Ifwe planned to make it to Midgley before nightfall…
we needed to make a
beeline outta Windermere
Sure H had logged over 800 miles of English roadways.
And yah there’d been some close calls…
Like startling of wildlife
…or flattening of poorly-placed objects.
The point was, H truly dreaded drivingatnight.
And though her lefty driving skills
had blossomed into confidence,
Sari and I were stunned
when she pulled a 180 on
our itinerary that morning.
Hellbent on squeezing in
a Cumbrian castle
hours off course….
we’d still make Midgley
** ** **
Thanks to H’s risky bearing S and I were soon preparing to circumvent a handsome region once overrun by Roman legions.
Located in its namesake township,
Carlisle Castle was 5 hours round-trip.
Totally opposite from our route,
yet fearless H displayed no doubt.
And since she was the only brave soul
willing to tackle the driving role,
Sari and I stayed Mum
pardon the pun.
Excitingly, a landmark of
Roman ruins roosted near the town
Hadrian’s Wall !
Commissioned in 122 AD,
the Wall was designed to
keep Northern wildlings OUT ~~
T’was Hadrian’s most dearest wish
to barricade marauding Picts.
Building fancy wall-ish border
in the name of peace and order.
Over roller coaster lands
labored foreign legion hands
Blessed with Roman aptitude,
earning Hadrian’s gratitude.
It took five years to engineer a snaking super fort to fear.
With observation towers high Soaring broadly, piercing sky.
And oh so functional to boot sporting turrets, toilets, and laundry chutes.
[Impressive considering there were
no Home Depots or Ace hardwares.]
Through timely raids,
foes wrought destruction,
rupturing the wall’s construction
Patiently did peoples wait as Roman rule did dissipate
As wall and turret tumbled down Locals smartly swiped those stones
With hostilities long suspended
Scots’ invasions go unmentioned.
(If we don’t mention the ruckus in
London pubs from Scottish football fans…
or the recent calls
for Scottish independence)
Hadrian is fascinating —
a Roman leader who invested in peace
when he commissioned that wall,
Respecting the multi-cultural peoples
across his expansive Empire.
And most remarkably,
in an unprogressive era
he was openly gay, or at least not afraid
to hide his long-time love from
public scrutiny or judgment.
Clearly a man of balls… balls of Roman stone
Nicked by farmers, churches, stocks those heathen-Roman building blocks
were oft re-cycled far and wide
enhancing English countryside.
The overcast skies were spitting down
when H rolled our rental into town
It seemed so surreal cause
just across from our parking lot….
lay this fantastic medieval castle….
Carlisle’s ground stone was laid in 1092 –
a mere thousand years after Hadrian’s rule !
Etchings of the past
decorate the Keep
Believed to be chip-chipped
by prisoners, guards and
other unknown peeps.
Because it’s never been unoccupied
since its 11th Century construction,
Carlisle Castle is a rarity among medieval castles
We stopped in Carlisle’s awesome
little Castle gift shop,
where H began hustling us out
As reality hit her that
we had to speed post-haste…
to Yorkshire’s west sigh-eede
Besides outracing the darkness
another concern niggled…
Which called for rain, rain
and a sprinkling of more rain
Many months later,
H still shuddered
recalling the drive
that set nerves aflutter.
See, Trouble reared its ugly head
when our GPS done lost all cred.
Code-named Sir Richard, he’d done fine
till he converted to Mr. Hyde.
Maniacally directing H up and down
suspicious roads of iffy renown.
The crazed Sir Richard preferred
the nearly impassable,
the roguest of roads….
As daylight dimmed,
and dusk descended,
H’s pupils were at maximum dilation,
and sweat glands at high production…
To add insult to stressbomb, turned out there were two Midgleys within miles of each other ! Who knew?? Not our GPS Sir Richard — who had diabolically routed us to the wrong Midgley ! Over Hill and Dale (poor Dale)
Needless to say,
Sari had to re-calibrate Sir Round-About.
As we closed in on our destination,
H began to turn upwards into what looked,
in the darkness, like just another
tiny town road.
But which we later learned
had an infamous local history.
We’re talking a roadway capable of
sandwiching one vehicle.
A road a Local had once driven up
and accidentally wedged themselves in !
And which Local, to their national shame,
had to be yanked out professionally,
according to Patroosha.
This factoid we did not yet know
as H gamely tried to snake in,
finally sputtering, “I think I’m
goin’ up someone’s driveway!”
Intuitively escaping from that indignity, H carefully crept up another more sizeable road and braked when Sir Richard suddenly announced our arrival. We had stopped at the crest of a hill, and appeared to have reached “New House Farm” the 300+ year old historic stone cottage… Or had we? It was dark, People ! And it was spooky…
Just in case it was another doppelgänger Midgley, I was dispatched as scout. Standing in the quaint alcove, I held me breath and knocked. When the door tentatively opened — Eureka ! there she was, framed in doorway, awash in amber streetlight, Patricia’s lovely wide-eyed what-the-hell visage.
In keeping with tradition, we had arrived at New House Farm four hours late for dinner -and thankfully, in true Village tradition, the girls had kept a farmhouse table laden with savory English fare …
Our trip was extra-special since we’d timed our stay to coincide with a
major Midgley shindig — Patricia’s milestone October birthday!
And one with a tantalizing theme – featuring the Swedish kings and queens of the 80’s – ABBA – in all their flamboyant moon-booted, silver disco-balled glory.
Oh yes – t’would be a raucous village affair —
* * *
Join us please, for our next installment, when for four tornadic days, three Americans harass two English hosts, and meet their three organically-raised Piglets — One, Two and Three, respectively, not to mention attend a rowdy village-fueled celebration…
And now, a look back at a special UK round-about moment—
We get off here! No — not there! We’ve passed it… Isn’t it the second turn off? It’s right here, Gah! We’ve missed it – again!!! But Sir Richard is pointing over heah !!! And from the plaintive driver: How am I suppose to gerroff when there’s cars in me way!?!
Basking in the Cotswolds sun
Just outside Sari’s terrifying haunt —
400-year old Hoo House…
Meanwhile, back in Montana,
the Master Mind in the Middle is
caught posing with his hairy posse…..
* * *
Many months later, H reminisced,
lower lip quivering…
“I cannot tell you how happy I was to get to Patricia’s
and not have to drive again!”
Thanks to H’s steely resolve,
we made it to the Lake District.
A once northern outpost
of the Roman Empire
Now bustling with lakeside towns
and teeming with tourists.
We were one stop closer
to Patricia and Eileen
Sari booked us a cottage in a
cozy corner of Windermere.
With a fireplace,
modern kitchen, and a
babbling brook below.
More like raging rapids
but who’s quibbling.
Not to mention a
pub next door!
Things looked pretty sweet.
Until we noticed a strange absence
of certain essentials.
Self-catering is one thing,
but this was ridick…
Our search couldn’t even
cough up a dish towel.
* * *
It was time to alert the media.
But the cottage phone
couldn’t dial out!
So I tromped to the pub next door
where grizzly locals were juicing
and left a plaintive
voice mail for the
* * *
The pub owner offered to
dry us with bar towels.
Either way, we couldn’t
afford to get soaked.
In the meantime,
we set off for town,
a ten minute walk from
Bluebell Brook Cottage.
I confess with great contrition
we worship British nutrition especially the malty matter
of fish ‘n chips with crispy batter.
