Goodbye to all that

It's time for me to bid England goodbye and head out to Brittany, and eydimork and her husband. I've had a lovely couple of days in Penrith, Potfest was pretty cool (there were a lot of things that were kind of 'meh' but quite a few that were really nice, as well), and Stephen and Peter were absolutely delightful.

I went to bed early last night -- in the 9:30ish range -- because my legs were kind of a mess after walking back from the venue into town. There were crosswalks at the roundabout, but no clear sidewalks, so I wasn't sure where I was supposed to be going and got a bit lost on what were some fairly dangerous main roads, but all went well and I was fine, if creaky.

Dinner last night was Indian again and, just as in Ireland, it was much sweeter than I'm used to at home. The eggplant was nice and savory, but the butter chicken was a lot sweeter than I'd expected. I was asked if I'd yet had any vindaloo, in honor of Red Dwarf, but I think I'm going to have to pass, unless they have some at the Manchester airport. ;)

Everyone has been absolutely wonderful here, and so very kind to me. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such fantastic friends, and I hope that we'll be able to meet again someday. Unless I end up doing another pilgrimage with the Sisterhood of Avalon, the odds are rather low, I will admit, but I live in hope. fififolle, hagazusa, and their families were great and very welcoming. It's been a pleasure to visit, and I hope you folks know that you're more than welcome to come and stay with me if you like, if you're ever in the Seattle area. I may not be in town, but it's not really that far to get into Seattle from my place.

My train is out of here at 8:45 this morning, direct to Manchester Airport, where I fly into Rennes. I'm so looking forward to meeting eydimork this afternoon! (And French food. And Carnac. And Merln sites. And the Festival Interceltique.) So much more cool stuff to come on this journey.

See you soon!

A fine evening

This morning before we headed out, Fi took me by the post office, where I mailed out my hiking poles. The line today was almost nonexistent, unlike the one on Monday, when everyone and their brother was waiting there for something. It was good to be in and out quickly.

This evening about 8:30 I met Stephen and his partner Peter, and a couple of their friends who were along to help with the Potfest stuff. We had a really delightful evening, and a delicious dinner together at the Station Hotel restaurant. I had a very good lamb shank and some of the pear cider from the Swedish brewery I mentioned the other day. They didn't have any of the elder flower, but the pear was very good and I had the better part of two pints.

Conversation was great, Stephen gave me a very nice little prezzie to take home (it should fit within my luggage weight limit without any problem), and a card from a mutual friend who is in very ill health and had a medical appointment tomorrow, so he couldn't come out to the fest as he had been hoping to. I had been planning on writing him a note and giving it to Stephen tomorrow, and this just reinforces that. I'll have to pick up a note card somewhere tomorrow morning before I head over to the venue.

Tomorrow morning I have breakfast scheduled for 9:15 (the latest slot), and will be heading over to the venue in late morning or early afternoon. There are 100 or so potters who are going to be there, and hopefully they'll all be set up by noonish on Friday. Stephen said a lot of them had still been working when he left for the evening.

I'm pretty tired and will probably read for a little bit then head for bed. I'll write about the evening in my journal tomorrow before I head out for the day.

Just checking in

fififolle saddled us up and got us out this morning in time to go and see the Long Meg stone circle while there was good, warm weather and sun. I had a fantastic time, and we spent quite a while just wandering around the stones. We were, for the most part, alone (the two of us and her daughter), though at a couple of points there were other people on the far end of the circle. As we were getting around the other side, we encountered a family and their off-leash, un-neutered dog (large-ish, pit-bull-ish, and not particularly well-behaved), which didn't strike me as a terribly good idea in the middle of a cow pasture. He got up and lunged, but I didn't bother to move. I doubted he was going to be an issue. One of them grabbed him by the collar and (as always) I was told the dog was friendly. *sigh*

After we finished exploring the stone circle, we headed back into Penrith, where we had some lunch at a Chinese place. The lady there was from Taiwan, and her sister apparently sells tea there. There was a little case of teaware and Taiwanese tea by the door. Not anything near as impressive as Shiuwen's collection but very nice to see in a small English town where tea tends to mean black with milk.

I'm checked into the B&B, and have been in contact with Stephen. He expects to be done with setup sometime around 8-ish, when he, his partner, and his two minions will be meeting me for dinner. Tomorrow, Potfest opens, with over 100 different potters and ceramics artists all showing their wares. It should be an interesting show. I'm very much looking forward to having a look about.

