Here’s something I haven’t yet mentioned in these writings: the participants on our tours can make every effort, every challenge, every bit of craziness and frantic response to changing circumstances entirely worthwhile. Entirely. The group in Scotland was fun-loving, adventurous and fully engaged in making the trip their dream adventure. The group in Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands was thoughtful and engaged. And the group of ladies that made up The Knitters Tour of British Breeds was the most friendly, supportive and happy-go-lucky that I’ve yet encountered – plus eager to experience whatever Heather might have in store for them. I count myself lucky to be at the head or rear (as the “sweep” or sheepdog, rounding up the ones who stray) of the group every time.
I cannot tell you the number of times I’d feel stressed out or overwhelmed or worried or anything negative at all — and I’d chat with someone from the group or watch them truly enjoy something — and everything would be instantly alright. It’s so satisfying to create experiences for people. But to like those people and get to watch them as they enjoy… well that is at the heart of why I do this work.
The combination of individuals that made up the trip in England was especially wonderful. They needed to be because very shortly I would be out of commission. And in part, so was Heather.
Things started well enough at Pickwell. A beautiful place with comfortable accommodations, lots of places to gather and knit and talk. I gave an introductory spinning class on the first morning and then facilitated a group session on British sheep breeds. There were a couple of sheep keepers in the group, a couple of highly experienced spinners, many accomplished knitters plus a few fiber newbies. So the session was less a presentation and more of a discussion. Various people shared their experiences and thoughts. Lots of questions were asked and answered. And we were all gathered around a comfy living room with a fire going in the fireplace. How great was that?!?! (I know. May. But May on the British coast means temperatures very different from May at home in New Mexico. Think cold and damp. With rain every forty minutes or so.)
I hadn’t planned to lead the session on breeds. That was Heather’s thing. But I had to step in at the last minute because someone in the group was seriously ill. Not with Covid! All tests – and there were many taken before and after that day, by many people – were negative. Nope. Just a good old-fashioned, regular, evil cold. The kind that starts with a sore throat and then consumes your entire head in congestion than ends by moving into your chest. Remember those? Well during the previous tour in Wales, a few folks had picked one up. And poor Debbie, she was just about knocked flat by it. She and Heather spent the morning getting her seen to by medical folks. We put Debbie to bed and then ventured out for a little exploration.
We zipped around one of the little towns to find dinner then went to meet a local shepherd for a walk and talk. David Kennard met us in nearby Mortehoe and took us out onto the land he stewards along the cliffs. Even better? He brought out his working dogs to give us a little demonstration.
And from the top of that ridge where we stood, David sent his dogs down onto the cliffside below. With a series of whistles he directed his dogs to gather and move the sheep back up to the pen at the entry to the area. Totally amazing. I mean we could barely see the dogs and sheep, they were so far away from us.
I know. Not everyone is amazed by working Border Collies. But I really am. Over the years, I’ve been exposed to their incredible smarts, devotion and instinct for work. I have so much respect for them. In an alternate universe, I’m working a sheep farm with my Border Collies right now.
But lo, in the midst of my sheepdog watching happiness, I was also aware of a sore throat steadily increasing in its intensity.
Ignore! I shouted to myself.
For a while, I did. But already overtired, having not taken a break to rest &renew in between tours, I was the perfect victim for contagion. By later that evening, I was succumbing to the evil cold from Hades. Shall we call it ECFH, for Evil Cold From Hades? Well, that doesn’t just roll off the tongue, does it. Well, let’s call it The Evil Cold.
For two days we’d been traveling together on the bus, sharing air and coughs and sniffles with the folks from the Wales tour who had already recovered from The Evil Cold. Debbie, poor thing, was trying to breathe with a cold, through her mask – no small feat. Regardless, I’d let my guard down after weeks in maskless environments and caught it very quickly. I decided to stay back at Pickwell the next day, try to sleep as much as possible and hope a little downtime would keep the cold from really settling in. The group went on to enjoy a walk through a bluebell forest and a visit to John Arbon Textile Mill. (Probably good I didn’t go because I could have bought another suitcase of amazing, ready-to-spin fiber there along with wonderful yarns.) I sipped tea, I did some computer work and I reassured myself.
