Transatlantic Antics – Part IV – Cumbrian Caramba


Thanks to H’s steely resolve,
we made it to the Lake District.

1857 (completed)

A once northern outpost
of the
 Roman Empire

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Now bustling with lakeside towns

Sheep mob

and teeming with tourists.

We were one stop closer
to Patricia and Eileen
in Yorkshire.

Glenridding Picture of the Day

Meanwhile,
Sari booked us a cottage in a
cozy corner of Windermere.

Bluebell Brook living room
Bluebell Brook Cottage

With a fireplace,
modern kitchen, and a
babbling brook below.

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It’s a cacophony!”

More like raging rapids
but who’s quibbling.

Ale aye

Not to mention a
pub next door!

Things looked pretty sweet.

Until we noticed a strange absence

The Towel of it All

of certain essentials.

Self-catering is one thing,
but this was ridick…

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Our search couldn’t even
cough up a dish towel.

*     *     *

It was time to alert the media.

Dial out anyone

But the cottage phone
couldn’t dial out!

So I tromped to the pub next door
where grizzly locals were juicing

Enjoying brewskis

and left a plaintive
voice mail for the
home office.

 *     *     *

The pub owner offered to
dry us with bar towels.

Either way, we couldn’t
afford to get soaked.

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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.

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Resistance is futile

In Little Chippy,
the sizzling ambiance
was intoxicating.

Just as H and S
were debating the
age-old question,

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.

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Oh the humanity!

Mushy peas are a treat
but not when used to assault
innocent fish n’ chips.

To recap:

Correction

Correct placement.

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Incorrect placement.

not here not there not anywhere
And proper foot placement

*    *    *

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Window shopping

 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.

Speedy Towel Delivery

Dispatched by the home bureau,
our hero was delivering
with a vengeance.

Seriously, he unloaded
like seventy towels!

*     *     *

Puppy in a towel

That night, while H and S slept
soundly through the noisy rapids,

Image converted using ifftoany

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.

Lake Windermere

To take advantage of
this fine transport,
H drove to the dock
at Ambleside one day.

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Our mission:

Visit the historic farmhouse
of one phenomenal lady.

Beatrix with Bunny
Hiya!

The plan:

Take the ferry to Far Sawrey,
then hike to Near Sawrey.

The trick:

Keep those dyslexic
directions straight.

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And dodge a criminal element
patrolling the shorelines.

WEB Euro 1851Who’d declared open
season on snackers.

The bait

H barely escaped
with her ice cream
and 99 flake.

Windermere Car Ferry

On board, passengers buzzed

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with curiosity,

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excitement,

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Comforting Mum

and post-traumatic stress.

Windermere looking north

The crossing was lovely.

Later that week, Patricia would
tell us we’d technically been on the
butt end of the Lake District.

Cumbrian winding road

Because UK insiders holiday on a
more stunning side of Windermere.

Sacre bleu !

In any case,
our ferry dumped us onto
this inferior landscape

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where the footpath gradually
veered from the lake.

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Past multitasking sheep

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looming castles,

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Tomfoolery

and cryptic sculptures.

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Exciting!

A half hour later,

we hopped on a mini bus
to speed the journey.

It shuttled up a steep ascent…

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climbing and curving
before depositing us
atop a pretty hill.

In Near Sawrey!

Gate at Hill Top Farm

The gate
was framed by
greenery.

 

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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.

Beatrix walking Benjamin Bunny
Helen Beatrix Potter

In an era when women
were unwelcome in
male-dominated institutions,
she was a true
Renaissance woman.

Flopsy BunniesHer lifelong passion
for nature led to
self-development in many
areas of science.

3. Beatrix.jpg

No country critters
were too small or creepy
to study for illustration.

The Mice at Work: Threading the Needle circa 1902 by Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943

Her sketches were
renowned for their scientific
accuracy.

Orchid Cactus

Born in London
of well-to-do parents,
she and baby brother
enjoyed holiday visits
to the Lake District.

Beatrix and Pup

As an adult,
she reveled in country life
in her self-adopted village.

Cover of Peter Rabbit

But it was this publication,
starring a thieving
jacketed rabbit,

that propelled her
into stratospheric success
and fame.

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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,

Mycologist

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,

Herdwick Sheep

or discovered a cure for
diseased sheep,

or became a champion
sheep breeder to boot,

Peter begs your pardon

or demonstrated
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,

Herdwick Sheep in Lake District

and bequeathed 4,000 acres
to the National Trust,
protecting her beloved
lake land for perpetuity.

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Josh’s lens still has that schmutz…

We couldn’t help admiring
her visionary choices.

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Nor sampling pea pods
from her garden.

Earning a triple
stink eye from beyond.

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With bro Walter, shep Kep and fur-faced Papa

*    *    *

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…

Beatrix on path

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
generation.

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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!”

TK
Tom-Who-Me?-Kitten

Later, out of public earshot,
S asked,

“Mom!  Why didn’t you just
come and get me??”

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H was temporarily stymied,
having unintentionally tossed
the child-ticket opportunity
out the rabbit hutch.

WEB Euro 1281And as is the sacrificial
nature of mothers, had
to resign herself to
periodic ribbing:

“A Child!  A Child!!
They thought you were
a Child!!”

Secret Smiling Beatrix
Tee hee

*    *    *

Sari’s efforts to shoot
her Mum and Auntie
in Beatrix’s doorway
is foiled again and again,

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by a tenacious family
of photo bombers

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who orbited in and around
the viewfinder.

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Domo arigato!

*    *    *

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We wandered a literary map
highlighting all the locales
in BP’s little tales.

Privileged to walk in
the great lady’s footsteps.

Beatrix and hub

Thank you for coming.

Now shove off.

*     *     *

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A five-minute walk brought us to
neighboring Hawkshead,

where more of Beatrix’s
water colours and sketches
are dimly displayed.

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Seriously, leave already.

*    *    *

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Ambleside huddle

*     *     *

Another day
we faced a dilemma on
Windermere’s high street.

Whether to invest in some
serious English gear

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…in this quaint little shop.

Where patterned
wellies had Sari transfixed
and an elbow-patched riding
jacket whinnied at me.