In Little Chippy,
the sizzling ambiance
Just as H and S
were debating the
cod or haddock?
a head snapped up
behind the fish counter.
“Are you taking pictures?”
“Er, no,” I lied.
Suspicious, he slapped
mushy peas directly over
my crispy fish.
Mushy peas are a treat
but not when used to assault
innocent fish n’ chips.
* * *
It was dark when we returned
to the cottage. In time to be
startled by the doorbell.
Sari raced to the door emitting
puffs of noxious gases
in her wake.
Thanks to her tummy’s
24-7 processing of her
10-Coke a day habit.
Heedless of danger
to herself – or the visitor –
she flung the door open.
Revealing a tall shadow
lugging a ginormous trash bag.
Dispatched by the home bureau,
our hero was delivering
with a vengeance.
Seriously, he unloaded
like seventy towels!
* * *
That night, while H and S slept
soundly through the noisy rapids,
others couldn’t help
suffer an odd re-play
of the day…
* * *
For over 500 years,
ferries have criss-crossed
Lake Windermere’s ten
and a half-mile stretch.
To take advantage of
this fine transport,
H drove to the dock
at Ambleside one day.
Visit the historic farmhouse
of one phenomenal lady.
Take the ferry to Far Sawrey,
then hike to Near Sawrey.
Keep those dyslexic
And dodge a criminal element
patrolling the shorelines.
Who’d declared open
season on snackers.
H barely escaped
with her ice cream
and 99 flake.
On board, passengers buzzed
and post-traumatic stress.
The crossing was lovely.
Later that week, Patricia would
tell us we’d technically been on the
butt end of the Lake District.
Because UK insiders holiday on a
more stunning side of Windermere.
Sacre bleu !
In any case,
our ferry dumped us onto
this inferior landscape
where the footpath gradually
veered from the lake.
Past multitasking sheep
and cryptic sculptures.
A half hour later,
we hopped on a mini bus
to speed the journey.
It shuttled up a steep ascent…
climbing and curving
before depositing us
atop a pretty hill.
In Near Sawrey!
was framed by
The famous garden path
lead us to the house.
* * *
Dubbed a Victorian genius,
the lady was a naturalist and
conservationist, far ahead
of her time.
In an era when women
were unwelcome in
she was a true
Her lifelong passion
for nature led to
self-development in many
areas of science.
No country critters
were too small or creepy
to study for illustration.
Her sketches were
renowned for their scientific
Born in London
of well-to-do parents,
she and baby brother
enjoyed holiday visits
to the Lake District.
As an adult,
she reveled in country life
in her self-adopted village.
But it was this publication,
starring a thieving
that propelled her
into stratospheric success
She bought “Castle Cottage”
across from the farmhouse.
Where she and her country
lawyer husband, William,
lived for the next 30 years.
In later years, she chucked the children’s
books, much to the dismay of her
bazillions of fans,
but blossomed as a botanist
and mycologist (fungi expert).
She gave lectures at London’s School
of Economics, but when she submitted
scientific papers, she had to publish
them under her uncle’s name.
As was women’s lot in that time,
certain penis-heavy organizations
contracted the vapors
knowing a woman penned
an authoritative missive,
or discovered a cure for
or became a champion
sheep breeder to boot,
a savvy business sense by
patenting a Peter Rabbit
doll in 1903.
But possibly her finest legacy
came when she…
invested in large swaths
of Cumbrian countryside,
and bequeathed 4,000 acres
to the National Trust,
protecting her beloved
lake land for perpetuity.
We couldn’t help admiring
her visionary choices.
Nor sampling pea pods
from her garden.
Earning a triple
stink eye from beyond.
* * *
When Sari chose not to join us on the farmhouse tour, we suspected she may have been a bit spooked… Since Hill Top House dates from the 17th Century, and S had shown a distinct sensitivity to history-soaked real estate !
* * *
In any case, it was fitting we were in the village of Sawrey. Because no one was more sawrey than H for what happened next.
Halfway into the tour, H realized her ticket price was off. The ticket taker explained, “Oh, we thought you had your child with you.”
Quietly, adjustments were made and H returned to the tour…
The farmhouse appears
as if Beatrix just stepped out.
Her straw hat hangs by the fireplace,
and tools, coat, and garden boots
await her return.
Her legion of fans
balloon with each
After the tour, we found Sari
by the doorway, leafing through the
essential Squirrel Nutkin.
whereupon H leaned down to hiss,
“They thought you were a child – a child!”
Later, out of public earshot,
“Mom! Why didn’t you just
come and get me??”
H was temporarily stymied,
having unintentionally tossed
the child-ticket opportunity
out the rabbit hutch.
And as is the sacrificial
nature of mothers, had
to resign herself to
“A Child! A Child!!
They thought you were
* * *
Sari’s efforts to shoot
her Mum and Auntie
in Beatrix’s doorway
is foiled again and again,
by a tenacious family
of photo bombers
who orbited in and around
* * *
We wandered a literary map
highlighting all the locales
in BP’s little tales.
Privileged to walk in
the great lady’s footsteps.
Thank you for coming.
Now shove off.
* * *
A five-minute walk brought us to
where more of Beatrix’s
water colours and sketches
are dimly displayed.
* * *
* * *
we faced a dilemma on
Windermere’s high street.
Whether to invest in some
serious English gear
…in this quaint little shop.
wellies had Sari transfixed
and an elbow-patched riding
jacket whinnied at me.
We were awful close
to hitting the streets garbed
a tweedy Sherlock Holmes
and a Dickensian flash mob.
Luckily, the prices were over-blown.
Much like the spectacle
we’d have created
had we succumbed.
But we weren’t
through drooling over
not by a long shot.
* * *
Inspired by Eileen’s goal to crash
a hundred English gardens
that summer, H lobbied
for a visit to nearby
Naturally the child
We were privy to
Holehird’s autumnal splendor.
Quieter than its summer radiance.
the place spruced
and camera ready.
* * *
With another garden
under her belt, H was
* * *
Passing Windermere Library,
we spotted a poster one day.
A special exhibit
of children’s artwork
In August 1945,
300 Jewish children were
flown to the Lake District.
Holocaust survivors, and almost
all orphans, they were whisked from
a ravaged homeland to an area
they described as “Paradise.”
For the transition
to their post-war lives,
they were housed in hostels
In a world where everything
had been taken away from them,
their artwork and poignant
testimonials slapped life
* * *
We were one day away from
P and E’s sanctuary in
Midgley, West Yorkshire…
if we could avoid being creamed
by traffic as we exited the cottage,
since the front door basically
spits you onto the main road.
We had some close calls
is what I’m sayin’.
* * *
Since the start of our UK trip,
we’d been tormented by a peculiar
I’m talking the
dual washer-dryer found in
every self-catering cottage
we’d booked so far.
From Cornwall to the Cotswolds
from the Midlands to the Lake District.
The device was impossible to figure out!!
Meaning our laundry was often
held captive for hours in either a
hellish heating or manic washing cycle.
for no rhyme or reason,
the door latch would release.
Not unlike the doorway to H-E-
Double Hockey sticks.
* * *
P successfully rang us
on our one-way cottage phone.
We’d been in touch with our
Yorkshire pal all along,
but finding wi fi hot spots
was a challenge in the UK.
As P calmly listened to our
whinging on towel-less cottages,
mushy pea slingers, and
she mused thoughtfully,
“Ah, they’ve gone downhill,
And more candidly:
“Don’t feel bad!
