Wednesday, June 13, 2007


One of the best feelings in the world is to be out and about with old friends. Last Friday I was back in Grasmere, deep in the heart of the Lake District and one of the prettiest villages in the UK. Grasmere was the home of Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit; the inspiration of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth; and where I reconnected with my Lancastrian roots. A few months ago we bought the gardener’s cottage at Michaels Nook Hotel, and as it is now completely fitted out, I spent my first three days there over the bank holiday weekend. We christened the place with three old school friends, Dave Bennetts, Eric Rigg and Barry Parsonage and their wives, Jill, Jan and Janet. I hadn’t seen two of them for 40 years and both had weathered a lot better than me. I had played rugby and cricket with the guys for nine years at primary school and later at Lancaster Grammar. We had a terrific night at one of the world’s most eclectic restaurants, The Jumble Room, which is tiny, crazy and fun. It was classic Lakeland cuisine in a distinctive atmosphere. Think Rupert Bear books, album covers from the 1970s, cushions from Morocco, and hard to find local ales served by a family that has lived in Grasmere for generations. “We look forward to feeding you” is their mantra and this kind of forthright personality permeates the place. We then literally christened the cottage with some English Bluebird Bitter, inspired by speed legend Donald Campbell and made by the nearby Coniston Brewing Company, and spent the next six hours reminiscing about old times. The evening culminated in the heart of this new home – the kitchen of course – at around 2:00am, with a knees-up to sixties classics from The Beatles and the Stones. In today’s overcrowded, over-hectic, over-sophisticated world, it just doesn’t get much better than that.