The Adventures of Jimmy the Kid
When I arrived at Jimmy’s, bright and early, he had our roast in a slow oven, vegetables in saucepans on the stove, washing draped over the radiator, and was catching up on some painting and decorating in the lounge room. But he had plans for the day, however slight they may have sounded at the time:
‘D’ye want tae go an wash the car? I dae it down past Carlisle.’
And, just like that, I found myself in England. I was inordinately pleased when we crossed the border, and it took me by surprise, because I had no idea it was so damn close. I should have known, because, duh, my Dad grew up in Gretna, the Las Vegas of 18th Century Britain, where English couples eloped to take advantage of the liberal marriage provisions in Scotland. And you would hardly run away, cross the border, then travel 50 miles more to get married, would you?
I. Am. In. England.
And, to top it off, I saw a pheasant almost immediately, just scratching around casually on the side of the road. I didn’t know it was a pheasant at the time (Jimmy helped with post-identification). All I knew was that I had seen something very English and, at any moment, I was likely to see polo players or a fox hunt, and hear the distant strains of ‘tally-ho’ in the distance. I kept my eyes peeled.
We drove and we drove and we drove. And Jimmy entertained me with his tales:
‘We used tae steal apples and pears from the trees…’
‘Ah only drank half a pint, but that Guinness is a bitter drop.’
‘This ‘ere was a dance hall, and they came from all aroond for the dances.’
Think little gangs of Scottish tearaways, giving dodgy directions to travellers and putting bangers in mailboxes, fishing in the rivers and pinching eggs, maturing into men who know how to fly fish, and drink lager, and have no qualms about relieving someone of that nice pile of wood, if they aren’t going to put it to good use. Jimmy and his twin brother, John, built themselves a nice, new garden shed that year, and that’s all I’m going to say about the matter.
Jimmy likes being outdoors. He knows all the roadside flowers, and when they appear; the snowdrops and dandelions, daffies and crocuses, tulips and bluebells. And he knows the land; which farm belongs to who, and which schoolfriend manages which pigs, and in which river he can fish without a licence. He can also tell you which garden centre serves the best coffee (Ah’ll not be payin’ 3 pound fae a cup o’ froth, ah can tell ye that!’).
The countryside here is just so lush. Early on, I saw a lamb lying so still in a meadow (is is a meadow? field doesn’t sound nice enough), I thought it was dead. It was only after seeing many, many others that I realised they were just sleeping, with that so-tired-I-passed-out heaviness of children. They have literally frolicked so hard they they are plum tuckered out. I kept taking photos from the car, of countryside and towns alike, them both being beautiful in their own way:
We were soon parked before the locked gates of Jimmy’s favourite car wash…in Maryport. Yes, that is correct, Jimmy drives 42 miles to wash his car. And he was very put out to find it closed on Easter Sunday, I can tell you, very put out indeed. We decided to go for lunch instead.
‘Let’s go to Creswick‘, he said, ‘it’s nice in Creswick‘
‘Where?‘ I asked, unable to locate it on Google Maps.
‘Oh, right. I’ll help ye. Let’s go to CRESS WEEK‘.
The Lake District. We were going to the Lake District. I felt dizzy with anticipation, phrases from Wordsworth and Coleridge swirling around in my mind. I told Jimmy how excited I was, to which he replied:
‘There over yonder, I did see a cow
‘I could see it for a minute, but I cannot see it now.’
Or something to that effect. There was to be no wandering for me that day, lonely or otherwise, so we instead indulged in place name mockery, which is to be expected if you’re going to give towns names like Cockermouth and Flimby and How (‘how do I get oot?’), and we chortled at the love song dedications segment on the radio (five ways to propose? ‘get oot, get oot, get oot, get oot, get oot’).
Here we are, having battered haddock, chips and mushy peas and a pint at the Oddfellows Arms:
On the way home, we passed through Carlisle, and saw my father’s first workplace, Carr’s biscuit factory. And, of course, we passed Carlisle castle, because what self-respecting Cumbrian city doesn’t have its own goddamn 12th Century castle?
I have decided to trade Islay for Eastriggs, and will stay for the next three days with Jimmy. I ran each option through Cher’s ‘will it matter in five years’ method of measuring event significance, which made the decision difficult and easy, at the same time.
I shall watch Ron Swanson on Islay one final time…
…then I shall let it go.