Statistically Speaking

Statistically Speaking


Over 40% of the houses in Grasmere are holiday homes, most of which sit empty through the Winter, In Elterwater it’s around 85%: no longer a living village, just obstacles to manoeuvre around on your way to somewhere else. In many cases the cottages were sold on by the offspring of villagers who themselves moved out to the churchyards. Many of the properties, quaint as holiday lets, were deemed too isolated, primitive and impractical for modern family living. The high prices help of course…

Tony Sanderson is a third generation Grasmerian. He and Mo have been married thirty-two years – part of the sixty percent that make Grasmere a living village. They, like a lot of my friends don’t have kids and in many ways the bond between them is stronger as a result. They enjoy each others company and hang out and holiday together like a couple of old friends – which they are.

It was that fact that so many professional people are choosing not to have children that got me thinking about the future of the human race – as you do. So I began to look at the statistics beginning with what was a generally misconceived belief that there are more people alive than have ever died.

We don’t get an accurate census until AD 1800 when the population stood at around one billion. Using this as a guide the Washington Institute for Population Studies, beginning with the emergence of homo sapiens 50,000 years ago and a population of two and including the current population of seven billion, estimates that 107 billion have died: meaning each one of us carries fifteen ghosts behind us.

The current rate of twenty-three births per thousand population differs greatly from the eighty births per thousand in ancient times. The current rate wouldn’t have sustained the species when life expectancy was much lower.

I then began to look at extinction rates. Only 0.1% of species that have ever lived are still alive. 99.9% are extinct. A successful species can expect to survive up to ten million years; though that is the exception.

It doesn’t look too good for us, but then you have to put things in perspective. We’ve only been around 50,000 years: two thousand years ago Caesar was hanging out with Cleopatra and ten million years is a long time.

I suppose what I’m really saying is, that it’s all going to end sometime so whatever lifestyle you choose, make the most of it.



By Neil Rollinson


We all without a single exception inherit

all our genes from an unbroken line

of successful ancestors

Richard Dawkins.


When I reach for you in the hot night

I wonder, do I really want you,

or are my genes on fire for some distant shore?

As we fuck in the night, I can hear them singing,

choir to choir in the endless dark.

I think of our ancestors, the distance

they travelled – out of the slime

and into the trees, through the ice ages

and the shifting of continents.

They came through plagues that wasted millions,

hunger, poverty, war. Not one of them

failed to find a mate. They slipped through aeons

passing their code from body to body,

to me and you in the distant future,

a childless couple drinking beer,

talking politics and science. To think

it all ends here for these particular passengers,

to have come this far and found a blank. If I were

the sentimental type

I’d take you now in the alley behind the bar,

and do the honourable thing.

I’d open the floodgates and let them go,

screaming and singing into the future.




Tony and Mo’s recipe for Peasant soup

1 oz butter
1 lb stewing steak, cut into ¾in. – 1in. cubes
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
Bouquet garni
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teasp. paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablesp. plain flour
2 pts good beef stock
1 large potato
Caraway seeds & grated parmesan to garnish

Melt butter until foam subsides and fry the cubes of beef until well

Add the onions, reduce the heat and cook until soft and transparent.

Add the bouquet garni, garlic, paprika salt and pepper and stir well.

Mix in the flour, reduce the heat and cook stirring for 5 mins.

Gradually stir in the stock bringing to the boil, cover the pan and simmer
for 2 hrs.

Add the diced potato, cover the pan and simmer a further 45mins.

Remove the bouquet garni and ladle, piping hot, into warmed soup bowls.
Scatter with caraway seeds and grated parmesan if desired but definitely

ps. Depending on appetite this makes roughly 4 portions and freezes well.

Next week: Michael and the Feast




1 Comment

  1. No with adding Tony and Maureen to your list of famous residents of Grasmere I am going to have to get a new autograph book for next time I’m over. I live in a village that suffers from, somewhat, the same dilemna. We get an influx of 1.6 million visitors each summer, mostly from Chicago 60 miles to the south, and the very rich ones have built or bought houses on Geneva Lake. We have a lake path going completely around the lake and as you walk it you rarely see a person or a light in these multi-million dollar homes. They are now tearing down the old ones and putting up two or three in its place. Sad really.

    I don’t mind the village being 40% holiday lets as I come in the autumn and spring when the tourists aren’t there and the quality of the residents more then makes up for the lack of quantity.



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