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Things I Have Learned

Wild Beasts On Courting In Kendal And Life In The Lake District
Luke Turner , December 9th, 2009 06:49

The Quietus had a chat to Wild Beasts bom bom man Tom Fleming about the pleasures and problems of living in the beautiful tourist trap that is the English Lake District

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Kendal has its own gravity

I always say how there's a different feel between Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, and Kendal has got a bit of all three. It's got the Manchester mentality, and the rural nature of of Cumbria, and the bluntness and independence of Yorkshire. It's a geographical oddity, so far away from any major cities.

It's like any small town

There are generations of families here. People either stay or come back, I've come to get used to it, but I found it difficult when I was growing up. In most places you have groups of people who are into different things, but in Kendal you only had one person who was into a different thing. You can feel a bit like there has to be more than this. You only ever get the feeling that you're ordinary, and you have to prove yourself wrong. I was never well-travelled as a kid, and when you test yourself against the sharp edge and think you might actually be good, that's quite humbling because you have nothing to compare yourself with. I make it sound like I'm from the gutter, it's not like that, we were just ordinary kids.

I wasn't the best at the outdoor life

Though I was always into doing that at the weekend. A lot of people I know were into climbing, walking, mountain biking and things like that. Not me particularly, I'm not particularly physically fit. You can get very macho going up hills, you can always find the other way, you can always find the other route, which is inevitably tortuous.

Wrynose and Hardnott passes became favourite places when I was very young

There's one road in Cumbria which is generally considered to be the worst road in Britain. It's one in three and it twists and it turns and it's generally terrifying, but the whole world opens out in front of you. I remember as a kid being very impressed and feeling like I was on the roof of the world.

Landscape won't distract Kendal's youth from more traditional pursuits

It's far enough away for it not to be accessible. Because if you can't drive and you haven't got a car you can't get there. I certainly spent plenty of time getting pissed at bus stops, and all my friends did as well. I always think of that sort of thing as manifest self-loathing. You'd get wet when the weather was bad, hanging around in alleys.

I still feel marooned

I am staying at my parents now. I was trying to get a train back from Manchester, and the last one was 7.30, you can't go out. Wild Beasts were maybe reacting against being so culturally forgotten.

Being constructive is the best way to deal with the constant rain

That's what we eventually did I suppose. Going somewhere with good weather is quite a shock - how to people cope in this heat? When it clears up it's the most beautiful place in the world, but the rain can get you down.

Complaining about tourists in the Lake District would be churlish

These towns wouldn't exist without them. There's nothing funnier than seeing people coming up the high street past KFC with walking poles and big boots. I think the second home thing is an issue, and there are a lot of owner occupier laws trying to deal with that. You can't afford to buy a house anywhere near it because it's so expensive, but that's the same everywhere. I'm glad I'm not a Londoner for the same reason. I'd have to move out to Barking or Dagenham.

The Lake District doesn't just suffer from preconceptions about northerners

That's standard issue. I think people don't even know where it is. People don't know what's between Manchester and Glasgow, it's a void - nobody knows what it is or what's culturally attached to it. People do see it as an amazing landscape with pretty villages, and forget people actually live there, and it's a working landscape. It pisses me off endlessly when I hear people eulogising small places in the countryside, saying 'oh I wish I could bring my kids up there'. You know what, you can be miserable anywhere.

There's a Lake District gothic

I think there's a Yorkshire gothic and a Lancashire gothic and I think there's a Lake District gothic as well. It's the weather, the landscape, the buildings, the way people are, and the way the light comes in, and how people live their lives. I'm talking about Blake's satanic mills, but a different aspect, the huge hills encroaching on you, pale people with huge arms watching their sheep. It was there in the Lake District poets, and in the same way as stuff like Burial is south London gothic, you take from where you are. Wild Beasts are Lakeland gothic, sometimes.

I forget that it is very beautiful

There's the cartoon of the man in big white trainers shouting at his wife to get up the hill, and bus loads of Japanese tourists. But it's not like sex tourism, it's pretty wholesome. I try not to get cynical to come and see it, because I've been spoiled rotten. I might not live in it, but it's right on my doorstep.

Tebay service station is a weird place

The landscape is very different there as you head towards Yorkshire. It's halfway between Leeds and Glasgow, so when we're driving up to Scotland we always stop there and have a Scotch egg or black pudding or some other ridiculous delicacy. I must have been to most service stations in the country, but I think Teebay wins, though it hasn't got the tarot palming machine.

Kendal isn't great for courting

The thing is about Kendal is you usually find a good one and hold on to her, and everyone in the band apart from myself is in a relationship. Everyone knows what you're doing, so if you have a sexual disaster everyone knows about it - you have to get wise to that pretty quickly. It's certainly not as good as being in a band is, though that is woefully impractical. You have to be that guy, the come-and-go guy.

I won't be back for good

Never say never but never. There's too much of a feeling that you'll want what you don't have. Having been to London and Paris and New York and Berlin now, why the fuck am I living in Kendal?

Wild Beasts play the Hospital in London with the XX tomorrow night, Thursday December 10th. Their album Two Dancers was No. 4 in the Quietus end of the year poll