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Harking back to Wordsworth's days in the Lakes.


ON PARTICULARLY busy days, a colleague takes a moment to read missives from the Little Cube of Calm to restore office serenity.

It is just like the Little Book of Calm, only for some reason, in cuboid form, it is less able to achieve its aim.

"Plan. When you know where you're going, you'll find it easier to stay calm on the way there," she extols as our fingers fly over our keyboards pausing only to wave goodbye to another hour lost in silent toil.

She inherited it from a previous incumbent of her desk, along with seven highlighter pens and a book entitled Death.

I am relieved that, in times of heightened stress, it is the Little Cube of Calm she reaches for, although I suppose that drawing in fluorescent orange on her own face would cause an atmosphere-slicing outbreak of mirth.

By the strange twist in the timespace continuum that goes into making newspapers, as I write this column I am in no need of restorative words, cuboid or otherwise, as I am embedded in the countryside.

Yet, by the time you have begun to read it, I will be back at my desk, listening to the Office Soundtrack of clinking coffee mugs, keyboard death rattle and phone chatter.

For now, though, I am going to indulge myself with the simple pleasures of Cumbrian life, pausing to admire a field of daffodils, wandering round a National Trust property and maybe even a trip to a tea shop or two.

I should have said - what I imagine the simple pleasures of Cumbrian life to be, because contrary to popular belief, people in the countryside do have real lives, with iPods, Sky-plus and controversial school entrance policies.

They are not, as we sometimes allow ourselves to believe, a chimeric cross between Marie Antoinette skipping through orchards at sunset with a shampooed lamb in tow or an eccentric Wainwright figure.

In reality, of course, we city slickers are fully aware that country folk are far more likely to be on the Atkins Diet than the cream tea diet and do not dress from head to toe in Berghaus for their daily commute to the office.

So why then do so many of us feel the need to prepare for the Himalayas when we are really going to spend the day pottering around Grasmere, perhaps pausing to buy a packet of Sarah Nelson's famous gingerbread or a comedy "Wish ewe were here" postcard?

Is it a chemical reaction caused by replacing the exhaust fumes in our lungs with wonderful, wish-you-could-bottle-it fresh air?

There were plenty of them out during Easter week - wannabe Sherpas - their 4x4s towing caravans with exotic brand names like "Kon Tiki" as if a few days of shared toilet blocks were comparable with Thor Heyerdahl's 7,000km raft trip across the Pacific.

Each wore the obligatory 13 layers of designer thermals and breathable waterproofs, taking it in turns to balance a three-ton slab of Kendal Mintcake on their shoulders as they sat outside a coffee shop with a skinny latte in one hand and a trekking pole in the other.

Yes, I was being part-snob, parthypocrite, watching them sneeringly in my purple Craghopper fleece, especially as I am a firm believer in the cheering power of a skinny latte on a cold day's walk.

But the modern Lake District seems so much less romantic than in the Olden Days, when Wainwright was climbing Helm Crag with a flask of tea to avoid domestic duties and Wordsworth was getting all excited about a particularly attractive patch of yellow flowers.

Then there is the countryside of my childhood, conjured up with the scratch of wool on a cold cheek or the metallic smell of butane - frame tents in 70s orange with brown floral curtains and a flap that could be lifted to provide shelter from the summer rain, my sister's first birthday cake; a beautiful wishing well, baked in advance and hastily assembled under canvas.

These are inventions close to miracles in the world of a child.

Sometimes happy memories can be the most calming influence of all.

I am going to indulge myself with the simple pleasures of Cumbrian life
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 26, 2008
Previous Article:Shakespeare's Globe.

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