It started with a gig
Back in July 2017, my son’s band (pop punk – you wouldn’t like them!) were invited to play at the Workington Touch Down Festival. As the money was good, they jumped at the chance. At that time they were successful enough to undertake three-week tours of Europe either sharing the headline act’s coach or hiring their own van,
but in this case there wasn’t enough time to make those sort of arrangements. It was therefore left to me, as their informal roadie, to give some thought to the logistics of getting the five of them, plus guitars, amps, drums and merchandise from their base in Bath to Workington (according to Google, a distance of 275 miles). To further complicate things, some of them had jobs and had to work on the Saturday and the Sunday (in Waitrose – very rock’n’roll!) and could not afford to be away for more than half a day. Pretty soon a plan was formed – I would take my son (who wasn’t working) and all the gear in my 8-seat Mazda Bongo during the day of the gig while the others would set off after work, drive to Workington, play the gig at about 11pm and return to Bath straight afterwards. I seem to remember you can do that sort of thing when you’re young. My son and I would stay overnight and return the next day, taking in our favourite parts of the Lake District on the way.
Surprisingly, the plan worked perfectly. Son and I arrived at the campsite in Low Lorton mid-afternoon
having taken in the scenery on the way.
We pitched son’s tent and set off to see the sites of Workington! The Festival consisted of street stalls, street entertainers and the main gig in Barts club. That seemed to be all that the town had to offer but we managed to spin it out until the rest of the band turned up in the early evening and we met up with them in ‘Spoons – The Henry Bessemer, a pub which I found very reminiscent of a 1960s Butlins Dining Room. At this point, rather like the first stage of a Saturn V rocket, I had, for the time being, discharged my duties and fell away from the main attraction. I was still on duty however as, like USS Ticonderoga, I had to be there at the end of the gig to pick up the heroic crew and their equipment. This meant that I had to steer clear of pubs for the evening so I decided to see what the environs of Workington had to offer.
The estuary of the River Derwent turned out to be actually rather pleasant, especially in the early evening light.
A few hundred metres up the coast the scenery got even more attractive, again the light showing everything at its best, with the exception of the windmills.
It has to be said though that, up close, the windmills are pretty impressive pieces of engineering.
I moved on to Maryport in time to catch the last of the sun and a pint at the Captain Nelson tavern on the estuary of the River Ellen before heading back to Workington.
The gig had been a great success, which meant there was much delay as the band was surrounded by many appreciative fans. The adoration didn’t extend to the ageing roadie, unfortunately. Eventually, all goodbyes and expressions of undying love having been said, we loaded the kit into the Bongo and the rest of the band set off for Bath, due to get back at about 4am. Son and I set off for the campsite, discovering in the process that what we had earlier considered to be a charming country lane down which it was situated was in fact a single track driveway and a nightmare in the dark. The night passed as comfortably as can be expected when you’re curled up in the back of a van among almost as much kit as Emerson, Lake and Palmer needed three articulated lorries to transport.
The next morning we set off for Keswick. On the way we encountered a group of lads who were touring the Lakes on transport far removed from my 8-seater Bongo. As an ex-Mod, I have to say I was jealous.
Once in Keswick we had a proper fried breakfast at a pavement table outside Laura in the Lakes, a cafe in the High Street. I had forgotten how good a fried breakfast tastes in the open air. From there we went through Hope Park to the landing stage on Derwentwater, one of the finest viewpoints in the Lakes.
Keswick is a place I have loved and visited almost every year for forty years, but always off season. I was keen to see it in the summer, and I was not disappointed. I have never seen the Lake and the surrounding fells looking better – the air was crystal clear and still and this added to the serenity of the already inspiring view. Bliss!
We then had a decision to make – a pint in Keswick’s best pub, the Dog and Gun, and then head for home or a leisurely drive through the Lakes before heading home. Surprisingly, we made the sensible decision and did the obligatory trip along Wrynose and Hardknott Passes (those hairpin bends and 1 in 3 inclines are great fun in a Mazda Bongo!) before doubling back to take in the Slate Mine and its many attractions at the head of Honister Pass and setting off for Bath.
On the way back, regrets about our decision about the pub in Keswick set in and we decided to break our journey at a pub I hadn’t been to in almost thirty years – The Bull and Bladder, more properly known as the Vine, in Brierly Hill. I had very fond memories of Sunday lunchtimes there with a couple of pints of their excellent Batham’s Best Bitter and was apprehensive to see what had happened to it over the intervening years. I needn’t have worried – it was just as I remembered it.
And the beer was just as good!
Once back home, having having dropped son and gear off in Bath, I reflected on how what had started out as a chore to help out had turned into a perfect weekend – places I hadn’t been to before, places that were old friends, spectacular views, good company, classic scooters, a full English breakfast and a fine pint in a pub bursting with character. And all in under 36 hours. I came to the conclusion that a perfect weekend away doesn’t need to be exotic or expensive, it can be made from the basic ingredients that are near(ish) to home. Something we are going to have to get used to over the coming years!
© Jerry F 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file