I was in Penrith on Saturday and had an hour or so to spare, so I walked up to the Beacon. It’s the hill that overlooks Penrith from the east, and promises fabulous views out over Penrith and the North Lakes.
It was hot, but the hill itself is well wooded and there is plenty of shade. It was Penrith Show Day, so there were no dog walkers and I never saw a soul.
Eventually I got to the top; now for the view. Except you couldn’t see anything for the chuffing trees; instead you stand on the top vaguely trying to peer through one spot where the trees are a bit lower and if you stand on tiptoe you might just catch a glimpse of the business park.
On the top of the Beacon is a building, constructed by our ancestors so those who made the walk could shelter if it got wet, and could get that bit of extra height. Except of course, it’s got bars on the windows and a heavy steel door of a thickness that submarine bulkheads aspire to. So Penrith has a view you cannot see and a monument that is quite literally, neither use nor ornament.
The problem is, people can get so caught up in the detail, they miss the point. At the moment trees are ‘a good thing’. This has become almost an article of faith with some. So obviously you cannot fell a few around the summit of the Beacon because the sudden outpouring of C02 will cause the oceans to boil and the atmosphere to stream off to space.
I’ve seen similar across in Yorkshire. When I was a kid I got to know some of the North York Moors pretty well; and there were some fabulous views. When I took my own children, the trees had grown up and the seats and picnic tables they’d put at the viewpoints were rotting in the long grass because there wasn’t a view any more. That forestry was commercial so it’s probably been clear felled and replanted and the view might be back by now.
This seems to be part of the human condition. We lose the plot. Someone asked me about ‘dinner parties’. Now that is part of polite society that I’ve entirely managed to avoid.
First you have to decide what you’re holding it for. Is it to impress and bedazzle folk with your sophistication and wealth, or is it supposed to be a chance for fellowship, fun and catching up with old friends. Decide which one it is and go for it, but don’t confuse them or expect to attempt the first and to simultaneously achieve the second.
We do it with homes as well. Is the home somewhere you live, a combination of den, office and sanctuary? Or is it the exquisite setting designed to set you off and display your talents to perfection? Again, make your mind up. Especially make sure that all the denizens agree, because the two aims are not mutually compatible.
I suppose life is like that as well. Every so often you have to look at your life and decide whether you are living the life you want; or the life you have just drifted into.
Because I’m like that, I’ll finish with a quote from ‘Dead Man Riding East’, available from all good electronic bookshops and even from
Alissa pointed to a chair and Benor obediently sat down in it.
“Where am I? What’s going on?”
“Introductions first. I am Alissa, a senior concubine of the Prince of Talan. You are in the Harem of the Prince of Talan. So, other than being a dead man, who are you?”
Benor concentrated on the important bit. “What do you mean, ‘dead man’?”
“You are a man in the Harem of Prince Cirramar, Prince of Talan. He is a cheerless individual, paranoid, capricious, although apparently occasionally whimsical. He has decreed that death is the penalty for any man who enters here, other than him. And whilst I don’t claim to know the Prince too well, I’m pretty sure you aren’t him.”
Benor stood up, “I am Benor Dorfinngil, also known as Benor the Cartographer, of Toelar.”
“I am Alissa, originally of Watersmeet.” She smiled, “I suspect Watersmeet means as little to you as Toelar does do me.”
Benor nodded. “But why have you brought me here?”
Alissa turned away from him, a gesture which allowed him to admire her figure. She turned back with two glasses and a decanter she had lifted from a small table behind her.
“I am thirty-five, I am the concubine of the current Prince of Talan, as I was concubine of the previous one, and have met neither of them. I have been trapped here long enough and have decided to leave. A lifetime of embroidery lacks appeal. But to leave I need a helper and a companion, ideally one who is as desperate as I am.
When I saw you arrive I realised you fitted the bill. You are, to put it bluntly, perhaps the only man in Talan who dare not betray me, as by being here you are automatically condemned to death.”
Benor took the wine glass she offered him and poured himself a drink from the decanter, he sniffed it carefully, sipped and smiled. He raised his glass to her.
“Madame, Benor Dorfinngil at your service.”