More than a sonnet



Before I know it you’re six, missing teeth,

and legs stretching  beyond belief.

I hardly recognise that porcelain face,

that toothless smile seems out of place.


What’s happened since Iraq invaded,

a blond, and engaging laugh pervaded,

chattering sibling, fighting for attention,

summer house, a Christmas Child, family perfection?


I never seem to find the time,

for important things like nursery rhyme,

double cuddles, tucked up tight,

football, tennis, or your fluttering kite.


But, I offer; single occupancy and shoes,

first hand clothes, religion and news.

I’ll also give, hidden culture and Vicargate,

security, I’ll fight naivety and negotiate.


Even now, I check to see if you still breath,

I touch your head, extinguish the light, and leave.

No one talks about alcohol.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Vicargate –

‘Courage is a peculiar kind of fear’.

Today, for the second time in a few days, you’ve used the phrase ‘There by the grace of God……..’ Your demon, the elephant in the room, blinked, an eyebrow raised. Your illness, takes an embarrassed cough, then confidently announces its presence like a peacock assured of its sexuality, spreading its wings and splashing itself all over Sky News, Twitter, and Facebook and will no doubt be in every UK newspaper tomorrow.

Charles Kennedy, the Ex Liberal Demarcate leader, died today at the age of fifty-five. His disposition, demon, bête noire, and now his executioner: drink. You have long been an admirer of Kennedy but saw the look of alcohol in his face. The tired look, the look that replaced the fresh faced MP of the early 1990’s, puffy blepharitic eyes, and cheeks of excess and late sessions. The look of superior intellect, confused, influenced but contaminated by another, higher in ABV, contributor to his thoughts. Other intellects and academics have argued that they have expanded their thinking by its presence, it might be so but by God Charles could run rings around his political contemporaries, with or without it.

Live hard and die young? But be remembered for your spirited repartee, banter and deep philosophical Claret formed opinion? God, it reads less convincing the next day.

That’s thrice on a page you’ve used the word ‘God’.

It’s a Habit. (And you will come back to God later).

Habit, like arriving home after work, late, having taken 6 hours to drive from London to Penrith, needing the toilet but needing to get home more. Even before the cistern has finished flushing the cork is pulled and the southern levels of stress are subsiding.

‘It’s a school night.’ She says.

‘Yeah, but I’ve been in my car since 5 o’clock and my heads still buzzing.’ You say. The pattern forming habit.

But it was different for Charles, and it’s different for people who do not have control, lost or otherwise.

There is a dichotomy with drinking. You like and enjoy a fine wine, you appreciate its balanced flavours with a meal. You have enjoyed a cognac and a good cigar, and felt the uplift of a Jaegermeister at the end of a long, steep, Austrian red.

But, you’ve also been on your hands and knees in the pantry, consumed with desperation at 2 o’clock in the morning, looking in the cupboard for anything vaguely alcoholic to feed the demon. Then, woken up on the sofa in the half light, the glass half full still in your hand, the demon has shit in your mouth and you despise it, and yourself.

What is the hunger and where does it come from? Why is there a craving to have another drink? Is it liquid armour against the pain, the loss, the regret, the guilt, and the anger? Do you have these emotions even though you haven’t lost anyone and you’re not grieving? It’s too late to ask Charles, so you sit there alone, 1.05am, everyone is in bed. You’ve been drinking for a week without a break, but never during the day time, is that the next step in the race to the bottom?

Charles tried many times to control the demon, and failed. His son came along in 2005 and he was even more determined to give up his addiction, but failed again, permanently.

So God? It’s hard to remember, but you had a life before the 4th October 2013, you had a good life and in this madness you have spoken with ‘God’ to try to help understand where it’s all gone wrong. You had a perfect life; three beautiful children, a beautiful home, a healthy relationship, you have loved each other since you were kids, and you have always had decent, hard-working friends. Many of these things still remain in place, but without Dominic, none of it remains the same, including God, that’s if he ever had a place in your life.

You have always respected friends views and religious beliefs, and respected the church for its general pastoral care, but you have never been a believer of an omniscient being who created life and the earth in a few days. However you do believe in a sincere young man who promoted love, in a hostile world, who encouraged friendship and understanding in a war of cultures, and you believe sincerely, he was killed for his beliefs.

So why do we default to God in times of crisis? Either, asking him to help us out of the crisis, or usually more latterly, blaming him for not helping us and getting us into the
crisis in the first place.

Cumbria Way – Final Say!!

Susan misses Dominic dreadfully, but she hasn’t said much over the last twelve months, in fact publicly she hasn’t said anything. They do say however, that actions speak louder than words, and this walk was a huge challenge and a personal statement for her, for sister Sandy, Lucy and Shorty.

I’ve tried to keep it light hearted over the blog posts, but I’ve seen grown men crying when they arrive at Caldbeck on Day Four. The weather can be very cruel coming over the tops, particularly at this time of year as we head into autumn. So, I can’t say how proud I am of her, and the team’s achievement this last week.

