Letter from the West

Before I get into the subject of this letter I have to deal with television – the thief of time.
We’ve been back in West Cumbria for 12 weeks and have already lost 6 of those weeks watching the box in the corner. In SA we subscribe to the absolutely cheapest bouquet (bucket!!!) from DSTV which means that once we have seen the news and attempted to record something on TCM (which will never be watched) we are able to get on with life. The Freeview bucket in the UK on the other hand seems to disable us; reducing SuperV and me to a pair of open mouthed, fork raised, supper on lap dummies watching ‘waking the dead’ and the adverts. The difference is THE WEATHER. It’s too damn wet and cold to do anything else. In Greyton its 20C and sunny, here just outside Aspatria its 15C and – likely to rain. Winter in Greyton and Summer here in Cumbria – big lambs are in the fields; daffodils have gone; bare chested unemployables (of all sexes) are smoking outside pubs. Just like Greyton?
The flight back to the UK was uneventful except for the sleep walking incident. SuperV+Me shared a sleeping pill as we left CPT – she awoke just before Heathrow. I awoke in first class, 3 hours into the flight surrounded by trolley dollies (of all sexes). I was attempting to get under a duvet already covering a very surprised looking businessman (who was wearing a one piece fleecy pyjama). I was escorted, by senior steward Jeremy, back to my place in cattle class. Red wine and inflight films for me in future; I’m not risking a sleeping pill again. My shoes were returned to me just before landing.
The similarities between Western Cape and Western Cumbria are more than skin deep – certainly not weather deep. The Difference is one of scale.
West Cumbria like the Overberg is all about agriculture and tourism. The towns and villages are at most 8k’s apart whereas the Overberg scale is probably 40k (at least 3 times (possibly even a squared function?)).
Difference = Mass x distance squared; big D = M times little d2 (Stick with me on this uncle J). Aspatria, of dissimilar size but similar in nature/culture to Caledon, has very little infrastructure; services; cafes; shops; attractions – because people are prepared to travel easily 8 miles or so to Cockermouth which, at last count, had 31 pubs/hotels/cafes – and supermarkets and museums and mountain bike hire and banks and petrol stations and parks and drankwinkels and delicatessens and bookshops and a police station (sometimes populated).
The villages and hamlets within a 25 km radius of a point halfway between Aspatria and Cockermouth encompass the district of Allerdale. 94,000 people (all of them cousins!) within an area of 1,242 km2
Theeswaterkloof, encompassing Greyton and Caledon has a population of 93,000 (almost the same as Allerdale) but at 3,400km2 is 3 times bigger
My formula: Difference = mass (population) x distance squared, starts to make sense (to me at least). The cost of fuel has something to do with it; BUT dependant on the need, a provider is 9 times more likely to establish locally with every 3kms of travel. Tourism also has to be factored in. To do the maths I would need the brain I had when I was 19 (and libido suppressants).
This is beginning to sound like a thesis rather than a supposedly entertaining letter from your nephew – indulge me please. I’ve almost lost interest.
What I’m trying to say is that Greyton and Aspatria are almost the same size, at 3,000 people each; as are Caledon and Cockermouth at 7,000. Between them the 4 places probably have similar facilities but distributed differently because of distances? The UK towns are less self-sufficient mainly because everywhere is nearer. In SA the dorps tend to be self-sufficient (local is lekker?). However SA people are still willing to travel – local being a 50 mile radius rather than the 3 mile radius in the UK.
The trend in the UK, because fuel is hyperbolically expensive, is for people to not travel as much. There is a resurgence of home delivery and buying as lekker local as possible. The Aspatria post-office has just had a makeover and now includes a card and gift shop. People in SA are also becoming more energy conscious. I anticipate that the infrastructure will move towards home delivery and local services.
It costs R550 now, (about half of the UK) to fill up the old Merc; but SA distances are 3 times those of the UK– do the economics! OK I’ve finished the socio-economic rant-lecture you can stop whistling.
One of the two Aspatria convenience stores has also had a makeover in our absence and now resembles the Village Store in Greyton (further proof of the Vilko Stargate?). Saturday morning I enquired in the bakery section about buying some croissants – pronounced crusarnts in Greyton, but croy-ee-sants in Aspatria.
‘We only make them in the afternoon’ was the slightly puzzled response (Note: I have translated from the local Cumbrian dialect – for the benefit of the KZN contingent in Greyton).
‘Why?’ Says I.
‘Because they are cakes – Dumbo’ comes the reply.
‘OK. Can I ask that you make some for Sunday morning please – I would like them for breakfast?’
As arranged, I was at the bakery section the following morning, glimpsing, what looked like Mike Kock buying dog biscuits (Stargate? Vilkos? Ermmm); and there they were – 5 oven fresh crersarnts.
‘I’ll take all 5 please’
‘Can’t do that’ says the cake keeper ‘if I sell you all 5 there will be none left’
I negotiated for 4 and left quietly pondering on a similar moment up the SA West Coast:
In Citrusdal – I think- we had tried to have scone and cream teas. They were advertised on a large board external to the establishment as ‘the speciality’. The proprietor explained that ‘they were all gone’. She makes 7 (yes 7 – why 7?) every day and they sell out by 10 in the morning; such is their popularity. I asked why did she not made more – she explained that they might not sell. QED (Quod Erat Dumbo)
I must tell you about the ‘No Pie’ pie shop in Cleator – a mining village about 20 miles from Aspatria – some time.
Your sensible nephew
John-Brian
PS My supervisor sends her love to you and the dogs that tolerate you