Countryside in the Lake District. The abandoned swimming pool at Grange-Over-Sands. A morbid train daydream. Things that stay the same also change, as long as you do. Losing the excitement of Childhood.
It’s refreshing to look out the car window without rain so heavy it’s like staring at the grainy picture of an old movie. There’s an occasional moo and baa from the neighbouring fields. The sun warms the car.
We’re parked on a lane that cuts through farmland. Hills obscure the horizon. Nowhere here is flat for longer than a quarter mile. Some of the slopes are covered with trees, others are open and yellow, dotted here and there with dark undergrowth that gives the impression of a birthmark. As you scan across the summits you see that they lose their colour to distance and bleed to a blue tint.
The night before, I dreamt of the abandoned open air swimming pool on the seafront of Grange-over-Sands. I walked across the boggy, grassy beach to the part of the pool that extended out from the promenade and reached toward the sea. It was a tall, fenced off semi-circle that encroached on the beach. The ground was littered with the white shells of dead crabs.
At the building’s most remote point, where the sea was closest, there was an old gate. It would be too tempting to climb regardless of whether in the dream world or the waking one. Unfortunately, I woke up after I’d made it to the other side; I was left with only a moment’s flash of a lost and graffiti covered 60s style swimming pool. The dry basin was dusty with leaves and rubbish, turned black with age and grime and collected rain water.
I hadn’t been to Grange-over-Sand for maybe ten years. It wasn’t very different, nothing had changed from memory. To the west of the seafront promenade was a wide patch of sharp, boggy grass. Past that, a strip of mud where seagulls congregated before the sea. Running along the other side of the promenade were train tracks. It was an unusual section of railway in that it had no fences to speak of. Anyone could lay on the tracks quite undisturbed if they were so inclined. At least until the train dragged them (or some of them) away.
And then, you on the train with your head out the window, watching the scene—the desolate beach and the black bollards and the swaying grass—the whole carriage rattling and bouncing and chugging as you pull away, then that stomach churning stutter and grinding as a body splits into pieces under the train wheels.
I suppose trains only reach speeds high enough to maim around here. That or health and safety hasn’t made it this far north. This isn’t impossible. Everything in the North is a little more informal and a little more sensible.
Grange-over-Sands had a mysterious aura when I was a child. I’d never seen a coastline like that before, uniquely washed out, from bog to mud to murky water. I remember it feeling strangely apocalyptic. I think it was the rain, the greyness and the long seafront path that arced around to some unknown destination, that gave it that impression. All of this, coupled with the feeling of distance, of loneliness and isolation, that seemed to feed the town. And despite all that, some part of me, my soul, my heart, whatever cliché you like, is touched by Grange-Over-Sands and connected to that tract of beach that sits in my mind like a sad postcard from childhood.
My second visit wasn’t so different. If anything rainier, more apocalyptic. But the feeling was gone just the same. The realisation that my wonderment had faded like an old bruise was a sad one. It isn’t just the wonder though, it is the potential for wonder that is sapped as you age and which you must fight hard to maintain. I found myself content, but neutral; the atmosphere didn’t cling to my pores and imagination like it had the first time.
The journey to Scotland should take about four hours. We’ll leave whenever we feel like it. There is no rush.