Travelogue: Lancashire 1
Updated: Aug 10
The Journey North.
The summer of ’21 and everything is getting back to normal. Except it isn’t. Still, we felt bold enough to take a tour of England again. Or rather, a drive through the heart of the country that has been on such a painful journey for so long. Okay, sixteen months and counting. Not so long when compared to a ten year internal war, or seventy three years of displacement from your homeland, but we think we’ve had it bad in this country and we simply have to take a holiday.
So, up, up and away. A jaunt through England’s heartland, geographically at least. A chance to pass by the regions, the cities, to connect with the English and Englishness, where others experience their England all the time. We are just passing by for a few minutes, a few miles in each location, but we’re doing our bit to unify the country by our very presence. Getting out and about to help out. Without actually stopping to engage with anyone. I'm wondering, though. Given the internal squabbles in recent times, and we know who stokes the fires, do we have any shared cultural and social values anymore? I hope so. Political agreement? Absolutely not. I think it’s best to race by just in case we fall into an argument with anyone.
There's only one solution: a nice, quiet destination, far from home, beyond the grasp of society. That will do wonders for the soul, and we have just the right place in mind.
Our faraway land
We're starting out from Royal Berkshire, where the horses behave impeccably even if the racegoers let themselves go a bit. Racegoers who provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test result. And we’re off. First city of stature: Oxford. Home of the dreaming spires, though you can’t see any from the M40. Then Birmingham. Aye, there’s the rub. To be the second city of England or not. Clearly not. That epithet belongs to London; the first city is Manchester. The rub being the tricky process of navigating from the M40 to the M42 to the M6 without ending up on a toll road. Who gave away our national infrastructure for private gain? We are held up by fat cat highwaymen and held up in jams, where everyone else is simply trying to do what we’re all trying to do – get through unscathed. Except they shouldn’t be there. We should have a free run. That seems a fitting metaphor for how we the British, sorry we the English are entitled to have it our way.
And now we find ourselves in the curiously named region known as the Black Country. Allegedly named after the soot created by the industrial revolution, or maybe the coal powering it. Wolverhampton. I once got lost there on a rainy day during a cricket tour of the West Midlands. Never again. We went to the Hampshire/Dorset border the following year and never looked back.
Back to the M6. Stoke next. The home of the team beaten by my beloved Manchester City in the FA Cup final in 2011. The first trophy secured in the current golden age. The manager: Roberto Mancini. The man in the light grey jacket in the Euros 2020. I’m getting into a total football mood now. Albeit sinking into the lower leagues as we drive up the map. Crewe. Preston. Blackburn and Wigan. Burnley just about keeping themselves up above the old second division. We’re rising high. Sky high. But passing up the opportunity to divert to the home of the English champions, where Blue Moon is still everyone’s face song even though things are not so sad there any more. Also home of the Peterloo massacre. But we’ll say no more about that. We’ll also say nothing of what lies at the other end of the M62. Nothing to see there.
England: a journey through the divisions
Onwards and upwards. We bypass Blackpool. I’ve never been keen on a trip to the pleasure beach, with all those kiss-me-quick hats, teeth-cracking sticks of rock and bodies jostling along the sea front. So much ordinary life. The only thing that appeals to me is the mini Eiffel tower. That looks fun, but I have my own mini model of the tower in my study and that’ll do for me Tommy. What? Cannon and Ball are no longer performing at the end of the pier? How time flies.
Next, Lancaster. Raising the tone a bit. The Royal House of the Plantagenets with a garden where only red roses thrive. Also a place to study, somewhere to get all intellectual, northern-style, and to tower over the Blackpool loving commoners.
And now, I’m starting to feel happy. Morecambe. Home of Morecambe FC and the great Eric Morecambe. Perhaps the world’s finest ever pianist. The town has cultural associations with Alan Bennett, too. And Thora Hird. But nothing can dampen my spirits now. Think of the joys of the Winter Gardens. We’ll be back in a day or so.
And finally we see the signs to the Lake District. And I don’t mean it’s raining. We are reaching the top of the M6. Junction 36. Shifting right onto the A65, we commence a restorative ten miles through the countryside. Bingo, balls and Brummies left far behind. Carnforth here we come, and we are safe. We arrive, in the tiny Hamlet of Leck, just beyond Kirkby Lonsdale. Leck; home to St Peter’s church, a country estate and not much more. Other than the sheep and the birds and all that lovely quiet under an English heaven.
Our welcoming party. Could they be any less interested? :)
Everything on the journey, even the pit stop to refuel with Burger King comestibles, masks on by the way, has been a means to an end. And wow, what an end! The kind of place I could stay for a long time, maybe forever, where we wouldn’t have to worry too much about the rest of the country. Which I never do anyway, obviously, but you get my drift. Commerce, politics, royal bullies, biased media, anti-vaccine marches and random pinging. Gone and forgotten. Even the good things I do care about, theatreland being the best of all, can exit left. There will be plenty of drama in the landscapes where we're going, and we can always stop off in Stratford on the way back.
Such freedom. So much tranquillity. Remote beyond my imagination. Lack of connectivity. No social responsibility. That doesn’t sound quite right, and it all seems rather selfish. But then, we’ve earned this holiday. We’ve worked so hard. Right! So hard at just getting through the extra challenges we’ve all had to face. The unnecessary difficulties created by an incompetent, deceitful, self-serving government. The frustration of not being able to go anywhere worth going. Not being able to see those we miss. Not being able to comfort and say goodbye to those we have lost. There will be plenty more time for reflection and hardship, restrictions and caution. For now, just for one week, this is our freedom.
© Eddie Hewitt 2021
See part 2 of the Lancashire Travelogue: Sheep and the Forgotten Lion