Friends, Romans, Something-or-Others

Today was threatening rain when fififolle swooped me off to Maryport, where we went to the Senhouse Roman Museum. For a tiny place, it packed in a lot of stuff. It has, apparently, the largest collection of Roman altars in Britain (23-ish?), mostly to Jupiter, but also to Mars, Aesculapius, and Minerva, among others. There were two Epona figures there, a horned god (I couldn't actually make out the figure clearly, I'm taking the museum's word for it), and the famous snake-stone pillar, with the snake climbing up one side and a face on the other. I took a bunch of photos. The site is some miles from Hadrian's Wall, but is a part of the general area's fortifications, and there was a rather badly done statue of Hadrianus Augustus in the recreation of the shrine of the standards, but one must photograph it anyway. ;) It was something with at least a tenuous connection to my Antinoan devotions.

There is an active dig going on through to the end of August, and they were giving tours, but we were there about noon, and the tour wasn't until 2pm. We decided to head down into Maryport and grabbed some lunch at the cafe in the aquarium (we didn't go into the aquarium itself). By the time 2pm had rolled around, the wind had picked up and it was raining. I wasn't really feeling that well anyway and didn't think my legs would hold up for it - I've been cramping pretty badly all day and had a lot of trouble moving most of the afternoon and into the evening. I was just as glad to let it go.

Upon our return to Chez Fi, I checked the weight on my backpack - just a hair under 20 pounds, so I have a little breathing room for my flight from Manchester to Rennes. We looked around at possibilities for things to do tomorrow, given my trip out to Penrith, and it turns out that the Long Meg circle is about 15 minutes or so out of town, so we may be able to visit that. It's outside of town on the other side of Penrith, but Fi seems willing to haul me out there. I don't think she's been there before. This is a fairly famous circle, and the third largest in Britain, so if I do get to go, that'll be a really nice finish to my tour of English sacred sites.

This evening we packed my hiking poles into a spare shipping tube and duct taped them like crazy. We'll stop by the post office on our way out so that I can ship them off home. They're very light, so the postage shouldn't be too much.

I wasn't really able to do more than a quiet meditation for Lughnassadh, but if rain is the presence of Lugh, then I certainly had him in spades today. We give what we are able, when it comes to time and physical capacity, and I was not up to very much today at all. I would have liked to do more, but perhaps I can do a little something tomorrow when I get into the B&B in Penrith and have some time alone before I see if Stephen will be available. Certainly, if I can spend a little time meditating at Long Meg without getting soaked, that would be a nice touch.

Tonight at dinner, I tried a Stella Artois pear cider, which was very nice. Last night, along with the Kopparberg, we'd tried a Bulmer's pear, which was really bland. I wasn't impressed at all, but I wouldn't mind having this one again. I wasn't nearly as jazzed as I was about the elderflower and lime, but it was still a good, solid cider with a nice flavor. If I can get pear, it's a little easier on my system than the apple, which can be a bit problematic if my system isn't quite up to dealing with it. Cider is usually reasonably safe, as apples go, but there are days when one really doesn't want to take any chances.

Being just a touch headachey, I'm about to drop myself into bed. I hope the weather in Brittany is better than this. I don't mind a little rain, but it's been downright dismal for much of my Isle of Man/Britain visit. I'm delighted I've had such good company to spend the time with, though! (Thank you, Fi! You and Neil have been wonderful.)

More stone circles (and Poohsticks)

Today fififolle and I went for a two-mile walk along Ennerdale Water (as everyone keeps telling me, "there's only one lake in the Lake District"), along the lakeside (waterside) and up on a trail that led us through the forest and over a couple of small footbridges across a stream. It was really good weather for a walk early in the day. There was sun, a reasonable temperature, if slightly cool, and a little bit of a breeze. I got some really cool photos of the landscape, of the trail and the waterfall, and of a number of variety of mushrooms along the trail, as well as a butterfly, and some sheep that we encountered being herded along the lakeside road by a couple of shepherds and a dog. I think I get to fill in one of my Rural England Bingo squares or something.

Upon encountering one of the bridges, Fi and I realized that we must, perforce, play Poohsticks. I mean, what else to do you do on a footbridge over a rural English stream? Really? (I won. Her stick was too small to see it emerging from under the bridge. She insists that she didn't see either of the sticks.) We also found some lovely ripe blueberries along the trailside, which we nibbled upon. We spotted a tiny frog under the foliage as well, but it got away too quickly to get a photo. It was a brownish one, and about an inch or so long, very small. There were quite a few cars in the car park, but we didn't encounter nearly as many people as the number of vehicles suggested. We did see a fair few people out in the wonderful weather, but there was a lot of peaceful walking without crowds of tourists today.

