James Went To Matlock

I had contrasting responses to the end of the two main lockdowns – as the first lockdown ended I was still very subdued and I think somewhat shaken out of living – it took weeks until I ventured to a pub or restaurant.

This lockdown, I ended with a flurry of activity – drinking out on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening (which is rare for me), then a staycation in Matlock for the weekend.

Why Matlock?

The reason for the staycation is that when our Vacuum of Integrity announced the roadmap out of lockdown, we realised that it would be not until 17th May when myself and my sister could legally visit our parents. We did consider breaking the rules, but I have tried to follow them with very few exceptions, and those only once the cases were very low – when we were discussing how to meet up, we were still in peak grass on your neighbour phase.

Yet there was a way around this. From April 12th, we could meet outdoors for dinner, or in a pub – or even a zoo. And then we realised that separate households could book self-contained accommodation – so we could have separate Airbnb bookings in the same town, and meet up in the garden, pub garden, restaurant garden – etc.

We did look at Cheltenham at first, but everything either lacked parking, lacked a garden or was too expensive, so I shifted the search further north, and fairly randomly came up with Matlock – kind of half way between London and Hull.

It was kind of surreal at first, meeting up with my parents for the first time in 6 months – we walked up the hill (some big hills in Matlock) to the nearest pub, sat on what seemed to be the only remaining table and ordered some drinks.

Ahhh. A beer with my family. Finally.

Matlock And The Area

Matlock itself is quite a beautiful town nestled in the Peak District. Some stunning views, some steep hills – one of the walks that we could have gone on has this path along the outside of a cliff that just makes me feel ill looking at it, and if you search Google for Britain’s Scariest Footpath, then you’ll find it. Good job my mother vetoed it.

Matlock has the River Derwent running through it, some nice forestry, steep hills – and the weather was sunny all weekend – I even ditched my coat at times. Oh and importantly, it has an M&S. Definitely quite an upmarket town without being overly so.

Unfortunately we didn’t do much research before going there – I’d tried to find some pubs with outdoor areas to book in advance, but updating websites and social media doesn’t seem to be a thing in Matlock.

And we didn’t research places to go/things to do either. After a little wander around on the Saturday we got the train to Matlock Bath. Which is rather different to Matlock and not what any of us expected.

Apparently people in Matlock think that Matlock Bath is a shithole. That would be overstating it – the town itself has the same stunning scenery and many gorgeous stone-based buildings.

Yet – the horrors – it has Union Jacks. Urgh. Not sure whether I’m being serious or facetious there. It also has a huge amount of fish and chip shops, candyfloss stalls, arcades (closed due to covid) – basically everything you’d expect at Bridlington without the same level of obesity. And sooooo many bikers – hundreds of motorbikes in this small town.

Still, we got the last available table outside a half-decent pub, which was out the back so we didn’t have our conversation interrupted every 30 seconds by noisy motorbikes, that actually served Neck Oil – yes, Neck Oil that far up north, had a half-decent menu (well, better than a Greene King), then made our way back to actual Matlock – where we sat in the sunshine and chilled.

Yeah, we should have done some research.

Matlock but no Blacklock

In the evening myself and my sister cooked the Hawksmoor feasting box – making it a steakation. Get it? My Dad’s joke, I cannot take the credit for it. There was a porterhouse which I’d never cooked before and struggled with, a rib-eye and a fillet.

I have to say that the porterhouse was outstanding.

And the triple-cooked chips were so, so, so gorgeous too. It also came with creamed spinach and a garlic mushroom – and was far too much food for us. Oh and gravy. Why gravy with steak? Not that I’m complaining.

Sunday arrived and we drove towards Derby to find a Sunday roast that I’d booked – again it took a while to find somewhere that had a good roast dinner that was actually taking bookings. I complain about poor websites in Europe when I visit – well, the same is true further north. Is it just London where people bother to update their websites so people know whether they can book ahead?

Roast was pretty good – though only two roasties and the parsnip was solid. Very tasty lamb though. Chocolate dessert was yum also.

But I don’t want to turn this into a not being able to write about food blog.

Life has returned

I have to say that I feel much better now life has returned. I feel like I am living again, that I have things to be excited about – that I can enjoy my life fully. Once again life is about more than work, study and avoiding covid.

Seeing my parents was the most important thing to do, which was healing for my soul after the heartbreak of a cancelled Christmas. Well…a postponed Christmas.

Other than that, it has been good to get back out on the roast dinner trail – I’m booked for the next few weeks now which is exciting. Plus I have some other things booked – drinks in London tonight (yes I’m actually going out on a Friday night), a sit-down nightclub experience at Costa Del Tottenham tomorrow, an actual staycation in the Lake District in a couple of weeks, and then Christmas 2020 to end May which is very exciting.

I keep using the word, “exciting”. How exciting.

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