Despite the extra miles clocked up, they still finished on Friday night, and, to press ‘Team Lucy’ have raised £473.18 and still counting. (It’s still not too late to donate!!:

Susan is one of the most driven people I know, and there is no way she wouldn’t have completed this walk even if she had to finish it on her hands and knees, and, it means so much more to her done in Dominic’s name and for the ‘Cumbrian Lad Foundation’ appeal.

Susan., ‘Right Girls, listen up, have your heard of Lands End to John o’Groats?’

Well done Susan and to the team, and a big thank you to everyone who donated via the website, stopped us on the street with a donation, or popped an envelope into the pub. 

Cumbria Way – Day Five

It’s here, the last day, the final push, the last leg, the remaining 14 miles from Caldbeck to Carlisle!!

But the girls have had a recalculation, there’s still a further 5.8 MILES to catch-up on from Day Four. It’s now a 20 mile (30k) finish for the week!!!  That’s a walk in the park for Lucy, but everyone is worried about Kadie (AKA Shorty), is it a leg to far for the l’arl Sausage?

Hang on, Sainsbury’s isn’t on the OS map for Day Five?Sainsburys

OMG, have they taken another wrong turn?

A quick double check with ‘Team Lucy’ Thankfully no, but it’s a 7am start into Penrith to buy more Blister Plasters!!!

So, at 8.30am the girls start again at Mosedale, where they are joined by ‘Ginny’, Joshua, Janet, and Andrew. CIMG0979They have a gentle walk up the valley and then some Ghyll scrambling up to the lingy hut. This is used as a temporary shelter from the wind or bad weather.



They find a visitor’s book and leave some comments..

‘Raison d’être’


Then, off over to High Pike and the gentle amble down to Nether Row, where they bump into Chris Bonnington on his way up (Really, they did, he lives there)

They arrive at OddFellows Caldbeck, were they pick up ‘Alfie’, Steph and Lindsey. Kadie is starting to flag now, she’s completed about 55 miles (90k) of the 78, so not bad for those shorty legs. But, she’s a trooper, a badger hunter, she marches on.

Susan, ‘I can smell G & T and it’s coming from over there’ Steph, ‘I’m sure I read on the OS map, ‘If lost, follow the emergency lighting on the floor’ But I can’t see any, can you?’









They follow the River Caldew up through Sedbergham. That leads on then to Dalston.

At the Bridge End Inn, Dalston, there’s a well earned glass of lager, followed by paracetamol and Ibuprofen in preparation for the last few miles into Carlisle. The girls have blisters, left, right and center, but the sun is shining and there’s a warm gentle breeze blowing through the beer garden.


But disaster strikes!!! Shorty flops over and refuses to budge. At 100k, she’s hit the Dachshund pain barrier.

Between them, the girls carry Kadie on and off for a while, but as darkness falls the rest of the walk is a flat and a smooth cycle path into Carlisle and she’s soon on her feet. But the tarmac path was very tough on the others feet though.

By 7.30pm, they hit the bright city lights and walk

the last few hundred metres…………..CIMG1003


‘Team Lucy’ still partying at ‘The Sportsman’s’ Halloween Fancy Dress party until midnight!! Sportsman’s Staff left to right: Chloe, Emily, Gabbie and Steph!!!





‘Team Lucy’ would like to thank EVERYONE for their support and to all those very kind and generous people who made donations to:

We haven’t had a final count yet but Lucy has raised over £300 for the charity:


Continue reading

Cumbria Way – Day Three (and Four)

No, I’m not cheating and trying to save space. When all was going so swimmingly well (literally) There was a disaster on Day Three. THE GIRLS GOT LOST!!!

So the days merged into one as they added an extra 10k and 2.5 hours onto the already testing 5 day walk. Thank you to all Lucy’s sponsors, the girls are really giving value for money!!!

But, I blame The National Park with this sign. It’s clearly pointing the wrong way. Susan will be having strong words!

This way!! on the other hand just keep talking and follow your nose
If we close our eyes, they might think we’ve not here

DAY THREE. Wednesday did start really well though. The merry band were joined by ‘Gertie’ and Sharon. This morning walk starts in the awesome Langdale Valley as ‘Team Lucy’ heads off behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel into the wide and untouched Mickledon Valley before heading uphill and over the wild Stake Pass route. The path heads round the right hand side of the Hikers Bar and then heads left behind the hotel until it reaches a wooden gateway onto the Mickledon bridleway path. Once through the gate the girls head up the bridleway into the Mickledon Valley. On the right are the steep slopes of Langdale Fell coming down from the Langdale Pikes and to the left is the ridge heading up to Bowfell known as The Band. In the bottom of the valley the Mickledon Beck snakes its way beautifully through the valley floor. At the very far end of the valley at a point where there is a tiny wooden footbridge over Stake Gill tumbling down from Stake Pass.


