The going on the Settle-Carlisle railway challenge of course allowed me to half-complete another, Challenge Number 37: Take Charlotte To See Both Her Parents’ Home Towns, as Carlisle is where Dave grew up. I established a family tradition as, like my mother before me, I married a man called David from Cumbria with a PhD. Dave was actually living in Carlisle for the first few months after we got together in 2001 (working as a political assistant for the –ahem- Conservative party of the city council), which meant a lot of time spent on the far less scenic Virgin West Coast line, trekking to and from London. This sounds crazy now (it must have been love), but having tried to conduct a transatlantic long-distance relationship when I was a teenager, the journeying really didn’t seem too big a deal. Besides, rail fares were super cheap that year after the Hatfield crash forced so many speed restrictions to be imposed, thus doubling most journey times. And Cumbria, in the grip of foot and mouth, was glad of the extra visitor, I’m sure.
Charlotte had actually been to Carlisle once before, to her grandparents’ house on Boxing Day, but she’d never seen the city centre. I’m not sure what she made of the place, but she decided to inject some cool by insisting on wearing her sunglasses throughout lunch. Or maybe she just felt the need for disguise.