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.”
– John Lennon