After about 3.5 to 4 hours walking and climbing,  taking in some  great views……..

CIMG0924 CIMG0934 CIMG0926









………the sun was shining, the gossip and crack were good, the views were fantastic, what could possibly go wrong?




They reach the top of the fell and turn around to enjoy the view and to admire their successful climb to date. But something didn’t seem right, the view and the pike were exceptional, but something was wrong? 

Rosset Pike
Rossett Pike. Really really nice Fell……., but the wrong one!

To cut the story short, the girls had missed a path that joined the valleys, which is easy done at the best of times as many are not even sign posted . In true pioneering spirit, they circled the wagons (metaphorically) and walked to Grange in Borrowdale and arrived at circa 6/6.30pm in the dark. They then commenced Day Four from Grange in Borrowdale instead of Keswick the following morning.


The village of Grange is situated at the entrance to the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale‘, where the valley squeezes between Grange Fell and Castle Crag. Bridge at GrangeThe impressive double-arched bridge over the River Derwent was built in 1675, but the hamlet’s origins are much earlier; in medieval times the monks of Furness Abbey occupied and owned most of the land.




I don’t think the girls needed a ‘Helping Hand’ but it made a nice photo from Derwentwater!!

This is a good one of Lucy and Shortie. I'll close my eyes again so they can't see me.
This is a good one of Lucy and Shortie. I’ll close my eyes again so they can’t see me.










The team starts to ascend from Keswick and finally to the top of Latrigg.

CIMG0968 CIMG0969









Great views of the stream from the Valley between Keswick and Threlkeld.








Then finally the girls moved from Skiddaw House and finished in Mosedale, where they will start DAY FIVE.




It’s 4 o’clock but Lucy hasn’t finished yet……………..


Lucy ‘I was just thinking, you know we forgot the dinghy? If I was to collect lots of these sticks, and if someone has packed a ball of string………’








‘Okay okay, I can see that ‘doesn’t float your boat’

‘I’ll stick to sheep then’

Finally, some real work!! Right, how many sheep do you need in here!!!
Finally, some real work!! Right, how many sheep do you need in there!!!






Cumbria Way – Day Two

Team Lucy’s alarm goes off like clockwork – Tuesday 7.30am.

The rain is bouncing off the windows at The Crown Inn, Coniston. The drops are so big it’s sounds like hailstones.

Outlook is not looking good, both from a weather and a Microsoft point of view.

Sandy opens the curtains onto the high street to…..

Coniston High Street
Double damn, that inflatable dinghy really wouldn’t have taken up much room in Susan’s Rucksack!

And Susan can’t open her email to send your intrepid reporter the photos from Day Two

MS Error Message
Sorry, this is the Lake District, we get breakfast TV at Lunch time, Bill Gates who?

The mood clouds over but Lucy rallies the troops, ‘It’s only 20k, it’s only torrential rain, it’s only a few swans, but it’s the Langdales, it’s the best scenery and the best walking in the Lakes! Come on girls, first stop, Tarn Hows…’

Tarn Hows
Don’t worry, Ian’s got some software, he can airbrush all the raindrops out.
Colwith Force
Colwith Force (Fors/foss is the Old Norse term for waterfall)





Next stop is one of the most beautiful scenes between Coniston and Dungeon Ghyll.





But today, with all the rainfall the next stop at about 3pm was the most  spectacular and dramatic, and is not normally as forceful as Colwith.

The girls didn’t get to close!!

Skelwith Force
Skelwith Force in full flow
Elterwater Muddy Boots Cafe
Muddy Boots (and soggy dogs) Cafe


By 3pm, everyone is soaked to the bone. Even Shorty’s coat is so wet her webbed feet (yes, they really are!) squelch through the grass. And suddenly, there is an oasis in the dark clouds, all their Christmases have come at once. Ok, a little bit of poetic licence, there isn’t a Christmas tree but the fairy lights look festive.




Vicargate 7pm.

The phone rings. Beeb… beeb… beeb… a coin drops. I’m transported back to  the 1970’s.

Susan, ‘Hi, it’s me, we arrived about 6. There’s no mobile service in Dungeon Ghyll but there’s a payphone.’ (that’s like a big red box with a door on it, and there’s a phone inside. You need 10 pence coins to make a call?) ‘Is everything ok?’

Me, ‘Fine, can you send me some photo’s for Day Two?’

Susan, ‘I’ve tried to, but they won’t leave my outbox, it’s really spooky. Do you think email had reached here yet? Haha, joke. Anyway, there’s a guy in the bar, he’s looks like he played bass for Showaddywaddy and he’s drinking snakebite.

Me, ‘Just re-boot your machine, sometimes the router doesn’t pick up Apple devices’

Susan, ‘Ok, I’ll try that. But listen, the menu in the bar is really retro, they’re serving ‘Chicken in a basket’, how cool is that?’……………Beep……………………………………………………………………………………..

‘Hello? Sue??’