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Woke up with a grumbling headache, not too bad, but with the potential to get worse. My dad is staying with us and today we'd planned to head south to Ravenglass and catch the La'al Ratty, which is a narrow-guage railway that takes us up into the fells of Eskdale and a village called Boot. The gloomy weather of yesterday was beginning to clear up, although there was still a lot of sea mist to be burned off hanging around.

Yesterday I had hoped we'd make a swift departure for the Ratty, but what with my headache, everything was pretty slow this morning. Dad had also suggested going into Whitehaven to visit a second-hand bookshop, searching for a couple of books that he'd forgotten the details of. However, thanks to my advanced Googling skills, I was able to find their titles and authors last night, and so we knocked that idea on the head.

We set-off about ten past eleven, and headed south on the A595. Dad spotted the sign to Gosforth and mentioned the bakery that sells scrummy beef pies, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 11.45 and if he did want a pie, we would be getting there before the Sellafield rush. We decided against it and continued on.

Suddenly, there are two police cars with flashing lights - no siren- coming towards us, which I though was odd, as there is no major town south of Seascale that would have a police base, and it was too far north to be vehicles from Millom (or so I thought - now thinking on it, they could well have been from Millom). Dad spots a helicopter that seems to be following the road, right above us. He tells me it's a police helicopter which really began ringing bells with me. Cumbria does not have its own police chopper, so whatever was going on it, it was going to be bad. Generally when I see police action in this neck of the woods, I think there must be an incident or stunt at Sellafield. I wasn't panicking, but intrigued. More police cars are peeping out from every junction and every farm track on the side of the 595. Then I notice that the police down one farm track are wearing helmets and are in fact armed policemen. My mobile phone starts ringing, but it's in the boot, so I keep driving. Reckon it must be Dan with news of the Sellafield incident. Dad's phone starts ringing, and Dan is on the end of the phone, telling us that there has been a shooting in Whitehaven and that there are rumoured fatalities.

More police cars everywhere, and we are turning off for Ravenglass, aiming for the free car park. Only we don't get that far, as police are marshalling cars into the Ratty carpark and telling us to stay there, and stay safe until told otherwise. I'd joked with him as I pulled up, saying that we had to pay for our parking today. He wasn't amused.

As we mull around, Oliver plays on the playpark, we head over to the Ratty arms for lunch, rumours and news are bandied about although everyone is rather solemn and frustrated. More helicopters fly overhead, the occasional siren is heard and my mobile phone internet doesn't work. The Ratty's trains aren't leaving the station, and only one mainline train came through the station. As we finished lunch, one of the Ratty's trains comes into the station from Eskdale.

It seems that the police were trying to locate and catch a gunman who had driven from Whitehaven to Boot in the Eskdale valley, stopping off at Seascale, Gosforth, Egremont and Wilton, and shooting at will. We missed him in more than one place today, had we done things differently we might have been unlucky. By the time we are walking back to the car after lunch, we find out that he is now on foot, in the vicinity of Boot (the destination of the Ratty), and has been identified as a local man, Derek Bird, a 52 year old taxi driver. I begin to wonder if it is one of the taxi drivers I had the misfortune to use before I passed my test. The chap I was thinking of was short and had horrendous BO - when I was pregnant it was particularly awful getting into his cab.

Knowing that this chap was on foot, and a good hour or so away, I propose we head home. With a gunman on the loose, it was unlikely that the Ratty would be running any trains, and Oliver was tuckered out, so we start packing up the car. A Ratty official suggests we stay where we are until the situation is resolved, and so we wait in the car and turn on BBC Radio Cumbria. And then it all starts to make sense and the gravity of the situation hits me.

At around 2pm, the radio presenter announces that a body has been found in woodland in Boot and it is suspected to be the gunman. We take this as our cue to leave (ahead of the hoardes), and drive solemnly home listening to further developments. We pass more police outside a pub on the 595, and Dad spots a body under a blanket. That wasn't there when we drove past this morning.

Back home, and I check the net to see if my hunch about the BO-ridden taxi driver was right. And lo-and-behold I am right.

Waiting to find out who the fatalities are. As far as I am aware all my friends and family are safe. Didn't expect this today when I woke up.



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margeryk

November 2016

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