Thursday 23 May 2024

Keswick Day 1

 May 22nd. Wet and chilly

We could pre order breakfast at this accommodation so enjoyed our overnight oats and chia seeds, me with apple and cinnamon and Little Sister with blueberries and honey. During breakfast what fills the lakes began to fall and so we donned raincoats or waterproofs as our breakfast companions called them, and plonked puddles down the High Street.  

 Little Sister has inbuilt radar for children’s clothing shops and of course Yarn Shops.   So today, in the rain we found Kiddywinks and in it, temptation.   Great Aunty Margaret spent £ and Little Sister didn’t.  This state of affairs will not last long!   

Further along the street was The Puzzling World and paying our fee we went in to unleash our inner child.   Many of the illusions were at child height, 

the mirrors were not flattering,

the upside down room required contortions not suitable for seniors, 

In reality

As it appears on screen - all smoke and mirrors.  Oops not smoke.

the sloping floor room took merely seconds to nauseate, 

but we enjoyed the mirrors which mixed genes and decided that yes, we do look a little alike,   

Once out through the inevitable shop we browsed and found named mugs which lo and behold had the same words for both of us.  QED. We are sisters!

And on to the Yarn Shop, here called Needles and Pins.  Excitement building with every step Little Sister couldn’t believe it when on the door was a note saying, “Sorry gone to a funeral.”   A photo to prove we’d been and we retraced steps to The Wild Strawberry for a delicious lunch of Leek and Potato Soup with a delicious cheese scone.

While at lunch a fire engine roared up the street and we could see a commotion further along the street through our window.   A ladder up, a two fireman atop it and from what I could see they were demolishing the front of a building.   Very soon curiosity could not be contained so leaving Little Sister to pay the bill I went to investigate.  Everybody I met asked me what was happening!  How would I know?  I’m a visitor here!   Little Sister went into Boot’s and she found out that there had been smoke visible.   

So we watched two engines and around 10 firefighters demolish part of the front facade of The Cancer Research charity shop.   No flames, no smoke but copious amounts of water from both sky and firehoses.   Quite the entertainment.

Then we strolled, quickly as it was still raining, to the Pencil Museum.   This had been on my list for many years as I’d had several editions of tins of Lakeland Coloured Pencils while at primary school and have preserved one in my cupboard at home.

Admission tickets to the museum were a HB pencil each and a questionnaire on a clipboard.   We were told if we answered all questions correctly we’d receive a prize.  Great incentive to read thoroughly the many information boards.

Entry was through a dark tunnel/mine shaft denoting the graphite mines found in the area in around 1650.  Shepherds found a dark grey substance which they could use to mark their sheep and so evolved the use of graphite as a writing material.   Now it is enclosed in wood as a pencil and much more practical than the dirty leather these ancient shepherds used.  One average cedar tree makes 300,000 pencils.

I was delighted to see in the display cabinets examples of tins I fondly remember from school days and from colouring in Sunday School lessons.   There were the early refill lead pencils from which our current mechanical pencils derive.   Dip pens (and their messy inkwells) forerunners of  fountain pens were in one cabinet.   I don’t have such fond memories of those although I stood  remembering my happiness at receiving my first yellow BIC Clic ballpoint pen.

Commemorative collections in spectacular wooden caskets have been a feature of the company’s history.  For the Millennium, they produced The Borrowdale Collection which contains one of every special production over the last 150 years.   

Of greatest pride in this was the reproduction of the Secret Map and Compass Pencil.   In 1942 Charles Fraser-Smith arrived at the factory with a special task.  He created special gadgets for secret agents and the factory was involved.  He wanted pencils made that could contain a rolled up map and a compass.   Only a few at the factory were in on the secret and returned to work after hours to drill out the pencils, insert maps, replace ferrule, insert compass and eraser and invisibly mark these special pencils.  All so that the other factory workers did not know and the secrecy was maintained.

So for The Borrowdale Collection the factory manager decided to recreate the pencil.  A short video of this told the story of his efforts and that despite advances of technology it wasn’t possible to make one the exact size.  The compass sizes possible today forced them to use a 9mm diameter pencil rather than the 8mm used by the factory back in WWII.

The factory also claims the World’s Largest Pencil and has the Guinness Book Certificate to prove it.

A display of miniature carvings of the pencil leads was really interesting.  Graphite must be a very soft medium to work with yet these carvings were very precise.

For Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, the factory created two pencils where the position of the eraser became a crown encrusted with 60 diamonds.   One pencil was given to Her Majesty and the other retained in the museum.

King Charles III’s coronation was marked with the creation of two pencils in a magnificent wooden pencil box.  For this the pencil leads were capped with ornate miniature crowns.  I’m assuming that one was given to  King and the other retained at the museum.

We exited via the shop - of course - and received as our prize two more pencils each!

It was still raining so a quick walk to the Post Office to send The Postcards and then home to our accommodation for a cup of tea.  


Clare-Aimetu said...

A very wet day everywhere today. I didn't know there was a pencil museum, great history and information. Thanks for sharing your day.

Maggie said...

It's been the same here, hasn't stopped raining all day! The garden will appreciate it though.
I've heard heard about the pencil museum from a podcast i watch, looking like an interesting place and you had some free entertainment from the Firemen too!
Shame about the yarn shop being closed, perhaps you could check back tomorrow?

Hope the weather improves for you both.

Jan said...

Almost 30 years ago, my DH and I spent 2 weeks traveling through England and I have to say I've enjoyed your journey with your wonderful descriptions because we spent time in so many areas you've been to. Such fun reading all your postings! Enjoy the remainder of your trip with your sister -- such a special time to be together.

Heritage Hall said...

Save for your tour, Margaret dear, we might not have had that fascinating experience. The
"Royal" pencils were special. You even managed the excitement of the fire brigade. Your
planning is scrupulous and encompassed so much. So appreciated.

Leonore Winterer said...

A pencil museum, how interesting! I love the concept of getting a questionaire to fill out, much more fun to explore and read when on a mission.