The walk was about two miles, which was right on the edge of what my hips were able to take today. She'd suggested a couple of options, one of which was this and the other would have been a considerably more strenuous bit that involved a hill and closer to five miles. I knew that I really would not be up to it, as I'm all crampy at the moment, and this would have aggraveted it considerably. As it was, I needed a fair bit of rest once we were finished.

We drove out to another nearby stone circle after our walk. This one was right next to the road -- closer to the road than Castlerigg was, in fact -- but out in a much more deserted area. Fi tells me it was on Cold Fell, and it rather did live up to its name. The landscape was quite bleak and there was a brisk bit of wind blowing. We had originally thought we might have lunch at the circle, but it was too chilly, so we ate lunch in the car. I did get quite a few photos of the circle, though, as we were the only people around. This circle, known as both Blakely Rise and as Kinniside, is a circle that was "restored" in about 1925, with the stones once again set upright, and kept in position by being cemented. These days the cement is covered in moss, but you can still see bits of it around the bases of the stones.

From the circle, we could see the Irish Sea in the distance, and mountains north of us, which she said were in Scotland. I waved to Scotland, as it was about as close as I'm likely to get on this trip. I don't know if I'll ever get closer. She also said that from the top of the hill across the road from us, on a clear day, one might theoretically be able to see the Isle of Man. She's never seen it herself from there, as she's never been on a sufficiently clear day, but from the Isle of Man one is supposed to be able to see Ireland, Scotland, and England, at least, and possibly Wales, if I remember correctly. it's situated ideally for that, at any rate.

After spending some time at the circle, we headed down into a small town nearby, where we stopped at the Shepherd's Arms hotel and pub, and had half a pint before proceeding back to Cockermouth to do a little shopping for necessary bits and bobs. We picked up a few kinds of cider to try for dinner tonight and tomorrow. There were a couple of pear ciders, and one that was just spectacular, in my opinion. It was from a Swedish brewery called Kopparberg, and it was elderflower and lime flavored. Really amazingly good. I have been told by the lazywebs that it can in fact be acquired online in the US, so I'm going to have to order some to share with friends of mine who appreciate St Germaine elderflower liqueur, which has a similar but much heavier and sweeter taste. This is light and perhaps very slightly acidic (the influence of the lime, most likely) and really quite extraordinarily good. The cider was had with a dinner of pasta and salmon, with a spinach-ricotta sauce for the pasta, and a little spinach on the side. Quite lovely.

After dinner, Fi showed me chunks of the olympics opening ceremony (we fast-forwarded through the parade of atheletes). I don't recall ever having seen an olympics opening ceremony before, but some of this was pretty hilarious. Parachuting Queen Elizabeth with James Bond was pretty much drop dead funny, imo. It was all wildly British, so (as an American) there were occasional moments of WTF for me, but I did follow most of it. The various Interpretive Dance bits rather lost me, but reminded me of the days of my Lone Gunmen fandom, when we would threaten to do interpretive dances for one another on fic themes. "I shall now do an interpertive dance..." was a fairly common IRC comment.

Neil was watching a lot of the weight lifting stuff today, but he used to do that when he was younger, so he has a rather up close and personal appreciation for it. There was a little gymnastics and some synchronized diving as well, though some of that was the result of channel-surfing. They have 20 channels, all showing nothing but olympic events. I don't think you can actually watch anything non-olympic-related in the UK at the moment. I suspect it would be high treason. Unlike the reports I've been hearing from the US, however, they're giving really broad coverage of a lot of events and nations, so it's not All UK All the Time, as NBC has been holding the coverage hostage for Americans only.

In the midst of all of this, I was told that my ballot arrived early last week for the primary elections on August 7th, and I won't be home to vote. There's no way I could get the ballot shipped to me and sent back in time to be counted. I have only rarely missed an election of any sort since I started voting back in 1980, so this is rather a painful point for me. I would never exactly consider myself traditionally "patriotic," but I do care about what happens in the US and I tend to think that not voting is abdicating at least some of one's responsibility as a citizen, even when the options are not terribly good ones. There have been moments when it might as well have been "Cthulhu or Darth Vader, you choose!" Sometimes I think all I can really do is vote to minimize harm on a national level, but in local elections and ballot issues, I do think some difference can be made. I tend to always support school and library levies just on general principle, unless I know there's something bad/fishy going on with a particular one. Of course, anything at all with Tim Eyman's name on it gets jettisoned due to absolute loathing of the man and everything he appears to stand for. That bastard is personally responsible for a lot of the infrastructure problems in the state right now, and I am unlikely to ever forgive him for it.

