Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Travel: Memories of Yorkshire

© 2015 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

It was June and time to get back on the road again, this time to London, England. After some business meetings there, I planned two weeks' vacation in Yorkshire. For something different, I decided to take along a traveling companion, a very bright, stuffed toy caterpillar (whom I christened Mr. C), and to use him to meet people and to take photos-with-a-difference; that is, with him in each of them. Yes, I'm still a kid at heart, and maybe I really have lost the plot!

[Diary] At 11 am, the Virgin Train express to Edinburgh departed with my stop, York, being the first. I sat facing backwards, and my seatmate was a 22-year-old woman, Evia, from Latvia. Ethnically Russian, she learned Latvian in school, along with English and basic French. She was a delight to be with.

At the York railway station, I met a small boy who had two stuffed animals, so I stopped and introduced him to Mr. C. His father smiled as we "played." I also chatted with a policeman, and got train information. As I walked into the city, I spoke with a Ukrainian woman who lived in San Francisco. My objective was the tourist office, where I got great service and a chat. Back at the station, I looked at tourist information while waiting for a local train to Poppleton, a village on the edge of town. The train there ran every hour at 11 minutes past. During the 6-minute ride, I chatted with a very elegant woman (around 80, I'd guess) from Lancashire, who'd recently returned from a 3-week river cruise all the way from Amsterdam to the Black sea. Next, she was headed on a tour to Athens and the Greek islands. She certainly was living life to the fullest.

Host John had sent me walking directions from the train station. He, black Labrador Sam, and two cats were there to welcome me to their home. He showed me my room upstairs after which we drank tea. I outlined my plan for my time in York and John helped me fine-tune a few things. Then I talked about "what next" and he gave me maps and brochures to help. As a result, I changed my plan for the next destination. I also exchanged a novel for one of his. The place was a Bed-and-Breakfast (B&B). I had a very nice, big room with a large bed and plenty of natural light, complete with tea/coffee facilities. There was a shared bathroom down the hall. A retired Aussie couple from rural Victoria were also guests. For supper, we all bought fish and chips, and mushy peas, which John fetched from a shop, and we ate, drank, and talked the night away. It was a good beginning to my holiday. Lights out at 10 pm.

[Diary] As I got to the end of my street, several hundred yards from my bus stop, my bus went racing passed; bugger! Oh well, another would be along in 30 minutes. I walked into the village where I met an elderly man waiting at that stop. He owned a restored fire truck, and was going to pick it up to take it to an exhibition. He asked where I was traveling and highly recommended I visit the northeast coast of the county.

Very light rain fell as I waited and while we drove into and through York, and out the other side. Once we cleared the built-up areas, we came across fields of wheat surrounded by hedgerows, and a large horse farm with new-season foals racing about. The end of the line was the village of Stamford Bridge, the place where King Harold defeated the Vikings in 1066, just before he had to march his army south to face William the Conqueror at Hastings.

The exact location of the battle is unknown, so I looked at the memorial plaque before asking some locals for information. I headed to the bridge over the River Derwent to a public path that meandered along the river. The path was a narrow swath cut through 4-foot-high grass and stinging nettles with many wildflowers. Although the grass was wet, it hadn't been raining long or heavy, so my shoes and clothes didn't get very wet.

I made my way to the viaduct and walked on that over the river stopping to chat with a group of villagers who were working on a public garden at the old train station. Along the way, I stopped to pat some very friendly dogs and to chat with their masters. I walked around the village stopping occasionally to take a photo. I went inside the village church and wandered around the graveyard, which included markers for several local WWI soldiers. As I'd seen pretty much all there was to see, I waited for the next bus. As the friendly driver had sold me a day pass for the price of one return trip, I decided to go back to York and get off there.

