I reckon old Alfred Wainwright had the right idea about death. He left clear instructions for his ashes to be scattered by the shore of Innominate Tarn, high up on the Lake District fells - a place he had held in special regard for years previous. I like this idea more than that of being crammed into the local graveyard like so many sardines in a tin...and I’ve never been much of a social animal anyway.
So while I’ve been sitting here, feeling like I’m dying (man-flu is very serious, you know), I’ve been mulling over a shortlist of possible locations for my final ‘casting to the four winds’. At the moment, the ideal spot seems to elude me.........
1. Yates’ Wine Lodge, Preston: I met my lovely wife here 12 years ago whilst on a bender with friends. The place is a hell-hole though, and I don’t like the thought of being trodden into the vomit-stained carpets to be lost amongst layer upon layer of Malboro Light ash.
2. The City Walls of York: I’ve always thought York a beautiful city. Karen and I have spent many a romantic weekend away there and I proposed to her as we took a stroll along the City Walls. The parapet can get busy though and I remember hanging around, dithering like an imbecile whilst I waited for a quiet moment to deliver the question. I wouldn’t make Karen stand there in a similarly foolish manner, waiting for the ideal opportunity to ‘upend the urn’.
3. A river somewhere: At first glance, this seems a great idea – the outdoors-loving angler is returned to a favourite spot on the river to be gently washed to sea, thus returning to nature. I can think of several places where I would quite happily be distributed, and as I get older, there will probably be many more. But for me, fly fishing is a largely solitary past-time, a way to escape the stresses of the outside world. The isolation of spending long periods alone is always tempered by the reassurance that my family is always waiting at home for me and without that knowledge, my time by the river would be lonely indeed. What would it mean to my loved ones to tip my ashes into a river they had probably never even seen before? Not very much I suspect.
4. The Lake District Fells: And so we return to the ‘Wainwright method’. This has one significant disadvantage; I have no intention of dying anytime soon, and would like to think that my family and I will, God willing, all live to a respectable old age. Is it therefore sensible to choose a place at high altitude and fairly inaccessible, for some poor old relative to have to reach in order to perform the rites? There are some spots in the fells which are very dear to me - Belle’s Knott, Levers Water, the summit of Fleetwith Pike to name a few – but maybe I would be better off with somewhere more easily reached. For the time being I’d settle for the top of Walla Crag – a place where Karen, George and I have enjoyed many happy moments. And if the wind was right, I would drift off on the breeze over Keswick, Bassenthwaite and out into the Solway Firth.