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Autumn, mists and mellow fruitfulness .........Where's my jacket?
It's been mild here in the Peak District of Derbyshire for the past couple of weeks. It might seem chilly, but at around 8°C it's warmer than normal, and I'm not complaining. I was out on the ridge on one side of my home valley last Sunday; it was pure magic. There was a cool blue sky, few clouds, but the dales on either side were filled with mist ruffled by a light breeze and reflecting the late sun's golden light deepening the shadows on the riven moors. I sat for half an hour or so watching the sun decline, perched comfortably on a row of jagged millstone rocks, which, from the valley below, form a skyline like the spine of a dinosaur. These rocks have been here since the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, placed by the receding glacier, just so I could sit and gaze in wonder at the raw beauty of this scene.
After half an hour I was reminded about the ice age again, as my bum was frozen, and the light was fading. I was wearing my six year old Barbour Sapper Jacket which easily kept my upper body warm, but I wished I'd brought my gloves. Beneath, I was wearing a battered pair of Levi 501s. I'm afraid jeans of any sort are pretty useless at keeping you warm and dry in the British outdoors much after October, but as a child of the 1960s, Levis have been my second skin for 50 years. Not the same pair of course; no, I must have had at least three pairs in that time (he lied). Feet were warmly accommodated in my old Hunter Bamboo Carbon wellys, which are fine to walk in and coped with the odd patch of mud and swamp which are all part of the peakland experience.
I LOVE my Barbour Sapper though; it provides everything I want from an everyday autumn/winter jacket. It's warm. but not too warm that you sweat when exerting yourself. It's got lots of pockets for mobile phone, wallet, Swiss Army penknife, keys, dog leash, etc. And an odd but useful, what I call 'Napolean' pocket in the front, great for all manner of man's junk which I always carry about with me. It's superb as a car coat too: I'm in and out of my Land Rover all day long; it's short enough with a 2-way zip to quickly adjust to the comfortable car sitting position. The fabric, (mines Olive coloured, but available in Rustic and Black) is completely waterproof with its medium-weight 6oz Barbour Sylkoil wax, which is naturally 'breathable', and, along with its fold-away hood - seldom used but handy if you get caught out in a downpour - it makes a cosy thick collar. But this is a versatile, comfortable and, dare I say, stylish jacket for a chap like me, Oh and Country Attire do a Lady's Sapper too in Navy, Black and Olive. A bit more shapely and 'fitted' than the men's version, but just right for that discerning 'gel' who knows what to wear, town and country alike.
As the the sun sank I needed to get back to the pub, where a pint of bitter and the company of a handful of good friends and villagers always restores the circulation, warming heart and the body simultaneously. So after a downhill ramble for half an hour in the gathering dusk, I stepped into the 'Tap Room', as we British quirkily call the saloon bar in our pubs.
This dates from probably 100 years ago when pubs were segregated into two bars; Saloon (aka: snug, public, tap room, etc.), and Lounge. This segregation was basically on the lines of the British class system, which tended to separate the working man from his more well-to-do neighbours. In consequence, saloon bars décor was generally plain, the furniture basic, but the drinks were then a penny or so cheaper. Ladies however were not permitted in the saloon. Indeed a 'lady' ought not be seen unaccompanied even in the Lounge Bar, those who transgressed this rule were seen as 'fast' by the rather stuffy and judgemental society of the time.
My 'local' pub dates back three or four hundred years, during which time it has been transformed many times, from a simple village tavern, to the thriving 'Gastro Pub' it is today. Fortunately it has retained the essence of a proper pub, and it is this ambience which draws me and many local friends to our weekly conclave of laughter, gossip and good spirits as we catch up with each other's news. Coming in off the moors the pub seems very warm and I immediately divest myself of the Barbour and scarf, hang them on a hook on the bar front and order my drink, adding a couple of drinks for a couple of friends. The floor is usually littered with sleeping dogs, steaming in damp weather, whose owners, like me have been out enjoying the hills and dales around us, and the goodwill and banter are loud and amusing.
After a couple of hours it's time to head home to dinner followed by a comfortable evening in front of the log burning stove, where staying awake can be a bit of a challenge. But I'm lucky to have the wonderful peakland countryside right outside my door in all its daily moods and foibles, and luckier still to be a part of a traditional English village with all its moods and foibles too. No, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.