A Very Unusual Photograph from my Traffic Police Days

Back in 1978-79, as a keen amateur photographer during the Traffic Patrol years of my police career, I was encouraged to take one of my cameras to work with me by the man who was then my Chief Superintendent.  I’m not certain, however, that he and I had quite the same end results in mind. 🙂

Having worked out a shot I would really like to achieve, I found a blacksmith in the village of Blencow, near Penrith, and gave him the drawing of a bracket that I needed — one that would hold my camera at a lateral angle of 45°, down beside the back wheel of my police BMW R80 motorcycle, so that when I was leaning to the right, the camera would come level and allow a dramatic, ultra wide-angle view along the side of the bike.

Never mind Daniel Day Lewis and his famous “Left Foot,” this is my own *right* foot! It was taken at Slapestones Roundabout, at the junction of the A66 and the A592, near Penrith, where Rheged is now located. I took it myself, in 1978 or 79, on my police BMW R80 motorcycle, using a Contax RTS MkII camera body with a 21mm lens and a motordrive, mounted on a bracket of my own design and triggered by a long, electronic, cable release. Copyright: Eddie Wren

With a motordrive fitted to my rather expensive Contax RTS MkII 35mm camera, to wind the film forward after every shot, a 21mm lens, and a 10′ electronic cable release that came up onto the saddle, up the back of my leather jacket and down the left sleeve to my hand, I took three rolls of film in one afternoon.  Many of the images were spoiled, either by vibration or by inaccurate exposure (which needed to be critically accurate on professional transparency film) but a handful of the images were very pleasing.

The best one of all was one I took as I was heading towards Kirkstone Pass, around the very sharp bend at Hartsop, at the south end of Ullswater.  I later submitted it in a photography competition and was delighted when it won top place and a national trophy that was subsequently presented to me at the London School of Economics.  In the photo in question, the chairman of the judges questioned my use of the title ‘Foot Down’, and assured me that if I had asked the motorcyclist, he would have assured me that the ‘accelerator’ on a motorbike is operated by hand and not by foot.   The judge was astonished when I told him that the police officer’s leg shown in the photo was actually my own and he was baffled as to how I’d taken the photo.  (Using brackets to hold cameras in position on  — for example — the side of vehicles was effectively unknown back then so this was apparently my one act of innovation!)

Anyway, I told him that my title referred primarily to the fact that the outer edge of the sole of my boot was actually rubbing along the road because I was banked over so far — it was a very sharp bend — but it also was intended to imply the speed involved, which was much less than appearances suggested, again due to the sharpness of the bend.

The picture shown here was taken slightly further north of Ullswater, at Slapestones Roundabout at the junction of the A66 with the A592, where the Rheged centre has since been built, and did not involve the edge of my boot being scraped along the road!  Once my three rolls of film were used up, I decided that my camera had faced enough jeopardy — primarily from vibration but flying gravel was also a concern — and that was the only time I ever did this.

Finally, the copyright notice on the attached photograph of necessity uses my real name rather than my author’s pen-name, so please don’t be confused by that.

The English Lake District National Park gets UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

Will the benefits of Unesco World Heritage Site status outweigh the problems of greater bureaucracy and tighter regulation for local Cumbrian people, given the rules already in place from the National Park Authority?

Copyright photo: Eddie Wren

One must hope that the benefits for Lake District folk from this change of status will be significant.  Presumably they will at least bring much  greater global publicity and awareness, and therefore growth in the tourist economy but how much stronger will regulations be regarding, say, farmers wanting to build an extra house for their growing family?  And what about more affordable housing schemes for locals who want to stay local rather than being priced out of their own valleys by rich city people who will pay high prices for weekend or holiday cottages?  Unique culture has already been critically damaged by the latter.

Here is the news article from the BBC.

The latest reader-review from the USA

Such a treasure to read!! 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading this book! ♡ My family are from Cumbria, England and I now live in the United States… while reading ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ I really felt closer to my home!

Steve Shearwater’s ability to transport the reader to Cumberland with his wit, memories and humour had me feeling so good! ♡ I love this book, I adore the stories and will read it again and again! ☆

Thanks, Steve… any chance of a sequel?!


[This review may be seen on the Amazon.com website and relates to a “verified purchase” by an “Amazon Customer” in Vermont, USA]

Just How Beautiful is the Lake District National Park? Bill Bryson’s Opinion!

Those of you who love American author Bill Bryson‘s hilarious travel books may know of his latest edition.

Bill Bryson’s latest book about Britain (2015)

His first book about Britain, Notes from a Small Island, was hilarious and immensely popular, and The Road to Little Dribbling is an excellent and equally funny successor.

In it, he writes: “The Lake District, when it is fine, and it usually is at least that, is about as beautiful as Earth can get…”

What more needs to be said?







Some historical ‘back story’ about the novel My Cup Runneth Over, regarding ‘Snabside’ and the Hodgson family

Not many readers have yet commented on where they think the various placenames in my novel actually represent but here is one for you:  ‘Snabside’ is loosely Newlands.  (Please be aware, however, that none of the places in the novel are meant to be exact replicas of the real locations that inspired them.)  And the key family in Snabside, in relation to the novel, are the Hodgsons – in particular Elizabeth whose beauty and personality more than grab Constable Shearwater’s attention.

