos and dodge the wind while enjoying a tea break.

From Kendal Castle we walked down a broad and gentle footpath to Castle Road and there we began to find gems not mentioned in Mr Nicholls little book.

J, JF and myself have all worked in public libraries so we couldn’t help but feel gleeful when we came across this adorable book box which we presume has been provided by a philanthropic householder:

What a thoughtful idea. I often wonder what to do with my old paperbacks. Some go to friends, in the past good copies went to a local second hand bookshop and others I have left in cafes with a note to read and share but I loved this beautiful book hut and am wondering if my little neck of Kendal would like one…..

A short hop from the book swap JF and her husband on a previous walk had come across a unexplored ‘gothic’ corner of Kendal. One of those places that you have to know is there or you would miss it. Opening a creaky iron gate we walked from what looked like a private drive into the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe-esque horror.

Graves sit higgledy-piggledy clustered around a lonely turreted chapel where nature appears to be re-claiming her own:

Leaving the graveyard feeling neglected and melancholy. Dark and still between the planted yews.

Brrrr. Affected by the mood of sad reflection we read the gravestones with a growing curiosity about who was buried here. Burials began with the opening of the cemetery in May 1843 (the chapel built by the Kendalian architect George Webster opened in July 1845). The cemetery is now full only allowing interments to the larger family plots. Many of the graves occupants appeared to be trades people. But as to why they are here in this lost little corner of Kendal we could not be sure. So atmospheric was the space that we started to get fanciful (perhaps that was just me!) and it felt like we were characters at the opening of a gothic horror. All we lacked was a thunderstorm … well it was drizzling.

Time to move on for sandwiches, cheese and tomato if you are wondering, and take a look back over the rooftops towards the Castle.

Thank you to IC who helped us find this vantage point.

The rest of our perambulation took in areas of Kendal that are more familiar to us. The yarn of Dickie Doodle (did he exist? Doubtful) and the creation of Doodleshire on the eastern side of the Kent together with the tales about the horrors of the ducking stool by Stramongate Bridge are well known. Dickie Doodle was supposedly sent by Richard I – you know the one with the lion heart, loved a crusade? – to bring the market charter to Kendal but having fallen drunk on the West bank escaped the angry natives by crossing the bridge to the East bank of the town where he found the residents much more welcoming (perhaps they just liked a drink). Indignant at the West Kendalians treatment of him Dickie supposedly tried to limit the market charter to the east bank and to do so founded Doodleshire on behalf of an angry King Richard (how dare those west-side varlets mistreat the king’s man). Names sound improbable? that’s because they probably are. It is nonetheless a great story and has been around for several centuries and mockingly the area that was supposedly Doodleshire annually elected a mayor until 1827. Such is the power of the urban myth.

Unfortunately the ducking stool was all too true. Its victims suffered the humiliation of being heckled by the holier-than-thou-but relieved-its-not-me mob and were then plunged into the freezing cold waters of the river. Luckily things have changed and we managed to cross the river without any such injustices.

We finished the day with another mystery. What are these ‘directions’ carved into the stonework?

We have seen similar on several of our walks. J found a possible explanation (wonderful thing this interweb thingy) in a reader’s (Ben) comment on the York Stories blog:

‘FP stands for fire plug. Prior to fire hydrants firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a hole in it – the hole would fill with water that they could use for firefighting. Once the fire was extinguished they would hammer a bung or ‘plug’ into the pipe and backfill the hole, leaving an FP mark on the building for future reference. The term stuck when hydrants were introduced and their locations were marked with FP signs. Usually a square or oblong enamel sign in purple or white I’ve never seen one like yours. Generally if there’s an old FP sign there’ll be a more modern H sign too.’

But if you know different please let me know. Think I will have to lay off the walling. So addicted are we that we started pacing the measurements out almost falling under trucks in the process. You wouldn’t believe the language… not the truckers ……

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx