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The Brown Sign Torch Relay Day 33: Skittish squirrels, R.E.M. and B&B watermills

The torch covers another significant distance today, York all the way up to Carlisle. A community that stuck out along the route was called Appleby-in-Westmorland. I grew up on a Westmoreland Road, and maybe at some point the road I used to live on really did lie in the west of some moor land but it definitely doesn’t now and currently serves as the busiest road into the congested town of Bromley, not a piece of moor to be west of in sight, Primark would have built over it years ago… Nonetheless I always feel a strong affinity for places that are named after being west of moors so I liked this place already. The brown sign of the day is just outside Appleby-in-Westmorland and is a type of attraction we haven’t done yet, and unlikely to do again frankly because it’s a waterfall-come-B&B-come-watermill. Wowzers, now I’ve never seen that before! I knew you’d be impressed…

The Mill & Ford Cottage is a little converted mill that sits on the river bank right next to a great waterfall which pours over the rock then over the road nearby creating a ford. The site dates from the 16th Century and apart from having lots of great milling things (including the big waterwheel still in place) it’s also somewhere to go and relax and run away from the world for a while because you can not just visit, but also rent it out too. This picture fired up my imagination and I sat thinking about how much I’d love to escape to the countryside for a long time.

I long to wake up surrounded by silence, silence that is only broken by the occasional bird singing (but not lots of birds singing, too many and it’s just overkill – take note all birds), to watch squirrels and other assorted wildlife darting around in the trees being wild and to go for long walks after which I snuggle up on the sofa in the evening under a woolly rug with a single malt whisky in hand, ahhhhh… Then it dawned on me that really my dream was a pretty pointless and ridiculous thing to be having and that it would never be in any way a reality, for a few reasons:

1) I’ve just started renting a flat in a noisy corner of South East London which I need to pay the rent on or I’ll be homeless, so unless I decide to spend my meagre savings on rent I can’t afford an escape to the country.

2) Watching squirrels’ being unpredictable and skittish scares the shit out of me, so seeing them dart around for prolonged periods might induce a panic attack.

3) I get terribly lost on any walk I ever go on, no matter how short, rendering them nearly always wholly unenjoyable.

4) Wool on my skin makes me want to scream out in itchy-scratchy agony (kindred wool allergics understand what I mean) and to get me to snuggle up under one someone would have to be physically forcing me.

5) I’ve given up drinking for the next year so single malts or any other drink with alcohol in it will not be making an appearance lying languid waiting to be sipped/downed in my hand.

Sometimes our brains make us imagine that being somewhere else and “escaping it all” is the answer to our woes, that when we get to our imagined heaven everything there will all be perfect and amazing. But in reality we’re  unlikely to feel much different wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Actually the universe continues to throw life at us just the same and we have to carry on knocking back the curve balls the best we possibly can. So imagining that being somewhere else will be better is really just a great load of useless old tosh (I haven’t said “old tosh” for a while – it was nice, I’ll do it more often). This of course is no bad thing though, I like what life throws, I like experiencing it whatever it is, whether it’s escaping from itchy woolly blankets, living in noisy little flats or staying in watermills that are converted into cottages next to waterfalls, they’re all on the same level of greatness to me (except one of them has a brown sign so qualifies more to be featured on this blog to be honest). So when the tendency comes to long for what I don’t have I try and be realistic about my actually rather unrealistic ideals.

I think that life’s for the living with all the good and bad bits, so suck everything up that is right there around you, don’t spend time thinking of the places where you could be but where are not, think of the place where you are now… Have you ever followed the closest brown sign to your house for example? What is it? If you haven’t then maybe it’s time to go, on Saturday perhaps, and drink it all in and enjoy what you have on your doorstep. You won’t regret it and you won’t be longing to be somewhere you are not, I know it 🙂

As is often the case I’ve now got this appropriate ear worm to share with you, R.E.M’s Stand… Enjoy.