We can’t figure out those
* * *
H and S ordered an English breakfast
our last morning in Windermere,
While I opted for oatmeal with
English cream and berries.
But the veggie sausage nipped
from S’s plate was delicious.
* * *
On our last night,
my threat to pen a scathing
cottage review was roundly
But clearly no one
discouraged my insistence
on spray tanning.
* * *
Our bellies full,
off we set for Yorkshire.
But not before H had
one of her zany impulses
to squeeze in a trip to
Carlyle Castle, the total
Which would create a
serious challenge to
arriving in Yorkshire
Since driving at night
H dreaded !
But S and I
Our GPS navigator,
Sir Richard, was back
in the saddle, so to speak…
Would we make it to Yorkshire
before nightfall? Or would P’s
specific directions to Midgley
be wantonly disregarded
by Sir Richard and
* * *
leading us into some, er,
tight spots to say
we headed north up the UK’s spine,
often stirred, mostly shaken,
thanks to the hair-raising
roadways of perfidious Albion.
On our way to the Cotswolds,
gaining confidence with each mile,
was our intrepid, white-knuckled driver.
Picking off less flora and fauna, too.
Speaking of hair-raising,
This was H before driving in England…
and after a few
Unflappable as ever,
Sir Richard the Navigator
nobly rode our dash.
Meanwhile, across the ocean,
somewhere in Billings, Montana…
The house seemed quiet.
Sari was canoodling in Europe.
Josh was out of town on a job site.
And the mischief-prone mutts?
Serving 30 days in
Montana Women’s Prison.
Tobie and Jasper were sentenced
to Prison Paws for Humanity,
a dog training program
run by inmates.
Schooled in behavioral techniques,
inmates not only whip welps
into prison-yard shape,
but blossom when challenged with
practical skills and accountability.
into sterling citizens
is just a bonus.
* * *
After a week in Butte,
Josh returned home.
Yet the house was far from empty…
Hooja, the occasionally vengeful Kitty,
was awaiting her Master’s return.
With no feline boot camp in town,
Hooja was free to rochambeau Josh
for the remote.
* * *
back on British soil…
It rained on and off
the day we stopped
We were there to visit
the famous White Horse,
Etched from the chalky hillside,
the White Horse’s origins
go back an astonishing
It’s iconic image
shares the flip side
of this ancient
Shaggy locals viewed our progress
as we crossed the sodden fields.
lay Dragon Hill,
the naturally flat-topped
mound, its chalk eye
a silent witness to history.
Onwards and upwards
to the crest we proceeded
dodging the occasional
sheep pie on the way.
Excitingly, bits of the creature
briefly peeked out below.
When we finally stood
above the figure,
we realized the
374 foot long geoglyph is
best viewed from the air.
Or, from across the valley,
as its sculptors intended.
From our vantage,
close-up of its nose.
beggars can’t be choosy.
It was too slippery to descend
the steep chalk downs
to the mound.
The legendary mound where
St. George battled
Which legend incites those
who insist the horse is
actually a dragon.
The origins of White Horse
are shrouded in mystery.
is it a tribal figure
related to the builders
of Uffington Castle?
Or was it cut by the
leader of the Anglo Saxon
horde that conquered
the first territories
His name was Hengist,
and he and his Germanic brother
arrived as mercenaries and
emerged leaders of the tribe.
When his brother was killed
during a fierce battle with Britons,
was Hengist inspired to land-scrape
the White Horse as a tribute
to his fallen brother?
The brother named…
I kid you not.
Getting to the unvarnished
truth in history is like
trying to rope an eel.
White Horse’s status as the
oldest hillside figure in England.
Thanks may be due to a local lord,
who instituted a ritual scrubbing
every seven years.
After the labor-intensive work,
villagers were treated to a
raucous 3-day festival,
at the expense of the
lord of the manor.
A neat quid-pro-quo that
kept the tradition going
until the 19th Century.
Without the scouring,
the Horse would’ve
disappeared in as little
as ten years, as many
chalk figures did…
* * *
The festival offered
wrestling and swordplay
contests, along with
a local oddity:
contestants were virtually
guaranteed critical injury.
A largeish wheel of cheese
was released down a steep hill
while runners raced
the dairy product
to the bottom.
First one down the hill
won the cheese, and
if lucky, retained full
use of their limbs.
continue to hold
the breakneck races.
With some modern
Like ambulances on standby.
* * *
Meanwhile, surrounded by
Bronze Age burial mounds,
we began our search for the castle
Our search went on,
yielding no results.
described a castle
the graceful White Horse.
The sudden appearance of
hillside steps brought us
to the summit.
Where a rolling plain and
distant marker beckoned.
We asked the 3-foot marker,
“If you have information leading to the whereabouts of Uffington Castle, please notify us immediately.“
A signpost hinting at
more of an earthen hill fort…
It took a moment to sink in…
Covering roughly 8 acres,
we were essentially looking at
2 earth banks separated by a ditch.
Or, in English parlance,
“a rare and outstanding example
of a large Iron Age fort, occupying
the summit of Whitehorse Hill.”
Little did we know we’d been
tromping all over our target –
Although the old bard’s words came to mind,
“Doors are for people with no imagination,”
at the time, ‘shenanigans’
seemed more appropriate.
Little did we know excavations
revealed the hill fort is older
than originally believed.
We’re talking from the
7th or 8th Century B.C.
Thanks to aerial photography,
the thrill of early Britain
is brought home.
Even if you have no clue
what you’re looking at
at the time.
* * *
Our perspective having shifted,
it was hard not to feel a bit…
* * *
* * *
Hours later, back on the road,
H would note “funny sounds”
coming from the car…
At our second refueling,
there was something else
she just noticed,
the words on the gas cap:
This was a bit of a problem,
since we’d topped half the
tank off with unleaded
120 miles back.
I say, “we” because both
H and I stared at that
gas pump debating the
unleaded and diesel options.
Diesel is for trucks, right?
It seemed a no-brainer.
The station guy
seemed amazed the engine
hadn’t smoked, stalled
or ignited along the way.
Almost as amazing was
Sari’s fantastical idea that the
unleaded wouldn’t have mixed
with the diesel. That it was
just floating above, waiting
for the diesel to putter out.
A call to a local doctor was made.
Not for Sari, but the vehicle.
Fuel Medic was on the scene.
With a professional flourish,
he sucked out the offending mix.
“We see it all the time,” he assured us.
Mostly reassuring himself
of a long and robust business.
After the hoovering, he
checked the patient and
pronounced it good to go.
With little ceremony,
and a bit of teeth-gritting,
we re-filled the tank with
lovely expensive diesel.
And away we went, hundreds of
Great British Pounds lighter,
but beyond relieved at
having dodged another
Later, a rash of googling
revealed just how vulnerable
diesel fuel injectors are to
unleaded’s corrosive nature.
A Shiver Ran Through Us.
* * *
To the catalog of
English maxims, such as:
“Keep Calm, Carry On.”
“Don’t get your knickers
in a twist.”
“God Save the Queen.”
And, “Never mind love,
have a cuppa,”
we suggest adding,
“Time to get the
syphon hose out!”
* * *
* * *
It was long past sunset
when we rolled into
Meaning once again,
H was gingerly cruising
looking for a Hoo Cottage
on Hoo Lane somewhere
in the Hoo darkness…
When Sir Richard announced
we’d reached our destination,
H slithered to a stop.
