Monday, 20 July 2015

Preston

We were slowed up a little today because a friend wanted to join us for a stage, but that just gave more time to appreciate the gorgeous scenery, especially on the first half of the day through the Cumbrian fells and skirting the Lake District. Londoners would call this the North, but actually we are half way down the country now, and compared to what we have been cycling through this feels much more southern. The hills are softer, greener, more rounded. There are meadows dotted with Fresian cows and even the hill farms are neatly divided into fields with drystone walls. In the verges cranesbill and meadowsweet are in full bloom and the elder bushes, which in the North were white with flowers are, down here, studded with tiny green berries.

Even the smells are different - the thinly spiced aroma of the Scots pines replaced with the fruity reek of dairy farms (a smell instantly familiar and comforting from my childhood in Berkshire). The Irish Sea, when we reached it, was a placid grey green and smelled of estuary mud, with not a trace of the harsh salty tang of the North Sea. On three or more occasions people have overheard conversations about where to go and which direction to take and have simply butted in to volunteer the information, with none of the cautious reserve I still associate with highlanders.

The impression of approaching the South was rounded off this evening when we went for dinner.The friend who had joined us is Greek, as was the proprietor of the restaurant in which we ate. Cue much expansive conversation about the old country, the only words of which I could follow were 'ndaxi' and 'epharisto', sudden appearance of multiple dishes we had not ordered and generally much conviviality.

Now I am emphatically not saying that unexpectedly convivial hospitality like that would be less likely in Scotland, it's just that the whole scene was so unmistakably North London that I would not have been surprised to open the door of the restaurant and find myself in Green Lanes. Instead of Preston, Lancashire, birthplace of Wallace and Gromit creator, Nick Parks.

 Mind you, Mr Google tells me that the UK's first KFC was opened in Preston (in 1965) so there you go. Practically London.

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