Like everyone in Britain, I was appalled by the news of yesterday's gun massacre in Cumbria. Such a tragedy would have been hard to take anywhere. But Cumbria? This peaceful, largely rural county is the last place on earth you'd imagine as the scene of a massacre. But life isn't as logical as that. Britain's most notorious massacres - Hungerford, Dunblane and now West Cumbria - have all taken place in largely tranquil spots.
My old university friend, Dr Nigel Calvert of NHS Cumbria, was widely quoted in the media. As Nigel said, Cumbria has had a traumatic seven months. Yesterday's massacre came after last week's awful school coach crash and November's devastating floods.
I got to know Cumbria in 2002 when I cycled through the county on my Land's End to John O'Groats bike ride. I fell in love with this beautiful part of the country. It's a tough place to cycle - all those hills! - but the people and the scenery provide an ample reward for all that effort. I entered the county after a breathtaking (in every sense) ride from Dent in Yorkshire to Kirkby Stephen via Garsdale Head and Aisgill. We camped just outside Kirkby Stephen and enjoyed a very special dinner at the pub in Nateby, walking back in the gently fading light of a June evening. The next day, the landlord of a pub just outside Carlisle made a very generous donation to the charity I was cycling in aid of - even though it was based in Wales. I left Cumbria with a very warm feeling towards this wonderful county - a feeling that grew when I returned the following year for a cycling weekend in Alstonn. (Cycling up Hartside was a tough challenge, but worth it for the glorious swoop back down to Alston!)
I'll be thinking of Cumbria in the coming days.