|Ten thousand saw I at a glance...|
TI like a good walk; and I like a walk with substance — a purpose, if you like. So where better to go on a spring afternoon in April than the English Lake District? What better objective, on a day when every garden is bursting out in patches of daffodils brighter than spilt tins of sunshine yellow paint, than the place where William Wordsworth first saw the sight that inspired him to write his most famous poem?
That place is on the shores of Ullswater, easily accessible, so the guidebook tells us, from the road. A couple of miles up a valley, with spectacular views. What could be closer to perfection on a bright and breezy day? So that was what we did. And this is what I learned.
Writers Are Not Always Strictly Accurate
We knew that anyway. Didn’t we? Or did we really expect to see ten thousand daffodils tossing their heads in sprightly dance? Come to that, did we really expect to see a lonely cloud when anyone who’s ever set foot in the lakes knows that these are the feats of nature that appear ten thousand at a time?
Every Word Counts
Yes, every word. Every and and every but. One in particular counted on this particular day. ‘Keep walking with the wall on your left and you will eventually reach a gate.’ Guess which.
Oh, and what you don’t say counts as well. There was one word missing from the description of the walk. That was the word muddy.
Read the Small Print
I freely admit that it was my fault that the so-called daffodil walk never produced more than a handful of daffodils in a farm garden. As twist in the wall after twist in the wall failed to make good the floral display, I stopped to read the directions in more detail. And discovered that it promised nothing more than ‘a view down to Ullswater where the poet was walking when he saw the famous daffodils’.
There’s Always a Silver Lining
It was a long upwards struggle on a day warmer than expected. But when we reached the top of our daffodil-light trek and turned to look down the valley, the many clouds showed their silver linings. The view back down towards Ullswater more than made up for a few flowers.
As it happens we did see the daffodils, on the drive back along the lake shore. They looked a bit sheepish, a few clumps of wild ones hiding among the trees and rather more than a few domestic ones (larger and brasher) marching along the grass verge on the other side of the road. Still not ten thousand; at least not at a glance.
It was a stupendous walk, though. And so to the last and the biggest life lesson to be plucked from our foray into Wordsworth country. Reader, he may have lied about the daffodils. And it really doesn’t matter.