07.05.2013 - 08.05.2013 23 °C
The cottage we are staying in is soooo comfortable, with a cosy kitchen nook; slanted-roofed bedrooms with large leaded windows; soft loveseats; ample kitchen equipment and space; and a small private garden space for morning chats. We took advantage of the strong sunshine and blistering temperatures (23 degrees), for both frivolous and practical reasons: first, to support breakfast in the garden and then, to line dry our clothes.
Since I had to get a blood test, our host advised us to go to ‘the surgery’ in Stow-on-the-Wold four miles away. I was able to see the nurse after just a few minutes and get the job done. Since it had cost over $100 in Turkey, I had prepared myself by stuffing my wallet with pounds. However, when I enquired as to the cost, she informed me there was no charge as England ‘has an agreement with Canada.’ Brilliant!
With chores out of the way, we set out to find some footpaths, the girls going their own way as Ben and I went another. There are many signs in each of these small towns pointing the way to public footpaths, even those running through farms. We wondered whether farmers are ever compensated for walkers trudging through their fields and livestock herds. In Europe, as well as other places, there are movements supporting the ‘right to roam’, which is the general public’s right to use public or private lands for recreation or exercise. In England in 2000, the government introduced a limited right to roam, without compensation for landowners. Now, everyone has the right to walk in certain areas of the English countryside, if they follow some conditions of care, of course. It turns out walkers have a powerful lobby! Taking advantage of this, while sticking to the marked footpaths, we walked through a few sheep herds, the only downfall being that we had to really watch our step. We saw a sign pointing the way to Kingham along the road; since it was only one mile, we made our way for the neighbouring village. After walking over half a mile, we located another sign --- which also said ‘1 mile’ to Kingham. Hmmm. Proceeding, we meandered along the road for another twenty minutes or so, only to find a third sign, this one stating there were ‘3/4 miles’ left to the elusive Kingham. Feeling as if we were on a goose chase, we turned around, leaving it to another day. However, we saw a lot of traditional village sights in Bledington. The place is just so darn quaint with its thatched roofs, beige stone houses, English country flower gardens, old churches, a homey pub, beautiful village greens and waddling ducks. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand it.
The next day, I awoke to birds chirping, natural light streaming through the skylight, a breeze drifting over my face and the smell of coffee coming from downstairs. It took a few minutes to leave my burrow of many pillows and soft white duvet but the anticipation of appeasing the fifth sense (taste) got me up. I realized I was energetic enough to make some Scottish scones and since we had ensured we had all the ingredients on hand, I set to work. Even with doubling the recipe, they were gone within half an hour. Next time, I’ll make sure we can try them with clotted cream as well as the jam.
The day consisted of more walks and talks. Undaunted, Ben and I went off to find Kingham, this time avoiding the roads with their unreliable mile markers and sticking to the footpaths. We made it there in half an hour, skirting the back gardens of houses, walking the fields and scaling a few stiles and bridges. We came upon the town and discovered, to our amazement, that it too was a town of ‘thatched roofs, beige stone houses, English country flower gardens, old churches, a homey pub, beautiful village greens and waddling ducks.’ What are the chances? Pretty high if you’re in the Cotswolds.
This week, we will have been on the road for six months. It’s hard for us to believe that we have been travelling for half a year, although some days, it feels as if it’s been a lifestyle we’ve lived for decades. This practice of booking lodging (and then valiantly trying to track it down), seeking out neighbourhood grocery stores, exploring new haunts, settling in and packing up, acquainting ourselves with local customs, making mistakes and trying again, and documenting it all through photos and journal entries has become somewhat routine. Routine in the sense that we all know what the priorities are, understand the tasks that need to be done, and participate in the dance together, sometimes awkwardly but often enough gracefully. What isn’t routine is the nature of what we can see every day, and what we’ve learned through this awesome opportunity. We’ve had to learn more patience, with each other and with circumstances; we’ve discovered we can live together in close quarters; we’ve come to understand that we can get out of every situation through problem solving and that “it will end up OK”; we have figured out how to find the isolation each of us needs at times despite the crowding; we have seen how incredibly varied and beautiful God’s creation is and how humans have added to it through the talents he has given. And I have come to appreciate Ben and the girls even more than before -- they are all such great companions. It’s good to know we still have time together when the trip ends!