Lake District Rituals

09/07/2011 § Leave a comment

I’m just back from a week in the Lakes, where I have learnt a valuable lesson about weather forecasting. It seems that the met office have decided ‘sunny with cloud, rain and lightning’ is a useful prediction for the day’s climate; which seems to imply that your average weather forecaster never has to get dressed in the morning.

Still – some patches of glorious sunshine have meant more time spent walking, and reflecting on one of the customs of Lakeland walkers. When you pass another group, it is standard practice to say hello, except when you don’t. This is not an easy situation, and with that in mind I think someone needs to codify some rules. The following applies to the first person in any walking group:

Rule 1 – you should always be ready to say hello. My great-aunt Joan is very clear on this point. Once upon a time everyone was polite when they met, and if you’re not going to say hello, you’re part of a wide-ranging decline in civilised values.

Rule 2 – notwithstanding rule 1, it would also be rude to interrupt someone’s privacy. If they don’t want to interact, you should under no circumstances intrude. This would risk non-reply, which is embarrassing to you and your party.

Rule 3 – because of this, every time you approach another party of walkers, you need to simultaneously a) try to establish eye contact to check whether you can say hello; b) not try so hard that you look like some kind of crazy, starey person who has escaped from the Ambleside Home for the Chemically Stabilised. The correct glance should last about three quarters of a second.

Rule 4 – if you don’t make eye contact with the first person, be ready to try again with all the other members of the party. This is especially relevant if the leader of the other group is a man in his forties or fifties and is clearly concentrating on proving he can still climb a hill as well as he could twenty years ago.

Rule 5 – only say hello/hi/mhmm/morning once for the whole group. This is a one-to-many situation, so do not greet every person you pass, even if they all say hello to you. This is not a wedding reception.

A very, very important corollary is that these rules only apply to visitors to the Lakes. Saying hello to a local would be seen as trying to pretend to full Cumbrian citizenship when it is quite clear, from your overpriced boots to your taste in garish goretex, that you are nothing of the sort. There, if they deign to notice your existence, it’s better to settle for a regretful smile.

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