Thursday 31 March 2016


End of the line.  Closing bell.  Last call.  It's the end of Northern Rail.  Tonight, the franchise to run trains across the north of England passes to a new company.  They started the process a few weeks ago, stripping logos off the trains, covering up the name on station signs with a strip of duct tape.  The long goodbye.

It's a sad day.  Northern has become so much of my life over the last few years.  They've gone from those odd purple trains on the Manchester lines, the ones I'd see here and there but never actually use,  to familiar, comforting, beloved.  I'll see the train roll up and a smile will split my otherwise miserable face.  The mauve highlights all over some station in the middle of Yorkshire.  The face of another station supervisor.  The known of the logo, the benches, the colours.  A haven that became sort of mine in the middle of a rainstorm in Northumbria.

Northern had a terrible job when they took over.  The franchise was just to tread water; they weren't to expand, they weren't to improve, just exist and make sure the trains didn't, you know, fall off a viaduct.  They were given a bunch of Pacers and Sprinters and told, crack on, and don't make too much fuss.

Yet passenger numbers kept going up.  Services suffered more strain.  Northern didn't crumble, or fall, or hand the franchise back to the government with a "sorry, can't cope" (unlike some train operators).  They plugged on.  They made it work.

I've said it many times, but Northern Rail is a weird franchise.  It's a load of disparate routes that have been lumped together.  How can you compare a tiny halt on the edge of Cumbria with a busy commuter station on Merseyside?  How is a long line across the top of England, like Carlisle-Newcastle, the same as the quick back and forth of Leeds' city routes?  It's 600-odd places arbitrarily connected by thin purple strips, but Northern brought them together.

Not much will change, straight away.  The same staff in the same uniforms - even Alex Hynes, the sweet little managing director, will transfer to the new franchise.  Gradually, the changes will seep in, new signs, new fonts, new website; I'm not sure when a new map will turn up.  It won't be the same, though.  I'm not good with change.  I'm not good with goodbyes.  But it's still an end.

See you, Northern Rail.  I'll miss you.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Chasing the Sun

Manchester's railway stations are a curiosity.  There are 93 of them within Transport for Greater Manchester's boundaries, but there's no consistency or rationale behind their services.  If you get on a train at Moorfields in Liverpool, you know that it'll stop at every station on the way; not so in Manchester.  There are skipped stations, semi-fasts, fasts, and, in the case of Clifton, stations that barely get any trains at all.

Clifton gets two trains.  Not two trains an hour; two a day.  And at completely opposite times of day, too.  There's one heading into the city centre at 07:06 in the morning.  Then there's one heading out of town at 18:22.  That's the lot.  I can't seem to find the reason for such a terrible service; it seems to boil down to the railway companies just not being that bothered.  Last year 152 people used the station, in that classic chicken-egg question of "are there hardly any passengers because there are no trains, or are there no trains because there are hardly any passengers?"  I was pleased to have bumped up the numbers by one - I'd deliberately bought a single to Clifton just to make sure it was registered.

I'm pretty sure the man who got off the train with me regards it as his own private empire; he certainly gave me some searching looks as he passed me.  Of course, at the time, I was doing this:

That's the other odd part about TfGM and their railway stations.  Right there is a brand new, shiny sign with the current logo on it.  I've been all over the city and most of them are still bumbling along with old signs - some with the old name for the local transport authority, GMPTE, and its red and white logo; some with the logo before that, in orange and white; even a couple with the short lived Network Northwest branding from the late Eighties.  Clifton though, silly, barely used, Clifton?  Send some men out there to give it a brand new look.  That's a great use of our money.

I turned towards the city at a fast pace.  I had to rush.  It might technically be spring, there may be daffodils bursting out and lighter evenings, but the sun is still setting before seven o'clock.  As I'd ridden the train out of Victoria I'd seen Manchester's skyscrapers outlined with the golden gleam of a dying evening.  If I was going to get to Swinton station, and get a photo outside without using the flash and washing my face out completely, I was going to need to motor.

