“Cockermouth!” I declared proudly, during a game of ‘Who can find the rudest place name in Britain?’
It’s childish, but so are we, and we frequently play it, my friend Paul and I, refusing to believe that ‘Cock Burn’ exists, (it does) as does ‘Fanny Burn.’ The reason I was so confident about Cockermouth, was because I’d been there many years ago. We agreed there and then that we’d go there together one day, and that’s exactly what we did last week.
His first mistake was agreeing to let me be in charge of the music for this road trip. If you’re a regular reader of this blog and an awful music snob, then you probably roll your eyes at my tastes. But screw you, this is MY blog, so we set off at breakneck speed for The Lakes to the opening strains of Suck It And See by the Arctic Monkeys, which despite the lyrics, is one of my favourite Summer songs.
“I suppose the part I hadn’t really factored in was all the singing,” said a visibly weary Paul.
“Why? What’s wrong with my singing?” I asked defensively.
“Nothing” he lied. “I just hadn’t realised quite how much of it there would be.”
“It’s a ROAD TRIP. All good road trips need a soundtrack.”
“There has certainly been a lot of ‘sound’ on this track.”
“Don’t do quotation marks with your fingers. It makes you look like a knob.”
We carried on bickering happily, though his expression started to look slightly pained as the Dirty Dancing soundtrack started up. I didn’t want to be a victim of road rage, so I suggested we stop off at a country pub for a bite to eat. The last time I’d been to Cumbria years ago, I’d been stared at by EVERYONE. Back then, there weren’t many faces of colour in those parts, and I had been dating a man who was 6′ 5″ with skin paler than the underground inhabitants of Transylvania. It’s fair to say that coupled with my 5′ 4″, dark complexioned and wild haired form, we had been quite a sight. Although people were friendly, I’d always felt a little self conscious. This time, I decided to pretend I was an exotic celebrity and they were staring in awe. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this, other than to wear my sunglasses indoors.
“Is this brown sauce or ketchup?” I asked him.
“Take your bloody sunglasses off,” he replied, clearly exasperated.
“You look ridiculous.”
“I look EXOTIC.”
“You look like an angry little Wookie with an eye condition.”
“But they’re all staring at me!”
“That’s because you’ve got ketchup in your hair.”
We made our way out of the pub car park and I refused to sing the next 3 songs, but it was hard to stay cross when the view was so pretty. Huge green mountains, small villages that looked too picture postcard perfect to be real, clear lakes, animals grazing in fields. I couldn’t stop staring. And then, just to make it even more perfect, my favourite Dirty Dancing song started.
“COME ‘ERE LOVERBOY!” I suddenly shouted, and Paul nearly drove into the back of a caravan.
Over the course of our stay, we fed the ducks at Windermere, sniggered past Cockermouth, ate at more country pubs, went for long walks and talked about anything and everything, long into the night. The weather was the best it’d been for a while and I reminisced about the other times I’d been there. None more so than the day we went to Haweswater, the place where many moons ago, my then boyfriend had proposed to me…
It was Spring 2000. We’d been for lunch with his parents in a pretty little café and on the walk back to the car, had discovered a wishing well. We’d looked at each other and smiled, wanting the week to never end. It had been an idyllic trip, I knew he loved me and we were in the most romantic of surroundings. It was hard not to feel a little giddy. That evening, we had an argument, I can’t remember what it was about, and while I was crying, he grabbed hold of me and just came out with it.
I didn’t think I’d heard correctly, but he said it again.
“Marry me. I love you. I want to be with you.”
I wanted to kill him. I think the look on my face said it all. He’d had any number of opportunities to say it throughout the week, but he had chosen the middle of an argument when I was furious with him. I went to bed.
The next day, he told me we were going for a drive. The weather had turned and it was pouring with rain. We went for dinner at a lovely little Italian place. By this time it was getting late. He drove on, off the main road and onto a dirt track. It was pitch black and I was a little scared, with no other cars nearby and no signal on our mobiles. He stopped the car and led me out to a clearing where the lake came into view. It was absolutely stunning, but also a little spooky. He got down on one knee and all I could say was “Your jeans are getting muddy.”
“Andie, will you make me the happiest man in the world… ”
I’d said yes. There was no ring. We didn’t tell anyone. We were young, immature and stupid. A year later, we broke up, stayed friends for a few months until it got awkward, then moved on. I think of him as one of the nicer men I dated, but I outgrew the relationship and he did some stupid things which made staying friends impossible. We were both to blame, but I remember that time fondly. I was happy on those trips, I loved his family and I was never made to feel insecure, or lied to. I’d been content.
Back to the present and in the bright sunshine, the still lake was breathtaking. We were so overcome by its beauty, Paul came and put his arms around me from behind and we just stayed there for a while, taking it all in. It felt good to feel that comfort again. We’d had a rocky year, but I was with the one person I loved in a different way to how I’d ever loved anyone before. Not just a best friend, but family.
On to the final day of our journey and we were on our way to Edinburgh where I’d be spending a few days with my mum and sister while Paul returned to London. I decided to have mercy on him and let him play his favourite Bowie and Chase & Status songs.
I’m lonely and I’m looking
For a place to go
Where everything’s an embrace
And everybody wants to know…
This town’s alright
But it’s not enough
I’m looking for a quick exit
Like a prisoner on the run
It wasn’t long before I once again hijacked the iPod and he rolled his eyes as The Killers blared out. I snuck a look at him from the corner of my eye and smiled as I saw him absently singing along.
All of my friends say I should move on
She’s just another girl
Don’t let her stick it to your heart so hard
And all of my friends say it wasn’t meant to be
And it’s a great big world
She’s just another girl
“Stop staring, Andie.”
But he caught me looking again and winked.
Quoted lyrics- Love is Strange by Mickey and Silvia,
Embrace by Chase and Status,
When You Were Young by The Killers.