Members of my online reading group are scattered far and wide around the world. I have been lucky enough to meet many of them here in the UK and also when I’ve been on holiday abroad. My nearest group ‘neighbour’ lives in Carlisle about 100 miles away and luckily we have the famous Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line to assist us in our efforts to meet up every so often. On Thursday I made the trip north. As you can imagine it’s a full day trip – but well worth it just to visit Carlisle but the added bonus of meeting up with a friend makes it doubly so. I was lucky in other respects as well. The weather could not have been better, blue skies and sunshine showed the scenery at its best – you could even see snow on the Lakeland peaks in the distance.
All the trains ran to time, although on parts of the journey the L-S-C train moves very slowly. During all this time with just the odd glance out of the window I was engaged reading Claire Tomalin’s ‘Dickens: a life”.
We met up at the station and went straight for tea/coffee at John Watt’s. Watt’s is primarily a Coffee Shop but I was pleased to note that they serve loose tea by the pot. Having just checked the website again I notice that they are tea blenders as well as coffee roasters. The over riding smell in the shop/cafe is roasting coffee and although I don’t drink it I have no objection at all to the smell. Teas and coffees are only half the game – they sell every kind of tea and coffee requisite accessory imaginable plus high class chocolates of all kinds. I couldn’t resist asking where the Christmas decorations had been hung – there didn’t appear to be any free space at all.
We visited two bookshops. Handily placed was The Oxfam Bookshop (most towns have one now) just two doors down from Watt’s. And then we moved on to Carlisle’s piece de resistance for bibliophiles The Bookcase. It’s a many-roomed shop filled to overflowing with books. The owners are up to date with secondhand book prices but we found lots of the old orange Penguins in pretty good to excellent condition for just a couple of pounds each. I bought an unread copy of Monica Dickens’ ‘My Turn to Make the Tea’. (The copy on the far left of the picture.)
My friend and her husband have not long lived in Cumbria. They moved over from Northumberland in 2010. I was taken back to their new home for a lovely lunch and inspection of house and garden. Suddenly it was time to head to the nearby quaint old station at Armathwaite where we said our ‘Goodbyes’ and I headed back to Leeds arriving with just one remaining chapter of the life to read.