Monday, 8 February 2010

A Man called Peter and Waking the Dead

This has been a good day, 18th May 2008, and for one moment, a strange day when a ghost returned to remind of dark days past, and overall I did not feel guilt or failure at the lack of time tabled progress in project work. Then this evening there was a fictional tale of recent reality horror which upset me greatly.

The day commenced early around 6 am having gone abed before midnight and a succession of getting’s up when it seemed that no sooner did I return to bed that I was awake and needing to get up again, although a hour or so had passed by.

The good surprise of the day was to switch on the TV after an excellent evening meal to find a one hour programme on the life of Alfred Wainwright. I first came across his Cumbrian guides on visiting the Lakes for the first time after arriving in the North East in 1974, although I had stayed at the family home of a friend in 1963 which overlooked Ullswater and I had sat for hours watching the clouds pass over the lake from a large picture window. Later I acquired one of his photo books about Scotland but although I looked longingly at his detailed map guides I never have made the opportunity to follow his footsteps. Then there was the brilliant TV series when Eric Robson, from this region, who accompanied him on some of his favourite walks and outlooks. The evening's programme was a balanced mixture of interviews and reminiscences, (including the delicious Sue Lawley who once interviewed me back in 1981 or 1982 for a London evening TV magazine programme) and fictionalised representations of aspects of his earlier life. The programme explained his background as part of a poor Mill family and community where he was able to break out by being bright at school and getting a post as an office boy for the local council, progressing as part of a Treasurer's department by going to evening classes and taking accountancy exams, going on holiday with his cousin to the Lakes, after saving £5 and dreaming of being able to live and walk as often as he wished.

He married a local girl and had a son, and then jumped at the opportunity of a job at Kendal where he progressed to become the Borough Treasurer,. The programme revealed why Wainwright was something of a recluse and avoided publicity until later on life. The main reason appeared to be that he liked his own company better than most other humans, although he had a love of animals as well as of the Hills and their viewpoints. The for his negative attitude towards others is revealed in an unpublished manuscript after realising early in his marriage that he had made a mistake and that his wife and he did not share interests, his approach to life, marriage and the position of women in society. The programme was more sympathetic to him than his former partner than it should have been. His response to what was for him an unhappy marriage was to work hard during the day and at weekends go off by himself on to the Fells, having decided he would not only climb everyone but make and publish a record with maps and a handwritten diary full of little quips, asides and observations on life. He was a methodical map, primarily a completer finisher, someone who set or had set goals and the meticulously worked out how to achieve the in the way intended and then did so, almost to the exclusion of everything else. He also had a creative streak but not an overpowering one, but he was not an over shaper or leader although he was to become so, because half a century later walkers in the Lakes still rely or his guides and swear that there are none better.

His first publication was a financial gamble and although the subsequent books were critically praised and quickly built up their following he remained a quiet man, intent on his task of thirteen years and avoiding publicity. His marriage ended after more than thirty years and there is no account pf what happened by her or his estranged son who he is said to have disinherited. The Wikipedia entry differs significantly from the TV programme in that it claims he did not meet his second wife until years after the break up, whereas the film suggests otherwise. In fact he encountered Betty fort he first time several years before they commenced a relationship when she wrote a fan letter saying how much she appreciated his books and reminding of when they had met. He had summed her to his office after she had booked a room for a paid period of time and then significantly over stayed the hiring. She is reported to have had the meeting with her daughter. While both still married they had met and commenced a relationship despite the significant difference in ages. He was said to have given her his secret manuscript in which he had revealed the kind of woman he hoped to meet and challenged her only to respond if she felt she was that individual and could fulfil his dream. They were subsequently to spend the rest of his life together, and although he continued to walk on his own further and further affield, they shared a joint passion for animals and used much of his wealth to create an animal shelter for cats and dogs which now bears his name, and she also encouraged him to continue his writing long into retirement. In fact his original seven books became million sellers worldwide and he commenced a succession of new projects on the Pennine Way and then perhaps his most creative and significant walk The Coast to Coast. from St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay passing through the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors to Robin Hood's Bay 190 miles and significantly longer than to the two coast to coast marches I undertook as a young man from Liverpool to Hull His walk was named the second best walks in the world in a survey of experts for Country Walking Magazine. He was a lucky man where hard work and dedication to the point of obsession brought financial and other rewards. He completed his original set task and the publication of his works brought him the kind of satisfying relationship he had dreamt off. He also found fame and recognition during his lifetime and his reputation is undiminished and is unlikely to do so.