We were awful close
to hitting the streets garbed
somewhere between…

Sherlock the fashionista

a tweedy Sherlock Holmes

fagins-pickpockets

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
English fashion…

Little Pig Robinson
Wistful window shopper

Oh no,
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
Holehird Garden.

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Naturally the child
wandered off…

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We were privy to
Holehird’s autumnal splendor.

Holehird by Herb RiddleQuieter than its summer radiance.

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Rapprochement

Volunteers keep
the place spruced
and camera ready.

*      *      *

With another garden
under her belt, H was
temporarily sated.

*      *      *

Passing Windermere Library,
we spotted a poster one day.

A special exhibit
of children’s artwork
on display.

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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
near Windermere.

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In a world where everything
had been taken away from them,
their artwork and poignant
testimonials slapped life
into perspective.

*    *    *

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,

WEB Euro 0953 Sky

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
English appliance.

I’m talking the
dual washer-dryer found in
every self-catering cottage
we’d booked so far.

Damien

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.

Until suddenly,
for no rhyme or reason,
the door latch would release.

Not unlike the doorway to H-E-
Double Hockey sticks.

*     *      *

That night,
P successfully rang us
on our one-way cottage phone.

Dial out anyone

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
demonic washer-dryers,

Lake District Fall

she mused thoughtfully,

“Ah, they’ve gone downhill,
haven’t they?”

And more candidly:

“Don’t feel bad!
We can’t figure out those
washer-dryers either!”

*     *     *

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Lazy Daisy Breakfast

H and S ordered an English breakfast
our last morning in Windermere,
Lazy-Daisy style.

While I opted for oatmeal with
English cream and berries.

Heaven!

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
discouraged.

But clearly no one
discouraged my insistence
on spray tanning.

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Gaahh !!

*    *    *

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
opposite direction,

Which would create a
serious challenge to
arriving in Yorkshire
before nightfall.

Since driving at night
was something
H dreaded !

But S and I
weren’t complaining,

Our GPS navigator,
Sir Richard, was back
in the saddle, so to speak…

Cumberland's finest

Stay tuned,

Would we make it to Yorkshire
before nightfall?  Or would P’s
specific directions to Midgley
be wantonly disregarded
by Sir Richard and
Sir Helen…

*     *     *

leading us into some, er,
tight spots to say
the least.

PS   Helen Beatrix Potter Heelis
rocks!

PPS:  Elementary, Dr. Watson.

Sherlock
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Transatlantic Antics – Part III – Tea at the Castle


Ten days into our UK road trip,
H was gaining confidence
behind the wheel.

The Valley Below
.

Everyone seemed more relaxed,

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Relatively speaking

Road Warrior
.

*     *     *

Since London,
we’d done very
little backpedaling.

WEB Around and About
.

Other than that phallic
loop-de-loop.  Crikey!

What was up with that?

*    *    *

With Sir Richard’s
sometimes questionable
satellite assistance,
we headed north.

Our destination,

Cumbria Glory
.

the hauntingly lovely
Lake District in
Cumbria County,

where our next
self-catering cottage lay.

Hopefully, for S’s sake,
with less ectoplasmic activity.

WEB Euro S Headshot 0599
.

Back in the Cotswolds,
400-year old Hoo House had
tinkered with her sensitive mind.

*    *    *

With each quiet premonition
Sari visibly would stiffen
things were eerie to be clear
she was battling all her fears
I thought all her nervous antics
were just funny bits of pranking.

Even when she jumped in terror
it seemed comic and hilarious.

While enduring all my ribbing
seems the kid was never kidding.

*    *    *

She confirmed,
“I wasn’t kidding.”

*    *    *

On the way to Cumbria,
we rolled through..

Kenilworth with Cattle
Kenilworth Castle

..one of the most
celebrated medieval
fortresses in England.

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Photo by Sari

Like many castles that
began as a defensive work,
Kenilworth evolved into
a royal homestead

Fit for a…

Elizabeth I of England in her coronation robes...
Elizabeth I at her coronation

Ye know

Interestingly, Elizabeth the 1st
is known as the Virgin Queen.

She who fiddled with
medieval men and marriage.

*  *  *

One smooth gent
who made Liz bubbly
was her consort
Robert Dudley.

To this favored
handsome rascal
she bequeathed
Kenilworth Castle.

Which was technically
a fixer-upper by then

But still

*    *    *

When Liz dubbed Bob
Earl of Leicester
some court members
seethed and festered.

Meanwhile…

WEB Euro KENILWORTH S&H UNSAT 1577
.

Spurred by such grand real estate
Dudley in his lovelorn haste
slavishly rehabbed the place.

Best of all a queenly garden
was installed for royal hard-on.

Kenilworth Garden
.

All in all he spent a fortune.

Wooing Liz was not cheap.

There was a stumbling block
or two.

Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester
Ambitious much

One being the earl
was already married.

Two being when his
wife Amy was found
dead of a broken neck
at the foot of their stairs.

*   *   *

Rumors were swirling
to no one’s surprise
whispers inferring
tragic suicide.

Cause everyone knew Liz
loved Dudley fo’ reals

An inquest was called
and witnesses came
a verdict was reached
an accident blamed.

WEB Euro KENILWORTH H&S Pointing 1576
.

Yet still

Suspicion hovered ’round the palace.
Was Liz involved in any malice?

If others did suspect the Queen
they kept it to themselves indeed
for any role in Amy’s death
was scandalous to royal health.

None forgot the heartless ruler
with a taste for execution,

Henry
Henry VIII

 the notorious head hacker,
Liz’s murderous own Papa.

If he taught his offspring anything
it was how to deal with
marriage obstacles.

*    *    *

Recently, while researching
accidental deaths in medieval England,
a professor ran across Amy’s name.

On the long-lost coroner’s report!

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Along with a broken neck,
Amy had sustained two
“massive head wounds.”

Odd that…

*    *    *

Cruelly going up in smoke were
Liz and Dudley’s marriage hopes
but Dudley had another plan
inviting Liz to tricked-out pad.

 The earl unfurled a bash royale
a lavish party for morale.

Where fireworks were on display
and bears and such wrestled all day.

Nearly bankrupting the earl.

Kenilworth gardenbear
No plebes please

Inspired by his Lizzie’s visit,
Dudley’s garden was the shizzit.