I headed up a hill lined with big between the war houses, run down and messy.  Closer to the city, these would be worth a fortune, but the other side of the railway line was a collection of factories and workshops, and the M60 hummed in the distance.  There was a vague undersmell of sewage.  The road was rough and badly tarmacced.  A stray dog stared at me from the opposite side of the road, briefly breaking my heart before running on (stray dogs are my Kryptonite, a swift short cut through my cold brittle exterior to my soul).  At a turn I caught a glimpse of the city in the distance.  The tall apartment blocks shining, tastefully lit with glowing LEDs, the Beetham Tower's clunky profile topped by blinking aircraft alert lights.  It seemed so close and, at the same time, impossibly distant.

The scraggy grasses and bare trees accompanying my walk were all part of LIVIA, the Lower Irwell Valley Improvement Area.  I'm pretty sure I'm the first person who isn't a civil servant to use that acronym.  Perhaps, one day, this mess of former industrial properties, sewage works, disused canals and colliery workings will be a happy countryside stroll on which to frolic and picnic.  Right now, it's a lot of concrete that's become overgrown.

The odd homes were now, abruptly, replaced by an estate.  Set way back from the road, corporation houses in red brick.  A convenience store glowed brightly against a darkening sky.

I was going too fast to pay attention, too worried about reaching Swinton in the pitch black.  I cursed the BF.  I'd had a great, gossipy lunch with my friend Mike in Liverpool, and had emerged lazy and relaxed.  I didn't fancy heading over Chat Moss to Manchester any more.  As I mulled over whether to head home, the BF phoned, and encouraged me to go out.  "It's a great day for walking!" he said, and pushed me over the edge.  I'd ended up in the city centre, grumpily drinking chai lattes in a variety of chain coffee houses, bored, waiting for that single train to Clifton.  And now I was here, I couldn't really enjoy it.

I mean, I know it's the outer edge of Salford, not the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but there were still some pleasing buildings - that row of shops above, for example, with arched entrances to an arcade and flats above.  It came complete with the requisite number of bored teenagers on bikes, loitering at the side of Skittle'z off licence.  In the bus shelter, I was happy to see hand-written signs advertised an Easter Eggstravaganza on the green that Saturday, hosted by the Resident's Association - raffle!  Tombola!   Make a bonnet!

Further on, the husk of a pub made me want to cry.  Once the heart of the estate, now it was - whisper it - a nursery.  Turn it into a block of flats, a Tesco, hell, burn it down, but not a creche.  The devilish boozer was now a home for the Gruffalo.

This sort of artwork is common right across the North.  I've seen it all over.  Bits of industrial machinery piled up on a patch of green.  It's saying, "we may not make anything any more, and you're all unemployed as a result, but doesn't it look pretty".  There was an explanatory board next to it which seemed to spend more of its time talking about the life of the Mayor than the actual history.

I was in the centre of Pendlebury now, a line of shops and pubs strung along the A666.  "Cobi's World Foods" advertised "fruits and vegs".  I imagined poor Cobi trying to get to grips with his sign - but more than one vegetable is vegetables; why is the shortened form just veg?  That makes no sense! - only for the locals to shrug and say, yup, making no sense is what the English Language is all about.  There was a karate school and a beauty salon called Rehab, then a working men's club in the shadow of a huge mill.

At one point, I should imagine the club and the mill were intertwined, the shifts pouring out the gates and into the bar, but now it was the Lowry Mill and filled with companies that seem to have been made up as a tax dodge.  Their website boasts that the newest resident is a "software service revenue specialist", which is just a load of unconnected words strung together so far as I can tell.  I very much doubt it has the kind of employees who'd frequent a working men's club, put it that way.

The sun was almost dead now, the sky the colour of a woodland pool.  LED street lamps flickered into life as I approached, always a slightly thrilling experience, as though I suddenly had power over them.  A trio of teenagers, two girls and a boy, wandered past, talking about nothing and doing lots of it.  A Salvation Army church, a patch of empty land, an off licence called H2O Liquor which was clearly owned by someone who didn't pay too much attention in chemistry.  I crossed the road with a mum and her toddler, the little girl ridiculously excited to push the button, to take a picture of Swinton's tiny square station building.

I'd managed to get there just in time, just before the last of the sunlight was washed away.  Against the cobalt backdrop that brightly lit ticket hall looked wonderfully inviting.  I crossed back, and was disappointed to find that while it was nicely preserved inside, there was no staff, no waiting room, just a hatch with a metal shutter over it.  And unlike Clifton's newly installed TfGM totem, Swinton's sign is just a strip above the door with GMPTE on it.  (Last year, Swinton got 126,000 passengers.  Just to compare and contrast with Clifton's 152.)