[Diary] Back home, I set up my laptop on the breakfast table where I named the photos I'd taken, and brought this diary up to date after several days of neglect. Email arrived from friends Kathy and John with an update and photos of their time in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a city I have plans to revisit for an extended period. Fellow guests, Peter and Jan, returned from their trip into York, and we worked side-by-side sampling, repeatedly, the Cadbury's hazelnut chocolate I'd bought. Our hosts came home, and tempted us with fresh-made scones with jam and cream. I resisted eating there and then but took one for 'Ron (as in 'later on').

I researched the North Yorkshire Moors area and went online and booked a room for three nights, and checked out the transportation situation. For supper, I made a cup of cream-of-chicken soup, which I ate with potato chips, followed by a dessert of scones with a glass of milk. Lights out at 10, asleep at 10:01.

[Diary] I had a very nice breakfast of bacon, sausage, fried tomato on toast, and juice. I ate half and packed the rest for 'Ron. I walked into the village where I caught the mid-morning bus to York. A few drops of rain fell along the way. I got off at the train station where I bought my ticket for the following day. Then I boarded a city tour bus for a 1-hour tour, and I sat right up front, upstairs in the double-decker bus. After that orientation, I walked through some nice gardens, atop one section of the old city wall, around the York Minster (cathedral), and along narrow streets of shops including the famous one, The Shambles. I stopped to listen to on older man playing well-known ballads on a guitar and harmonica, then to two young women singing while a young man played guitar. As I approached, they were singing my new, favorite song, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen, and that's what caught my attention. After four songs and lots of encouragement, Mr. C put one penny in their guitar case, and I put in £1. I figured they were high school students.

It was a mostly nice and sunny day with a cool, strong breeze blowing. Feeling tired, I walked back to the train station for a pint of cold milk and a Cornish pasty filled with Madras curry beef.

[Diary] I was up at 8 o'clock and packed soon after. At 8:30, John served me fried tomato on toast with bacon and sausage, and juice. It was all veddy civilized. I wrote in the guest book before settling in to a few more chapters of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I'd found on a shelf in my room. I left the house at 10:45 and walked to the main village bus stop where I chatted with an elderly couple. It was overcast with a cool breeze. I rode the bus to the York train station where I met two delightful Japanese ladies who were heading back to London and Tokyo. I also chatted with a young backpacker from New Zealand.

The 12:15 train to Middlesbrough arrived. The good news was I had a reserved seat; however, the bad news was that the train's printer wasn't working, so the staff couldn't print and put out the reserved-seat signs. That said, there was plenty of room and I staked out a table with four seats all to myself. As we raced north, I pored over maps and brochures getting a better idea of where I was headed. Once I happened to look out the right window where I saw the Kilburn White Horse, a very large horse made with limestone chips on the side of a hill in 1857. Soon after, the skies darkened, and it started to rain. At Middlesbrough, I had a 45-minute layover. On the 1:15-hour ride to Whitby, I chatted with an Englishwomen who'd long lived in Toronto, Canada. She too was headed for Whitby, and we exchanged information.

It was raining heavily as I came out of the railway station and crossed the street to the tourist office. There I got lots of good information and brochures. I also got an answer to my question, "I have come away without my woolen hat. Can you please direct me to a thrift shop where I might buy a used one?" Nearby was an Oxfam shop, and they had just the thing; a gaudy knitted hat suitable for a circus clown and that doubled as a tea cosy. It was perfect, and cost only £2!

Armed with my town map, I walked up some steep steps in the rain and soon found my new home, a 4-storey townhouse that had been very nicely renovated. Host Helen was there to meet me and to explain the house rules. The first was to remove street shoes. And as I travel with slippers anyway, I was happy to do that. She boiled water, but instead of tea, I made a cup of minestrone soup from my emergency rations. We chatted of many things before I went up to the attic bedroom that had a window looking out over the river and the east side of town. High on the hill the Abbey ruin was visible through light fog and rain.

I did a load of laundry and hung that all around my room to give the place some ambiance. I worked on my laptop and then spent quite some time going through all the tourist information I'd accumulated. By the time I was done, I'd decided that three nights wasn't long enough, so I extended my stay by another night.

