This is a photo of where Bill Clinton said this week that he first proposed to Hilary Rodham.
“We were on the shoreline of this wonderful little lake, Lake Ennerdale. I asked her to marry me.”
Lake Ennerdale is more usually known as Ennerdale Water, and is the most westerly lake in the Lake District, something of a poor relation to Windermere, Buttermere and Coniston Water.
The photo brings back memories for me too. From mid 1976 to late 1979 I lived with Son No.1 and his mother in the neighbouring village of Frizington, West Cumbria. We could walk through a disused iron ore mine, a fruitful source of flowers and berries to make our home-brewed wine, and reach Ennerdale Bridge, a small village on the eastern edge of the ‘lake’. It was in the back garden of one of the two pubs, the Fox and Hounds, that I broke both my elbows … but that’s a tale to tell over a few Bintangs. And no, I hadn’t even sipped a drop: it was while waiting for the first round to be brought out that my accident happened.
What I chiefly remember are the delightful walks that could be taken in all weathers around Ennerdale Water’s horseshoe. The lake virtually dried out in the 1976 heatwave. Looking down we could see traces of buildings which had once stood where water usually lapped. What was life like back then before it became a reservoir for the villages which sprang up to house the incoming miners?
I’ve also walked round it at night, in the depths of a winter snow storm. It wasn’t my choice, but somewhat akin to life as an expat here, those of us who’d moved into the area as social workers, community organisers and teachers were regarded as ‘offcomers’ by the ‘indigenous’ locals. Our social life was therefore somewhat limited to colleagues and others in our network.
Late that evening, there was a rap on the front door and in walked Mike. He was beside himself because he’d found out that his wife, and mother of their two young children, had been having an affair with the deputy leader of the local umbrella organisation of community projects. “Why Brian?” was his constant cry, to which there was no rational explanation.
To get rid of his pent up rage, said Mike, he just had to walk the Ennerdale horseshoe and that he wanted me to tag along as his watchdog. I really had no choice in the matter; it was possibly the one wise decision he made that evening, although in that weather I’d have preferred to chug a few Federation ales with him in the local Working Mens’ Club.
I could barely keep up with him and he’d sometimes disappear as a flurry of snow came between us. At such moments I could follow the plaintive wail of “Why Brian, why him?“. I now have no recollection of the end of that hike: I was probably asleep on my feet.
Ennerdale Water is now being returned to nature. In its time it has witnessed the cycle of human lives. Hilary didn’t say “yes” to Bill that day, but Mike most definitely said “No!”