Hawes 1: Not for vegetarians

Four months later they were off again, self-catering this time. Jean said to leave it to the last minute, you might get a cancellation. The week before they wanted to go, Dyce spotted a cottage in The Dalesman magazine and rang the landlady direct.

‘How much is it?’

‘It’s normally £250, but it is out of season and you’ll not be paying the agency.’

‘How much for three old farts for three nights?’

‘£150.’

‘Done. Where shall we pick up the key?’

‘Call at the solicitor’s, opposite the surgery.’

It was a two bedroomed spot just behind the church in Hawes.

Pete disappeared. ‘Where’ve you gone, Pete?’

A voice from one of the bedrooms shouted back, ‘I’m in here . . . Sssss . . .’

He’s unpacked and breathless from the effort. Drawers of neatly folded underpants, socks and sweaters. A wardrobe hung with tidy shirts and trousers. His toilet bag was ready and willing. A paperback adorned the bedside cabinet. How long had he come for?

We planned to eat in The Crown. ‘Lets go over to Hardraw Force first.’

‘Righto, what is it.’

‘It’s a waterfall.’ Geoff looked dubious, but said nothing.

The waterfall was private and The Green Dragon took a toll of 80p. It was a waterfall, pretty enough, but still only a waterfall.

Geoff was perturbed, ‘80p for that. We could’ve sneaked in through the churchyard. We’re not stopping for one.’

The following day they drove over to Dent. Things had changed. The station master’s house was dishevelled with a garden full of rubbish whilst the station was all clean and freshly painted. The old ticket office and waiting room on the ‘Up’ platform had been converted into a private residence. They crossed the line to the ‘down’ platform. It was 11.10 am and there was a man sleeping on a wooden bench in the waiting room. An empty bottle lay on the floor and there was a smell, a bit like antiseptic. It was raining again, but Pete walked back out onto the platform.

‘I think I’ll get wet,’ he said, ‘There’s always one idiot, usually sitting behind me.’

The man snorted and stretched and opened one eye. He saw Geoff and sat up, unfastening his lips and licked them. It was a preface to making sounds, but when they eventually arrived, they didn’t make sense. Was there a hint of a Scottish accent? I joined Pete. A rather demure lady with fifteen minutes to kill before the 11.33 to Settle took shelter in the waiting room. An older gentleman in a dog collar did the same. At 11.20 am. precisely they both reappeared. She unwrapped an umbrella and the vicar discovered a dry patch behind the gents’ lavatory.

Geoff followed them out and pulled his jacket together, hands tightly bunched in his pockets. He spotted us and wandered over, scowling, ‘Pissed Glaswegian. Missed his train.’

He turned and made his way back across the railway tracks to the car park. Pete and Dyce looked at each other, eybrows raised, as if asking various questions. But since the answers were too hard or too weird or too painful they shook our heads and followed him.

They agreed to catch the 1.00pm to Settle. Why not call in on to Dent village? You’d think if you were alighting from the train at Dent Station you would be close to the village bearing the same name. Don’t think, the village was a heckova long way from the station. And it was empty. They had a coffee in one of the small cafes, reviewed the art gallery and generally moseyed around as you do on rainy days. Pete purchased a pot statue of a ginger cat.

The train was booked up by Saga so they stood in the bit between carriages, next to the toilets.

‘How much were it?’ asked Geoff after the conductor had gone.

Dye told him.

‘How much? Bloody hell.’

They wandered up and down Settle high street and Pete bought a pork pie. They dropped in for a pint at The Lion.

‘I got the sense you thought the train a little expensive, Geoff.’

If Geoff has a regretful look, this was it. He glanced at his cigar.

‘It were a bit longer than I thought it were going to be.’ Dyce took this to mean he’d reassessed his first thoughts on Settle and Carlisle railway ticket pricing.

 

Parking up in Bainbridge etc

It was a cue to move on, through fields and gates now, the route obvious, rutted and sunken from years of use. They made the top, and then paused, just on the brow. A small cluster of buildings lay below, like a toy town. The blind end of the dale was to the right, a lake to the left, and in between, disorderly hedges and trees and grazing cattle and sheep. The heat haze prevented a clear view beyond; just enough for them to recognise petering hills and the wide north Yorkshire plain.

‘Mm, nice,’ said Pete.

‘OK. for you Geoff?’ asked Dyce. Geoff uncurled his face somehow and nodded.

‘I’ll take that as a yes then.’

The way down was steep and awkward on the knees and the grass had the baked slipperiness of high summer. Pete stumbled grumpily three or four times, ‘This is hard work.’