Although I was yawning, I decided to go out into the night air for a brisk walk. I rugged up and went out around 8 pm. Thankfully, the rain had long since stopped. I toured a large supermarket and picked up some juice, sweets, cheese, and small deserts of vanilla custard and rice pudding. I walked all along the waterfront on the east side stopping to look in all the shop windows. Most fast-food places were closed or just about to when I came upon a fish-and-chip shop from which I rescued a large sausage that was battered and fried. It was served with a large cup of curry sauce into which I dipped said sausage. It was wonderful! I ate half and then walked out to the end of the East Pier right into the teeth of a strong and cold wind right off the North Sea. At the end of the pier, I found a sheltered spot behind a stone wall where I finished off my late-night snack. Back in my room, it was lights out at 9:30.

[Diary] When I woke, I felt sure it was only 6 am, but it was nearly 9:30 and I'd had 12 solid hours of sleep. YES! I went downstairs to the kitchen where I made coffee and toast, which I smothered in raspberry jam and cheese, together. It was a Breakfast of Champions. I was very happy to take a break from a cooked English breakfast.

Although the rain had ended, it was cold and windy out, so I rugged up before stepping outside around 11 o'clock. There, lo and behold, in the front garden next door were some 10 toilet bowls filled with soil and many colorful flowers. My host had lent me two town walking guidebooks, and my plan was to follow those. I started with the west side of town crossing the so-called swinging bridge. I stopped off at the Captain Cook Museum where young James lived during his seaman's apprenticeship. Then it was along the River Esk to the East Pier and breakwater. After that, it was up the 199 steps to the cemetery at St. Mary's church. According to my guidebook, "The broad landings and seats were designed 'for the easement of bearers of coffins where they rested their burden on the long climb to the clifftop graveyard'." Nearby was the Abbey Ruin that inspired the story of Dracula. Back at the river I dropped by a fish-and-chip shop to sample a serving of fried onion rings.

Back across the river, I started the walking tour of the west side of town. That took me to an overlook having an archway made of whalebones near a statue of Captain Cook that had plaques from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, all marking his exploits in their lands. By the time I got back to my starting point the sun was out and it was decidedly warmer.

I was back at my B&B after 4½ hours, and my legs were complaining about all the steep steps and paths. I settled in at the dining table to handle email, name photos, and to work on this diary. Co-host Phil, who was a professional musician, and I chatted a bit before he headed out to conduct a small local orchestra. I continued listening to an album by Enya and stopped along the way for a cup of minestrone soup and some leftover food. A young German-speaking couple from Switzerland arrived and I gave them a brief orientation to the house and town. They were staying two nights in a room in the basement.

After more than four hours of travel administration, I was ready for a stretch, so I dressed to go out before retiring for the night. I walked around for an hour, and the sun was still high in the sky at 8 pm. I stopped off at a large public garden around a museum center and large playground. Then it was back into the old town along back streets and alleyways. Lights out at 10 o'clock.

[Diary] I readied my daypack and was out the door by 9:15. The weather was decent, cool with lots of clouds and no wind. I walked through the old town and on up the 199 steps to the Abbey ruin parking lot. There at 9:40 I started the 6½-mile hike on the Cleveland Way along the clifftops. I soon found that I had on too many layers of clothing, so perspired quite a bit. The path went way up and way down, repeatedly, and I sure was happy to get to Robin Hood's Bay after 2½ hours. The village had an upper part (where I arrived) and a lower part down by the water. I quickly decided that I had no desire—let alone energy—to go down and back up one more hill, so I stayed in the upper section sitting on the grass having my lunch and a pint of milk.

After a 40-minute break, I turned around and went back up the hill to the Cinder Trail, the bed of a former railway track that was removed many years ago. Although it wasn't steep, it had a steady incline up for the first four miles of the return trip. It ran inland following the hill contour and was several hundred feet higher than the coastal trail. I took just over two hours to get back to Whitby. By that time my feet were very sore with several small blisters developing. After a hot shower and a large drink of juice, I lay on the bed wondering how I could have done such a punishing thing. To revive, I had a cup of boiling tea with extra sugar.