Blindly, I made my way
to a fence, my cell
briefly illuminating a
“Saint Catherine’s Cemetery.”
* * *
I reported back.
“That is definitely not Hoo House…”
Turns out it was hiding
just across the road.
* * *
For those susceptible to
spookiness, our lodging across
from the town cemetery
gravitas to our
To put it mildly,
Sari had a visceral
reaction upon first
entering Hoo house.
The low ceilings of
the 400-year old cottage
totally freaked her out.
Truthfully, we’d been
spoiled back in Cornwall
with the Milking Parlour’s
But Sari’s heebie-jeebies
in the cozy cottage
were bordering on
It began slowly enough, like
when she’d avoid being alone
in a room. Particularly at night.
Her growing dread was not
The prominent ancestral family
photos were a bit disconcerting,
I’ll give her that…
And the hauntingly quiet streets of
Chippy Campden did not help matters.
* * *
Chipping Campden was a world-famous
market in its medieval heyday.
Now famous for the extraordinary
preservation of its multi-era architecture.
* * *
Crafted of northern Cotswold limestone,
the town’s mellowed patina is known
to make grown geologists cry.
Once voted the charmingest village in England,
in the 17th Century, the town evolved
into the height of elegant shopping.
One stop shopping for
local cheese, butter and poultry.
What a wild and wooly time
medieval markets must have been,
vendors hawking their wares,
exotic roaming traders,
draft animals enjoying the scents,
strapping farmers, buxom maidens,
local floozies, artful dodgers,
roving medieval comics,
Oh wait, I’m at the Renaissance Festival.
* * *
Chipping Campden has not rested on its laurels,
punitive rental cottage prices notwithstanding.
Thatched roofs, once found
on less prosperous homes,
are now a sign of beaucoup bucks.
The hedges were lovely,
some trimmed in extremis,
and others virtually
barricading the house
from outside view.
* * *
Chipping Campden continued
to field a myriad of emotions
from sensitive Sari
Including fear of the town’s
Senior Hell’s Angels
And of course unease at the home’s
positively medieval low ceilings…
The extent of S’s fear
was revealed one night
when she barked at me
for leaving the room
to use the loo!
And later ensured
my presence by keeping
her radar-detective toe on me
while she slept.
Just in case…
* * *
S was so righteously
indignant about being fearful
it was kinda funny….
but sshhh, don’t tell her
* * *
The next morning,
powered by the help of Yelp,
we breakfasted at neighboring Burford.
Where it’s bustling
vibrancy was sincerely
appreciated by Sari.
Bustling being the key
ingredient she demanded
from any town.
Burford hits that sweet spot
mixing quaint with contemporary
without smacking of twee.
* * *
There are several famous gardens within
15 minutes journey of Chipping Campden.
One of our excursions included
the awesome Hidcote Manor Garden
which Patricia insisted we visit.
And she and Eileen know their gardens…
* * *
Before the Garden opened,
we bumped into a local on
an early morning stroll.
Described as one of the most influential
20th Century gardens, Hidcote is imbued
with the spirit of the genius who created it.
We gave Major Lawrence Johnston props
for his world-wide plant-hunting travels.
And his love of dachshunds.
Conceived by a man ahead of his time,
Hidcote is a way of life, the Major’s
international search for the exotic
and new ways of interacting
with nature the core of
His arts and crafts garden features
organic farming, a buzzing bee colony,
local and hybrid apple orchards,
berry brambles, tennis and
croquet fields, and random
tasty produce tastings,
to name a few.
Soldierly rows of hedges salute.
each with different
Our tromping led
to the open theatre field
where a croquet set awaited.
Waited for some action.
Some played with finesse
Others not so much…
Leading to the re-direction
of the ball by the foot infraction.
* * *
We stopped at the tennis courts
and swatted a few rounds.
It was terribly fun and terribly
sad time was running out.
Just as we were ready to leave,
our favorite part of Manor Garden
took us by surprise.
* * *
A cat looks down upon a man
and a dog looks up to a man.
Here’s looking you in the eye, kid…
* * *
Sadly slated for someone’s
future organic pork feast,
Holly and Ivy stole our hearts.
At least we felt heartened
the two were able to enjoy
their outdoor locale
and humane nurturing
at Hidcote Manor.
Even if it was to make
sausages more delicious.
* * *
On our last day in Chipping,
just as we were about to go out for a walk…
an accidental lock-out snafu occurred…
Could have been a disaster,
since the extra set of keys resided with
the housekeeper two counties away.
Desperate times call for
We were most thankful Sari’s
little butt fit in the little slot.
After the hullabaloo,
we strolled up Hoo Lane,
to view the countryside.
And said our goodbyes to everything Hoo.
* * *
Occasionally wondering how doggies
were doing under inmate tutelage
back in Montana, too.
They were in an intense one-on-one
30-day rehabilitation program.
After all, that’s a long time, and
things could go terribly, horribly wrong…
Like picking up bad habits from the screws…
Or dealing with violent smugglers.
* * *
A spot of tea
at Kenilworth Castle.
And more adventures from Sir Richard,
courtesy of his overly creative navigation.
Back in late September,
we played Russian roulette
with standby tickets to England.
H’s airline pal, John,
assured us we’d have seats
on the day we planned to leave.
Which was a good thing, since Sari had
pre-booked all of our accommodations…
Either way, standby
can get dicey…
But heading overseas
turned out to be a breeze.
Most exciting, we scored first class seats!
* * *
Service was lavish in business class,
libations landing faster than jet aircraft.
While the flipping plane was still ascending,
the bubbly flowed like God intended.
The bartender attendants
juggled drinks mid-air, but shouldn’t
they have been buckled in too?
Seriously, isn’t being upright during
takeoff and landing against regulation??
Dinner had multiple courses.
Starting with cold crab salad with melon.
And a main dish of artichoke chicken,
pillowy polenta, and jazzed green beans.
And more beverages than you could shake a stick at.
But the ultimate was our diagonal
convertible pod-like seats.
They transformed into flat beds !
Just knowing you could recline
made all the difference.
* * *
So content were we
chasing time zones
across the Atlantic Ocean
soon H and S were snoozing in pods behind me
while I settled down for an in-flight movie.
Battling across my backseat monitor
was a ripped Abe Lincoln, vampire hunter.
Crusading against the unholy undead
most of them blood-sucking Confederates.
Seamlessly injecting historical facts
between vampiric storyline track.
A cozy tale before a night’s slumber….
* * *
Cradled in our flight pods hauntingly
we so enjoyed sleeping horizontally.
* * *
Early morning above a green-isled Britain
we awoke refreshed and sleep-pod smitten.
Stretching like kittens
only not as adorable, or as tiny, or as mewley.
Sari peeked through
the curtain into
the economy class.
in sardined seats.
Our morning champagne and fruit muesli
helped to disperse any futile empathy
for our hapless compadres in economy seats.
* * *
Postscript: Good news!
Delta is adding pod seating
to more planes, and not just in
That’s one small step for Delta,
and one giant hoorah for the proletariat.
* * *
Just before our landing H had a big scare
losing her passport somewhere mid-air.
Flight attendants vigorously tore up her seat,
even searching through her bags,
ay Dios mio, the grief.
As time ticked on, H’s outlook grew dim.
We couldn’t help imagining scenarios grim.
The kind that included a British escort
who’d boot our H back with a swifty deport.
Just as our despair had sunk into defeat
I turned around again, my eye stopping for a beat
noticing an object suddenly exposed
by a just-moved bag on the floor.
Hey, what’s that there, I said calm as you please
pointing to an object near Sari’s feet.
H was so relieved and effusively thanked me.
Sari wisely hid behind a metaphoric hanky.
* * *
For ex-pats H and me
the UK was a homecoming.
Sari was the inspiration
behind the trip.
Not only were we navigating
the snaky roads of Albion,
we would be journeying
to the Ukraine for a
cross-continent, first-time meeting
with war-torn, long-lost family.
Three months earlier,
we met our aunt and cousins
for the first time
via the brilliant portal
known as Skype.
Oh boy were we in for it!
* * *
Back in London, we picked
our rental car up pretty quick,
but auto reps neglected to mention
some critical tips.
It wasn’t like we had any suspicions
that is not until our Chevy engine
started coughing up some issues.
Designated as chief driver in tow
H’s first challenge was to exit
the formidable Heathrow.
With a little knowledge, that dangerous thing
we jauntily set off with itinerary plugged in.
Sir Richard is Sari and Josh’s trusty GPS.
His name is often fluctuating
depending where he’s operating.
Back home he’s just Dick in Montana
while in L.A. he answered to Ricardo.
Once he made it into royal air space
he was dubbed Sir Richard for HRH’s sake.
After leading us out of the airport,
Sir Richard seemed disoriented
like maybe he’d had a few pints
because suddenly we noticed
we were circling Heathrow.
Turns out he kept re-routing us
because Sari and me kept directing H
down the wrong merge lane!
Meaning H had to do the rumba all over again.
For the third or fourth time, or so,
we rolled out onto London’s A-4.
When it came time to choose the fateful exit,
Sir Richard covered his eyes and muttered, F### it!
When we finally figured out the right lane
and H aced it, we all yelled Skol !
While Sir Richard we imagine
wiped his virtual brow.
Once we understood Sir Richard had our backs
we trusted him implicitly but for one small fact
the one where we discovered he loved him some
crazy-ass back-woods tracks.
But that’s a hair-raising story for later.
For now let’s re-cap bits of our journey…
Of scary but delicious
that kept us going
Of harrowing roads
sometimes so constricted
oncoming cars must
or seriously shift it.
Where dodgy locals with dubious motives
plant spiky rocks along property borders.
But I digress
Back in the auto rental office
Sari had confided how hard it was
to re-program her GPS.
This Marauders Map would be our holy grail
and Sir Rich our techno knight
guiding us onto some daunting trails
H was not super happy about.
* * *
On our way to Cornwall
perusing her map and guide
Sari spotted a landmark she insisted we try.
It was located in Wiltshire on the Salisbury Plain.
It was touristy and I immediately said, No way!
The place was so passé I thought we ought to resist.
Sari politely listened to my jaded blowing,
before impressively exploding,
“Shut it, cause we’re going!”
Or words to that effect.
Just above a gentle crest
lay cryptic mystic Stonehenge.
Four thousand years ago
these prehistoric chess pieces
were mysteriously laid out.
Recent excavations of the storied site
reveal ailing pilgrims were
buried here left and right.
Forensics suggest they came from near and far
hoping to be healed by its reputed karma.
Some can-do early Britons
transported the stones from
We’re talking a 150-mile transport…
Some of the stones weigh up to 4 tons!
Those are some Sisyphean cajones
Scientists say they were
rolled, sledged or rafted
down the River Avon.
We respectfully yoga’ed our way across…
…Months of record-breaking rain
had seriously saturated the moss.
Thankfully, during most of our UK stay,
the rain took a holiday break.
Dispositions rose with each tai chi.
It was hard not to get a bit excited.
If I’d known you were comin’
I’d have baked a cake.
We threw in a prayer,
May the road rise up to meet us,
and we could’ve added
Deliver us from those who try to fleece us.
Not to mention those who try to prevent others
from visiting a site just cause it’s touristy
Vandals did their chipping in stages
from the Roman Empire
to the Middle Ages.
Even colossal boulders were carted off
disturbing the feng shui circle
of the mathematically-laid blocks.
* * *
In 1977, the stones were roped off
to re-set some fallen stones.
But solstice-obsessed pagans
are still allowed their
With monitored access
thank you very much.
* * *
Continuing on to Cornwall
another historic site beckoned.
Who can resist a castle ruin
Wardour Castle’s crumbly exterior
can say thanks a lot to
In the 1300’s,
when this luxurious,
castle was spanking new
and rivals simmering but few
when its halls were bustling
when crinolines were rustling
when peeps slurped from tureens
when deodorant was nonexistent
and/or made of smelly potpourris
things were really hopping.
* * *
This is a shout-out to the
English Heritage commission
created to protect and promote
England’s spectacular historical sites.
They do a fantastic job.
awaited our arrival.
So we said Namaste to Wardour Castle,
and set off for County Cornwall
and a cottage called
The Milking Parlour.
* * *
At times, when H nearly
took out a hedge,
a poorly-placed mailbox,
or inconvenient street furniture,
Sari and I let out warning shrieks
which alerted her to any dangerous
This not only stressed H
out but, gradually, and
secretly, eroded bits of
Sari’s peace of mind
and hence our
* * *
“You have no idea how scared I was,” H said later.
* * *
But we did have an inkling.
H took on her English driving fears
death-gripping the steering wheel.
* * *
Known for its arts community
and fantastic rugged coastlines,
Cornwall is also heralded
for its tasty pasties,
delicious ice cream 99’s
and lip-smacking fish n’ chips.
It was nightfall by the time we neared our destination.
With the moon delivering little to no wattage
it was pretty impossible to spot the cottage.
“Told ya I didn’t wanna drive at night!” H hollered.
as we searched in vain for The Milking Parlour.
When she sailed past a dark outline,
Sir Richard and his English accent
teeth-grittingly re-directed us back.
We had found our little hideaway.
“He sounded annoyed,” Sari noted.
* * *
With a secretly-hidden skeleton key
we entered The Milking Parlour.
It was high-ceilinged with skylights,
modern, inviting and cozy.
We were eager to explore,
but moreso to nosh
being very hungry.
So we headed to St. Ives
some two miles away.
Sir Rich was snoozing
on a well-deserved rest
assuming we’d get there
without missing any exits.
Sari and I were checking out
Yelp listings for the town while
H was buoyantly cruising…
…when suddenly the loudest
quickest cannon boom shook
us right out of our musing.
“What the hell was that??” H gasped
before slowly ekeing to a stop
quite a ways from the blast.
Our fears were on point
when we discovered
a blown-out front tire.
Although nearby cottage lights
beckoned from the side of the road
the residents knew of no auto shop
let alone one that might be
open on a Sunday night.
It was especially disturbing
when we looked in the bootery
and discovered a bare spot
where the car’s spare tire
So with stomachs grumbling
and nerves a-jangling,
we hauled bags from the auto
and set off down the dark road
like Dorothy and Toto.
If Dorothy and Toto had
cell phone flashlights
and were wandering about
with their luggage.
* * *
As the night enveloped
us in darkness
popped to mind…
The one where a couple of tourists
walking the English moors
run into a really peeved werewolf.
Said the pub owner,
“Keep off the moors, stick to the roads…”
Easy for him to say.
* * *
We made it back
to the cottage without being
molested by werewolf
Either way, I’m confident
we could’ve knocked him or her
senseless, triple-teaming them
with our combined gear.
It was only after walking
back to the car in the morning
that Sari and I spotted
the jagged rocks
along the roadside,
not unlike I.E.D.’s.
Oh it was nasty.
* * *
Back at the cottage that first night,
we were pretty discombobulated.
H rang the auto rental company.
We were so happy someone answered
but when H said we were in Towednack,
the rep asked, “Where??”
Ten minutes later, he told us
there wasn’t an auto shop
in the vicinity,
not even in St. Ives.
“You’re in a remote area,”
Making us feel like we were
one step from the Moon.
Later, H said, “St. Ives??
Not even in St. Ives!”
“People drive here!!”
Under so much duress were we at that time
that Sari had a mini-melt down the next night
insisting she was flying back to the States.
This was Day 4 of our 28-day journey
but it already felt like a stressful eternity.
* * *
The crisis was averted the next day
but if you knew Sari you’d know
it was touch and go all the way!
* * *
Ensconced in the charming
but remote Towednack,
the Milking Parlour was lovely
but had no food in its cabinets.
It’s called self-catering, sure.
But at that point,
self-catering really blew.
So that night, dinner-less,
we raided our bags
for the nuts and dried fruit
we’d squirreled for the journey.
For the good of the team,
my treasured protein bars
had to be thrown in the mix,
pure chocolately goodness
and nutritionally delicious.
It was great to discover
the kitchen was stocked
with plenty of English tea.
But the irony of no dairy products
at the Milking Parlour
was thick as cream.
* * *
Our catastrophic evening
was not unduly blown
but reminded us to have fun
and appreciate one another.
Stoking a fire in the chimney
we played some heated
Scrabble and Clue
while watching a slew of fun
Beatle bios on the telly.
* * *
Unspoken was our worry if anyone
would or could come with the right tire
before we had to leave in 2 days.
Programmed as we were
with a tight agenda.
The next morning,
it was spitting outside.
Before mulling our predicament,
we needed food in our bellies,
preferably non-trail mix.
So we walked to St. Ives
down Towednack Lane
with serious foraging
Along the way horses were
enjoying an outdoor vegan buffet.
So zen-like and calm were they
we should’ve considered the merits
of munching hay.
Just before St. Ives’ harbor,
we discovered an auto shop
and a mechanic named Nigel,
like a diamond in a haystack.
Hearing our predicament,
Nigel promised he’d get us a tire
before we had to leave town,
so natch we jumped at the chance
to impulsively hire him.
Who knew when the rental company
would find our remote locale.
Meanwhile back at the Milking Parlour,
guess who found our remote locale.
* * *
They’d been ringing us all morning
leaving umpteen voice messages…
Specifically to tell us that
a mechanic on loan
was now driving to our rescue,
yes, to our remote zone.
“It’s daft,” muttered Nigel
as he drove us bouncily back
down Towednack Lane.
He was referring to the scurrilous
rock-lined properties lying in wait
for unsuspecting vehicles.
He drove us to the car to see
what kind of tire we needed,
then dropped us off at the cottage.
Remarkably, Nigel swore
he’d never heard of Towednack,
a town just two miles from
where he lived and worked.
Yet amazingly, he had heard of
The Milking Parlour…
“Two of ’em,” he said
to our startled amazement.
“There’s two of them.”
Much later, seaside,
Sari stares suspiciously
at her hot food order
as though it might be a mirage.
Not far from the scene where we’d popped the tire,
in daylight our troubles seemed much less dire.
But now we’d gone and prematurely
secured the good-natured Nigel for hire.
After Nigel dropped us off
and we heard the rental co’s messages,
we had to call and tell him our new predicament.
Nigel graciously wasn’t going to
hold us to our verbal agreement.
Because of that H paid him for his troubles.
Plus she had a little Cornish crush on him by then.
However, there was still the little matter
of the dude hired by the rental car co.
And yes, he did show up.
In the meantime, meditate on this lovely flora.
The good news is our rental car rescuer
brought the right tire for us that day.
So he and Nigel met us in that fateful place.
It was kind of awkward, but not.
With the car now fully wheeled,
we could move on from
the temporary hitch in our trip.
The snafu in the brew.
The wah-wah in the brouhaha.
Or so we thought…
In the words of Marty Scorcese,
There Will Be Blood…
In our case,
There would be
rental hay to pay later…
That was for certain.
* * *
Later, a company rep
matter-of-factly tells us
they weren’t obligated to keep
a spare tire in its vehicles.
What the ??
* * *
In the meantime, St. Ives
made sure we were well-fed.
“An army doesn’t travel
on an empty stomach,”
Dad liked to say.
Fish n Chips with mushy peas
is a well-known favorite
among pawns and queens.
Okay I totally made that up
but I wouldn’t be surprised
if Liz II orders that stuff
through her footman
who royally hoofs it
to some late night
fish n’ chip takeaway…
It’s not completely impossible.
The best part of fish n’ chips is
how Sari learned to crave it
which was useful cause it made
any dinner battles virtually obsolete.
Walking about St. Ives was bliss.
Quicker than you could say
your bill is in the mail,
we had to depart from lovely Cornwall.
So we bid adieu
to our sweet, horsey neighbors,
I mean the four-legged ones.
And for our next adventure,
headed for the Cotswolds.
But not before stopping
at another heritage site.
* * *
On our way to Tintagel Castle,
Sir Richard directed us to town,
but we missed the castle road.
so we stopped to get directions at a pub.
Foolishly I asked if the route was straight
or one of those notoriously curvy roads
that take forever and a day to navigate.
“Yes, it’s straight,” the chap said earnestly,
That’s when we learned to worry
about the ancient roads Sir Rich preferred
The roadways so narrow
cars could get wedged in…
we dubbed them “snickets.”
Hugging North Cornwall’s
is the village of Tintagel.
Dramatically carved out among craggy hills,
Tintagel’s ruins lie on a magnificent
To experience the medieval fortifications
one must tromp many an ascent and descent.
The views are enthralling.
although much of Tintagel
may be just a myth.
King Arthur and his Knights and all that stuff.
But you wouldn’t want to
get any mythology fans’
in a bunch.
On the way to the car park
to plug the ruddy meter
I spotted this little fur ball
staring at some feature.
* * *
Carefree Sari and H cavorted atop while
I hobbled back to the distant car park dock.
No, I didn’t resent it.
I enjoyed the walk.
Up and down
and down and up
those million steps.
I totally enjoyed it.
As you cling precariously
to the steep slope…
And along the way,
re-greet Prince Harry’s
older, less rambunctious
manning the ticket desk.
With the disappearing tide
small sandy coves are revealed
along with secret caves.
beneath the castle headland.
He must’ve been very very tiny.
* * *
Everywhere we went in England,
barristas sprinkled chocolate
It didn’t matter if you
asked for it or not.
Demonstrating the vital
role chocolate plays
in international diplomacy.
* * *
H’s brushes with roadside brambles
taught her bumpy, but sound lessons,
mostly how not to whack things.
Her learning couldn’t come fast enough.
Especially for Sari.
You knew things might be getting
rough when Sari would snap
the sideview mirror down in a huff.
* * *
“I’m glad she did that,” H said later.
“Or we would’ve had a missing mirror
there somewhere,” she added frankly.
* * *
One of our many formidable challenges
came at our first gassing-up station.
But this gassy
if not potentially fatal story
must be saved for later as well.
For now I’ll just set up
our next destination.
* * *
Freakishly picturesque Chipping Camden
was next on our list of self-catering stays.
It rests deep in the bucolic Cotswolds.
Yes, Dr. Seuss would’ve loved
the house Sari booked.
Built in the 15th Century,
it’s name was Hoo Cottage.
I kid you not.
But Hoo Cottage and its low ceilings
seriously creeped Sari out.
or hypersensitive spirit?
Or just scaredy-cat?
It was hard to say.
* * *
Suffice it to say, we had a wee bit more issues
before we were done with our self-catering travels…
Our sunny last day in Chipping Camden,
we locked ourselves out of Hoo House.
Until we found an unlocked pane
and crammed Sari in sideways.
* * *
You ran back to get the camera?
Seriously? H asks.
After taking two quick snaps, just two
I helped H slot S carefully through.
I think it was worth it.
Till next time.
* * *
Thought for the day:
“Life is what happens to you
while you’re busy making other plans.”
Hailing from the land of tea and tarts
this sentiment doth tug at one’s heart.
As this saying clearly demonstrates,
as politicos, bears be independents.
Furry onlookers survey the fair
minimally hampered by hirsute stare.
Eager to flex their acting skills
a pair of thespians posed for a still.
Brimming with zany, tireless zest
determined to make a splash at the Fest
This lady I’m obsessed with
Her name is Betsy Bowen
I often sneak a pic or two
of her printmaking showing
Or maybe it’s three or four
I’ve really stopped counting
either way, it’s kinda hard
to find her not daunting
Magnificent are her woodcut pieces
not above messing with geese and meeses
Using flotsam and jetsam
and random hardware bling
this artist creates the most
In fact all of her creations
are finagled with great patience
involving the rusty or ethereal
like fencing and tv interiors
A hike to mysterious Devil’s Kettle Falls
before we return to city’s ruthless maws
This artful metal worker’s shop
broke the mold for patio crop
Colors and patterns
ions and atoms
colliding in circles.
using early indicators
before they go all glorious.
News of solar activity
sun’s radiant proclivities
means shooting clouds of gas
emitting forcible impact
hurtling towards earth
and magnetic field mass.
The collision that occurs
disturbing atmospheric turf
ensures magic-cosmic birth.
If I may offer a picture
I can tell you now Mister
that it’s a light trail show
of a comet tail aglow.
The higher the color
the rubier the red,
but just below sixty miles
blue violets are bred.
Whereas middling heights
ignite neon green lights.
Speaking of colors,
oh The Blue Moose shop
another wonderful stop
where green thumbers
heavily invest in its stock
well known for its flora
and garden fauna
compelling some to buy
much more than one oughta
cough – H – cough
Photo by Brian Peterson The Star Tribune/AP Photo
Oh Aurora Borealis
how your nature doth confound us
and how soundly
and how roundly
did we miss your blazing boundness.
In the headlines the next day
celestial photos were displayed.
Bewitching colors did amaze
kaleidescopic skies’ parade.
Its design was so torturous, so convoluted,
ritual seppuku often came to mind.
Luckily, most opted for retirement instead.
To combat some of the madness and mayhem,
the Agency invented the “NxPert.”
Sort of like an expert, but not.
Recruiting willing victims
The title carried obvious risks.
Snark being one of them.
“Don’t know the answer, huh?
Thought you were a NxPert.”
One day, with a little smile playing on her face,
B casually halted me in the hallway.
This is gonna be good, I thought..
To my shock, she was wondering if I
wanted to fill the NxPert vacancy.
My initial reaction was,
I followed up with:
are you talking to me?”
Truthfully, I could not have been more eager
to attend NxGen training in DC.
But I also knew the role
would require a Zen-like approach…
And don’t take anything personal.
And oh yeah, stay hydrated.
It was immediately clear
the role of a NxPert
held little glamor.
NxGen Analysts are
the true front-line
In class, conflicts between instructors
led to nose to nose confrontations.
During especially WTF moments,
Jodi kept threatening
to hurl a block of faux cheese
across the mystified room.
Harry Potter and the Golden Snitch,
meet Jodi and the Cheese of Distraction.
For historical analogy,
I’d venture to say the Agency’s choice of
a data program was as perplexing…
…as the founding fathers’ geographic choice
for the country’s capitol:
A mostly mosquito-infested swampland
In 1801, ten years after the city was founded,
Thomas Jefferson and the Marine commandant
rode their horses all over Washington.
History tells us they went searching
for a suitable home base for soldiers
“within easy marching distance” of DC.
No record of them dropping
into any swamps along the way.
Today, Washington’s Marine Barracks
is the oldest active post in the U.S.
Not long ago, Barracks Row was honored with a
“Best Main Street in America” title.
The delicious build-your-own-yogurt shop
probably helped tip the scales.
This military neighborhood
is slightly off the beaten path.
Its visitors tend to be the loyal… and dogmatic sort.
This is not a Barracks Row visitor, this is Katie.
I just wanted to give her a shout-out
cause she’s romping around in Minneapolis
on a rigorous exercise program.
So far she’s dropped almost 20 lbs. Go Katie !!
On my way to yonder Barracks
as I munched a midget carrot,
up ahead a scraggly soul
came yawning down the dusty road
weaving, panting, oh so sweetly
sweating through his tongue completely,
just a sudden apparition
wandering in a dazed condition.
Further complicating things,
the summer’s been so beastly hot.
For a while, even Montanans
were gripped by the hellacious temps.
trained in deep-woods survival,
field-tested boy scouts
under DC’s sun.
As bad as it got,
I couldn’t help thinking of Firenze,
who was halfway across the world,
rickshawing and paddling her way across
the swelteringly humid Orient.
With honorable daughters
nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in tow.
Hot or not, whichever way you slice it,
it’s always delicious providence to
mix business with pleasure in the District.
During my stay,
while I was out walking about,
I kept bumping into this
Although neatly shaved for the summer,
he unexpectedly sported tufted ears.
In a word, captivating.
His name I egregiously neglected to record.
The more I ran into him,
the easier it was to imagine him as
some sort of Manchurian candidate experiment.
The military could be planting
a new breed of domestic security animals
among an unsuspecting public.
The pooch’s piercing peepers
could be used to disorient a hostile.
laser-contact orbitals could also
operate as a brainwashing tool
as part of a secret security agenda.
Although what that agenda
might be wouldn’t be revealed
since the military rarely spills
its hidden security agendas.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
But yes, maybe I watch too much tv.
At the National Botanical Garden
Exotic plants, sample salads
lots of interactive fun stuff
Nature’s Mr. Microphone
The Plant that Sacked the Bounty
As weary, bleary sailors
scrubbed the Bounty’s deck,
and Captain Bligh flayed them
for some inconsequential speck
it wasn’t till his thirsty and
traveling breadfruit plants
took watering precedence
over sweaty, parched deckhands
that singularly pissed sailors
decided to dispose of his ballast…
Once again at that week’s end
I bumped into my “fateful” friend…
When Sari was little,
she loved to use the phrase,
“my fateful friend!”
She must have meant faithful
but she’d say “fateful”
with such alacrity,
it would’ve been criminal
to correct her.
Reminds me of her gleefully
referring to her Mom’s Grand Prix,
as the “Grand Pricks!”
Didn’t correct her there either.
* * *
As NxPerts, we were tasked with
assisting, as well as inspiring,
those who needed it.
