Reeth 2

Another trip to Reeth in 2003. Wraycroft cottage round the back near the surgery. Wonderful massive fire in The Kings Arms. When it died down the landlord put half a tree on, ‘It’ll still be going at Christmas.’ It was November and the guys would be up in the dales for the rugby world cup final.

They walked up Hard level Ghyll, beginning with the pull up on the road from Low Row to Surrender bridge. The Old Gang lead mine was preserved and a listed building. The barytes guy had gone. The moonscape was still the same as they wandered into the top of Gunnerside Ghyll and stopped a while opposite the ?store. Then around the valley contour before dropping down to Low Row.

‘I’m blathered’, Pete sweated and puffed, and dropped his ample behind on a wide bench, rucksack dumped carelessly on the stone paving. Damp patches appeared on his denim shirt. ‘I could murder a pint. How come its so hot all of a sudden?’

‘Must have seen you coming Pete, and turned up the gas, Dyce replied. ‘Geoff’’s getting them in.’

‘Weird lot in there,’ said Geoff, carrying the drinks out to the walled front terrace. ‘Lunchtime and well scattered.’

They sat quietly, taking in the dale scene. Flat green fields were held by grey walls and barns and farmhouses, casting short shadows in the still sunshine. A darkly wooded river bed separated the valley bottom from gradually sloping fells, capped by brown moorland. They listened to the near silence of humming insects.

Dyce turned toward movement. Two ornately plumed large black horses pawed the ground, climbing the gentle incline to a church. Their burden was a laden antique wood and glass hearse complete with top-hatted driver. An unsteady assortment of black suits and frocks and hats made their way across the carpark and turned into the churchyard. A bell began to toll.

‘You’ve just been to a wake, Geoff,’ said Dyce.

‘Oh, that’s what it was,’ Geoff nodded.

‘Cobblers,’ a white wet patch had appeared on Pete’s’s outsize shirt. ‘It could only happen to me.’ He looked up to see a nesting box under the eave, and stonework stained with bird droppings. A cat suddenly appeared and jumped up onto the terrace wall, its back arched, furr on end.

‘Its found lunch,’ observed Geoff. The cat then dropped to the floor and climbing Pete’s trousers, dug its claws in. Pete shrieked and clouted it round the head. As it fell from his knee, it did a somersault and shot off over the wall, seemingly no worse for the experience.

A stout woman in a black outfit and thick make-up gently tottered onto the terrace and propped herself up against the wall, under the nesting box. ‘Anyone seen a cat?’ she slurred.

Geoffrey was sucking on a cigar and gave her one of his more mournful looks. She recognised there’d be no change there.

‘A black and ginger one just went over the wall,’ said Pete.

‘That’ll be our Morticia. She wasn’t being a nuisance, was she?’

‘No, not at all.’ Pete’s voice was all innocence and irony. Usually such a nice lad.

As she turned back into the pub, Geoff silently mouthed at Pete, unbelief etched into his face, “M-O-R-T-I-C-I-A.’ He made a supreme effort, and for a moment he just about managed to keep a straight face. Finally he gave up the struggle, grinned and coughed, ‘Morticia; she looked like Morticia, not the cat.’


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