Rare exotic fragrant plants
culled from distant foreign lands
filled the air with sweet perfume
cherries pears and apples too
thrilling Queen with heady blooms.

Such a thoughtful, loving gesture
from Bob Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

*   *   *

Lizbeth I
I feel pretty, oh so pretty… pretty confined actually

Gossipers were in fine fettle
as for Liz she never settled
without Dudley as a hubby
she turned into virgin buddy.

Racked in corset taut and heavy
like a chassis on a Chevy
Liz was trussed in painful skivvies
as she cursed the fashion bidness.

All the binding and composing
took the fun out of disrobing.

Throwing major royal crimps
in any joyous sneaky trysts.

*   *   *

Possibly assisting
in virginal career too.

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Gate House and Stables Cafe

Ravenous, we stopped
at the former stables
for a bite to eat.

Although
sugar and white flour
are on my hit list,
I get weak in the knees
at the sight of an
English cream tea.

A combo of scone, jam
clotted cream and tea.

It may be clotted,
but it’s sinfully awesome.

Why not keep your
arteries on their toes
now and then?

Sari enjoyed a bowl
of savory squash soup
while H and me went for
the divine.

Cream Tea
A religious experience

After refueling, we headed
to Dudley’s gatehouse.

WEB Euro H&S Kenilworth 1458
.

We soaked up the
rich history of the castle

and read
harrowing tales of
the Black Plague.

WEB Euro Kenilworth HISTORY 1476
Courageous Eyam Village

Oh the stories untold

WEB Euro KENILWORTH Sari 1571
.

We dillied, we dallied,
we’d pranced
through the past.

Absorbing history with
bladders full mast.

In England,
even looking for a loo
can be an adventure.

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Photo by Sari

*  *  *

As for the Elizabethan garden,

Four hundred years later
keen researchers labored
to reconstruct landscape
to authentic flavor.

The only complete recreation
of a 16th Century garden
in the world.

Other than the workers weedin’
few could view this garden eden.

Now the hoi polloi may tarry
in once-private sanctuary
free to wander royal love nest
as upgraded loyal subjects.

In the Garden with Liz and Earl
Do not look behind us, your Majesty

Evidence of love forbidden
Liz and Dudley’s never dimming.

*   *   *

Upon hearing of Amy’s death
the earl was said to be bereft.

“Oh the gossipers,” he cried,
“They’re sharpening their wicked knives!”

Death of Amy
Death of Amy

Or words to that effect.

*   *   *

Next up:

The famed Lake District.

We were primed for
breathless scenery
and northern sensibility.

We hadn’t counted on a
senseless lack of towels…

*    *    *

Till next time,

A few tips
on the pitfalls of
English cuisine.

Firstly, when faced with
cream tea option,
just do it.

WEB Euro Cream Tea Crop 1068
So civilized

Otherwise, tread
carefully…

Happy Larders

Lardy lardy
.

a/k/a Happy Cake

WEB Euro 2315
Lumpy Bumpy

What’s causing the
Lumpy Bumpies could
be anything.

Fat Rascal by Tony Worrall
Yorkshire Fat Rascal

Betty’s Cafe in Yorkshire
has made this whimsical
scone a local favorite.

For eye-opening
non-dessert options,
get a load of these.

Dr. Brain's Faggots
With even more sauce!
Black pud
Black pudding – Don’t ask.

Ok, it has pig’s blood in it.
and according to H, it’s
delicious…

This is the same woman
known for her “cast iron stomach”
and love of “studenech” – pickled pig’s feet

If you don’t mind
food staring back at you
take a moment to gaze
at the Stargazy Pie.

Stargazy treat

Where one word comes to mind

Stargazy Pie why
Sorry fishies

WHY

*    *   *

And from the
it’s-not-what-you-think-it-is file:

Heinz goodness
.

The above curiosity is a
steamed or boiled pudding
“spotted” with dried fruit
and made from suet.

The origins are spotty too
but it’s said that dick is a
shortcut of “pudding.”

Imagine it uttered by
Tiny Tim in Dickens’ day.

Can the English get any more
twee with its naming habits?

Actually, yes,
oh, yes they can…

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Good day.

Transatlantic Antics – Part II – The Agony and the Eggstasy


WEB Euro Sky 0231
.

Sobered by a nasty tire incident in Cornwall,

WEB Euro Crop 1093
.

disarmed by locals

Apricot cheese savory
.

tickled by English cuisine

WEB Euro 0825
.

surrounded by virtual history

GPS Earth
.

and aided by the best little SAT NAV,

WEB Euro 0004
.

we headed north up the UK’s spine,
often stirred, mostly shaken,

On the Road with Bond
.

thanks to the hair-raising
roadways of perfidious Albion.

Cotswolds countryside

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,

WEB Up North 0526
.

This was H before driving in England…

H's Awesome Day
.

and after a few
M-4 roundabouts….

WEB Euro Crop 3 0366
.

Unflappable as ever,
Sir Richard the Navigator
nobly rode our dash.

Montanadownsized950508001914
.

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?

WEB 0652
.

Serving 30 days in
Montana Women’s Prison.

Montanadownsized950508001912
.

More specifically,
Tobie and Jasper were sentenced
to Prison Paws for Humanity,
a dog training program
run by inmates.

Polk Street Doggie WEB 0315

Schooled in behavioral techniques,
inmates not only whip welps
into prison-yard shape,

In the Dog House

but blossom when challenged with
practical skills and accountability.

WEB 9545945288Tobie1
.

Transforming pets
into sterling citizens
is just a bonus.

*   *   *

After a week in Butte,
Josh returned home.

Yet the house was far from empty…

WEB 0653
.

Hooja, the occasionally vengeful Kitty,
was awaiting her Master’s return.

IMG_1129
BFF’s

The reunion

WEB Hooja while they're out
Picking up tips from
‘My Cat From Hell’

With no feline boot camp in town,
Hooja was free to rochambeau Josh
for the remote.

*    *    *

Meanwhile,
back on British soil…

It rained on and off
the day we stopped
in Oxfordshire.

We were there to visit
the famous White Horse,

And nearby
Uffington Castle…

Euro White Horse
Photo courtesy of David Price

 

Etched from the chalky hillside,
the White Horse’s origins
go back an astonishing
3,000 years.

Celtic Coin with King and White Horse

It’s iconic image
shares the flip side
of this ancient
Celtic coin.

