In Flight

“This channel is not available. Please select another channel”

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Phew, so to continue — the most likeley and safe food choices turn out to be both odd and unsettling. I had a BLT one day — a safe and likely bet — and it turned out to be untoasted bread, butter, no mayo, almost no lettuce and it was limp, and great hot greasy slabs of ham. May have mentioned this, but it will probably haunt my memory and dog me in my dreams. David had curry one night that was almost all right except that all the ingredients were very finely chopped.

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We eventually found our way back to Grassington (from Burnsall) via the field route to the west of the town. Dinner was at the Grassington House Hotel — very nice pub with a good fire and the dining room turned out to be 18th century, with lovely original woodwork and a very good menu. The food was better than at the Foresters’ — note to self, skate wings aren’t worth the trouble and would be a bony mess if they weren’t from a creature with only cartilage in its skeleton!

The peoplewatching was good there — a large drunk party of people thrown together on a tour of some kind were behaving badly in a quiet sort of way.

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The next day being my birthday and also a bit cold and cloudy, we went up to Carlisle on one of our extra rail days and got a few gifts and generally mooched around. When we arrived in Skipton we missed the train by one minute, so we walked around the towpath and a local park. On our return, we missed the Pride of the Dales bus by, wait for it, one minute. So we took a cab – frightening and hair-raising thought it was, we survived.

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We had a little down time at the B&B and had dinner at Bubbles. At last! a really fine dinner in the Dales! It turned out to be a lovely little place with a women’s loo that featured cows and pigs on the tile surround of the wee washbasin — I think a companion to this journal may have to be “Loos Wot I Have Peed In,” since they all featured ingenious ways to fit a bathroom in where none had been before. We made a note of the wine — Kaya Chenin Blanc from South Africa.

Our last night in the B&B was spent doing the usual things, also there was a fire in the upstairs lounge for the second night in a row. It was pleasant… and warm! The heat for the house was via radiators and our room never seemed to be the right temp — either too chilly or too warm.

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The next day, we heard the dreaded bell for the last time and bid our farewell to Bridge End Farm — we decided it was charming for 2 nights, but no more. Next time needs to be in a town with rail and walking AND a decentish hotel. After a few errands buying a few things such as a compulsory chocolate cowflop for Steve, we arrived at the train station and waved goodbye to Robin and his grubby little car. Our train ride back to London via Leeds was uneventful and smooth — made every connection without having to wait for more than a few minutes. The hotel was modern but had no pool! I was sure it had one! But at least it was air conditioned, because London was still a bit too warm, especially indoors or in the Tube. We had a late lunch and stayed in, feasting on snacks I brought back from the neighborhood Safeway! The St Katherines Dock area is very gentrified but in a nice, well-thought out way, and I explored and took some good pictures. It might be possible to rent a flat there — I know there were a lot of condos, at least.

The 26th, the next day, was our last full day in the city. We went to the British Museum. It was a journey like all London journeys, with loud rushing Tube trains and the smell of diesel, hot track and rubber, with the voices of unseen hundreds echoing in the maze of subeterranean tunnels that is the Underground.

It’s strange seeing objects in cases at the British Museum, because many of them have appeared in books or on TV, so there’s this weird “Hey, I know you,” familiarity when seeing the Bull-Headed Lyre or the Rosetta Stone.

We had an overpriced and merely okay lunch at the museum restaurant, in the new Millennium Court. Strangely, our first bad meal in a museum was in the fanciest and most impressively designed one — it was a Japanese bento box and some of it was very good, and some of it was blah, especially the miso soup.

After some down time and leftover cider at the hotel, we renewed our assault on British transport and took the Tube to Piccadilly for the Reduced Shakespeare Company‘s show “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” This was at the Criterion, a very interesting old theater that I think was mentioned in one of Ngaio Marsh‘s books.

The show was extremely funny but apparently I laughed too loudly and too well for the couple on David’s left… the the lady next to me left at the interval, hmmmm…. However, she may have been offended by their satire — nothing shocking, but there was a lot of it.

(Turbulence over Prince Edward Island)

In keeping with hoary tradition, David and I fought our way through the crush at the intervals and I managed to score 2 bottles of “K” cider, but all David came up with was a packet of Jelly Babies that tasted nasty. So we drank the cider quickly and asked each other “would you like a Jelly Baby” in Doctor Who voices and went back for the second act in good order.

The show is done by 3 American actors — with extras, all American or Canadian — and pretty cheeky they are for putting on a Shakespeare satire on the Bard’s home ground, too. They didn’t bother with “Shakespearean” accents much except for a gut-bustingly funny “Macbeth” (no! you said it!) sketch with ludicrous put-on Scottish brogues that had the Londoners crying (and probably surreptitiously peeing in their seats). It was pretty standard Shakespeare-parody stuff but very fast, very slapstick, and every now and then a speech would be delivered seriously, and everyone in the audience would go very, very still. I think that was their way of being respectful and indicating “we know this isn’t meant to be funny, we’re in it with you” to the actors.

