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Published: October 28th 2010
Fording the Stream
AKA: Land Rovering
Max: Have I told you how creaky this stone cottage is? Well, even with all of its creakiness, Cousin John’s early rising does not disrupt the heavy sleep of Caitlin and I. (I can hear John now, “Early? I wasn’t up until 8 AM! You were the ones overslept!) And sleep we did. A day of fresh and snappy autumn air in the beautiful English countryside has made us sleep like lambs. Speaking of which, Caitlin is now an official fan of sheep—especially here where they spray them with beautiful pastel colors to brand them, so there are blue, green, and lavender sheep. I didn’t see any pink….
Anyway, I am surprised that I am not sore today….I expected to be lame at the very least. Probably, I thought, I would need an iron lung today….No, no…I am up for another day in that stylish hiking gear of yesterday. Cousin John is champing at the bit (we say chomping don’t we?) and soon, but not as soon as CJ (Cousin John) would like, we are off to explore and hike. Today we are exploring one of C John’s theories. There are three peaks in a row that show the outlines of
burial mounds which are located within the perimeters of our ancient roots locale. We have public access rights to climb them and John cannot wait for us to brush our teeth and put on face stuff to get going. Well, he had to, but we got going anyway.
We are soon “parked” (that means pulled as far as possible against a stone wall so at least one car in one direction can pass you—you must be quick and The Artful Dodger from Dickens comes to mind)—and facing another stile. Stiles are quite interesting, and sometimes difficult to manage by stepping on and swinging half of one’s body weight over the top of a gate and then rebalancing on the other side. Some are easier than others. Some are made for giants and some for children. Some are deceptively slippery. Some, one can just squeeze through by doing contortions which Caitlin is oh so much better at than I. And now I am looking at a rather steep hill - a sheer face, actually,--of pasture grass. There are no foot holds of stone, just grass. Okay, I’ll try. And try I did until my better sense got the best of me.
Many of these villages have Well Dressing events
I could possibly reach the top; possibly. But what about the way down? That is all knee and ankle work. Two thirds of the way up, I give my blessing to Caitlin and John to go to the top without me. Again, I sit in the beautiful English sun in the beautiful English country side and marvel that I am here. (Thank you My John, yet again.) Could my Neolithic ancestors have sat in this spot and watched, marveled, waited? Could my Romano Briton slave miner ancestors have worked these hills? Could my Roman Legionnaire ancestors have tromped through this country side looking for sites to build a fort? Who is this group of 28 people who are related to each other through time? Who are we?
Cousin John comes running down the hill. It is better than he thought: there is a 360 degree view of all of our ancestral villages (actually I do not know my ancestral village and my ancestral surname may be an alias—but more of that later.) He is excited because his theory is working out and because the burial mounds at the top of this hill have not been excavated. We need the permission
I know this is hard to make out, but this is where some kindergarten teachers in the world get to work
and ability to excavate the mounds and look for teeth: teeth are good sources of DNA. We have become ghoulish in our dedication to finding DNA that matches ours and gives us answers. But, in the meantime, we are having a great time in each other’s company. Caitlin comes down the hill and decides that she likes climbing things.
I think it is time for lunch. We find a lovely spot…not too far from the Girl Guides out on an expedition, and safely away from the middle aged couple wearing stylish outdoors wear and carrying shot guns. Lunch is punctuated by their shots.
After lunch, Cousin John took us on a tour of his family tree and we have spotted his family arms and his former manor houses. But now, he must return to his family and resume his life as husband, father, and business owner. WAAAHHHHH! We liked having his incredible knowledge as we toured the Peak and we loved having his buoyant presence. Now, we must keep a stiff upper lip, face the challenges of driving and navigating, and go out on our own.
And we make it! We drive to Haddon Hall—a remarkably original Medieval structure. Have
I used the word beautiful enough so far? Well, it is beautiful, and especially for a Californian, it is ancient. There are bits that date back to the 12th century, but most has been built in the 14th - 16th centuries. Luckily it was abandoned and escaped modernization, so it remains remarkably true to its original form. And, by ourselves, we maneuver the supermarket and come back to Hog Cottage to…..Laundry! All of the linens stink to high heavens! Who has been sleeping in these beds? Finally we recognize the smell: dirty dog. This is a “dog friendly” cottage and boy, these dogs have enjoyed it! The smell on my mattress is indescribable—at first I think “dead and rotting” until I think “dog, very dirty and comfortable on this bed dog.” The smell of the towels is sour, and the tea towels are unusable. In the days ahead, we will give up many of our hours trying to make this a place in which we can live, and especially, breathe. Caitlin and I are up until the wee hours using a mini washer and dryer so that we have fairly clean sheet and at least one clean towel to use.
A Frosty Morning
The BBC reported that it was the coldest October night in 17 years
Americans, we are so picky!
Caitlin: I almost hugged a sheep today. She was a very brave sheep, sticking around to chat (really, I did most of the talking) after all of her friends had run away. When I was about 3 feet away, she decided it was time to part ways and never looked back. I also got to climb a nice big hill to meet that sheep. And eat a really delicious roast beef sandwich with nearly frozen fingers while sitting, all bundled up, on a bench overlooking the country side. It’s the simple things. And not so simple things, like Haddon Hall, which was truly gorgeous. We have been so blessed with not only amazing weather, but amazing light - it’s as if we’re walking around in a postcard for Autumn. Gorgeous. The only part of today that was less than brilliant was saying goodbye to John. I can’t wait to see him again back in London, where we will (hopefully) finally get to meet his wife and little boys!!!
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