What's Tony Thinking

From the Lake District


We’ve spent the last week in England’s Lake District, famous for its writers, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and, somewhat later, Beatrix Potter.

But of course the real draw, for the poets too, is the landscape. High crags and steep ridges above sheep-speckled moors. In the valleys multiple lakes. We were based in the north part of the district at Keswick for several days. Now we’re in Windermere in the south.

Our time here has been shaped a bit by the first named storm of the season, Storm Ali. Winds of 50 to 80 mph meant a fair number of trees and branches down. We still managed a number of hikes, including a really beautiful one around Buttermere (pictured here), a lake to the southwest of Keswick. We stayed off the crags and ridge lines because of the high winds.

One of the reasons for coming to the Lake District, besides the natural beauty, is that my ancestors on the Booth side came from here. Not only did we find evidence of the Booths, with a large grocery chain named “Booths,” but the Robinsons were, if anything, more in evidence. There is a brewery in Stockport, “Robinsons,” and Robinsons pubs all over the place. Here’s a photo of me in front of the Packhorse pub in Keswick, a Robinsons pub. Alas, I wasn’t too wild about their beer. British beer is too creamy, light and warm for me.

Reading up a bit on the Robinsons of the brewery I discovered that the founder was a William Robinson. And his eldest son was George. As it happens my grandfather was William and my father, George. Not the same as the brewery folks, who were half a century earlier. Anyway, kind of fun. The founder of the Salvation Army was a Booth, perhaps balancing out the beer brewing Robinsons.

All over the Lake District the colorful phone booths have been repurposed as defibrillators, which I found amusing. This one stands in Grassmere, which is half way between Keswick and Windermere.

Let’s give the last word to Wordsworth, from his sonnet, “The World Is Too Much With Us.” (I quoted a bit of this to two Lake District residents we met while hiking. They looked at me quizzically. “Wordsworth,” I offered.)

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.”
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