WEB Euro White Horse Cropped 0665
.

Shaggy locals viewed our progress
as we crossed the sodden fields.

Behind them
lay Dragon Hill,
the naturally flat-topped
mound, its chalk eye
a silent witness to history.

WEB Euro Crop 0663
.

Onwards and upwards
to the crest we proceeded
dodging the occasional
sheep pie on the way.

WEB Euro 0666
.
WEB Euro 2 0667
.

Excitingly, bits of the creature
briefly peeked out below.

WEB Euro White Horse Clone 0673
.

When we finally stood
above the figure,

White Horse 1
.

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,

WEB Euro White Horse 0671
.

a tantalizing
close-up of its nose.

But time-constrained
beggars can’t be choosy.

It was too slippery to descend
the steep chalk downs
to the mound.

St. George and the Dragon

The legendary mound where
St. George battled
a dragon.

Which legend incites those
who insist the horse is
actually a dragon.

Aerial White Horse

The origins of White Horse
are shrouded in mystery.

Captured mid-gallop,
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
of Britain?

The piratical invasion of the Saxons under Hengist and Horsa

His name was Hengist,
and he and his Germanic brother
arrived as mercenaries and
emerged leaders of the tribe.

Hengest and Horsa 2

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…

Horsa…

I kid you not.

Hengist and Horsa
A delicate version of the invasion
Check out that footware!

Getting to the unvarnished
truth in history is like
trying to rope an eel.

Indisputable is
White Horse’s status as the
oldest hillside figure in England.

WEB Euro 0661
.

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:

the critical
cheese-rolling race.

Critical because
contestants were virtually
guaranteed critical injury.

The upshot:

A largeish wheel of cheese
was released down a steep hill
while runners raced
the dairy product
to the bottom.

Charlotte Gere; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

First one down the hill
won the cheese, and
if lucky, retained full
use of their limbs.

Cheese be gone
.

Amazingly,
some towns
continue to hold
the breakneck races.

With some modern
concessions.

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.

The guidebook
described a castle
“proudly overlooking”
the graceful White Horse.

WEB Euro White Horse 0681
.

The sudden appearance of
hillside steps brought us
to the summit.

WEB Euro White Horse 0683
.

Where a rolling plain and
distant marker beckoned.

WEB Euro White Horse 0685
.

We asked the 3-foot marker,

If you have information leading to
the whereabouts of Uffington Castle,
please notify us immediately.

WEB Euro White Horse 0680
.

And poof,

A signpost hinting at
more of an earthen hill fort…

It took a moment to sink in…

Uffington - southeast ditch and bank
.

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.”

WEB Euro White Horse Cropped 0687
.

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.

Uffington Castle
.

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.

*    *    *

WEB Euro 0626
.

Our perspective having shifted,
it was hard not to feel a bit…

sheepish.

*     *     *

WEB Euro White Horse 0669
.

*     *     *

 

Hours later, back on the road,
H would note “funny sounds”
coming from the car…

Chipping Campden map

At our second refueling,
there was something else
she just noticed,

the words on the gas cap:

“DIESEL ONLY”

Smoke gets in your eyes
If Diesel meets Unleaded

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.

WEB Euro Fuel Medic 1312

Within minutes,
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.

WEB Euro Fuel Medic Clone 1315
Dr. Diesel gives sparky a thumbs-up.

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
close shave.

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!”

*     *     *

Why Diesel Why?
.

*     *    *

It was long past sunset
when we rolled into
Chipping Campden.

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
wooden sign:

“Saint Catherine’s Cemetery.”

*     *     *

I reported back.

“That is definitely not Hoo House…”

Hedge Hiding Hoo BW Crop
.

Turns out it was hiding
just across the road.

*     *     *

For those susceptible to
spookiness, our lodging across
from the town cemetery
and dramatic
nighttime
arrival
added atmospheric
gravitas to our
entrez-vous.

WEB Euro 2 1669
.

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
vaulted ceilings.

WEB Euro 2 1330
.

But Sari’s heebie-jeebies
in the cozy cottage
were bordering on
the ridiculous!

It began slowly enough, like
when she’d avoid being alone
in a room.  Particularly at night.

Her growing dread was not
immediately obvious.

WEB Euro Crop 1334
.

The prominent ancestral family
photos were a bit disconcerting,
I’ll give her that…

WEB Euro Lighten 0882
.

And the hauntingly quiet streets of
Chippy Campden did not help matters.

Haunted Cotswolds

*     *     *

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.

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.

WEB Euro 1726
.

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,

WEB Euro 2 0869

Oh wait, I’m at the Renaissance Festival.

*     *     *

Chipping Campden has not rested on its laurels,
punitive rental cottage prices notwithstanding.

WEB Euro 1710
Chicken-wired for protection

Thatched roofs, once found
on less prosperous homes,
are now a sign of beaucoup bucks.

WEB Euro 1735
Sideview of Hoo

Hoo’s garden
was ridiculous.

WEB Euro1720
By jove, is that a bird in that bird?

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

WEB Euro 1641
.

Including fear of the town’s
Senior Hell’s Angels

WEB Euro Crop 2 1328
.

And of course unease at the home’s
positively medieval low ceilings…

WEB Euro B&W 0861
.

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.

Casper Boo
.

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.

WEB Euro 0634
.

Where it’s bustling
vibrancy was sincerely
appreciated by Sari.

Bustling being the key
ingredient she demanded
from any town.

Huffkins Bakery and Tea Rooms
Breakfast at Huffkins – scrumptious

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.

Hidcote Entrance

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.

WEB Euro 2 0717
Skritch-skritch

Described as one of the most influential
20th Century gardens, Hidcote is imbued
with the spirit of the genius who created it.

WEB The Major and Pups on Theatre Lawn
The Major and Pups on the Theatre grounds

We gave Major Lawrence Johnston props
for his world-wide plant-hunting travels.

WEB Euro 2 1382
.

And his love of dachshunds.

WEB Euro 0654
.

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 philosophy.

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.

WEB Euro Crop 1341
.

Soldierly rows of hedges salute.

WEB Euro Crop 1352
.

 Interplanetary-colored flora.

WEB Euro 0730
.
WEB Euro 0762
.