I stayed in for the evening, as I didn't want to put my walking shoes back on. After a cup of soup and a snack, I worked on various bits of administration including researching the next area to visit and the next place to stay. My first choice for a host had the gall to turn me down as she already had a couple and didn't want to have to make them share a bathroom with me. Well, I farted in her general direction and went on to Plan B. Very soon after, I found the perfect place, in a town, some distance away, and that host was delighted to have me. She'd be out when I arrived, but she'd leave a key hidden and I was to have a cup of tea on arrival and generally make myself at home. Lights out at 10, tossed and turned until 11, read some more, and finally put out the light by midnight. Although I was happy to have done the hike, I knew for certain that I don't work that hard for money!

[Diary] I slept rather fitfully with my legs and knees aching off and on after the previous day's walk. I finally got up around 9 o'clock and went down for a light breakfast. I headed out into a nice day around 11 am and started by buying a train ticket to my next destination, a village near Harrogate. Then I rescued an ice-cold can of Pepsi from a shop and enjoyed the caffeine boost. After the hard walk the day before, I abandoned my idea of going to the North York Moors National Park to walk around. Instead, I decided to go to Sandsend, a small village some four miles up the coast. However, the bus there was very late, so I didn't arrive until noon. Families were playing down on the beach, ducks swam in the small river that came down from the hills, and people sat outside several restaurants and cafes eating lunch and drinking coffee. At times, the sun was nice and warm, and with little wind, it was very pleasant.

I walked to the end of the village and found a second river going back up into a valley with stone cottages each side and walking paths and seats by grassed areas down near the water. At the end was the village church. In the entrance, I stopped to look at the cost of various ceremonies one could have conducted by the Church of England: Marriage service £413; Baptisms were free, but a certificate cost £13; and Funeral with burial in the churchyard preceding or following a service in the church £310. I sat on a bench near the seawall and read my novel for some time before an elderly woman joined me and we chatted at length. She was on a day outing with a teenage granddaughter.

Mid-afternoon, I rode the bus back and bought a nice tuna salad, potato chips, and milk, and settled on a bench to eat while a school band performed in the public plaza. Although the weather was still decent, dark clouds crept closer. I was back in my room at 4 o'clock listening to music and handling emails. Some light rain fell. In the evening, I went out for a walk to the end of the pier. The sea was quite calm, in contrast to when I'd arrived Monday evening. Along the way, I dropped into several snack places to have a battered sausage, a scoop of ice cream, and a pint of milk. Back home, I finished off my novel. Lights out at 11 o'clock.

[Diary] Travel Day! I woke just before 9 am, and after a long, hot shower, I packed my gear and vacated my room just as the cleaning ladies arrived to service the house. I spent the morning sitting at the dining table working on various tasks. Although some rain fell, things brightened up as the morning wore on. At 11:30, I departed my place and headed for a narrow street purported to have a bakery with the best sausage rolls in town! I wanted two, but for an extra 10 pence, I could get four. That was not a tough decision by any means, and even though they didn't have any packets of ketchup, the young assistant put a sufficient quantity of that nectar in a paper cup for me to take away. I made my way to the train station as a few drops of rain fell. There I chatted with a couple from Nottingham. When I asked about the health of their sheriff, they replied that he was well.

I boarded the 12:18, 2-carriage train to Middlesbrough, and took a table with four seats all to myself, and I sat facing forward. Across the way was an older couple with a very well-behaved dog who got constant attention from me during the 90-minute trip. It was slow going as we had 15 stops. The whole trip was through valleys in amongst rolling hills, with small rivers with heron, hedgerows, stone walls, and green fields all with yellow and white flowers. There were newly shorn sheep, dairy cattle, geese waddling home from a pond, horses, and pheasants. It was a wonderful trip. Although it was overcast, there was a nice breeze coming in through the window.

