I think I came to Leek to explore the possibility of acquiring a special set of bagpipes. Namely the “Dudey” which is a gentle, bewitching species of small pipe.
Originally a Midlander, I went straight down memory lane while making plans to come up here. So I got rather excited and added a couple of days to potter about on my bike… and dwell a little in the past.
Walks in Dovedale with my parents. A holiday in Ashbourne as a reluctant teenager. Summer music near Buxton, with my children and then all of us in a leaking tent (I was far more anxious about protecting our instruments than keeping us dry) on a farm belonging to a prematurely aged Derbyshire man with the sweetest kittens.
In the most wonderful accent he told me how he was unusual to have lived past 40. How men in the steel industry had the hairs on their arms permanently burnt away, their lungs scorched and problems from intense dehydration. How I wish I had had a tape recorder.
On Thursday, the weather forecast was so dire I might have left little “Miss Roberts” in the shed. I am so glad I ignored it.
As it is, I have had 2 wonderful rides and my waterproofs have stayed rolled up in their bag. Sparkling sunshine yesterday afternoon, with a circuit around Rudyard reservoir, along a disused railway track, part of which still supports a narrow gauge steam train. Then up up up onto moorland for a lovely swoop back down again. A perfect way to chuck off the inertia from sitting in the car. (It poured all the way up the M5 and the M6)
Today there was just the right amount of mist. White skies; ethereal, out of focus trees and vibrant, warm earth colours, juicy mosses, ragged blond grasses and deep red berries. An elegant nuthatch glowing and whizzing after its pointy beak up a tree trunk. Little blue tits binking about in the bare hedgerows.
I moan about the colourlessness of November, but I stand corrected. It is only my inner greyness that dulls the beauty. And besides, grey skies and dry-grass-beige are brilliant springboards for the deep rusts and choice greens to sing out of the damp, boggy roadsides.
I had a lovely buckwheat savoury pancake in Leek and such a friendly welcome. Watch out Totnes. You have serious competition! AND, naturally, I met a woman who has family connections in the Peloponnese! (I wish I had thought to ask your name)
Manchester and the Halle Orchestra in Bridgewater hall tomorrow. More happy memories of sitting enthralled in a concert in my home town, Nottingham with my darling father nodding off or laughing at the trombones.
I gather my mother took him protesting all the way to the ballet when they were courting. The male lead split his tights and Daddy had to be forcibly removed because he was laughing so loudly…
On the way up I visited my aged, twice widowed godfather, Bill, in Worcester. At 96 he says he is one of the last of his friends remaining. He is plucky about loneliness and grateful for visitors. He was my father’s closest friend. There is a beautiful youthful picture of them in a little boat together. Bill’s hand on my father’s knee. He talked about the crucial importance of men in men’s company and how much he misses his club. He served in the militia and hated it.
All of these recollections inspire and touch me and make me so grateful for another mini-adventure.
A small collection from today’s ride. Around and about Rudyard, Meerbrook and Leek.