 Maze-like grounds
each with different
garden “rooms”

WEB Euro 0729
.

Our tromping led
to the open theatre field
where a croquet set awaited.

WEB Euro Crop 1357
.

Waited for some action.

WEB Euro Crop 1358
.

Some played with finesse

Others not so much…

WEB Euro 0720
.

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.

WEB Euro 0743
.

Here’s looking you in the eye, kid…

*     *     *

WEB Euro Crop 1404
.

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.

*     *     *

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.

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.

WEB Euro Sari Rear Window
Alternate Entry

Desperate times call for
desperate measures.
We were most thankful Sari’s
little butt fit in the little slot.

WEB Euro 1689
.

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…

Tobie Winston Wide
.

Like picking up bad habits from the screws…

Cat Fight
.

Or dealing with violent smugglers.

Prison Riot

Or worse

*     *     *

Next up:

A spot of tea
at Kenilworth Castle.

WEB Euro 2 0797
.

And more adventures from Sir Richard,
courtesy of his overly creative navigation.

*     *     *

Transatlantic Antics – Part I


Back in late September,
we played Russian roulette
with standby tickets to England.

WEB Euro Currency Map 2415

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…

Casino Royale Crapshoot

Either way, standby
can get dicey…

WEB Tintagel Sheepdog 0518 copy
Hallo !

But heading overseas
turned out to be a breeze.

DSC_0454

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.

Silhouette of plane in flight

The bartender attendants
juggled drinks mid-air, but shouldn’t
they have been buckled in too?

WEB Drinks Anyone

Seriously, isn’t being upright during
takeoff and landing against regulation??

WEB Delta Dinner 0061

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.

Lie-Flat Seats

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

WEB Abe Hunter 4999

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.

[Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illin...
Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illinois.  (Photo: Library of Congress)

Crusading against the unholy undead
most of them blood-sucking Confederates.

Seamlessly injecting historical facts
between vampiric storyline track.

Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter

A cozy tale before a night’s slumber….

*    *    *

Cradled in our flight pods hauntingly
we so enjoyed sleeping horizontally.

*    *    *

WEB Towednack's Stonehenge 0258

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.

Where sleep-deprived
passengers were
inhumanely wedged
in sardined seats.

WEB Delta Breakfast 0069

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
Business Class.

That’s one small step for Delta,
and one giant hoorah for the proletariat.

*     *     *

WEB Pilot Denzel

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.

Passportou

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.

WEB S&H Uh Oh 0046

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.

WEB Skype with Ukies 0537

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.

WEB Sari & Sir Rich 0081

 

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.

London Roundabouts

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!

WEB GPS Oy!

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.

WEB Chariots M-6 2217

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…

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Of scary but delicious
English breakfasts
that kept us going

WEB Euro Wiggly Road 0004

Of harrowing roads
sometimes so constricted
oncoming cars must
Mexican stand-off
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.

*     *     *

WEB Dog on Stonehenge Hill 0846

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.

WEB Cooler Stonehenge Doggie 0847

Just above a gentle crest
lay cryptic mystic Stonehenge.

WEB Stonehenge Blue Crop 0772

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.

WEB S&H Stonehenge Pose 0458

Some can-do early Britons
transported the stones from
north Pembrokeshire.

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.

WEB Stonehenge S&O 0740

We respectfully yoga’ed our way across…

IMG_0446

…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.

Euro Stonehenge Smirk 0771

If I’d known you were comin’
I’d have baked a cake.

WEB Stonehenge H&O 0732

We threw in a prayer,

May the road rise up to meet us,
and we could’ve added
a sidenote:

Deliver us from those who try to fleece us.

WEB Stonehenge O 0742

Not to mention those who try to prevent others
from visiting a site just cause it’s touristy

WEB Euro HS Stonehenge Color 0736

Vandals did their chipping in stages
from the Roman Empire
to the Middle Ages.

WEB Euro Stonehenge Print 0486

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
bacchanal celebrations.

WEB Euro Stonehenge Cafe Crop 0116

With monitored access
thank you very much.

*    *    *

Continuing on to Cornwall
another historic site beckoned.

Who can resist a castle ruin

Wardour Tint 0120

Wardour Castle’s crumbly exterior
can say thanks a lot to
warring Parliamentarians
and Royalists.

WEB Euro Wardour S&H 0163

In the 1300’s,
when this luxurious,
but lightly-fortified
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.

*     *     *

WEB Euro H&S Wardour 0132

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.

WEB Euro Wardour Elements 0166

Distant accommodations
awaited our arrival.

So we said Namaste to Wardour Castle,
and set off for County Cornwall
and a cottage called
The Milking Parlour.

*     *     *

WEB Black Beauty Kato 0873

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
left-ward leaningness.

This not only stressed H
out but, gradually, and
secretly, eroded bits of
Sari’s peace of mind
and hence our
collective chipperness…

*     *     *

“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.

*     *     *

WEB Euro St Ives Seaside 1094

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.

WEB The Milking Parlour Darkly 1228

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.

WEB Milking Parlour 0196

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.

*     *     *

WEB Euro Milk Parlour 0339

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.

WEB Flat 0887

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
should be!

Arggh!

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.

Dottie and Toto

If Dorothy and Toto had
cell phone flashlights
and were wandering about
Cornish moorlands
with their luggage.

 *     *     *

As the night enveloped
us in darkness
another movie
popped to mind…

Trekking the Moors

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
or stranger.

Either way, I’m confident
we could’ve knocked him or her
senseless, triple-teaming them
with our combined gear.

WEB Spiky Rocks 0911

It was only after walking
back to the car in the morning
that Sari and I spotted
the jagged rocks
diabolically planted
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,”
he explained.

Making us feel like we were
one step from the Moon.

Euro St. Ives Rooftop 1054

Later, H said, “St. Ives??
Not even in St. Ives!”

“People drive here!!”

WEB Milking Parlour Window 0322

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.

*     *     *

SF 2012 0826021953

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.

Florence's photo of the photo video of the video of Nam June Paik

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.

WEB Towednack Lane S and H 0200

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
in mind.

WEB Euro Sari Feeding Horses

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.

WEB Euro Towednack Lane

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.

Uh oh.

WEB Nigel 0256

“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.


Euro Horsies 0211

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.”

