Members of Rugby Cafe Writers have been noticing pictures on the wall behind speakers in our Zoom meetings. Is there a story attached to those pictures? Here we present a selection of pieces on that theme.
It’s behind you by Christine Hancock
Behind me is a painting of my favourite view. In fact, it often appears high in many lists of Britain’s favourite view. It is Wastwater in the Lake District. The lake is the deepest in the country and the view looks towards some of England’s highest peaks.
I have been here many times and the picture is full of memories. One of our first visits was when we stayed in a National Trust cottage at the foot of the lake, and this view or a similar one was just a short walk away, an after-dinner stroll.
On the right are The Screes, a steep slope of loose rock. There is a path, but dangerous, ever moving. From where we stayed there was a long but easy walk to the top, fantastic views. That day was hot, my husband wore shorts and was badly sunburnt, the baby on his back had a hat and survived the experience.
Beyond the ridge lies Eskdale, a gentler valley where we have often stayed, at a pub in Boot, an appropriate name in an area where the only entertainment is walking. There is a path, a corpse road, between Eskdale and Wasdale, we have walked it many times, in every type of weather.
The mountain on the left is Yewbarrow. The path from this side runs straight up a narrow edge, no deviations, a steady slog, only a stile an excuse to stop and admire the view. Bear to the left and you reach a saddle, a place for a picnic if the weather is kind, then continue to Red Pike, one of two of that name. You could continue, because this is the start of a horseshoe of peaks. We never did. Not enough time, or energy, although we managed several on different occasions, from Wasdale Head.
This place is civilisation in these wilds, hardly a village: a hotel, a tiny church – Saint Olaf’s – this is Viking country, and a National Trust campsite. The hotel has a bar, Ritson’s, named for a famous climber of the area. The walls are covered with old black and white photographs of rugged rocks and men with ropes. A good place for a pint of local ale and perhaps lunch. Many a time we have sheltered here from rain. Stone flagstones mean there is no need to remove your walking boots.
Next to the bar is a small shop, The Barn Door. It sells outdoor equipment, boots and rucksacks, technical books on climbing and all the Wainwright volumes – we have the full set, buying a new one on each visit. It also caters for the campsite, coffee and breakfast cereal and replacement tent pegs. And Kendal Mint Cake, my favourite food, but only allowed when I have climbed a mountain!
Towering above Wasdale Head, and the end of the horseshoe, is Great Gable. That’s the mountain in the centre of the picture, it’s head in the sun. It was sunny the day we climbed it, at two thousand, nine hundred and forty-nine feet, one of the tallest in the area. It was at the end of a week’s holiday, longer than the usual weekend, so we had time to build up our strength. A great achievement.
Perhaps if we had stayed longer, we would have made it to the top of Scafell Pike, tallest peak in England. I don’t suppose I ever will now, but you never know.
There has to be something left to strive for. It is not in the picture, it hides, dark and menacing behind the other hills. Perhaps I will conquer it, and if I do, it will provide me with more memories.
I’ll need a new picture though.
School Presentation Day by John Howes
(a picture of his son with a certificate)
They know how not to put on a show.
No images, no music, no performances;
just a table covered by piles of certificates,
a single chair for the headteacher.
Students, now adults, drift in embarrassed;
Hushed expectancy is not rewarded.
Only the dull drone of alphabetical names.
Applause ripples and runs out,
Proud parents shift position in stiff chairs,
The clock ticks on unremarkably.
And yet, my son,
gets top student in psychology.
And nothing else matters
Except his glorious, emphatic smile
I have turned it all around,
I have scaled this mountain,
I stand at the summit
And I can see
The other side.