However, not even Churchill,
who inspired an entire generation,
could have swayed
outraged NxGen objectionists…
have a fairly strong argument
for NxGen’s obliteration,
(if not unrealistic at this juncture)
Sir Winston’s historic oratory
seems all the more fitting
for this embattled group…
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds,
, we shall fight in the fields
and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender…“
At least not until every last kink
is worked out of NxGen…
Diehards might insist that
Mr. Churchill stooped to pet a kitty
as a future nod to NxGen’s predecessor,
the beloved CATS database.
Surely it was unfortunate coincidence
that the furry face evoked a bit of a
Herr Kitler meets Snidley Whiplash.
Sara was so in-demand and thoroughly booked,
Jenny and I had to schedule an appointment
just to schedule an appointment with her.
Filled with wisdom beyond her years,
Sara is often sought for her wise counsel.
This time around, her sage advice to Jenny and me,
“Invite strange men to your table.”
* * *
One night, Roxie was crossing Thomas Circle.
Two years ago,
when her owner rescued her
she was in rough shape.
I noticed right away she was friendly,
but in a guarded, non-committal way.
All the same, a remarkable thing happened.
While I chatted with her owner,
she suddenly rolled over
exposing her belly in an
intimate request for a skritch.
By her vulnerable trust of a stranger,
Roxie had crossed the Rubicon.
She probably crosses it every day,
but it’s nice to think you’re part of the healing.
Too bad humans don’t utilize something
similar for instant people-reading.
* * *
Capitol Hill Books –
Where bibliophiles disappear
Because death by book avalanche is entirely possible.
Believe me, I’ve heard it, witnessed it once,
and almost experienced it.
Owner Jim Toole’s Rules
On top of the rules,
he’s pretty cranky.
And proud of it.
a percussion crew
drummed up infectious,
outside Eastern Market.
A little boy wandered in
“Dance, little man, Dance!”
the bongo drummer exclaimed.
And so he did.
Really boosted the band’s haul, too.
Word was there was some tasty
smoked salmon in the open-air market.
Word was major accurate.
* * *
In the middle of the Market,
I spotted some fantastic glass art pendants
fronted by this smiley dude.
The dude turned out to be the artist,
otherwise known as Ryan Eicher.
“Don’t you have some pieces at Beadazzled
on Connecticut Avenue?” I asked him.
“Hmm,” he had to think about it. “Maybe!”
Somehow, I wasn’t surprised this guy
might not know or remember where
he may have unloaded his artful creations.
Demonstrating the glass top spin.
A way with the wee ones
His most magical pendants
evoked star-filled galaxies,
the Milky Way, the Northern Lights.
people with that “Shine.”
And I don’t mean shine like the kid in The Shining.
No, I’m talking that indefinable quality,
spirit, that certain something.
Whatever it was he had,
I could not pry myself away
without buying at least a piece
of Ryan’s vision of the Galaxy.
Not my cup of tea at first.
But now when I spot this intricate,
I can’t help thinking:
“Come sono belli i sandali!”
* * *
The next weekend, while I was skulking
around Eastern Market,
I came upon this artwork.
The artist seemed to be off on a break.
he came around the corner,
startling us both.
“OH!” he said. “Hi ! How are you?”
I told him I loved his work,
that it was kind of John Lennon-ish
and brilliant in its sparsity
That’s when I realized
my description of his art
was more convoluted than
anything he was trying to impart.
Which reminded me of
my Dad’s favorite mantra:
Keep your lip zipped,
your eyes open,
and your ears open
And if you can’t keep your lip zipped,
at least shoot for concise expression.
* * *
Carved from Minnesota limestone,
the American Indian Museum brings
elemental, sensual harmony
to the National Mall.
Inside, its Mitsitam Cafe is renowned
for offering regionally-diverse native dishes,
so exotically delicious and interesting,
that if the Mall wasn’t so bleeding big,
I’d have gone there every day for
breakfast lunch and dinner.
In the Native language of the
Delaware and Piscataway peoples,
“Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!”
George Caitlin’s initial frantic sketchings
of American Indians in their native habitats
morphed into the colorful, rich paintings that
record a fascinating historical snapshot
of Native Americans’ daily lives.
* * *
During the Second World War,
twenty-nine Navajo Indians were recruited
by the U.S. Marines to write a secret code.
Never cracked by the Japanese,
it’s reputed to be the only
uncrackable code in the history of warfare.
Lesser known is the Choctaw’s natives’
similar role in the First World War.
Their story illustrates the first time
the American government recognized the
unique and critical skills Native Peoples
could bring to the military table.
This elegant lady, a descendant
of a Choctaw translator,
was regaling visitors
with her grandfather’s story.
The unsung WWI warriors.
* * *
Before I turned my attention back to NxGen,
I had time on the weekend to traipse around
and visit my favorite art museum,
the National Portrait Gallery.
I spotted Grandma Moses
seemingly puffing a major stogie
in the one of the galleries.
Could it be?
The painting by Kristen Helberg
is an homage to Ms. Moses,
with perhaps an inadvertent
tip of the hat to cigars.
One hot sultry night,
the warm scent of chocolatey butter
suffused the air.
It was Cupcakery for Chrissakes.
The remains of a semi-demolished piece of
Northern Beauty red velvet cakery
Kristen, Rachel and Jenny,
three beauties who will probably
smack you if you call them cupcakes.
So I will call them ladies who drink and eat
and drink some more at Oyamel.
After a hard day’s NxGen’ing,
we decided to march our way to Oyamel.
Kristen had a terrible time with her work heels.
Washington’s sidewalks and streets are not pump-friendly.
By the time we got to Oyamel, her poor feet,
chronically slipping and sliding out of those
professionally cruel shoes, were bruised and
battered by our brutal pace, and screaming Uncle.
Yet all the while, under her stoic soldierly mien,
Kristen hid her murderous pain
from us clueless cloppers.
Fortunately, the lime-spiked guacamole,
prepared by the shy hombre sonriente,
took Kristen’s mind off her feetsies.
We devoured the guac in dainty little bites,
all of us racing to the bottom of el tazon.
Or, maybe that was just me….
Salt Air-Topped margaritas
Wonderful. But full of salt.
Because of my phenomenal
ability to retain water,
I must eschew salt
even if it’s only airily
rimming a margarita.
Did I mention the girls were
full of hopes and full of dreams,
full of laughter, full of tears,
full of dreams to last them years…
Clearly, their “youthful exuberance”
(TM Firenze) was showing.
Listening to these ladies
discuss their husbands and boyfriends,
not necessarily in that order,
I realized something. . .
Another glimpse of the devilish Red Velvet Cupcakery
which I totally blame Sara for getting me fixated on
cause last time I was in DC she and Dee indulged
whereas I eschewed them cause they had sugar.
I realized my list of eschewing
was getting mighty seriously long.
So when I spotted the
sugar-free limited edition this time,
I almost had a cow.
Instead, I had a cupcake.
And God saw that it was good.
I mean really deliciously good.
* * *
Back in Minneapolis,
upon hearing about the training
experience, Roger mused,
“So you drank the Kool-Aid, eh?”
An observation that, at the time,
seemed not only totally unnecessary,
but mildly insulting.
Yet to be fair,
on closer inspection,
While I sifted snark from the straightforward,
half a globe away, in a much safer environment,
Florence cuddled her new scaly friend in Vietnam.
“Yeah he licked my face after this photo,” F said proudly.
Interesting how even a tropical snake
will give you a sneaky lick first.