Issue 10: The George Inn, Keswick
 
 
 
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If they had heard some of our earlier conversations, then I could not argue with their viewpoint.
I never want to be those two that sit with each other and don’t say a word. We were sat next to that. We then proceeded to speak about not speaking to each other for 10 minutes and moved back to the R-rated stuff.
 
Dogs roamed free, in what was promoted as a ‘dog friendly’ venue. Stretched out and happy in what I imagine must be some kind of canine utopia.
 
Soon after we’d turned in our attempts to the waitress, it was back to the room with drinks in hand. Once we’d packed the rucksack and laced the hiking boots in the morning, we necked our weak tea and left. Keswick market supplied us with the food and a huge bar of Kendal mint cake in case we ran into any trouble on top of the world. If you’ve never heard of this ‘mint cake’, think of a bag of sugar melted down into a slate tile’s worth of rambling goodness. History’s Red Bull.
 
Everybody around us wears a fleece and a pair of hiking boots. Presumably at any time if you are a local you can be called on a testing but picturesque ascent.
 
After passing up the invitation to purchase the finest deer skin rugs, as well as classic cassettes and VHS, we headed to the car.
 
My car is more than ten years old, has 89,000 miles on the clock, visits the garage regularly for repairs and hates two journeys back-to-back. Once that key leaves the ignition, it will not start again quietly. Saying that the silver box on wheels has not let me down yet, we christened her Pauline when she decided to play and take us to our first destination.
 
It took us ten minutes to reach the stone circle at Castlerigg. It was 11am, raining, and the hiking boots started to make a lot of sense. As we approached the pre-historic site made out of 40 very individual stones, I noticed the other tourists more than any sense of something ancient and significant. But once we had outlasted the others, the huge circle did feel special. Its audience were the great peaks of Cumbria, surrounded by Hellvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra, and we were alone and in the middle of it all. The place was peaceful - it sent out a sense of importance and worth, and maybe some kind of orgy/suicide cult HQ.  
 
We got our pictures, we looked out to the view, and we made our move.
 
The lady at the tourist information suggested this was not a day for adventure, and after looking us both up and down quickly came back with the words 'Dodd Wood'. This did not sound like the tyrannous climb to Mordor I’d hoped for, but more a stroll for infirm. Anyway, that’s where we were headed.
 
I’ve read about people driving into rivers and off cliffs because their GPS system told them to, but typing the words Dodd and Wood and The Lake District into my iPhone, I never thought that would be me.
 
Once a destination was found, the directions were handed over to my navigator and she began to shout out the commands. With Van Morrison and the Chieftains blaring from the tape player, everything was cool… for the first half hour anyway, until the terrain we were entering got hairier by the bend.
 
With the GPS changing destination-end constantly, the roads narrowed, the inclines got worse and the ability to call the surface we travelled on a road, a joke. She laughed. I sweated. And that’s pretty much how things developed for the next testing hour.
 
We did reach a Dodd Wood, but after looking at the real map that rested nicely on the back seat, we had travelled 40 miles in the wrong direction. What was a five minute Sunday drive had turned into an off-road shit shower of wrong turns and anxiety as I waited for Pauline to finally slow up and die in the middle of nowhere.
 
My only comfort came from my laughing accomplice, so I knew this had the potential to be funny, but things were on a knife edge until finally we struck gold. A well-maintained, clearly signposted road. Back on track we sped to the right route, used the old-fashioned paper map and parked up where we needed to be. I doubted the car would ever roar that rusty clapped-out struggle for breath again.
 
Walking, pacing, clambering and running (at points) up to the summit was quick. Other walkers that were more out of shape than us spurred us on, as we seemed to be the only people going up and not down. Once we reached Don’s bench, a false summit with a brilliant view, and completed the final push to be the full 502 meters high we realised there was nobody around and the place was ours to do with what we liked. We did.
 
All the way down I fought the urge to voice my complaints about knee pain. Some things will never change.
 
Celebratory beers in the Dog and Gun done, to our rooms we went to chill. Two pints of cider resting on each bedside table, we were living it up, listening to music, laughing about the day’s carnage and sleeping in between. Tonight was our last night and we were heading to the Orange Square.
 
The restaurant bar cool café hang out is a happening place for Keswick, so if you do visit you should go. We ate all the pizza and anti-pasti we could, drinking two and a half bottles of red wine, whilst talking shit and finding out about each other.
 
I imagined we’d do this a lot. It didn’t feel like an end, but something much better than that, as we headed back to room number 10.
 
 
 
WE WOKE UP without an alarm or any clothing. I’d known the girl beside me for one month and she’d already taken my “26 is going to be the year” statement way beyond a drunken slur I half remembered.
 
Today we drove from the pavements and into the mountains.
 
