Tuesday 11 June 2013

What I Did On My Summer Holiday by Katie (aged twenty-mumble and a bit.)

Fifteen years ago, I went on a year 7 school field trip to the Peak District, and this year my best friend and I decided to return, as, erm, responsible adults, to visit some of the same places without an itinerary set by the teachers. Our base was Matlock, being easily accessible by train, and we found a wonderful Bed and Breakfast called Sheriff Lodge. (If you are looking for a B&B in Derbyshire, I highly recommend this one - the owners are friendly, the bedrooms cute and cosy, and the breakfasts delicious, catering for vegetarians and people with gluten intolerances, and having a good selection of food for people, such as Judith, who are both.)

We arrived last Tuesday, and Wednesday was spent at the Heights of Abraham, a country resort about a mile or two down the road. One reaches the top of the hill by travelling in an alpine-style cable car. Once at the top, there are guided tours into disused mines, and with the damp, the dark and the glittering of the walls, I couldn't help thinking of the Fellowship of the Ring entering the Mines of Moria. Thankfully we found no orcs, skeletons or balrogs while underground. Afterwards, we deviated from the main path, scrambled up a hill away from the main resort to have our picnic.

Thursday we visited Ellie's bookshop, where I went wild, buying a gorgeous notebook and seven books, which may have been a mistake, considering I had to carry them around with me for the rest of the day. Having just missed the bus to Chatsworth House, we ate ice cream by the river and I worked out that if we took a certain short cut, it would not be a much longer walk than the walk from the bus stop. It was a beautiful day, and we didn't much feel like taking two buses. Alas, we missed the very first turning, and ended up walking four miles along a busy road with no sidewalks, but plenty of nettles.

Still, we got there in the end, some time after three and after buying another ice cream, we decided to paddle in the Cascade, a watery staircase, before going into the house itself. There was a warning to supervise children as the Cascade was not designed for walking, and a bit slippery. Perhaps they should have added that grown ups ought to take care too. Judith decided to walk up the Cascade, but when she made the return journey, she ended up flat on her back. You'd think I'd have heeded her advice, but five minutes later, I ended up doing the exact same thing. We took our time walking around the grounds in soggy frocks, unwilling to drip all over "Pemberley." We made it inside just before last entry, and were followed around by staff closing all the doors behind us.

You can't go on holiday in the Peak District without at least one hilltop walk, so on Thursday, after visiting Ellie once more, we took the bus up to Calver, before making our way to the designated starting point: Curbar Gap car park. Again, this was about a mile from the bus stop. Fine. What the walking guide neglected to tell us was that it was about a mile up a very steep hill road. For us non-drivers, getting to the starting point was the hardest part of this walk. It was worth it, though - a proper scramble across a varied terrain: rocky cliffs, fields, woodland and streams, in a six-mile round trip across White Edge, Froggatt Edge and Curbar Edge - a walk I had not done when I was twelve and thought walking was boring. Alas, the pub which marked the half-way point was closed when we reached it. It was a scorching day, but with a cool breeze that made it bearable. At the bottom of the hill, we stopped off for Pimms, before returning to Matlock to have takeaways in the park.


What I read:

The Magician's Nephew is a forgotten favourite in CS Lewis's Narnia series. I don't read it as often as The Silver Chair and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but when I do, I love it: the magic of the Wood between the Worlds, the gloom of Charn, the dead world, home to Jadis, the White Witch, and the beauty of the new Narnia. Even Polly's hideout in the attic is an exciting place, with plenty to explore and adventures to find without going out of one's front door. I'd love to see this one made into a film, but only if done well.

Never The Bride by Paul Magrs is the story of Brenda, a middle-aged bed-and-breakfast owner based in Whitby, who alongside her friend Effie, is drawn into investigating the weird goings-on in her town. But are any of the dodgy shenanigans she uncovers as strange as her own past? Never The Bride is simultaneously light and dark: gothic and macabre in places, but an easy and comic read, packed full of references to cult classic literature. The setting of Whitby has its own, very specific, literary heritage, which helps to shape the mood of the novel alongside the Christmas Hotel, the sinister beauty salon and the pie and peas evenings for the local pensioners. I took my time getting into the book, but as soon as I'd figured out Brenda's mystery, I knew it was going to be brilliant! The title is relevant to the story, but not in the way you might expect. There's very little of the mushy stuff to be found here.
A cross between Alexander McCall Smith, Ben Aaronovitch and... spoilers! You'll have to read it yourself to find out more. I was very pleased to discover there are other books about Brenda and Effie.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst was one of the many books I bought at Ellie's shop. The book follows Nick Guest, a young, optimistic gay man living with the ridiculously rich family of a university friend in the mid-1980s. I could not help but be reminded of Brideshead Revisited, contrasting Nick's idealism with the cynical world of fame, wealth and Thatcherism that he finds himself in. In many ways it feels far removed from the 80s as I think of them, and you can't ignore the shadow that hangs over Nick, his lovers and friends. A pensive, literary novel, heartbreakingly sad and yet beautiful in surprising places.

What I've Watched:

Last Monday, the day before we travelled up to Matlock, Judith and I went to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre. It was so much fun: packed full with classic disco songs, outrageous one-liners and ridiculous costumes. I had a big goofy grin all over my face the whole time.

My new favourite TV show is The Returned, (Original title Les Revenants, in other countries, Rebound) which is a French thriller exploring the effects on a small mountain town when the dead start coming back to life. Only one episode has been shown in the UK so far, but I can't wait for the next one. The main focus was on the family of Camille, a teenager killed in a coach accident four years previously, who just walked home as if nothing had happened, and helped herself to something out of the fridge. There is something unnerving about these people, seemingly unchanged, but all hungry, and none can sleep. They seem harmless, no flesh-eating zombies here, but it is the effect on their loved ones that is telling. How would you act if the dead came back to life? M. Costa's response to his dead wife is heartbreaking and horrifying. Adele's late boyfriend (or so we infer) comes after her, but now she is married with a child, a teacher at the high school or college, and her terrified cry of "It's happening again!" hints that perhaps these "revenants" might be revealed to be more dangerous than they appear. Far more than a zombie horror, this is a character study, a slow-building suspense, and possibly a crime drama as well as a tale of the supernatural, with beautiful cinematography and an atmospheric soundtrack. Don't be intimidated by the subtitles: if it continues as it began The Returned promises to be one of the best dramas of the year.


  1. Replies
    1. It was lovely to finally meet you and buy up your stock. We definitely chose the right week weather-wise to go away. It's horrible down here now. Was that week our summer?

  2. It sounds like you had such a lovely little holiday, Katie! :) My Grandparents live near Chatsworth House so I visited so many times as a child, I think it might be high time for another trip there after reading your post :) x

    1. It was lovely to get away. I wish I'd had more time in Chatsworth House itself, but we were enjoying the sunshine too much and left it till the last minute.


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