After a 45-minute wait in Middlesbrough, I caught the 14:27 train for Manchester Airport getting off at York, where I had another 45-minute wait. As I waited for my 16:10 train, I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was an art student whose medium was photography. She'd worked after high school before going to university, and was 23 years old. She was the youngest of four daughters and had spent her formative years in France, so was fluent in French. We hit it off immediately, she invited me to her mother's clothing store for tea, and I accepted. From the station in Knaresborough, it was a short walk to the middle of town and soon we were in her mother's shop, Giraffe, where I met her mother, Elizabeth. We chatted over tea after which Elizabeth invited me to a musical concert later that evening, and I accepted. Interestingly, the young woman's first name was Boadecea, an alternative spelling for the famous warrior queen, with whom I was somewhat familiar. Like her namesake, she was a very independent woman, and meeting her was most fortuitous. [As I say repeatedly about travel, you can have a good or bad time anywhere in the world; it largely depends on your attitude and the people you meet. And traveling with a colorful, toy caterpillar sticking out of your coat pocket makes meeting interesting people much easier!]

I walked out into the rain and after 10 minutes found my new home, a private house with a large yard in a nice neighborhood. My host, Corrina, was out, but she's left me a key under a large flowerpot, so I let myself in and settled into my nice upstairs room. As it had been a bit humid out, I showered and then dressed for an evening of music. At 6:45, I headed out for St. John's Church where I chatted with a woman while we waited for the doors to be opened. I bought a ticket for £6 getting senior's concession. I reserved seats in the very first pew and soon after, Elizabeth and her friend Stephen, who I'd also met earlier, joined me. At 7:30, Christian Forshaw and the Sanctuary Ensemble began their concert. According to the program, his music explores the ecclesiastical sound world. He played saxophone, while two other men played percussion and an electric organ, and a woman sang. I wasn't sure what to expect from that style of music featuring a sax, but it was most enjoyable and very well arranged. The event took two hours, and included an intermission during which we went to the church hall for refreshments. While others drank wine, I had a glass of apple with elderflower drink while chatting with a man who was taking an opera-appreciation course.

When we adjourned, the weather out was very nice, and I walked home humming all the way. There I met my host before retiring to my room to read. [Host Corinna was a single mom with three young kids who lived half each week with her and half with their father. Before kids, she travelled a great deal and was an outgoing person who just happened to rent out her spare room.] The afternoon and evening had left an excellent first impression of my new town.

[Diary] I went downstairs around 8 o'clock and had some fruit, juice, and milk while I worked on a plan for activities for the next few days. Corinna joined me at 9 am and we chatted. Then she worked on her computer at her end of the dining table while I did likewise at mine. I extended my 3-day stay with her by two days then after an hour of research, I'd booked an upscale B&B right in the heart of the Dales for my last two nights in Yorkshire, and I'd made a plan for how to spend my time.

I stepped outside at 11 o'clock into a magnificent day that was almost hot. I walked into town taking photos and keeping an eye out for a bakery. I found one in the main square and I bought a cheese and onion roll for a light snack, and a bacon roll for 'Ron. I dropped by Elizabeth's shop to say "Hello." From there I wound around the streets to the castle and adjacent museum where I took a tour. The attendant was ever so obliging when I asked her to take a photo of me in the stocks. Nearby were very nice gardens, on the steep slope going down to the river. I walked along the riverbank for quite some distance and watched people working on expanding further their already generous waistlines. I tried to rent a rowboat at two different places, but they required at least two passengers, one to row, facing backwards, the other to steer using a rudder, facing forwards. Frankly, in all my years around rowboats I'd never seen one with a rudder. I walked back into the shopping area and sat in the sun on the steps of a monument where I chatted at length with a woman who was camping in the area.