There was a much nastier surprise on the platform: boys.  Loitering, bored, teenage boys.  At what age do half a dozen pimply youths stop being wallpaper and become a source of terror?  Is it the minute you stop using Clearasil yourself?  I hovered by the steps, waiting for them to steal my iPhone or push me on the tracks, or worse, take the mickey out of my clothes and hair.  Finally one sidled up to me, drawling in his newly-broken Mancunian voice, "hey mate, d'you smoke?"

"No," I said, resisting the urge to throw all my money at him and run.  He shrugged and wandered back, walking like he had a bowling ball lodged in his underwear, and told them my reply.  The boys all laughed, and I waited for the inevitable mugging-slash-murder-slash-ruthless dissection of my physical flaws.

It didn't happen.  Of course it didn't happen.  Because they were just boys, looking for somewhere to hang out where their parents weren't, and finding a place where there was a seat and shelter and no adults.  They had no malicious intent at all.  The only thing that happened was a rugby player arrived to wait for the Wigan train, and to be honest, he was in greater danger of violation from me, because he was wearing shorts and was fit as hell.

The lights of the train suddenly penetrated the ink, and I clambered aboard a warm, glowing train.  Night was here.  Time to go home.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Far Away, So Close

Penrith is far.  Far from anything.  I realised this when I came back from Durham.  The BF and I decided to make a trip out of the return home, driving up the east coast to Berwick, across the top of England, skipping back and forth over the Scottish border as we went, then joining the M6 at Carlisle.  It was a long time, whizzing along at 70 mph, before we encountered the junction for Penrith, and even longer after that before we encountered the blessed sanctity of Tebay services for a Fairtrade coffee and a locally sourced scone.  Penrith is far.

Even on the Northern Rail map it looks isolated and lonely, only added in 2013 when they conceded that there was a quicker way to get to Carlisle from Preston than via Barrow.  Now it sits in the centre of white space, lonely.  It was a station I would have to make a concerted effort to visit and, since it'd take two and a half hours to get there and involve two changes of train (one of which was in Wigan) I'd never really broken my neck.

The trip home from Ravenglass, however, included three quarters of an hour waiting at Lancaster between trains.  Lancaster is also on the West Coast Main Line, so, even though I was desperate to get home, I jumped on a Pendolino and headed up to Penrith for a box-ticking exercise.  (I bought a ticket first, obviously).

It started well.  Walk out of the station and you're immediately presented with the ruins of the town's castle, an impressive "take that!" to arriving tourists.  There's not much of it left, to be fair, but it sits on top of a generous mound of earth and catches the eye.  I crossed the road and entered the park at its base.  It was empty, too late for the early morning dog walkers and too early for bored schoolkids on their lunch, and the flower beds were promising rather than pretty.  Better entrance to the town than a ring road, though.

The park deposited me, not in a bustling high street as I'd expected, but in a suburban crescent; I was still a couple of roads away from the centre.  I descended a series of steps down the hill.  I've always found steps in a town a weirdly exciting feature, like a bit of a Tuscan hill town has crashed into England.  Even if, as in this case, it was rather more concrete and rusted metal than elegant terrace.

It lead me to some busy back roads and the goods entrance of Penrith Sainsbury's.  It was built on the site of the football club (they were shunted out to the edge of town), and a quick Google search reveals that people weren't especially keen for them to arrive.  Presumably as a sop to the objectors, the supermarket was upgraded to be a bit more than the standard "big box with a lot of orange".  They got a stone portico.

It's a bit like trying to hide a nuclear missile by putting a bobble hat on the top.  The effect is so lazy, so perfunctory (they saved themselves a few quid by not having the stone part reach the top of the actual building, you notice).  It has the unintended side effect of making it look like Sainsbury's demolished some worthy piece of municipal architecture but were forced to keep the front.  It paints them as vandals, rather than charlatans.

The New Squares development behind the supermarket continues with the fake-heritage theme.  I'm totally in agreement that the Georgian and Victorian eras produced some beautiful architecture; the same with the Edwardians and a whole bunch of other bits of our history that weren't named after monarchs.  That doesn't mean that in the twenty-first century we should be building copies.  Instead we should be building our own heritage, twenty-first century buildings that look like they were built today, not Disneyland fakes. These buildings might be covered in cornices and arches and porticos, but they were designed on computers and built out of steel.  The "heritage elements" are just a thin skin over the modern bones.  Architects are so afraid of repeating the "mistakes" of the Sixties and Seventies, when people tried to create a new language - and whether they were mistakes or not is very much up for debate - that they've ended up not innovating at all.

