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Tebay, 3 June 2012

June 17, 2012

I’m going to spend my next half day with a girl called Joyce
Going to possibly stop at Tebay with a girl called Joyce

Ode to Joyce

We head into Dent, which although not referred to in any HMHB songs, carries special significance because it shares its name with Countdown’s beautiful lexicographer Susie, and meet up with our friend David, who’s on a walking trip.  Over breakfast, he’s had a lecture from the manager of the George and Dragon about the importance of the Jubilee, and a confusing warning about “Gypsies with Botox”.    On the way out of town, we pass a long train of gypsies in Bowtop caravans on their way to the Appleby Horse Fair, and realise what he meant.

Arriving in Sedbergh, we decide to leave our bags at the hotel and make the 24 mile round trip to Tebay to tick off our second destination.  Nick insists that it’s not enough to visit the village of Tebay, and that we have to go the extra two miles to the motorway services, on the basis that it’s clear that the song’s protagonist is stopping there, with Joyce.  This sparks the first real debate about the details of our challenge – is it enough to just bag the placename, or do we have to re-enact the events in the song? We decide to draw up some clearly defined terms of reference on our return.  The route to Tebay goes through the Howgill hills, which don’t seem to attract many walkers, probably because the M6 passes next to them.

Unsurprisingly we appear to be the only customers at Westmorland Motorway Services to have arrived by bicycle, but despite the appalling lack of cycle storage facilities, we’re well catered for.  After taking the obligatory photos for the sake of the Judging Panel, we have a gourmet lunch (apparently they have a Michelin Star), and leave very satisfied, especially after extra tiffin.  Later on we wonder if we should have gone to the shop and bought ten kit kats and a motoring atlas, and a Blues CD on the Hallmark label.

There’s another long slag on the way back, and morale and blood sugar start to drop again, but once we get to what appears to be a weather station above Sedbergh it’s pretty much downhill all the way back.  Over drinks at the hotel, we get talking to an American gentleman about Obama, road trips, the poor quality of food at American diners in the early 60s, and John Steinbeck.  When I mention that I once studied literature in Kansas he sadly misjudges me as a Literary Man and urgently seeks my advice on eighteenth century English essayists: “So I’ve read all of Carlyle, Ruskin, and Arnold – who else should I be getting into?”  I come up very short, muttering something about not being much of a fan of eighteenth century literature, and he returns to his burger, disappointed.

We meet up with David for dinner and end up at one of the less touristy pubs in Sedbergh.  I’m informed that the jukebox hasn’t worked for five years, but the regulars are delighted with our a capella version of Lord Hereford’s Knob.

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