There are 214 fells in the Lake District and getting to the top of everyone has become known as the WinWrite’s with a register kept of those who wished to record the feat, some 459 people, doing so and some 40 completing more than once with one individual over a dozen times. The youngest recorded was aged under seven years. The Wainwright Society was formed in 2002.

It was while looking at internet references that I downloaded a BBC news feature that Michael Joseph who had published the Cumbrian guides had decided to discontinue because of falling demand. I then spotted the headline "Abuse claims win compensation" which in curiosity I also downloaded only to then realise the date was 14th January 2003, five days after my aunt had been admitted to hospital and when a had returned for a family event lasting 24 hours to find her at death's door. The article referred to the settlement of the Class Action involving 15 Test cases and some 60 former children in which I had provided the evidence of corporate negligence with the assistance of an International Law firm and an International Human Rights Lawyer. Earlier in the day I had written to the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman giving my response to the letter rejecting my request for their reports to the Health Minister to be amended or withdrawn and which also mapped out how I intended to proceed as a consequence, although I had not set out the time table of years which the task was likely to take and where from its outset I had not contemplated resolution or satisfactory outcome, but where I concluded it was in the public interest and a duty to my former care mother and aunt to do all that was possible within the system. Thus although there are similarities in the approach to a task and to life between me and My Wainwright there are significant differences. My lasting memory of is talking to Eric Robson about his wish to for his ashes to be taken to his favourite Fell something he had written about and where he had already learnt that other Fell walkers had also made it their mission, and indeed one had already done so. He loved love but did not fear death because he felt he would en in the company of friends. My mother had such faith. I wish I had.

During the day I watched two very different programmes which had engaged my attention. The first was an Antiques programme Flog It where the public had brought their items to Newcastle and then subsequently sold at Bolden. Instead of the usual visit to some country house or examination of a special antique, there was an interesting film about the Newcastle Quayside in the 1950's and the efforts to protect from a Council proposal to demolish the area and replace with modern buildings. I wish to watch again and broke off writing to download while I continued writing.

The other programme was the first round of the final of this year's Best of British Cooking in which seven chefs who won the regional finals competed to prepare one or more of four courses for an international gathering to be held at the Gherkin, All seven produced starters none of which I would select if given the choice. The judges agreed that only one was outstanding, a concoction involving a wild pigeon served on a piece of slate, gaining 29 marks out of 30, and where one aspect was healthy eating so there was no dairy content, sugar or artificial substances. The programme made me hungry so I went to my lamb stir fry with a red sweet pepper, a whole onion and a courgette with barbecued flavoured noodles masked by a chill sauce and followed by my first strawberries of the year with vanilla ice cream.

Early on in the day I decided would go for some additional compost to plant the surplus plants from the three for two trays from B and Q. However I wanted to complete correspondence which included an application to rejoin the Tyneside Cinema as a Friend. I therefore did not set off in the bright sunshine until midday and hungry took the car to Asda where I bought a three halves of prawn sandwich and then eat on the way to Wilkinson's having checked that the supermarket did not have any suitable containers. I was not disappointed at Wilkinson's for although the item was plastic it was the right size of oblong in stylish black. I debate if I would need more than one, and similarly when I resisted a two packs for £5 compost offer at the supermarket when I found I needed this later afternoon. I also bought the salad items required, some milk and bread and a frozen food offer of two ready made dishes of pasta with black olives for £2.50 and then 12 packs of 100 plastic pockets at 22 pence less than my office material supplier and of superior quality. On the way back from Wilkinson I had bought two good size cartons of strawberries and a large packet of grapes for under £2, I had also called in at the computer shop to ask about cables to connect the computer to the TV so I can watch the recorded on line programmes missed when they are first shown.

On return I quickly discovered that I should have doubled up the plant containers and then the compost which resulted in making two trips late afternoon. I decided to leave the clearing up until the morning. I will also left until tomorrow writing about this evening's first part of Waking the Dead, except to say that I suspect Boyd's son Like is not dead, as he had not been to the mortuary to collect and therefore identify the body. The programme distressed me greatly because of aspects of the main subject of the film and it was only by staying up and writing although tired that I worked through the pain and the sadness of the fictionalised experiences of others what I knew was a reality to many.

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