It was a Thursday. The sun beat down on my beaten up silver Volkswagen outside and we needed coffee. Nothing else mattered. Except maybe some cigarettes to take the edge off any nervous moments during the two hour drive. Keswick was our destination, and more specifically The George Inn, where we’d risk everything to find out too much about each other over a two-night stay.
 
Having over-packed for the mud and rain, the start of our journey began stressfully when we discovered we had the smokes but without the fire. This quickly became an itch we should not have needed to scratch, until we broke onto the motorway and the inevitability of a garage brought with it a certain calm.
 
For the first half hour everything looked great. The playlist I’d found from touring up the east coast of America last year was sparking memories, and cuing up stories with every track.
 
On exiting our first pit stop, the smooth ride was about to be interrupted.
 
The sky looked full of hell and ready to spit all over us. The first drops of rain fell like heavy slobbering fists on the windscreen. I could feel my passenger clench her own fists in anticipation of the storm. Day had turned into night ten hours before nature intended. Whatever was coming looked rough.
 
It took five minutes for the road to become a river and the windscreen a waterfall. Two red blurry lights - one left one right - guided us along the busy road. With each car that passed I gripped the steering wheel tighter, convinced we would lock up and drift helplessly into an on-coming truck. A mood built in the car as did a silence, her visible anxiety and my nervous tension. When we first met it was the reverse.
 
Natural disasters don’t happen in England. Flooding, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes and avalanches are things we read about in the news between the latest press scandal and scandalous allegation about how the press sourced it. We are a nation that feeds off the weather for small-talk only. It does not serve as part of the larger conversation.
 
When a bolt of lightning ripped through the sky to scorch the earth in front of us, I thought this might change.
 
With the speed now dropping to 8mph, the car bonnet was taking waves head on. We’d been in this wet nightmare for 40 minutes and there was no sign of it receding. We’d at least passed halfway - at least we could say that.
 
It was then we made an ascent and through the dark-ness we could make out the harsh jagged rocks at the foot of an unknown mountain. Blurry red lights cleared and became the back ends of vehicles. Others had made it and the rain had stopped.
 
By the time we’d reach Keswick the weather would be back to grey and damp, and could only just qualify for small-talk.
 
The rest of the drive was how I remembered it when I was growing up. It left me feeling insignificant and passing-through. Whereas that used to be a negative and a literal, things have changed since.
 
I always imagined this was a place where giants got their kicks. Roaming around, throwing things, bashing rocks, digging out rivers and lakes with their filthy bare hands.
 
The Lake District reminds me of family, of not caring about anything other than my knees hurting from walking too much and being a whinging shit to my parents. I mean that in the best possible way.
 
This time around there was no whinging. I was with my girl and we had just checked in to our room. The bed and the bar were only two flights of stairs apart.
 
She unpacked with an incredible efficiency, filling every cupboard and wardrobe as if she’d been a long-term resident, and me, with all the care and diligence of an overweight gym hater.
 
Once we’d ditched the bags it was into the streets.
 
There was a strolling attitude to the place. Everywhere you looked people had no sense of direction, time or the concept of having to be somewhere. The cobbled roads and pathways were tightly knitted together, dissecting the individual houses, shops and of course, wide variety real English pubs.
 
Walking towards Lake Derwent, the view confirmed this place was exactly where we wanted to be. We tuned into the locals’ frequency very quickly, slowly drifting back to our room. Stopping at every bar for a drink on the way, that by the time we were PDA-ing in the corner of The George waiting for our food, it was clear we were drunk. It was also clear that we might have been the only ones.
 
I was advised by the barman, who you’d think I’d just called a twat, not to order the Full Cow pie as it was “1KG of meat”. Not normally one to shirk a challenge, I conceded and ordered half.
 
On arrival it was sage advice, the thing was a monster, all meat and gravy framed with a thin slice of crust. The pastry looked cautious of what it encased, and I was relieved I didn’t have to attempt double what was staring at me from the plate. People around us smiled that kind of smile you get when they aren’t quite sure about your presence.
 
 
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This article can be found in Vhcle Issue 10

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Andrew Donaghy is the Editor of
Under The Influence magazine and works as a freelance features writer between issues. He graduated from Newcastle University in 2008 with a Masters in Journalism and has since experienced the joys of working for ITV and BSkyB in London. Now back in his hometown of Durham, he is bearing the fruits of taking stock and working hard. Andrew was inspired to write after discovering the New and Gonzo Journalism of the 1960s when he was 16 way back when.
 
Read other articles by Andrew Donaghy
 
2012
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The George Inn, Keswick
 
 
 
 
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ANDREW DONAGHY
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The George Inn, Keswick by Andrew Donaghy, September 2012 Vhcle Magazine Issue 10, Life