If Chapel- en le Frith, in Derbyshire, was the capital of “Sticky Ends,” Bakewell could be said to be the capital of “Near Misses,” at least where I was concerned. Its bustling, yet peaceful and homely nature belied what lay beneath its glossy veneer. Yet, it was a place that I was drawn back to again and again. To live in Bakewell was my deepest desire, and each time I went there, I would eye up convenient bus shelters on the outskirts, wondering about the possibility of camping out in one semi permanently. Though they were open at the front, I imagined in some way fixing some kind of door on , or even just a thick curtain, having a sleeping bag and a primus stove, plus a few home comforts like cushions and the like, and calling it home. Summer and Spring would not be so bad, and maybe Autumn too. But Winter was a totally different proposition. Winters in Derbyshire were nothing like winters I had ever known before. In fact, it was one Winter that I had my first “Near Miss” in Bakewell. When it snows in Derbyshire, it seems to snow like no other place on earth, and even the snow itself seems to have a character all of its own. One minute there is nothing there, and the next it is feet deep.
And thus it was that I found myself, one seemingly innocuous winter’s afternoon, sitting in the tea shop above the china shop, suddenly watching a growing drama on the streets outside. There I was, drinking my coffee and eating buttered scones, little knowing what was about to come.
But, there they were, cars, buses, motor bikes, cycles, and people, slithering all over the place. Just outside the china shop was a roundabout, only on this late afternoon it was more of a slideabout than a roundabout. Going off to the right of the roundabout was a steep hill, and however hard they tried, cars just could NOT get up it. Knowing that the way I was going to go to leave Bakewell and get home was fairly flat, I did not panic too much. But I knew that I needed to leave quickly. Coffee and scones suddenly did not seem important. I hastily left the teashop and headed to where my car was parked. As I walked, I began to realise that I was probably not going to get out of Bakewell that night. So I did something that I was rather loathe to do. I abandoned my car and somehow or other managed to walk up the steep slithery hill past the Church, to the Vicarage. The Vicar and his wife were friends of mine, and I had stayed there before, but was not sure what would happen if I turned up for the night uninvited. However, upon opening the door and seeing me standing there, the Vicar exclaimed, “Oh, I am SO glad you have come,” and hustled me into the living room which was filled with a wonderful homely orange glow from the rather old fashioned table lamp on a side table. Soon, the Vicar and his wife were filling me with hot chocolate and sandwiches, and offering me a tartan nightie and bright red dressing gown. I felt fit to do a Highland Reel, which was far from what was happening down in the main street, according to what a caller at the Vicarage said. There, cars were getting stranded, and the hotels were getting filled up. I heard, the next day, that some drivers had to spend the whole night in their cars, as there was not a bed to be found anywhere. I had had one very “Near Miss.”
Another rather “Near Miss” involved another Vicar – this time, a woman, Lisbet. Lisbet came from Sweden, and had been a Vicar at St. George’s in Scunthorpe. We had got to know each other through our academic work, and when we moved to Derbyshire, Lisbet moved back to Sweden. A couple of years later she suddenly rang me saying, “Do you know any good pubs anywhere?”
“What – in SWEDEN? I exclaimed.
“No, Derbyshire,” she replied.
“DERBYSHIRE” I yelled down the phone.
“Yes, I’m in Bakewell.”
“I’ll be there,” I shouted excitedly. “See you at the pub in the market square in half an hour.”
So there we were, the Swedish woman vicar and the wild woman of Derbyshire, loose on the town. Suddenly, as we sat there, the police appeared in the pub, and a police dog was sniffing me all over, refusing to budge. A policewoman came to me and searched me, the dog still refusing to budge. It was the first time I had ever been in a Drugs raid, and what’s more, singled out by a dog as a suspicious character. To the police woman’s disappointment, nothing was found, and I explained that I had a bitch on heat at home, and that was what the dog must have been smelling!
Afterwards, Lisbet and I left the pub hastily, feeling that we truly had had a “Near Miss” and imagined what would have happened if the vicar from Sweden and the wild woman of Derbyshire had ended up in clink for the night.
Another “Near Miss” involved the vicar’s wife and a cat. Well, kind of. I had been tempted to buy a cauliflower from a particular shop in Bakewell, as they were on display outside the shop. For some reason, I decided not to. Later, the vicar’s wife informed me that the local wild cat was regularly seen peeing on said vegetables! Everyone in Bakewell knew about this, but those of us who were more visitors, even if regular ones, did not know this. Another “Near Miss.”
There were many more such Near Misses, but despite that, Bakewell was where we wanted to live, and in fact we did begin to purchase a Grade Two listed house not far from the river . We were informed that the house had never been flooded . At the last minute , we pulled out because we realised that we would be very restricted in what we could do to the house. Shortly after that, the whole of Bakewell flooded! Probably our biggest Near Miss of all.
We no longer live in Derbyshire, the capital of “Near Misses,” but one day I will tell you how I got stuck in a stable with a goat with bright yellow eyes. Watch this space