I'm not saying that Sainsbury's should be allowed to just plonk an aluminium shed wherever they want, or that retail parks are somehow at the vaguard of cutting edge architecture.  I just want a bit of honesty and style and imagination.

New Squares had been promoted as a regenerative tool for the town but it didn't seem to be working; half the units were empty, with signs in windows pleading "Thinking of taking retail space in Penrith?  Don't!  Not until you've spoken to us!".  Funny how building a superstore that offers food, clothes and household goods all under one roof seems to put people off opening a rival next door.  There certainly didn't seem to be any local entrepreneurs, only the usual chains - Costa, Boots, mobile phone companies.

Unsurprisingly, Penrith's real town centre was far better, mainly because all those buildings were real relics from past centuries.  Streets twisted in and out of each other, the buildings almost bending over the pavements.  I felt resonances of other towns I'd visited across the Lakes and Pennines in the buildings and the people, a busy-ness, a hardiness.

Although I will never be happy with people parking all over the market square like it's the loading bay of B&Q.  One accidental reverse gear and that clock tower will be crushed under the weight of a white van.  It was still a busy centre for the town, with an absolute delight in the form of J & J Graham, who've operated in the town since 1793.  Take that, Saino's.

Also intriguing was this sign, affixed to a nearby lamp post and part of an Eden Arts project.

I immediately resolved not to do any twining, even though I'm not entirely sure what it is.  Are Penrith finally dealing with the scourge of yarn bombers?  (I'm not bothered by them, but the BF once spotted some trees in Greasby that had been dressed up with coloured wool and went off on an incandescent rant that lasted all the way to West Kirby).

I continued my circuit of the town centre, finding more delightful local stores; I imagine one advantage of Penrith's isolation is the lack of competition.  By the time a rival swaggers into town you've built up a loyal customer base.  Even some of the empty shops had their charm - one had net curtains in the window, as though hiding its shame.

By now I had a different aim in mind: an urge to pee.  It had become rather more insistent in the frosty February air and, not spotting an actual public convenience (and, if I'm honest, not really wanting to go in one of those grim tiled cells) I nipped into the Station Hotel for a pint and a piss.  From there it was a skip across the McDonalds' drive thru lane to the station itself.

It's a charming building, though quieter than in its heyday due to the loss of branch lines; it's only served by Virgin trains now.  They've infected the station with their "quirky" branding, and I'm sorry, this really must stop.  You're a public transport supplier, not a lower billed act at the Royal Variety Show: show a bit of dignity and composure.

So that was Penrith.  A fair old trek, but worth it in the end.  Probably not worth a revisit, but at least I can say I've been.

(Yes it does say Penrith station there, I promise.  Use your zoom.  And petition the town council for a proper sign).

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Rat Trap

"Can you stop at Murthwaite, please?"

The guard took a step back.  "Murthwaite?"  I nodded, and he reached out and shook my hand.  "You're the first person to ever ask me to stop at Murthwaite.  Ever."

I was left feeling a little disquieted.  The first one ever?  It couldn't be that bad, could it?

It was the second day of my La'al Ratty odyssey, and having polished off the top half of the map on Saturday, I now had three stations at the bottom to do.  Pleasingly, they all began with the letter M: Murthwaite, Miteside, and Muncaster Mill.

Temperatures had plummeted the night before, leaving the landscape blue-tinted and icy.  Cold infected every part of it.  I hugged myself close in the open carriage, trying to keep the warmth going as we trundled up into the hills, pulling into the tiny Murthwaite Halt a few minutes later.  As I jumped down, the guard called out to me, "First person this year to get off at Murthwaite.  And probably the last!"

I'm sure he didn't mean for it to sound like a threat.

Murthwaite was no less than any of the other stops on the Ravenglass & Eskdale: a little bit of platform, a sign.  Its lack of use came from its isolation: surrounded by farmland, the nearest road 3/4 of a mile away.  There was, however, a bridleway that ran south from the halt, paralleling the railway, and that was my route back to Muncaster Mill.

