Promises, promises

Promises, promises

We hit on a trip to the Lake District. Some mother-daughter time and the marking of a moment in the family story seemed excuse enough. But really, who needs an excuse?

I wanted to reacquaint myself with lovely Borrowdale. She wanted to become acquainted with it. Finally, after hearing me rave about it for so long.

But first, getting there. It’s a long haul for a weekend – even one that stretches to three nights. The map misleads. Promise of a swift, easy journey. Pick up the M40 on the edge of London; shift over to the M6 at Birmingham; exit for Kendal and a gentle meander through Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere. Almost a straight line until you switch back from Keswick onto one of only two road routes in. Perfect.

That’s the theory.

On Friday, the M40 delivers. The M6 is a different story. ‘Upgrading to Smart Motorway’ explains the signage. We imagine pinstripe suits, collar and tie, the standing to attention of each bridge and gantry. It seems it’s by adding another lane that this new badge of smartness will be merited. Slow moving. Warnings of ‘Congestion Ahead’. We’re all sticking to 50 mph (well, a few felons race past, it’s true) and then suddenly it all slows down. Stop, start. No apparent reason. On and on. Even the 40mph sign feels like a cruel tease.

Time to sport with straplines. Hundreds of lorries and trailers lumber alongside and we marvel at the fact that people are probably paid lots of money to dream up phrases like: “Delivering Sustainable Distribution’. Trying to get our heads around what this means passes, amusingly, a few moments of slow crawl. It crosses my mind the irony of such a slogan on a Friday in September on the M6.

We awarded two theoretical prizes. Firstly, the winner of the M6 Slogan of the Day was a huge trailer boasting: ‘The world’s leading wet-wipe innovator’! We wondered – and this wondering filled several minutes, though, sadly, only a couple of miles – how many such innovators exist? What’s the competition like among the world’s wet-wipers?  Secondly, winner of the M6 Least Fathomable Slogan was a truck cabin with Winston Churchill in classic head and shoulders pose – overcoat, hat, cigar, sombre, inscrutable gaze into the distance. Above his image: ‘Success is not Final’; and below it ‘Failure is not Fatal’.  We’ve been to Borrowdale and back and still not worked that one out!

Borrowdale – borrowed from the gods and the depths of time. No mobile phone signal. No shops. No M6! The occasional tea room, scattered B&Bs, the odd hotel and a youth hostel. Trails meandering up hills, along rivers and becks, past stone-walled fields where sheep and cattle graze companionably and crows peck greedily. Air damp and rich. Smell of soil. Soundscape playing to the steady beat of water. Lots of water. Cleanly brown. Always in a hurry.

A promised land of sorts.

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