[Diary] I headed out at 11 am. The local bus stop was a few yards from my front door and I had a 10-minute wait during which an elderly man talked to me of many things. The bus took me to Harrogate's main bus station where I checked the timetables for the return trip as well as other trips later in the week. Next door, was the train station, so I went there to buy my ticket to London for later in the week. The friendly agent found me a very good fare, which, oddly enough was in First Class, so I locked that in.

Harrogate is an upscale place full of nice (expensive, that is) shops and eating establishments. One of its most famous places is Bettys Café Tea Rooms, so I dropped by to look at the patrons through the window. From there it was down a steep hill through a very upscale area. It was Armed Forces Day, and a special activity was being held at a garden complex nearby. The grounds were in bloom and many people—young and old—were dressed in civilian and military clothing from WWII. The live entertainment featured singers and bands playing tunes from that era, and booths sold food and drink. A number of WWII vehicles were on display, and the Yorkshire Regiment had a booth, as did the Royal Air Force Reserves. Mid-afternoon, a Spitfire fighter flew over several times to great applause. It rained a few drops a couple of times then a bit stronger once, but only for a few minutes. Afterwards, we all got back on the grass. I chatted with a young family who'd moved from London and were enjoying the city.

[Diary] I was awake well before my 6:30-am alarm. After a small snack, Corinna and I drove through the countryside to Skipton, to pick up her three children who'd been at their dad's place. We drove through rolling hills of green grass, stone walls, and sheep. It was very scenic. At 7:45, she dropped me right in the middle of town. The main street was busy as people were setting up booths for the day's market. After a short walk around to orient myself, I settled in at a table at Walker's Tea Room where a very pleasant woman served me a bacon roll and a tall glass of steaming hot chocolate. I grabbed a local magazine from a shelf and did some puzzles, and then read an interesting article about the re-launching of a 50-year-old set of TV puppets, The Clangers. The new venture starred Michael Palin (of Monty Python fame) as the narrator.

I walked along a canal path and stopped to look at some barges on which people lived. When I came to a barge rental place, I went onboard one to see how it was equipped, and to find out the price for a week's rental. [For some years, renting a canal barge has been on my "possibles" trip list.] By the time I got back to the market, booths were open, and I stopped to buy cheap pairs of socks "for very tall men". At the tourist office, I got a map and some brochures, and I watched a great 35-minute video of Yorkshire. The main attraction of the town is its well-preserved castle, so I toured that. While there, I learned about the large Castle Woods behind it, so I decided to hike there. It was a mile up along a small, cascading river, then a mile west to the edge of the woods, all under a heavy canopy. My two favorite plants were everywhere: moss and ferns. Once out of the wood, I climbed a stile over a fence and walked another mile back to town through a farmer's field. As I climbed a large stone stile at the top of a hill, I met a woman walking a dog. We talked for a bit and admired the view of the valley and town. The path entered town right by Walker's Tea Rooms, which I took as an omen. So, I dropped in for another glass of hot chocolate, which I drank with my leftover breakfast. I sat outside under an awning watching the world go by. I walked back along the canal and hopped on a tour barge for a 30-minute tour along one section of the canal below the castle, feeding the ducks with a packet of food I bought onboard. Having had an early start, I'd done all I wanted to do in that town, so I headed for the railway station.

There were no direct busses or trains to Harrogate, so I caught a train to Leeds. We went through rolling hills of green grass, stone walls, and sheep. In Leeds, I walked around the city center for an hour. It was mostly modern high-rise with upscale shops and eating-places with a few old buildings in-between. I bought an ice cream and kept in the shade, as it was quite warm. Back at the station, I paid a visit to the men's toilets, and there, right next to me standing having a whizz, was a young guy playing with his mobile phone. It brought a completely new meaning to the term "streaming video!" After a 30-minute wait, I boarded a train to Knaresborough via Harrogate, and—you guessed it—we went through rolling hills of green grass, stone walls, and sheep! I walked into town and bought emergency rations at a supermarket before heading home. Not only were Corinna's three kids there, but so too were five of their friends, and all were active and noisy, just like a group of kids should be. And it was great to see that not one of them was using an electronic gadget. I kept out of their way by laying on my bed reading my novel, venturing out once all the guests had gone home. I heated up some leftover food and had a light supper before getting back to my novel. Lights out at 10 pm after a great day.