I crossed the tracks and entered a field on the other side.  There were no public footpath signs, but once again I put my trust in the Ordnance Survey, and followed a rough track over the grass.  The cold had frozen the soil hard, and the unforgiving hillocks pounded at the soles of my feet.  It was like walking on sharp rocks.  I staggered onward, jumping the occasional frozen puddle, crossing streams by barely-there bridges.  At one I spotted this:

The footpath sign, broken and lying in a ditch.  I thought back to the lack of signs starting me on this path - not a coincidence, surely?  A landowner trying to stop legally mandated access to his fields, I assumed, and boiled slightly.  This wasn't a popular route, clearly; there's probably a dozen people a year using it.  But apparently this was too many.

Soon after, I left the field through a gate and walked alongside the track itself.  There was a broken down workshop for the railway, a roofless shed and a single orange plastic chair beside piles of fencing and pipes.  The path ducked down between overgrown bushes - I wondered what kind of skinny horses they got in this part of the world to call this a "bridleway".

I crossed the track via a pair of wooden gates, complete with signs warning me that the railway was not a footpath.  I briefly imagined a gang of happy wanderers thinking those long bits of iron were just a kooky design feature for their walk, only to be mown down by a tiny steam train.  Then I was climbing upwards, onto the hillside.

It wasn't so much a path here, more of a stream.  Water poured down the mountainside, then pooled in the flat of the path; when it overflowed, it formed a little rivulet of its own.  Each footstep was now a splosh.

Higher and higher up the hill.  The railway track below me disappeared into the trees.  I was moving at a pace, hoping to reach Muncaster Mill in time for the next train; Miteside was closer but that would have been too easy.

The waterlogged path, initially stony, now gave way to mud.  So much mud.  Unlike the exposed fields, the frost hadn't taken hold here, so there was just a wide, thick trek through soft soil.  I tried to hop round it, find the hardest paths, but then my foot would sink and I'd feel a splatter of brown up the back of my calf.  My trousers, barely dried from the previous day's walking, were soon damp again.

It was tiring, and dispiriting, because it slowed me down.  I began to doubt I'd make it to Muncaster Mill in time, which raised the spectre of a one and a half hour wait.  Worse, the later train would probably be manned by the chirpy guard, and he'd see what a state I'd made of myself in the interim.

I was lucky, though.  I'd overestimated how far there was to go, and so the sign for Muncaster Mill took me by surprise.  I gingerly descended down the slope, slipping a couple of times but grabbing hold of nearby foliage to steady myself.  I didn't so much walk onto the platform as stagger, a mess of arms and legs.

There's still a mill here, the building dating in parts back to the fifteenth century, and it used to house a tea room and a shop.  Now it's a private residence, however, with the accompanying stern signs warning you not to wander too close.  It's a lovely spot, but it's a shame that there's no longer a tourist attraction here.  So few of the Ravenglass & Eskdale's intermediate stations serve a purpose beyond "there's always been a stop here"; most are simply halts in the middle of countryside.  There's no real reason to do anything except than ride from one end to the other.

I used the wait for the train productively, scraping my boot at the edge of the platform and trying to kick the worst of the mud away.  To the residents of the Mill, I must have looked like a demented Riverdancer.

The train was late.  I found this unforgivable.  It was the train's first trip of the day; it had come straight out of the depot.  And yet it was late?  Rude.  Finally it appeared, steaming round the corner and blowing its whistle, and I boarded one of the open carriages to ride to the top.

There was still Miteside, but I was cold and it was lunchtime.  I took the train all the way up to Dalegarth.  The rogue sheep that had plagued the services the day before seemed to have been returned to her farmer; either that or it was mutton stew on the menu at the station cafe.

I'd felt bad about going all the way to the end of the line and not visiting the nearby village of Boot, so this time I turned left out of the station.  I say village: Boot has a population in the low double figures, and is merely a few houses strung along a tiny road.

Oh, and a pub.

I'd managed to arrive not long after twelve, so the pub was still fairly empty.  I ordered a burger and chips - forgoing the Sunday Roast - and chomped my way through it.  Halfway through the barmaid appeared and asked if I was enjoying it, then told me I had someone else's order and I was eating onion rings that didn't belong to me.  I ate them anyway, then ordered a second pint and leaned back in my chair.