WEB Sari Pizza Stare 0236

Much later, seaside,
Sari stares suspiciously
at her hot food order
as though it might be a mirage.

WEB Euro St Ives Beach color corrected 1066

Not far from the scene where we’d popped the tire,
in daylight our troubles seemed much less dire.

WEB Euro Cream Tea Crop 1068

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.

WEB Euro St Ives Rockhead 1152

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 ??

*     *     *

WEB Euro Breakfast Omelet Crop 0972

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…

Queen and fish n chips

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.

WEB Euro St Ives Beach Color Corr 1061

Walking about St. Ives was bliss.

WEB Euro St Ives Cafe Cropped 1199

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.

Euro Horsie Sepia 0216

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,
“but wiggly.”

That’s when we learned to worry
about the ancient roads Sir Rich preferred

The roadways so narrow
cars could get wedged in…

So narrow
we dubbed them “snickets.”

WEB Euro Tintagel Path Cropped 0406

Hugging North Cornwall’s
rugged coastline
is the village of Tintagel.

Dramatically carved out among craggy hills,
Tintagel’s ruins lie on a magnificent
rocky headland.

WEB Euro Tintagel steps 0601

To experience the medieval fortifications
one must tromp many an ascent and descent.

WEB S&H at Tintagel Arch 0575

The views are enthralling.
although much of Tintagel
may be just a myth.

King Arthur and his Knights and all that stuff.

Euro Tintagel beach 1246

But you wouldn’t want to
get any mythology fans’
roundtable panties
in a bunch.

WEB Auto Contrast Stonehenge Doggie Stamp Pad 0451

 

On the way to the car park
to plug the ruddy meter
I spotted this little fur ball
staring at some feature.

*    *    *

WEB S on Tintagel Cliff 0538

Carefree Sari and H cavorted atop while
I hobbled back to the distant car park dock.

WEB Sari on Tintagel Cliff 0537

No, I didn’t resent it.
I enjoyed the walk.

HR Euro Tintagel View 0536

WEB Euro Tintagel Steps 0618

Up and down
and down and up
those million steps.
I totally enjoyed it.

As you cling precariously
to the steep slope…

WEB Euro Prince Harry at Tintagel 1245

And along the way,
re-greet Prince Harry’s
older, less rambunctious
if-you’re-not-wearing-your-glasses
doppelganger
manning the ticket desk.

WEB Euro Tintagel Seagull 0530 copy

With the disappearing tide
small sandy coves are revealed
along with secret caves.

Including Merlin’s
beneath the castle headland.

WEB Euro Tintagel Beach 1263

He must’ve been very very tiny.

WEB Euro Tintagel Cave 1247

WEB Euro Tintagel SH 1275

*     *     *


Everywhere we went in England,
barristas sprinkled chocolate
over cappuccinos.

It didn’t matter if you
asked for it or not.

Demonstrating the vital
role chocolate plays
in international diplomacy.

*     *     *

WEB Black Beauty Kato 0873

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.

WEB Euro Hoo Cott H&S 1663

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.

Claustrophobic,
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…

WEB Euro Sari Rear Window

Our sunny last day in Chipping Camden,
we locked ourselves out of Hoo House.

WEB Euro Sari in Hoo Window

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.
Don’t you??

Till next time.

Ciao.

*     *     *

Thought for the day:

“Life is what happens to you
while you’re busy making other plans.”

– John Lennon

Superior Moments


While the city slept
we gave it the slip
stealthily escaping
on awesome road trip

Joy Ride
by Melvin McGee

Noses to the sky
Primed for the drive
Scenery and scents
invigorating ride

 

Heading up North
for Superior shores
artists’ colony and
hiking trails galore.

 

Our first dining stop
a roadhouse cafe
was tucked cozily
along Beaver Bay.

 

A double-decker advert lured us in.
The name didn’t seem very prescient then.

Like a Pinkerton detective
who sniffed but rarely spoke
along came a snooper
alert to city-folk.

Assured we weren’t marauders
just hungry traveling strays
he tottered back beneath the bus
and curled up for the day.



A hefty lunch plate
was delivered to the table
sumptuously arrayed
and full of local flavors.

  Fresh-from-Norway
flaky, tasty salmon
minimally salted and
seriously slammin’.

 Dotted wild rice cheese
served with crusty bread
paired so tastefully
with lingonberry spread.

While H sampled my salmon
her eyes grew big and moist
her tastebuds regretting her
salmon-less lunch choice.

Not that her meal was bad
her dish was quite delicious
but sometimes she be greedy,
and sorta avaricious.

Hey, that’s kinda harsh,
she laughs at my description
but words I do not parse
when food is that delicious.
I’m just joshin’ I explain
a libelous tradition.

Blame those Northern chefs
infusing food with flare
exploring cookery’s depths
so you might forget to share…

 

 

From all the world over
hungry visitors abound.
On wall maps they pegged
the site of their hometowns.


Local Minneapolitans’
possibly drunken fandom
bored through their homespot
with gleeful abandon.

An alien flower outside the Rock Shop
bloomed on the edge of a parking lot.

What the he## is that, H sputtered on sight.
I have no idea, I answered in fright.
Agreeing they appeared other-worldly and weird
yet freakishly enchanting, let me be clear.

Occasionally we peeked in at artist retreats
nestled within Shoreline’s woodsy reach.

In Grand Marais, the sun was near setting
pastel lighting colored lakeside jetty.

Dusk drew swirling lavender hues
harboring purples, pinks and blues.

Overlooking the harbor
perched just starboard
the Bear Tree sculpture
illustrates the culture
of Ursus Americanus’
modus operandus.

If Black Bear Mama
senses danger or trauma
she shoos cubs up a tree
amid aerial shrubbery
heightening pups’ safety.

For hours and/or days
cubs may stay plastered
till Mama has deferred
any possible disaster.

The night before the Festival
consuming things digestible
at Sivertson’s who hosted
the artists to be toasted.

With rustic music smokin’
and catered fare, no jokin’
t’was a flowing artsy jamboree
of wine-song-nosh and liberty.

*   *   *

Into evening’s spooky darkness
we departed drunk and artless
sated and indeed inspired
wine-fueled senses duly fired.

