Various domestic commitments this morning meant that, for me, there was no chance of going on the hills today. In any case, the weather deteriorated rapidly, with the wind rising almost as fast as the heavens were opening. So I decided to spend the afternoon of my off day in Keswick.
As I headed down the A66, with the windscreen wipers working overtime, I did spare several thoughts for Martin (@Rye1966) and Alan Sloman (@AlanSloman), whose Twitter posts had informed the world, or their followers at least, that they were wild camping somewhere near the summit of Ingleborough or Whernside or some such. Brave men indeed. For me the prospect of an hour or so wandering around Keswick seemed like a more enticing prospect.
A few years ago I sneered at people who would wander around a touristy town so near to the hills simply because of a bit of wind and rain. But no longer. Age has changed me. To my mind, Keswick is unbeatable - in England at least. To north, to south, to west the views are magnificent. It is not often that it can be said that the work and activities of man has improved on that of nature. But I think in the Lakes this is indeed the case. To stand at Friar's Crag and look down towards the Jaws of Borrowdale and beyond is enough to have you reaching for the dictionary to check that you are using the word "sublime" correctly. Sublime, indeed, it is. Feeling awe and wonder whilst standing there has to be the natural state of mind to anyone with a heart and soul.
As I mooched around George Fisher's, the iconic gear shop located in the former studios of the legendary Abraham brothers, the Victorian photographers and mountaineers, I overheard a conversation between a customer and one of the shop assistants. The shop assistant, making polite conversation, mentioned that it was a "dreadful day". "Not at all", said the customer, "it is a wonderful day, it's just that the weather is poor". What a wonderful perspective on life that man has.
So, an off day in Keswick? There is rarely an off day in Keswick. It is at its best on a wet and windy day in late November. The summer crowds have long gone. The Christmas and New Year throngs are yet to come. Forget the weather. Browse the gear shops at leisure, wander down to the lake to check that water really does run off the ducks' backs (it does) , order a coffee and a toasted tea cake, and just let the stress of the last week evaporate away. And, above all, keep raising your eyes to the fells that surround the town, and dream awhile, and remember that one day you will again be a free man on the hills*.
* With thanks to Harry Griffin and AH Sidgwick.