Friday, 31 December 2010
Having been tagged by JuliaM I must cheat; I'm travelling in search of England - always - and am camped out on a kitchen table. It looks minimalist and organized, which is a lie. I have therefore included my handbag, which is the back-office. Over the years the bag has got bigger, like my waist. Hmm.
While the rest of the world is wondering about Julian Assange's sex-life and his chances of surviving the fury of half the political world, I just want to know: how does he live out of a suitcase? What is in his wash bag, or does he rely on stocking up on mini-shampoos and disposable razors when someone pays his hotel bill? How many socks and underpants does he carry, what does he use in the way of notebooks and pens and novels - and don't tell me paper is redundant, it obviously isn't, you've only got to look at the meme pictures.
I have stared at the pages of the Rohan catalogue until the images fade. I still can't see how putting packing packs inside suitcases helps, although I have used cheap laundry nets to separate underwear etc, just to stop things tieing themselves in knots when I'm not looking. My favourite part of LOTR is where Galadriel gives the Fellowship of the Ring miraculous travelling cloaks which weigh nothing, wash-up a treat, are warm and waterproof but have superior wicking ability, have protective colouring and roll up to the size of a hanky. I've got a space blanket - the silvered plastic membrane - but it's not the same thing. Looking like a giant oven-ready chicken fillet is going to attract orcs.
I'm not a hiking traveller; I'm the sort of traveller who wears Cuban-heeled shoes and a jaunty hat. My natural habitat is at a tea-table, next to a log fire, looking through the window at the marvellous landscape full of booted fools. I do not approve of stamping all over the landscape, rubbing holes in it. That's my version of conservation and I'm sticking to it.
The leaflet is from Daleside Bungalow, Masham, North Yorkshire. I haven't stayed there - I just scooped up the information. Masham is a town blessed with magical water which is converted in to mysterious beer at the Black Sheep Brewery. There is also the Theakston bewery and some disagreement which we need not go in to. Bygones.
On the corner of Masham market square, huddled next to the church, is the Suncatcher Cafe. In contrast to the frilly tea rooms and restaurants, the Suncatcher is a memory of hippie holidays. The open log fire is hung about with beads, silk bags, masks and modern paintings you may wish to own rather than run screaming from. The coffee and food is good, the music is cool.
Masham distills a working vision of England. It has hardly any national retailers and still has locally run butchers, bakers, greengrocers and general grocery/deli stores. A bigger range of locally-produced goods is available than is normally the case - and it is local rather than just badged products, which are the cuckoos in retailing. They look like local produce but many of them come from the same factory in Leek, Staffordshire. The market square is used for parking when the market is not on; it is paid for by an honesty-box.
It's important not to get carried away with a romantic idea of honest yeomen dancing round a Maypole, tra-la, because mains water, electricity, and emergency services don't happen by magic. They happen because we have put vast energy in to massive engineering projects, then do our best to make that technology invisible. It is far too easy to become confused between the theatre-set and reality. Let the safe treated water stop and we soon see how keen folks really are to go back to the days of a strip-wash in a bowl of tepid pond water and no heat until you've made up the fire.
Having said that, if the world is going to become a difficult place in 2011, there are few places better than Masham to ride it out. Maybe Leyburn or Thirsk, if you want more shops.
I tag The All-Seeing Eye. Happy New Year.