[Diary] It was Travel Day! I packed my gear and was waiting at the bus stop out front by 9:45, and the bus pulled up several minutes later. We had a leisurely ride into Harrogate where I had a 20-minute wait until my next bus. The Number 24 to Pateley Bridge arrived, we boarded, and it left, right on time at 10:30. The 50-minute ride cost £6. A young mother with a small child in a stroller sat up front next to me, and we chatted until she got off. I looked out the windows on both sides as we drove through the countryside. You guessed it; there were green fields, stone walls, and sheep. However, there were also hedgerows and cattle. All buildings were made of stone and had slate roofs. I was now well and truly in the Yorkshire Dales. It was quite hot out and rather humid.

In Pateley Bridge, I went to the tourist office where I got a map of the village and some information about things to see and do. I also bought a walking map that described a series of short hikes in the area. Next up was my B&B, Roslyn House, where I planned to drop my gear before going walking. Even though I arrived four hours before check-in time, my room was ready, and the hostess, Judith, showed me to my room.

I chose a 6-mile walk that would take me up to the top of the highest hills in the area, from which I could look out over the river valley. The first couple of miles were quite steep, starting on paved roads and then soon becoming public paths across farmers' fields. As I got near the top, I collapsed on the cool, damp grass and put my heart back in my chest. "It could be worse," thought I. "I could be doing this in winter, through a snow drift, on my way to deliver twin lambs on a remote farm, just like veterinarian James Herriot!"

At the top of the ridge, I crossed a section of moorland. However, when I came to a fork on the path, my guidebook provided no help. I went back and forth several times trying to find out which option to choose. By that time, the skies were getting dark and thunder and lightning were just across the valley. Light rain fell right about the time I realized I was no longer where I was supposed to be. Then the Mother-of-all-Thunder-Claps sounded directly above me. The Gods seemed to be quite angry. But was that at me, specifically, or at mankind, in general? I was no longer on a path, so I waded through the tall grass, climbed a stone wall, and crawled under a high gate, generally heading for the valley below where I knew the river and a path to be. Somewhere along the way, my sun hat fell from my waistband and was lost. I was in no mood to go back and look for it. The weather held off, but just as I got to the river, light rain fell again. However, from that point on, I was under a thick canopy of trees. I was back home after 3:30 hours, and I figure I'd done 1–2 miles more than I'd planned. C'est la vie! Back in my room, I had a shower and lay on the bed, too tired to sleep or to do anything useful. It was hot with no breeze.

At 6 o'clock, I ventured out to look for a place to eat, and I soon found a small restaurant tucked away on a back alley. I was the only customer until a couple arrived a bit later. I ordered the sausages, mashed potato, and gravy, which came with a very large plate of cooked vegetables. I sipped an ice-cold Coke while I waited. It was a lot of food, but I took my time and worked on some puzzles. Afterwards, I walked around the village stopping to buy a pint of whole milk. Back in my room, I started a new novel I'd gotten from the lounge room where I swapped over the two books I'd finished.

Lights out at 10:30 and I was asleep right away. I slept soundly until 11:55 when it sounded like the sky was falling, which it was! A hailstorm came and went in about four minutes, and from the sound of the ice chunks landing, some of them were big. I heard the sounds of glass and other things breaking. The burglar alarm on one car was activated, and kept on with lights flashing for some time. It rained very hard for no more than 10 minutes, and the water rushed down the side street out my window. The rain stopped altogether soon after and all I could hear was the sound of bleating sheep. Certainly, some hailstones would have been big enough to kill or maim a small animal.