Looking northwards, down Newlands, to the distant Blencathra

So how did these names come about?  My own, ‘selfish’ historical reasons are involved!

Back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s I had two extremely good friends in the shape of Norman and Kathleen Gandy, curators of the Fitz Park Museum at Keswick, and a similar age to my own parents.  One of the many historical fascinations they introduced me to was ten years’ worth of a remarkably large newspaper by the wonderful title of The English Lakes Visitor & Keswick Guardian, and over a period I laboriously hand-copied many, many items of local news from those pages.  (The bright light of photocopiers and scanners damages old print and this was also well before the era of digital cameras.)

One such article delighted me because of it’s Lakeland Dialect content, although at that time I knew of no personal link with the people involved.  The story was published on page 4 of the 1st July 1882 edition, under the title of ‘ACCIDENT at Newlands’.

William Hodgson was returning from Keswick market in his horse and cart but was thrown to the ground when lightning made the horse rear and bolt.  The cart ran over William’s leg, breaking it below the knee.  His daughter found the empty cart and then found her injured father.  She ran for help to nearby Keskadale from where a Mr Wilson came to assist.  A dialect conversation between the men reportedly went as follows:

Hodgson: “I’se deun for.”

Wilson:    “[Thoo’s] nin deid yit!”

Hodgson: “Ah’ll dee an’ Ah’ll nut be lang nowther if thoo’ll keep off me!”

It was some years later that I put two and two together that Martha Elizabeth, the daughter of William Hodgson of Aikin had coincidentally married Joseph Wren (of a Seatoller family) and through subsequent events became my great grandmother.  And William, who did not die of his broken leg, despite his fears, was therefore my great great grandfather.  So there you have the two real people who gave rise to three people’s names that I used in ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ for William, Martha (the mother) and their beautiful daughter Elizabeth Hodgson, of ‘Snabside’.


The 'modern' house at Aikin - a barn conversion

All that's left of William Hodgson's original house

In the modern house, some coat hooks, salvaged from 
the rubble of the old house

Eddie Wren (a.k.a. ‘Steve Shearwater’)  January 2017

Article and photograph copyright. All rights reserved.

A robust, educated, 100-year-old reprimand for people who decry the use of Cumberland dialect!


Another visit to Keswick Books (antiquarian book sellers) on Station Street, two days ago, turned up a Cumbrian dialect book I’d never heard of before but which I will now refer to frequently: A grammar of the Dialect of Lorton (Cumberland), Historical and Descriptive, With an Appendix on the Scandinavian Element, Dialect Specimens and a Glossary, by Borje Briliothe (PhD)…. How about that for a catchy title!

It is the aforementioned “Scandinavian element” that was of particular interest to me but the book, which is dated 1913 in the Preface, came with an additional bonus:  a newspaper clipping – regrettably not dated but perhaps from around 1950 – of a letter from Professor Briliothe, about the merits of the Cumberland dialect.  Here is an excerpt:

Letter from Sweden


Sir – Permit me to say a few words in reply to Tom Horrocks’ surprising attack on the Cumberland dialect printed in your paper.  R. Denwood and “Copeland” have already given excellent replies but as a student of the Cumberland dialect and as a fervent friend of the Cumberland people I would like to add a few words.

Mr. Horrocks’ assault is based on the most complete ignorance of what a dialect is and of the origin of the Cumberland dialect in particular.  He might just as well advocate the demolition of historic monuments or ancient buildings.  The Cumberland dialect is one of the most interesting, and, from a philological point of view, one of the most valuable sources of research of the philologists.  It represents to a great extent the ancient language spoken in the north of England and contains especially a rich element of Scandinavian loan-words introduced by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.

It is at the same time terse and expressive and reflects in a remarkable manner the staunch and fine character of the Cumbrian people….

The delightful and memorable months I was privileged to spend in beautiful Cumberland and amongst my Cumbrian friends belong to the most charming memories of my life.  I know that Mr. Horrocks’ regrettable attack on his native dialect, entirely unwarranted as it is, must be a blow in the face of every good Cumbrian.  It has been so to me, and I sincerely hope that those Cumbrian patriots who have undertaken the fine work of upholding and preserving their native tongue and the ancient and fine traditions and culture of Cumberland will keep up their good work.

BORJE BRILIOTH, Ph.D., Stockholm, Sweden.


A significant section of this website is devoted to Cumbrian dialects and the Lakeland dialect, including a large glossary of word meanings.  View it here.

As Armistice Day Gets Closer: Remembrance for Police Officers Killed on Duty

In our beautiful county of Cumbria, home to the most-visited national park in the world, it is easy to forget that being a police officer can be a deadly affair. Since policing began here, in the early 19th Century, at least 17 police officers have been killed in the line of duty.  With Remembrance Day imminent, I think this is a good time to post the following link to the Roll of Honour for fallen Cumbria Police Officers.

This next link will take you to the National Roll of Honour.