Plans for tomorrow have yet to be discussed, but on the 2nd I'll be off to Penrith to check out Potfest and meet Stephen, a gent I met over twitter, who will be showing his work there. I'm quite looking forward to this.

And now I shall attempt to get something vaguely resembling sleep, as it's abouto 11:30pm here at the moment and my body is not necessarily thrilled with me. I'm doing my best to both do interesting things and get enough rest to be meaningful. It's a difficult balance when I want to do ALL THE THINGS. We'll see what tomorrow brings, eh?

Stone circles

Today fififolle and I went (with her daughter) off to mail out my camping gear. It cost a little more than I expected, but significantly less by a factor of about 10 than having to actually replace the gear, and still somewhat less than paying for checking extra bags on two short European flights. Worth it, I think. I wasn't able to fit the hiking poles into the box, but we have a shipping tube that they will fit into and I'm sure they will cost significantly less to ship on their own. That will probably happen tomorrow sometime.

After the post office visit, we came back home for a bit. It rained a lot today but when it started to let up, we went out to visit the Castlerigg standing stones, which are about 20-ish minutes from here. It was a fairly impressive set of stones, but right next to the road, so it was crawling with tourists so much that there was even an ice cream truck out there. I did get a little booklet on some of the stone circles of Cumbria. There are apparently 50 or so of them, and about 20 are covered in the book, with color pictures and a little blurb about each of them. I thought it was a nice little guide.

I spent the evening having an interesting conversation with fififolle's husband about world politics and life in the US. He said he hadn't really ever had a chance to talk to an American about life there and what things are like. We'd both been in the military, though he'd broken his arm around the time he enlisted, and so was out within about 90 days. I talked about how the military had radicalized me, about growing up rural and not particularly well-off, about stuff like the social safety net, and why it might be that Americans tend to vote against their own best interests on some things. We talked about guns and violence, and the differences between local, state, and federal law enforcement and how they differ. I talked a little about being a bit croggled when American fans wrote fic where UK police were carrying guns as a matter of course (which really doesn't happen here).

We talked about the legacy of empire and the cold war, and about Scottish independence (he and fififolle are both from Scotland). We talked a little about Native American nations and cultures and the complexities of Native nations as essentially client states within the US land mass, and the cultural similarities between them and the Scots and Irish and Welsh who had their languages beat out of them and their cultures destroyed by imperial ambitions. I thought it was a pretty good conversation. When we ran out of steam, we turned the Olympics on for a bit and watched some gynmastics and some badminton.

Tomorrow fififolle and I may do some hill walking if I feel up to it. I'm kind of crampy tonight and will have to see how I'm doing in the morning when I get up. If the cramps continue I probably won't be up for a climb, but might be up for something more gentle. I know that there were some nice waterfalls along the route in from hagazusa's place yesterday that are probably in a reasonable distance, and perhaps we can to see some of those. I took some photos at Castlerigg, and her daughter took pics of the two of us together. She also took a picture of me with Dave (it's kind of a joke, but I'll show you when I have the photos) at one of the stones in the circle.

Dinner was a lovely curry and some wine. She also made very tasty portabello mushrooms with goat cheese and a little sauteed green onion as a starter. Very very yummy. My tum is doing much better after a couple of days of not eating at random restaurants, and with much less stress on my system. I was glad to accomplish what I did, but it was also nice to have a slow day where there wasn't much I had to be concerned with. The rest of my laundry (what I was wearing yesterday while the rest of it was being washed) has been dealt with. Once everything is dry and rolled up, we'll have to weigh the backpack and make sure it's under the 22 pound limit for carry-ons. I've got a couple of more days where before I head for Penrith and the Potfest - I'll be checking into the B&B on August 2nd in the late afternoon. I've been talkiung to Stephen, who is finishing up his preparations and sent me a photo of his adorable puppy, and we're looking forward to meeting next weekend.

Overall, a good day, even with lots of heavy rains. We've had some sun and a little warmth, and I'm looking forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring!

Safely in Cockermouth

I was scooped up like illegal merchandise by fififolle from hagazusa at a little roadside stop (that was more like a mall than a rest area) this afternoon and driven through the Lakes District up to Fi's place.

