At Glastonbury this year, Mr Beet and I won a competition for a free stay in a National Trust cottage of our choice. We thought it would be lovely to go to the Lake District to chill out the week before Christmas. At least, it seemed like a lovely idea when we booked it in July.
Of course, the problem with staying in a remote cottage down a narrow and seldom-used country lane in December, is that if it snows you are screwed. It snowed.
There was no snow when Mr Beet went up as an advance party on the Friday afternoon, so he got to the cottage at about 3pm no problem and settled in. The plan was that I would come up on the train that evening after work, and he would pick me up from the station, which was the other side of the Lake District about 60 miles from the cottage. But when I called to say that I was at Preston he looked out of the window and it had started to snow heavily. He set off to pick me up and after about 10 miles and a couple of skids he decided that it would be too dangerous to try to carry on, or even to return to the cottage, so he pulled over at the next pub he came across and stayed there for the night. I stayed in a hotel by the train station.
The next day, he reckoned that he could carry on from the pub to the hotel where I was staying, since that was all on main roads. So by Saturday we were at least together, although not at the cottage. Mr Beet was thoroughly fed up by this point, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to get back home for Christmas, so he just wanted to go home. Trouble was that all his stuff was still at the cottage. We stayed another night in the hotel, because he needed a rest from the stress of driving in the bad weather. And it was a very nice hotel with yummy cooked breakfasts, so that was no hardship.
So on day 3, Sunday, we tried to get back to the cottage. We got to within 2 miles of the cottage, then the car gave up at a hill on the snow-covered narrow road leading there, so we had to walk the last little bit. I went through my stuff and the food that we had brought and pared it down to one backpack’s worth and we set off. On the way we met some locals out for a walk and they pointed us in the right direction and we got chatting. One said that the only problem with the snow was that he couldn’t get to the post office to get stamps for his Christmas cards. Mr Beet had some stamps in his wallet, so he offered those. The locals walked with us as far as the village, and then we walked the last mile to the cottage by ourselves. It really was in the middle of nowhere. We got there just as the light was beginning to fade and were looking forward to having a sit down and a nice cup of tea.
Except that Mr Beet couldn’t find the key to the cottage. We’d had a whole conversation at the car about what we should and shouldn’t bring and we’d joked about the key to the cottage being the most important thing, so we knew he’d definitely had it when we set off. After me making him check his various pockets for about 5 minutes and him insisting that he didn’t have it, we knew we had to retrace our steps and try to find the key in the snow and the quickly fading light. Mr Beet reckoned that it must have fallen from his pocket when he took his wallet out to offer the stamps, so we at least had an idea where to look. So we walked a mile back to the village, with me trying to comfort an extremely grumpy Mr Beet, and luckily enough spotted the key straight away in the place where we thought it might be. Phew! The walk back to the cottage was a lot more jolly, and we did then get it for a lovely cup of tea, a biscuit or several and a look round our beautiful cottage.
So our holiday proper started on the Sunday night and we had a completely lazy and wonderful time. There was no TV or internet signal so Radio 4 was constantly on and we spent the time going for walks around the lake, drinking endless cups of tea and doing the jigsaws at the cottage.
So after a couple of days of this, we had really started to relax and enjoy our holiday. Everything was lovely, except that it was so cold that some of the pipes had frozen so we couldn’t use any of the taps upstairs.
And although the living room with the wood burning stove was cosy, the rest of the house was freezing so bedtime meant two duvets, four blankets, a hot water bottle, bedsocks and jumpers over our pyjamas.
On the Tuesday, we walked back to the car to pick up more food and we noticed that they were gritting the road on the hill that we couldn’t get up. So we returned a couple of hours later once the grit had had the chance to do its work, and we were able to get the car up the hill and all the way to the cottage. So finally we had all our stuff and everything was where it was meant to be.
Then on Tuesday night we had just gone to bed and there was an earthquake. A shitting earthquake! At least, we guessed that that’s what it was, but the cottage is pretty close to Sellafield, so other theories included an explosion at the power station. Of course, if I’d had been somewhere civilised with broadband, I’d have been straight on the internet and (a) twitter would have reassured me that other people had felt it too and (b) google would have confirmed that it was an earthquake and nothing more sinister. But of course, we had no internet, TV or even a signal for a local radio station, so it was back to listening to good old radio 4, where we didn’t really expect to hear a small local earthquake being reported, but when we’d heard nothing at all reported for about half an hour we were at least reassured that it probably wasn’t a major explosion / plane crash / impending apocalypse and we went back to bed.
That was enough excitement for one holiday, so we spent the next couple of days being similarly lazy and then to avoid any drama getting home for Christmas, we left a day earlier than planned to make sure we could get back ok and weren’t caught out by a blizzard on Christmas Eve.