Thankfully, they condensed all those boring mistaken/lost identity and twins comedies into one — that had 6 sets of twins, several noble lords and ladies pretending to be their own servants, and they didn’t forget to have someone pursued by a bear at the end. Strangely, the tragedies are all much funnier when parodied, though the histories got condensed into a kind of inter-generational football game, with a leather crown for a pigskin.

The entire second act was devoted to Hamlet, which suited me fine, given the papers I’ve written and the number of times I’ve seen it. My experience stood me in pretty good stead, since I once saw “Hamlet, The Musical” performed with a chainsaw, a Thighmaster, and a completely grubby raincoat that had been hidden under a lady’s seat. And then I’d seen a Hamlet that went horribly wrong — college students put it on outdoors in Park City, and the Hamlet forgot an entire soliloquiy and skipped at least one crucial scene, leaving some characters on stage that were no longer alive by then. Oh, and then the “arras” curtain fell down, revealing the dead Polonius sitting up to readjust his position more comfortably for a nice nap. That and two kind of weird movie Hamlets (Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh) plus one truly great stage Hamlet (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 1983) had prepared me for a great time and given me a willingness to laugh uproariously at whatever vicious jabs they took at the text.

Well, I about peed in my seat, but thankfully seat H (Haitch) 12 won’t be added to “Places Wot I Peed In” this time. Oh, and this trip I won’t have to add any barns to that list, but that’s another story.

The parody was masterful, and after an exhausting evening spent laughing like stink we went back to the hotel for the last night in London.

And so that brings us up to date — in flight and now somewhere over Canada. Can’t watch the movie because the in-seat monitor is busted for one of us, so David took the window so he could watch X-Men 2 again.

We started a list of things we won’t miss:

  • Dinnerbells
  • Diesel engines everywhere
  • People, people, people everywhere
  • “We apologize for the inconvenience.”
  • Early closing times, late opening times
  • Packets of strange sauce (brown sauce?)
  • Feeling the need to whisper while eating
  • Unnecessary stairwells
  • Hotel rooms with no phone
  • Twin beds masquerading as a king mattress
  • “Mita” showers, no pressure at all
  • Toilets that smell and make horrible GWOOOOOSH noises forever
  • Sandwiches with cut-up chunks of onion and lettuce too large to pile on
  • …and only 4 TV channels! Augh!

Thus Endeth The Journal

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Afterwords: April 26th 2005

Good GOD. Essentially, the travel journal is done, but there was so much detail that didn’t make it in. Like the sound of the birds in York early in the morning. Or the smell of freshly trodden grass in a horse pasture (and other smells as well). Or the sound of a train coming into an isolated station and the feeling of anticipation that you’re about to be off on another mini-adventure, which is so much less stressful than going to the airport, but not quite as exciting as boarding a plane. To this day, we’re still drinking English beer and cracking little quips we picked up on the journey. Some musical acquaintances of ours, Synergy Brass Quintet, will be performing in England in late August of 2006, and I mentioned it to David as a good time for a return trip. Only tonight, David had a can of Bodington’s Pub Ale I found at Dominicks, and he manfully ripped open the can to investigate the widget that adds the draught-style fizz. And then I had a mug of some extra-sharp ginger beer and he tasted it and said “MMMMmmm! Good! But not as good as Fentiman’s.”

Only tonight. It’s funny how quickly we forget the little indignities of travel (grumble-grumble “dinner bell” grumble) and harken back only to the odd little details and the delightful discoveries.

I was so relieved – gobsmackingly happy, in fact – that David enjoyed the trip, because if he had hated every moment of it and complained constantly, it would be (to my mind) a tragedy. Our complaining was only in the affectionate manner of a kvetch, anyway. Most of the time we were completely charmed.

The Sad Aftermath

I’ve gone on at great length elsewhere about coming back and finding out just how far gone Stuey was after his emergency surgery. Poor kitty. The end of the trip was colored by that experience and the sad desperation of our first week back; by the next Friday, he was gone, taken away in a brightly colored towel, and I felt so guilty for gadding off for so long on a trip. But it wouldn’t have been discovered for a much longer time if we hadn’t gone on the trip… and I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual until he either collapsed with a broken leg, or had his next scheduled vet visit.

So. Maybe it wasn’t such a terrible thing that they found it and tried to catch it. But still, poor kitty. I did the best I could.

So Much For That. What About The Pictures?

Funny you should ask. The bulk of them are still on David’s UK gallery, but the best of our all-too-short walking days are now in their own gallery on my site, and I have a new blog-widget which makes it much, much easier to pull them in here now.

Enjoy.

And that’s just a walk between Stowe and Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds, and between Kettlewell and Grassington in Yorkshire. There was so much more, but it was walking the fields and byways and fells and dales that I loved best.

I can’t wait to go back.

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