Those of you who have been following this blog since last November (or anyone awake and reading) must have noticed a drastically increased frequency of posts. I mean, I posted NOTHING for almost four months and now I’m writing something every couple of days? Weird, huh? Well, I’m suddenly in a hurry to get to the main event of our storyline. In most ways our trip (and this story) starts and ends with Brandon’s leaving for Iraq and Brandon’s returning from Iraq. Clearly, he’s home, and I’ve got photos, and stories, and I want to see this thing through in the same calendar year that it took place. By tomorrow. So, here goes.
When we last saw our heroes (that’s Rory and Nora and I) we were lounging around the home of the Pilbeam’s somewhere outside of Edinburgh. Our time was short. We knew Brandon was due home sometime in October, and we meant to be there, household established, waiting for him. That gave us about three more weeks in Britain, then about three weeks at home, trying to settle in and get a house ready. Out of our three travelling weeks we wanted to wring all the satisfaction and joy and adventure and fellowship we could. We wanted to make them count. We wanted to spend our time with friends. And I absolutely, positively had to sell our car.
The Pilbeam’s pointed us toward the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on our way south to York. Just like Mont St. Michel in France or Skellig Micheal in Ireland (both of which, due to lack of prior planning, we viewed from afar) Holy Island was a religious community separated from the secular world by thought and deed and the tide. Now the ruins of an abbey, a National Trust property and some shops lure travellers over a wet road twice a day at low tides. And, thanks to the Pilbeam’s, we got there just in time to roll in, stroll around, and leave again before the sea reached our rims. Thanks, Ian!
We had also planned to go by Alnwick Castle, which was used as Hogwarts in some of the Harry Potter movies, but once there I calculated that it would cost us more than $70 to stroll the grounds and try to see exactly where Harry learned to play Quidditch. Hmmm… we backtracked to an overview, had a good look, and kept the money. No regrets there.
I have to admit, I have long wanted to see York. The cathedral, the old town, the Viking museum: I wanted to stay days and days and really take it all in. We set up the tent by the loveliest little river imaginable a few miles outside town. The plan was to stroll into town and take a bus back. Well, we never once left the campsite once we settled in. Those were our last few days in the Snug Bug, and that had a greater pull than York Minster.
Here’s where the Near Strangers come in. Long, long ago, early in the trip, we literally ran into another RTW family in a hostel in Queenstown, NZ. That family, the Price’s, kept an excellent, timely (hpm-hpm) blog which I read every chance I had (as should you: www.globalprices.wordpress.com) After our meeting we stayed loosely in touch, and they invited us to come for a visit if our itineraries allowed. So, strangers? Not really. Friends? Well, they are now. Tim and Kirsten and I stayed up late comparing notes and swapping tales and discovering one freaky coincidence after another. Ready? In addition to the biggie ( finding ourselves with our children on the opposite side of the world in the same hostel on the same day at the same minute, obviously!), we both own really old houses on High Streets, we both had (or have, in our case) a cat named Phoebe, and there was one other one I forget. It was quite late. Anyway, it was fated. I love those guys.
One of the many kindnesses they showed us was helping me to get the car listed on eBay. Kirsten gaped but held back the tears as the contents of our car were disgorged into her entryway. She gamely helped me to sort, repack and donate our stuff. And we are talking PILES of crap. And Tim did such a top-notch job guiding me through the car listing that it sold in five days for more than I paid for it. I’m still smiling about that.
We loaded up (a much reduced load, mind) with a few days to go before we could burst into Lucy and Thomas’s lives again. We had just enough time to zip down to Cornwall to visit a family we met while camping in New Zealand.
Now, of all the omissions of this blog, and they are legion, I just did a quick search and nowhere have I mentioned these folks. That is shocking. Rory really made these friends for us. We were in the very south of New Zealand, camping on Purakanui Bay at a Department of Conservation site (kind of like a National Park, but no park or facilities). Rich and Fiona and their girls were on a five or six-week trip over from England, and we all, kids and grown-ups, and Rich, hit it off right away. Our evening watching sea lions frolic while the kids danced in the sand for joy is one of our highlights of the whole year. Not only that, but we showed up on their doorstep in April, and they showed us a fine time. We drove across Cornwall to see the sun set over their favorite beach, and when we go home they opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. The best part? Unbeknowgst to them it was my birthday
You can see how we headed straight back for a repeat. In the interim they had had the good sense and amazing fortune to move from town to their favorite beach, so we got to see them in a new setting. Thanks, Rich and Fiona and Edie and Megan and Ruby. You guys are super star.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me tomorrow… stay tuned.