Tuesday, 11 March 2014

'Early Morning Run in... Hesket Newmarket'

First light: 0640 hrs
Time start: 0635 hrs
Time finish: 0710 hrs
Weather: 1C
Circumstances: Another day in the country

Final morning in England before returning to West Africa. Following London a few days home in the Lakes. The Lake District is a national park in northwest England. About 3 and half hours north of London by train. About 4 days by camel.

Returning to Freetown tomorrow is currently uncertain. International airlines, including BA, have suspended flights to and from Sierra Leone. A United Nations aviation regulator discovered the only functioning fire engine at Lungi Airport had broken down. It's not completely without hope, the Sierra Leone Airports Authority has said, "We are working very hard to fix the faulty gearbox system of the fire engine." Seems reasonable.

Early morning run. The Hesket Newmarket to Caldbeck circuit. Hesket is a small village at the base of the Northern Fells. Village population following a recent passing is down to 249. Also known as God's Waiting Room. Average age 77.

My African friends. What would you make of this sleepy Cumbrian village? Well...everyone is ancient. People move slower. Little urgency. You'll be called 'Love' or 'Pet'. No one uses their vehicle horns. No background noise. Most people have facial hair, even some of the men. Weather is harsh, particularly the winters. Everyone has a caravan, or wants one. The similarity between blizzards and northerners going through divorce? In either case, you know someone is going to lose a caravan.

To my own family down south please remember when you next venture north. "He were a southern bugger" is a legal defence up here.

Another similarity with West Africa. Don't ask anyone for directions, particularly if they smell of manure, carrying a stick or wearing wellington boots. As on the streets of Freetown or Accra be prepared for a 20 minute conversation. Oop north it's an advantage to know the main reference points. Such as, key piles of rubble, bingo halls, sale & auction rooms, coal mines, chip shops, and where factories used to stand.

The jokes. What would the locals say if they read this post? I'm on safe ground here. No-one has mastered the Interweb yet. Anyway, I can't help it, my dad was a clown. He's left me big boots to fill...

The internet and mobile coverage isn't good in this part of Cumbria. A little like Freetown. However, NPA is good. In Sierra Leone NPA - means 'National Power Authority'. Alternatively, 'No Power Anymore', as some might put it.

Time and tide wait for no man. An overnight frost greets me. It's chilly. Let's start running. Head east through Hesket. On my right the village Chapel. Full every week with singing on par with the sounds of Freetown on a Sunday morning. However, less clapping, less hip action.

On my left the village Inn. The Old Crown. The first public house in the country owned by a co-operative. It's owned by over 100 local people and other supporters. A proper pub with real ales. Good morning Stephen & Beverley.

Hesket is in a bowl, much like Freetown. To leave the village you move uphill in any direction. I'm climbing east towards Caldbeck. 10 minutes I haven't seen a soul. With an average age pushing 80 hardly a surprise. A beautiful crisp morning. The lambing season has begun, first lambs in the fields both sides of the lane.

Ah, the first sign of life, a 50 year old Land Rover comes slowly towards me. I receive the customary Cumbrian one finger salute. Not to be confused with other versions in London or New York. Index finger only leaves the steering wheel. A sign meaning everything, including recognition.

Old Land Rovers. My mind goes back. Memories on exercise in Africa during the mid 90's. Local soldiers were taught traditional British Army voice procedure. Every clipped message on the radio ends with 'over'. Allows the other person to speak (currently teaching Mrs R. these trusted methods). One funny message went;

Hello Charlie 1, this is Bravo 1. Message. Over.

Charlie 1. Send. Over.

Bravo 1. I have accident. Over.

Charlie 1. Send details. Over.

Bravo 1. I have rolled the Land Rover over. Over.

Charlie 1 (laughing). Say again. Over.

On it went.

Over the climb a pleasant drop into Caldbeck. Past the turning to Chris Bonnington's house. A local celebrity for his climbing exploits. Into Caldbeck, another picturesque Cumbrian village. Very quiet this morning. I climb out of the village and bear left around the pond. Avoid a few ducks, some sheep poo, some cow poo, and head back towards the centre of village. A few vehicles and dog walkers in evidence. Another countryside day begins in earnest.

Right. 2 miles back to Hesket on the main road. Not exactly a startled gazelle this morning, but not too bad. Head into the sun. Push all the way back. Poo everywhere. I'm a townie at heart.

Strong finish. Back into Hesket. Past the village shop on my right. Good morning Liz, Andy & Diane. Keep up the good work. A gentle warm-down back to the house. 35 minutes. Fairly good.

First 4 runs on this blog were in Africa. The last 2 in UK as a contrast. Back to Africa. The next one scheduled for Conakry, Guinea. I wonder if the fire engine is fixed?