As lights winked across the bay
all seemed calm in Grand Marais

The following morning
at festival’s dawning
we crawled past booths
collectively yawning

Hearing snippets of chat
we patched together,
the scuttlebutt generally
followed this tether:

“Say did you catch last
night’s celestial glow?”

“Do you mean that
awesome phenomenal
Northern Lights’ show?”

Our heads snapped to,
Could they be serious?

Looking sober as church mice
no one seemed delirious.

At the RV park the night before
some guy said, “No, it’s just too warm.
The lights will only appear, you see, if it’s
butt-freezin’ cold in the atmosphere.”

Alas we knew so little of the skies
to know just how wrong was Pleistocene guy.

Crushed we’d slept
through the blazing display
we cussed like sailors
the rest o’ the day.

So we turned our attention
to the range of art
and all of the challenges
good citizens impart.

Aiming an SLR lens
at peoples’ proboscis
can sometimes bring on
a self-conscious focus.

Using reverse psychology
as you balance
on your haunches
do instruct your subject
to be sure and
act self-conscious.
.

Works every time
just like a charm

Perhaps a little foul
but no real harm.

Other mystical creatures
with celebrated features
while presenting very precious
and being naturally infectious
need far less of such directions.

When H snuffled out
a sweet installation
hopes were dashed
as harsh realization
meant this delectable
scrumptious creation
was a members-only
hands-off station.

Adjacent to bustling Art Fest beat
harbor’s peaceful rocky retreat.

Sue Rowes’ sayings
bear-centric usually
sometimes veer to
bare profundity.

Her bears are tarty
and terribly droll
metaphoric stand-ins
for folks’ foibles.

http://www.suerowe.com/

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
phenomenal figurines

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
rippling curtains
ions and atoms
colliding in circles.

Cognizant spectators
using early indicators
anticipate auroras
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.

Accidentally slept through lightshow too…

* * *

Thanks for visiting !

Mutiny on the NxGen


Our new database sucked so baa-ad.

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
was key.

 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,

“Huh?  Who?”

Thereafter, upon
careful consideration,
I followed up with:

“No seriously,
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…

Observe everything

Judge nothing

And don’t take anything personal.

And oh yeah, stay hydrated.

It was immediately clear
the role of a NxPert
held little glamor.

Everyone knows
NxGen Analysts are
the true front-line
flag bearers.

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.

Although thoroughly
trained in deep-woods survival,
field-tested boy scouts
eventually succumbed
one-by-one
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
rivetting creature.

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.

These surgically-implanted
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…

(TM Sari)

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…

Because 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;

In conclusion,

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.”

…still resonates.

*   *   *

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

Literally.

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.

That weekend,
a percussion crew
drummed up infectious,
bluesy beats
outside Eastern Market.

A little boy wandered in
spontaneously bopping.

“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.

Breathtaking stuff.

Ryan exemplified
people with that “Shine.”
(TM David)

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.

Centurion sandals.

Not my cup of tea at first.

But now when I spot this intricate,
Caesar-inspired footware,
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.

Unexpectedly,
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
and minimalism.

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
even wider.

.

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,
disconcertingly spot-on.

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.

*********************************************

**********************************************

 

*********************************************

R. I. P. Lily

**********************************************

.

Glacier National Park
Photo by
Deanna Montana

My Kind of Town


Sinatra’s kind of town actually.

Where cops clip electrodes
to strangers in the night, and
let ’em sing in the summer wind…

but I digress

It all started when I rode
the rails outta town…

 

Along its eastward journey to Minnesota,
Amtrak’s Empire Builder cuts through
the rugged Northern Rockies,
glacial lakes and Dakota prairies.

Luckily, the train
rumbles into St. Paul’s station
at a civilized hour.

Bound for Chicago,
I was looking forward
to vegging out on the train.

It’s the one place you’re forced to relax…

and where staring at passing Americana
is not only encouraged,
but becomes a meditation.

Between Minnesota and Wisconsin,
the train skirts the southern route
of the mighty Mississippi.

When walking on the train,
it’s best not to linger between train cars,
lest the lurching catapults you off your feet.

Walking between the connecting cars
is a hilariously jarring experience.
The sliders jolt and throw you up like a pancake.

*    *    *

Over the loudspeaker
the conductor announced:

“Children should be supervised.
There is no running, screaming
or wreaking havoc on this train.”

To this buzz kill, she added a cryptic challenge,
“And there is no smoking anything on this train.”

Like rough rubies, weathered barns stud the plains

“Children of the Corn”
that’s what we are.

And Soylent Green,
is that what we’re becoming?

What’s with all the Soy anyway?

Why do farmers get so fixated on one crop
to the mutual exclusion of all others
and eschew the ecologically-sound
policies of crop rotation?

And why must this innocent (soy)bean
carry with it so much disconcerting
and often unwelcome stimulation of
naturally produced hormones?

And why do I always dwell on or judge stuff
I either don’t fully understand
or can’t control anyway.

I did switch to almond and occasionally hemp milk.
Both of which are delicious and so far
have not produced excess chest hair or ‘roid rage.

In Chicago’s bustling Union Station,
a veritable stampede as city folk headed for home.

I was due to hook up with H,
whose secret on-site job-training classes
had finally concluded.

The plan was to crash for the
weekend with bon vivant Kathy.

She who is single-handedly
renovating her home, and
painstakingly lathing her own walls
with the care of an urban Michelangelo.

And, we would soon discover,
without regard for any
rest, play or recuperation.

Kathy’s beautiful smile
and welcoming eyes turned out
to hold a warning or two…

Specifically a warning about her
ferocious French bulldogs.

But before our encounter with the raging bulls…

And while Kathy finished her late shift,
H and I bussed it to Steppenwolf Theatre,
to catch “The March.”

General William Tecumseh Sherman
“Uncle Billy” to his men,
figured prominently in the play.

With a new kind of slash and burn
all-civilian-bets-are-off warfare,
he was committed to quickly ending
the bloodiest American wa-ah to date.

It was little publicized that
Sherman extended a communal cracker.

“But, my dear sirs, when peace does come,
you may call on me for any thing. 
Then will I share with you the last cracker,
and watch with you to shield your homes
and families against danger from every quarter.

Now you must go…..until the mad passions of men
cool down, and allow the Union and peace once more
to settle over your old homes in Atlanta. Yours in haste,”

– W.T. Sherman, Major-General commanding

 

The play had an over-the-top,
Gone-With-The-Wind sensibility about it.