The truth was, I wasn't really enjoying myself.  I'd been anticipating this trip for a while.  It had been something to look forward to amidst the winter gloom.  A weekend of walking and stations in the beautiful countryside.

It had ended up being a disappointment.  The distance between stations was too small for me to get a decent walk going; when I did arrive, it was at a barely there halt.  La'al Ratty's appeal was very much train based and, as someone not really interested in engines, it had left me cold.  It didn't help that every request for a stop was a little anxiety bomb inside my head.

It hadn't captured me.  I should have just visited Dalegarth.  The ends of the line were easily the highlights: Boot's pretty pub and the Stanley Ghyll, Ravenglass' beautiful estuary and stunning views.  Between had been mostly mud and too little to engage me.

I walked back down towards the station, but ended up in Boot's other pub, trying to drink my way out of my funk.  This pub was rougher round the edges, more of a locals' pub than a gastro-destination, with a stuffed fox wearing a hat perched on the roof of the bar.  I drank another pint, and mulled the unbelievable: skipping Miteside altogether.

My misery had infected me to the extent that I no longer cared.  I didn't care about Miteside, or La'al Ratty any more.  I wanted to go home.  Not back to the B&B, where I still had another night ahead of me, but real home, back where it was warm and comfortable.  I didn't want to ride the tiny trains of the Ravenglass & Eskdale any more.  I wanted a trip on a proper, purple, Northern train.

I headed to the platform and decided to leave it to the fates.  If the guard asked me where I wanted to stop, I'd say Miteside.  If he didn't ask me, I'd go back to Ravenglass and pack my bags.  I took up a seat in one of the carriages and waited for the Gods to decide.

The guard appeared - not my mate from that morning, a different one, one who I'd seen on a couple of other trips over the weekend.  "Oh, it's you," he said.  "Where do you want us to stop this time?"

My fate was sealed.  "Miteside, please."

I waved goodbye to the train for the last time.  For decades, Miteside Halt had an upturned boat as a shelter; a rough solution to a the Lakes' violent weather.  The shelter had been revamped, but they'd kept with the principle, delightfully:

It was a pleasing note to end my station trips; a happy tick through the last one on the line.

Now there was just the walk back to Ravenglass and, more importantly, Ravenglass' pubs.

It was another halt isolated from civilisation in general, so I happily began talking to myself.  I had imaginary arguments with people who really deserved it - you'll be unsurprised to hear my forceful rhetoric always won them over - then, as I turned onto a bare farm road, I planned my Oscars speech.  It was the Academy Awards that night, and I considered what I would say when - not if - I won both Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor at the same ceremony.  (I may be deluded, but I'm not deluded enough to believe I am leading man material).

I was mulling what political cause to gracelessly insert into the proceedings when I reached the main road.  Ravenglass was to the left, but I was enjoying the walk, so I decided to take a more circuitous route.  I turned right, uphill, then took a shortcut down another bridleway.

Big mistake.

More mud.  More hidden puddles.  By the time I emerged at the other end, I was panting from the effort of leaping around the path like a demented leprechaun.  I did another little dance on the tarmac to shake off the worst, then continued on my way.

This road was silent.  It lead only to Saltcoats, a hamlet by the sea, and soon I was walking in the centre of the way.  Tiny white snowdrops winked from the verge as I passed.  Up ahead, a level crossing loomed.  The crossing man's house was now a private residence, with the man from the railways exiled to a hut on the far side.  I wondered what he did all day, in between moving the gates across the road every hour or so.  Does he have other jobs?  Is he given loads of paperwork?  Or is he just left to read his book, watch the telly, text his mates?  If it's the latter, sign me up.

Saltcoats was determinedly unglamorous.  One home was pumping something out of the house and into the drains; it had a SOLD board outside, and I wondered if the new owners knew that they'd need a lot of extendable hosing for their new dream life?  There was a caravan park, and a farm that smelt like a farm, only more so.  But then I reached the estuary.

The low afternoon sun shimmered across the landscape, touching each part of it with magic.  I stood and took in the stillness, the unforced elegance of it all.

With the sun behind me, I headed towards Ravenglass.  The rays illuminated the tiny houses, perched on the bay.  It was like the village at the end of the rainbow.

I crossed the bridge over the Esk, a footpath hunkered under the railway line.  That was the ending I needed.  That was the proper way to finish off La'al Ratty.