The Bullying Stops Here

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Cumbria. There’s no river like a Cumbrian beck, chuckling its way over rounded pebbles; no mountain as proud as Blencathra (loosely translated as Hill of the Devil) (or Saddleback as it’s known). The greens, the blues, and the different hues for different moods … I love Cumbria.

Cumbrians are another matter. I have noticed in my four adult years of living in the county of my upbringing that there is a worrying incidence of bullying that I never noticed in Yorkshire. Sure, I would get or see the odd occasion, and some people draw it – never thought I was one of those – but I’m sure I didn’t see it so often. I checked this out with a Yorkshireman today and he agreed with me. In Yorkshire you can say what you think and people respect you for it. In Cumbria, if you say what you think, some people treat you with suspicion and might even single you out for reasons known only to themselves.

Here, I have seen it several times in different work places, in offices and homes. I have become collateral damage occasionally, because I refuse to roll over and I tend to support the underdog. Sometimes people who are quite high up lower themselves to take part in or even initiate the bullying.

I have observed that the power of letting agencies over their tenants leads directly to bullying, almost in an institutionalised sense, as if that is the way it has always been and it should be so.

People in the backwoods bully their neighbours in any respect where they have some kind of power; access to the road, or to water, or electricity. More money, even.

People turning up on the doorsteps of relatives and making threats, following the death of an elder and the ‘unfair’ decisions of a will.

Former colleagues ganging up and jeering at another who they treat as thick because she struggles to take in information. It was excrutiating. This from people who by their own admissions are unable to use a computer! Embarrassing doesn’t even cover it.

Don’t get me wrong; not everyone here is a bully – of course not! But the high incidence baffles me. I suspect it comes down to a combination of poor education, the parochialism of living in the same small town or valley your whole life, and some kind of inferiority complex. “She thinks she’s better than me. Well she’s not. I’ll show her. I’ve lived round here way longer than her. She can’t just come in and be better.” The traits seem to be usually of someone who appears to think they are better than others around them, trying to prove they are cleverer by pointing out how stupid certain individuals are. It isn’t big and it isn’t clever and by god, I didn’t realise that adults spend their lives doing this kind of thing!

I know some really lovely people – these are whom I prefer to have in my life and I work very hard to preserve their friendships … It is possible: you can be Cumbrian and wonderful. It’s the usual sad tale of a minority causing everyone to be tarred with the same brush, and quite frankly, I’m disappointed.

Offensive rant over.


Bittersweet Old Age

Old age is awful.

Imagine you’re 95. You can’t reach your knees unless you’re sitting down; you haven’t seen your feet close up in 20 years. The feet don’t work properly anyway. Somebody else cuts your nails, styles your hair; combs it, even. There’s washing, toileting and breakfasting to account for, and a continual feeling of clinging on reluctantly or stubbornly; a dignified determination, perhaps. Or just waiting for God.

When you eat, the food won’t always make it to your mouth. Irritatingly, you find it also on your hand; the mat under your plate, the floor, your clothing … worse still you don’t find it; someone else does. Maybe you don’t care anyway.

What can you do if you’re unsteady on your feet? How do you pass the time if walking is so hard that you need a rest stop between the living room and bathroom (all on the same floor)? You can read. Or watch TV. Or listen to music. Interact with the people who come to see you. It’s limited, but as with everything, what you get out of it is directly connected to how well you engage with it.

What, you’re not interested in any of those things? In that case, there’s a daily combination of sitting, sleeping, and eating to look forward to. That’s it.

We make such a big thing about health and longevity, but when someone thinks ‘I want to live forever’, they forget to mention that they want to stay youthful enough to enjoy it.

I guess the trick is to enjoy what you have at any time. There’s no way of knowing what’s around the corner; what you think is bad now could be so much worse. Maybe old age won’t be yours after all. Appreciate everything. Taste every colour. Try every food. There’s nothing like life experience to help you cope with old age and don’t forget: you will still be you. The same you who was 13, 39, 73 and 89. The same you who was 9. Trapped inside a body no longer fit for purpose.

So at 95, you’ve scored on the longevity tables; you’ve looked after your body for as long as possible. Well done and good cheer for the future.

And if you don’t live to a ripe old age, then you are spared the forced indignities and dull aching daily pain. Either way you win.

It’s a bittersweet win.

Bonny Cumbria

There is no sentiment to describe today. The beautiful light and colour scheme; blue melded with white haze; pale shades of rust brown, grass green, and (of course) sky blue; all in the shape of fells and valleys.

On days like today, I don’t want to be anywhere else.








Image c/o North News & Pictures Ltd.


Basa Not

Basa fish

This fish is marketed similarly to cod and haddock, but I’m not sure it shares their reputations.

I bought two shrinkwrapped basa fillets from the Co-op (not the best start for a meal), and proceeded to egg and breadcrumb them – even using the classic Paxo, orange breadcrumbs, so they looked pretty perfect. Breadcrumbs were seasoned with a touch of salt (definitely needed more) and a heavy shower of mixed herbs.

It was a good idea, executed reasonably well. Tasted … Well … Not that good at all. The unfortunate basa fillets tasted vaguely of fish for a millisecond, then dissolved into a flavourless mush in the mouth. Unlike the meaty cod, the basa’s flesh breaks up into tiny strands, similar to skate. It’s an unexpected mouthfeel after the crispy outer shell.
Meal was shared with some homemade potato salad.

I threw the second breadcrumbed fillet in the freezer, but tonight I took it out. It definitely needed something. Preferably salty.

Using a tiny mound of breadcrumbs (left over), I mixed a larger handful of grated cheese, a serious pinch of salt and some mixed herbs. This dry mixture easily covered the surface of the fish and baked well as the oven defrosted the fillet and crisped it up.
Meal was eaten with a heap of homemade coleslaw and some capers.

Still no flavour *sigh*. The crust was nice.