The next day we were headed out, from Pickwell Manor in Devon to points southward, along the Cornish coast. I sat in the back of the bus, kept a mask on and tried to muster the energy to participate. Throat was worse, congestion arriving. All all around me was interesting, beautiful stuff! But I really couldn’t take it in. I felt miserable and was getting more miserable by the moment. A long, uncomfortable bus ride did not improve my state of mind.
Luckily, we stopped for a break and some adventuring. Ahhhh, fresh air and sea views! We visited Tintagel Castle, a medieval town and fortification thought to be the home of England’s legendary King Arthur.
I found the town above equally fascinating, with its use of stone as the primary building material. Beautiful masonry work everywhere.
After a couple more hours of driving, we arrived in lovely Marazion, on the southern coast of Cornwall. Our first few hours there were spent exploring St. Michael’s Mount, a mini-me of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. Smaller, closer and far fewer people in residence. But just as fascinating to watch the tide come in and erase the land bridge that allows access part of each day. Most everyone made it up to the top of the mount and saw the castle, chapel and garden. I was in pretty bad shape though, and only made it as far as the gardens. They were spectacular, of course, and though I should have been sitting and resting, I couldn’t help but wander around and revel in all the blooms. I did finally sit though. The sea and the seagulls and the town of Marazion gave me plenty to gaze upon. I let the breeze waft over me. I sniffled and snorked. How to ruin a perfectly beautiful day in Cornwall: have The Evil Cold.
After time on St.Michael’s Mount, we checked into out hotel. I had a hot toddy then went to bed. And aside from securing lunch the next day by walking across the street, I barely left that bed for two days. Heather and Kelly, my roommates, came and went. Things were happening. Explorations of Cornwall. An evening choral performance at an outdoor, cliffside theater. Various meals. Something about a walk where one or two persons got lost. I’m not really sure what happened. I slept and blew my nose and coughed up whatever was in my chest (ewwww, sorry!) and was pretty bummed out. I felt physically terrible and I felt emotionally terrible – guilty for not being there to help Heather and causing more worry.
Frankly, my time in Cornwall sucked.
The tale gets better though. After refusing anything stronger than some vitamin C tablets, I finally gave in and began taking this medicine, similar to Contact or Nyquil. I don’t usually like to take something that masks physical symptoms. It doesn’t allow your body to reflect its true state of health. However, enough was enough. We were about to move on and I had to get myself physically able to do so. Good thing I did because two days later it was Heather that couldn’t get out of bed. Same Evil Cold.
And there you have it. Back in the saddle, ready or not. By this time, half a dozen other people were all in varying stages of a struggle with The Evil Cold. We drank all the tea in England, plus added honey and lemon whenever we could. Everyone on the bus was masked, wither to keep their germs to themselves or to safeguard their own head and lungs. Still, we persisted.
And we went on to enjoy some time in and around Bath, visited Glastonbury, spent more time with sheep, stayed at a really swanky place called Daylesford, and made friends and knitted and had lots of laughs. I never quite recovered my full strength or sunny disposition, but everyone was very nice to me and supportive of me, Heather and each other. Lesson learned though. R &R between trips is a must do.
Wow. Just realizing that all these pictures are making the download to your screen extremely slow. Apologies! Fewer pictures next time, I promise.
At the end of this trip, I had a couple days in London before heading up to the housesit in Yorkshire. One was a travel day, and was closed out by arrival at the hotel, a walk until my room was ready, the discovery that I was just a couple blocks from Victoria Station and catching sight of this:
The next day I met up with one of my new friends from the trip and we ran around the city. We started at The British Museum. However, it was so sunny and beautiful outside, we decided not to waste the day. We had a picnic, grabbed a hop on/hop off tour to zoom all around the city, enjoyed an afternoon drink among the hoi-palloi in the West End and found dinner at a nearby pub. The only thing I missed was riding the London Eye. Oh, and visiting Buckingham Palace. Oh, and Hyde Park. And… oh well. There’s always next time.
And with that, I’m
Next stop was Middleham, about which I’ve written. And then Dublin, about which you’ll hear when I write about the Ireland trips. Wait, it’s 5 pm on the evening before my next group arrives and I’m all caught up. How is that possible?
Perhaps I’ll saunter down the street and have a pint. Or just crawl into bed with a book. Or… the possibilities are endless. For the next sixteen hours.