‘Aye, it is.’  Geoff, never slow to agree in adversity.

They were happier walking through Marsett hamlet thirty minutes later. It was a backwater, little more than a big untidy farm, littered with discarded tractors and farm machinery. An old red telephone box stood next to a home-made piece of hardboard on a wooden stick, advertising afternoon teas. All the years Dyce had been coming he’d never seen a person here; a walker maybe, a distant glimpse of a shepherd or a ploughing tractor. And it was so quiet – even the insects were quiet. Stubbornly scruffy, it seemed overlooked, beyond its sell-by date. Dyce was a pilgrim.

As they followed a small stream towards the far side of the lake, along a ‘make-do’ track of uneven hard core, Geoff started, ‘How much further is it?’

‘Two or three miles.’

‘It were two or three miles two miles ago.’

‘Oh, do you think so?’

‘I know so.’

‘And I thought you were enjoying yourself.’

‘Dyce, I’d enjoy myself a sight more with a pint.’

Below Stalling Busk they came across a single-storey church in ruins surrounded by a wall which they could just peep over, Pete on tip-toe. A sign, hung on rusty railings, informed visitors to be careful.  The church sat at one end of an oval unkempt graveyard, sloping down to the lake. Unkempt that is, except for two graves on the higher ground away from the church. They had the best view.

Dyce lead them into the churchyard through a narrow gap in the wall guarded by a squat wooden gate that swung viciously.

Geoff just missed a bruising, ‘By, that’s a strong spring.’

They were faced by old weathered headstones, writing barely discernible, some lying on the ground, others in various precarious states of falling over. The grass had not been cut, yet it was short, full of black crusty sheep dung. The boundary wall, now throwing long shadows, must have been breached somewhere. A cackling suddenly came from the lake, where water fowl had been disturbed. Twenty seconds of furious flapping and chaotic water fountains and they were airborne, flying once up and once back down the lake, before settling again to bobbing on the water. The three guys turned away from the lake and followed a narrow trough of shorter grass, not quite a path. It took them up to two simple black marble slabs. The first was a memorial to a young man who died whilst on missionary work abroad. The other commemorated an older man with the same name, twelve months later, almost to the day.

There was no talking now, as they each reconstructed the tragedy. Geoff moved back down the slope, and wandered about, looking out over the lake. Dyce and Pete carried on up the slope. ‘You’ve been here before,’ said Pete.

‘Yes, a few times.’

It was a muted single file that then walked down the lake side path. They needed pullovers as the sun dropped behind the fell. Geoff strode out. Dyce meandered and savoured, turning often to look again at the lake and the quiet untidy dale. Pete walked in the middle somewhere.

They were soon back to Bainbridge, enjoying the atmosphere in The Rose and Crown.

‘What are we going to eat tonight?’ Dyce, who still had indigestion from breakfast, wasn’t sure. ‘I’ll have an omelettte.’

‘You’re not having an omelette,’ after two pints Geoff had got crabbier.

‘I quite like a slice of beef.’

There were several cycles of cigar glowing and smoke gently drifting upwards before Geoff pursed his lips,

‘We’ll get a joint of beef,’ and that was that.

Dyce judged that the time was just about right, ‘How’d you like the walk, Geoff?’

‘It were brilliant, Dyce. Brilliant.’ Pete and Dyce smiled.

Cocketts, the large butchers in Hawes, were shut. Geoff was indignant, ‘What are they doing shut at this time? It’s only half four.’

‘There’s Terry Dinsdale’s, up the main street opposite The Crown.’

Pete and Dyce bought the wine and the spuds and a bit of veg.

‘He’s a real un.’ Geoff chuckled, ‘He wears an overcoat, all’time. I asked him for a lump of fat and ‘e said it weren’t politically correct. So he gives me this big lump of pig fat – “‘ere ‘ave this he says. Too many vegetarians round here.”’ Geoff laughed.

They took turns to sleep in the lounge, so every night each bed had a different body. The morning after Pete had the lounge, he stumbled across the hall getting to the bathroom.

‘What’s all this lot? It’s your luggage. Bloody hell, and that’s swearing. I could’ve killed myself.’ He kicked the nearest suitcase. Geoff and Dyce had never quite got round to unpacking.

They didn’t visit with The Middletons during their morning in Dent. Joan’s dad had died recently. His arteries finally packed up. He’d a black patch on his big toe for ages before he let the surgeons at Lancaster have a look. Treated it himself with a dressing tied up with a rubber band. That’s farmers, always like to have a go at treatment before calling in the vet.

There’ll be no more training sticks.

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