Back at the station, Kathy was all,
“Where the heck have you guys been?”

While H’s response was all,
“Didn’t think we could squeeze a play in there, didja?”

After her late night at the station,
(it was fun watching Station Manager Kathy in action)
she loaded us into her convertible
and whisked us to her brownstone castle.

 

 

Where feisty Frannie
with her agate-lined nose…

 

 

…and fiery Frankie with her
Darth Vader breathing,
lay in wait…

 *   *  *

Before we arrived,
Kathy had instructed us,
“Don’t look at ’em,
don’t pay any attention to them.
They go absolutely insane,
especially Frannie,
but she’ll be in a cage.”

 

“I just want you to know,” she added,
waiving any potential future litigation,
“they will bite you.”

The holy terrors in question.

When we entered the dwelling,
rabid, mad barking ensued
but the expected assault didn’t.

Unless you count their feverish vying for attention…

Or were the two diabolical fiends just biding their time?

Hmmmm

*   *   *

No murderous events took place that night
cause H and I awoke with limbs intact.

Of course, the pups had been
barricaded in K’s bedroom all night…

Frannie, indisposed.

Exhibit 1:  Note the maniacal peepers,
Chesire-cat grin, yet unexpected heart-shaped tongue,

a subtle clue as to this pooch’s inner psyche.

*    *    *

The next day Kathy drove us
to her “country home” in rural Indiana.

Along the route, we sailed past a
big farm with little Christmas trees.

K’s country home in Winimac
is caretaken by some rural loving peeps.

Sidestepping random nature.

 K clued us in on bloodsucking ticks
who like to lurk under leaf bottoms
and hitch a ride on your person.

Rough-living Goldie greeted us.

She’s a squatter in the area,
sporting multiple burrs
and a feral friendliness.

Kathy was torn about leaving
the little burr-patch behind.

Wish I could take her, she pined.
Frankie and Frannie need a playmate!

Okay, she didn’t mention that last part.

 But she did lead us to the field
where her horses used to graze.

“Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara,
that land, doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing
in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for,
because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

 

One morning, we indulged in a big breakfast
at the Golden Nugget Pancake House.

Kathy’s devil-may-care eating habits
include assuaging a ravenous sweet tooth.

She seriously loves her some sugar….

That morning, she ordered a hot chocolate
which came with a side of chocolate chip cookie…

That was just for starters.

*   *   *

That weekend we visited
Division Street’s Art Fair…

with its scents and sights

 

 

and clashes of pattern

 

 

*    *    *

Next up, the East Side Millennium Art Fest,
where K took on daunting downtown traffic.

“Ze rain in Spain falls mainly on ze plain.”

Pop Art Pointillism

Street chess looked fun

Lichtenstein was at the Art Museum

Bwah-hah-hah
I get to be carried.

This painting represents the dark side of rabbits,
like those who’ve annexed our backyard,
bitten off the heads of flowers,
ravaged all produce in our sad little garden,
and just generally pissed us off.

“What?” I frowned.  “‘Vop chee chee’??”

At first, I missed the Che icon’s role
in pronouncing this zesty sandwich.

Proving I’m either a kinesthetic learner
or just a poor observer.

Either way, the Hunt for Festival Fare was on.

Silence of the kebabs

The lure of the sea glass

The mysterious Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

Caught spying on sweets

Before seeing the play,
“My Kind of Town”
we stopped for sushi.

K’s salmon.

After viewing the controversial play
about the Chicago Police torture scandal,
we were verklempt over all of its remarkable features.

Frank would’ve loved it.

“‘My Kind of Town,” … with the titular nod to Frank Sinatra,
was an electric visceral chop to the senses…
 This true tale is excellently acted, chilling in execution.

The story descends into the basement
of Area 2 police headquarters, where confessions are extracted
with the help of an electronic device manufactured right in
Chicago, …one that could be attached to the genitals
of suspects, all the better to make them sing like Sinatra
about what they may or may not have done.

What a suspenseful, moving production.
Kudos to cast and crew and set peoples.

*    *    *

Speaking of suspense…

Taking the Frenchies out for a walk…

Double rays of sunshine

Occasional circus tumblers

Sporadic Cirque de Soleil’ers

Often deceptively charming on a walk,
Frankie’s sudden rage at any pooch
that crosses her path can be traced to
a near-deadly attack from her past.

“You’re not posting this pic on yer blog, are ya?”

 

Having survived a near mauling,
Frankie behaves with a defensive instinct
that thankfully doesn’t affect her day-to-day interactions
with family and close friends (much).

Although she looks formidable here,
Frankie’s actually trying to prop up her sleepy head.

While H boned up on Soldier Dogs,
Frankie was guarding the perimeter.

Thanks to H and Frankie’s remarkable
symbiotic orchestral snores,
I was able to successfully record
their exciting and spontaneous duets
on my trusty cell phone.

Thank God for technology!

(Call me for a video preview)

*   *   *

H and K pose with Terry,
K’s enigmatic roommate.

*    *    *

Departing on the train was bittersweet.
We didn’t want to leave Kathy,
our hostess with the mostest,
or her charming French au pairs.

Au pair of terrors.

But it had to be done.

Bills had to be paid.

Work places expected attendance.

Funny that way.

*   *   *

On the return trip…

H was recklessly touting up the train’s dinner menu.

 Translation:
All who enter here abandon hope

Complimentary Brut was distributed
to the sleeper car peeps.

That was nice, but as for dinner on the train,

Even Paul couldn’t zazz up that salad.

H opted for the Maryland crab special.
“Not bad,” she whispered,
in deference to the strangers
sitting  across from us.

Having chosen the “Healthy menu item,”
I looked at my boiled tilapia with lentils
and neutered baby carrots.

“Prison-inspired,” I whispered back.

*     *    *

Amtrak has a kinda funny, kinda risky
policy of planting strangers together
in their rollicking dining cars.

It’s part of the thrill of eating on the train.

On the other hand, sometimes
you just don’t feel like engaging with a stranger.

Puppy in the sky with diamonds

Sunset on the Mississippi

*   *   *

Thanks Kathy

for the funnest time,
your Indy-driving skills,
your charismatic canines,
and sharing your busy self.