As any writer can tell you, there are few things as debilitating as writer’s block. Other people try to give you well meaning advice- “Write and see what happens,” “You can catch up on your reading,” “It’s an excuse made by bad writers” (thanks for that, sister dear!), but nothing works. When you get stuck, you’re well and truly stuck.
Which is when it’s time for a distraction.
I’ll make no bones about it: I passionately love the Lake District. Our holidays spent in a little railway cottage were the happiest of my life, with or without our terrible performance at Eurovision (we generally took our holidays that time of year). If anywhere was designed to get me unblocked, the Lakes was it.
So, in typical spontaneous fashion, I booked a week off last year, with no goal other than to soak up the scenery and write. It might seem a curious choice of location, my story being a sci fi romance, but who said everything penned in or around the Lake District had to be all moon-ing and June-ing? Val McDermid and Richard Adams have set novels here- as far from cute and fluffy as you can get.
My original plan was to see if the cottages of my childhood were available, but my other half Liz wasn’t having any of that. One of her friends had recently come back from her honeymoon; she was singing the praises of the Grange Hotel, one of the best four star hotels in the Lake District. If we were really going to go along with this crazy scheme, we should do it in comfort. When Liz learned that her hero Bill Bryson had stayed there, she was sold. I strongly suspect she expected to bump into him in the lobby but, alas, no such thing happened!
I made it my mission to see as much as I could during the five days of my stay. Now I didn’t have Mum insisting that we should see as many celebrity graves as possible, the emphasis was on life and creation. I am a reader, Liz is a doer- we organised the itinerary along those lines.
Call me sentimental, but I have an abiding fondness of Beatrix Potter, with her delinquent squirrels and featherbrained ducks. The World of Beatrix Potter had never been open when we swung by in the past, so I decided to make good on a fourteen year old promise. Whether you’re six or sixty six, it’s worth a look; I didn’t care that we were the oldest adults there. To book your visit, go to http://www.hop-skip-jump.com/index.php.
Indeed, bearing in mind the nature of my quest, I followed the trail of many of the area’s greats, whether the Lake Poets (Dove Cottage is a must see for anybody with an interest in literature) or decidedly strange Renaissance man John Ruskin. It came as no surprise to discover that the author of Postman Pat had lived in the area- indeed, Liz and I burst into a rousing chorus of the theme song as we drove along a windy hill. Instead of gawping, a bunch of locals trudging up the hill waved. They must hear it all the time!
I don’t want you to think the whole trip was this rarefied. You don’t throw yourself amongst the UK’s finest scenery to sit at the wheel of a car; we swapped our usual sedentary lifestyle for plenty of walking and- shock of shocks!- I managed to get Liz onto a horse. The organisers were astonishingly patient with a pair of scaredy cats like us. Indeed, if you ever want to indulge in outdoor sports in the region, I thoroughly recommend Activities in Lakeland. I wouldn’t have minded canoeing but Liz paled and shook her head.
You can’t possibly visit the area without sailing upon their namesake. We’d paid a few passing trips to Windermere over the years (once our chips were stolen by swans), now we finally had a cruise on one of its world famous steamers. Our cameras are chockfull of photos, soon to be uploaded to a computer near you … be very afraid!
On day three, the miracle happened. I’d been loosening up all day- Lakes air has a wonderfully calming effect on most people- but the instant we reached our hotel, I dashed for pen and paper and started to write. I didn’t even mind that it was accompanied by the strains of Englebert Humperdinck trying and failing to win Eurovision for the UK … no change there!