This afternoon I met Miss Boo aka Booshka, and had a lovely ride. Yes, the pwny was on a lead and I did feel about six, but I had a great time. After that we went for a lovely walk and stopped at a tiny town's pub called The Calf's Head, where I had a pint of cider and bought hagazusa a half pint of beer while we waited to be picked up at the end of our walk. It rained off and on but I had a delightful day that included red wine, Belgian chocolate, and a delightful bit of roasted chicken with yummy crispy skin.

I'm so glad to be back with folks that I know, even long distance, once again. Fi and I have been fandom geeking and talking about all kinds of things. Tomorrow there will be laundry before I get out of here with her, and probably her daughter, to go and see some of the local sights. I might get to see the Castlerigg stone circle, as well, if all goes according to plan. I've been in contact with my friend Stephen the ceramics artist, who is getting ready for Potfest in Penrith, where I'm to meet him the 2nd/3rd of August before I dash off for Brittany and eydimork's place.

I got a pretty good sleep last night, though with some very strange dreams that were pretty obviously the result of my upset internal bits (no, nobody needs to know the details). I kept waking up but reminding myself that I didn't actually need to be out of bed at that hour and going back to sleep. It was a lovely feeling. It will also be really nice to have clean clothes again tomorrow, and I need to re-dye my hair so that it is its proper shade of shocking forest green.

So much lovely countryside here. I can see why Wordsworth and Longfellow and the rest were inspired by the place. We may do a little hill walking if my body is agreeable. I saw a gorgeous waterfall with a little footbridge in the valley below that would be quite worth seeing if we have the time and ability to get there. More later, when there has been more rest and some clean clothing.
A nice comfy bed, a pillow, and actual walls around me were very helpful with that sleep thingummy. In other words, I spent a restful night at Chez hagazusa after some tasty tomato soup, some bread, and a lovely bit of mildly sharp cheddar. fififolle has been contacted with arrangements for swooping in and taking me away. It's raining off and on today again, but there shall be a voyage out to see the pwny Miss Boo (rest assured, photos will be taken), rain or shine.

I'm still exceedingly creaky but doing a little better. At least a few brain cells have been restored. The keyboards here have things in different places than I'm used to. Once I'm done with this, there will be bits of scribbling in my pilgrimage journal.

As it happens, I am in the land of the Brigantes, so I am once again in Brigid territory, if you will. She and Manannan (whose namesake ferry I made the crossing in, from Isle of Man to Liverpool) have been showing up regularly. Once I get to Brittany, I will be firmly in Merlin territory, and eydimork says that they have some alternate Merlin stories about what happened to him in that cave and all that. I shall be most interested to hear the local Merlin lore and see the sights, as well as attend the Festival Interceltique in Lorient. I believe Breesha will be there as well, from what she said when we met last week.

I've been having a fine time despite yesterday's utter brain death. Looking forward to the day's adventures!

Safe in England

I have arrived safely at hagazusa's place and have had a lovely supper with her and her husband. They have a fantastic view from their kitchen table, and we had some good conversation. I'm using her computer so some things are not working quite as they should. No wireless so I can't actually access my seanet email account. If you are trying to email me, it may be a day or so before I can respond.

Tomorrow there will be a visit to the Welsh Pwny, and I'll be swept off my feet by fififolle at a point yet to be determined. Fi, if you could email Mary that would be awesome. I have way too few brain cells right now to cope and will probably be collapsing in a little heap of Erynnness here shortly. There is a REAL BED OMG.

The ferry crossing was okay though it got a little choppy as we got close to Liverpool. I got to Lime Street Station via cab and managed to navigate the train system without any significant issues. I'm so glad to be in a place where I don't have to worry about finding something to do in order to just have a seat.

It's still quite light out, despite the rain and clouds, but I am about done for the day. Tomorrow I hope to have a few more spoons available. Pwny petting shall commence.

At the ferry terminal

Ive just checked in for the ferry to Liverpool. It was drizzling and windy when I got up but the terminal is sunny and I'm sitting in the window feeling warmish for once. Still exhausted. Stomach is still wonky on me. I'll check in with folks again when I'm at hagazusa's place this evening.

Train tickets arrived

My UK train tickets arrived today via fififolle, along with her good wishes. I also got the money from seanthedruid for my road trip to California today, so that's taken care of. Given that I spent the day in Redmond with friends for food and catching up on all things Eastside, I didn't get any writing done, or anything else for the pilgrimage today, but I did get a chance to show off the new edition of Circle of Stones and my copy of Mandragora.

One of the folks who was at dinner tonight grew up on the east coast and, in fact, used to go to the UU summer camp in Rowe, just down the road from where I grew up in Massachusetts. Gods, it is such a small world sometimes.

What day is it?

March 2015



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