[Diary] Soon after 8 o'clock, I was down in the dining room. Judith played waiter while her husband was in charge of the kitchen. I had a glass of orange juice while studying the menu. There was a wide range of choices. I settled on some toast, a fried egg, bacon, fried tomatoes, and black pudding, saving the bacon for 'Ron. I took my time and worked on some puzzles while sipping juice, and it was 9:15 by the time I was done. The storm had certainly cooled things off and cleared the air of humidity, and except for all the small dents in the cars from the hail and a broken window in the B&B's dining room, there was no evidence a storm had occurred.

I set out on a 2-mile walk/hike around my village. I took no jacket or pack, as it was only a 2-mile walk! However, not long into it I found that the distinct lack of signposts for the paths and the lack of information in my guidebook made it as challenging as the day before and pretty soon I was off the network and climbing fences. It occurred to me that the map might have been left over from WWII when misinformation was deliberately circulated to confuse any invading enemy. After an extra mile or more, I made it back home, but not before it'd gotten quite cool with thunder and lightning in the distance. I certainly had perspired a lot and my shirt was soaking wet. What to do but sit right down and boil the kettle for a hot cup of tea. That was matched nicely with some fruitcake and a cookie. The downside of the local walking experiences was that I abandoned all interest in doing another in the afternoon.

[Diary] As I stepped out of my B&B, a Royal Air Force fighter jet flew directly overhead at a very low altitude with its noise shattering the rural silence. At 11:15, I was at the bus stop and soon after, the 11:30 departed for Harrogate. On the way, we had the obligatory green fields, stone walls, and sheep! At Harrogate, I made the short walk to the train station where I settled into a coffee shop for a large latte and a blueberry muffin that was "to die for."

I arrived at London's Kings Cross station around 5:15, and fought my way through all the people to the Hammersmith and Circle Tube line. It was very humid, especially underground and on the train with little air circulation. I checked into my hotel at Paddington, dumped my gear, and headed back out again, into the city. A new theater guide had been issued the day before, so I grabbed a copy at my hotel to read on the Tube to Leicester Square. There was only one new play that I really wanted to see, but I thought that might be too new to be on sale yet. To my pleasant surprise, tickets were available and at a decent price, so I made my way to the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand where I took up a seat in the stalls with a great view of the stage. At 7:30, the lights went down and the curtain went up on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, starring David Suchet and Michelle Dotrice. Suchet played a woman, Lady Bracknell, and he did it superbly. The three acts plus intermissions ran 2½ hours, and the play was extremely well received, with a standing ovation and two curtain calls. It had been a long time since I'd enjoyed a play that much. It was my second time seeing Suchet on stage in London, and he's well and truly broken the Poirot stereotype with those performances.

[Diary] July 4th, American Independence Day! Oh, say can you see …

At Paddington Station, I boarded the Heathrow Express train and, at 8:10, it departed for the 15-minute ride to LHR. My carriage was quite full for a Saturday morning, especially considering that trains depart every 15 minutes. I got off at the first stop and made the long walk to Terminal 2 where check-in took place way up on the 5th floor. I said goodbye to my luggage and passed through the priority security check where Mr. C survived the X-ray machine. The estimated walk to my gate was 15 minutes! Of course, with my Seven-League boots, I managed that in half the time, but it was quite a hike. Near my gate was a United Airlines Business Lounge, where I set up camp in a comfortable seat to work on this diary. Although I'd be served lunch onboard, I looked at the food on offer there and rescued a couple of tasty Lincolnshire sausages and some fried potato. That was accompanied by a glass of peach nectar.

At 11 o'clock, I got up to look at the departure screen, and was just in time to see the staff setting up lunch. Being July 4th, they had shredded pork with BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and beans. It looked so good that I figured it would be better than the lunch I'd get in-flight, so I helped myself to a portion.

Back home, I unpacked my gear and went through three weeks of mail, and had an unnecessary snack and drink. It was good to be home with my own kitchen and bed. As jetlag kicked in, I wandered off to bed at 7:30, local time (12:30 am, London time).