Thursday, 27 May 2010
Seeing England on two wheels. May 28, 2010
Joe arrived home from France with nice bottle of French perfume for me! He really liked it over there and said the people were very friendly. He golfed with three Frenchmen on his golf day and enjoyed them immensely. One of them offered him a piece of some kind of cake on the golf course. Joe did his usual, "no, thank you, I'm good". He said the guy's face just fell and he looked crestfallen. He looked so sad and said, "why not"? Joe felt bad and decided to have some and the man became suddenly happy again to share. Apparently it was not good manners to turn down a treat!
I think I may have mentioned that I am sorely missing having a dog here. I am home so much and would really like the company. Although having a dog would make our traveling a lot more difficult so I have been trying to figure out what to do about it. I got Joe to take me up to the local RSPCA (animal shelter). I wanted to ask about volunteering. It was a weekend and they were very busy. As we had other things to do we finally left without talking to anyone. The shelter is almost 3 miles from our house and that posed another problem. How would I get there? I have also thought about fostering dogs but you still have the issue of having a dog here when we want to go out of town. Plus when you foster there is usually an issue with the animal, so its probably not in the dog's best interest to drop it off at a dog kennel while you are away.
After much thought and some digging around on the Internet regarding bus schedules I decided one day to try and take a bus to the shelter. There is a bus stop about 4/10 of a mile from our house. I did my best to try and figure out where I was supposed to get off so that I'd be close to the place, and left one morning around 10:30. When I got to the bus stop I saw that the next bus wasn't coming for 20 minutes. So I walked down into town and bought a newspaper and came back. There was a nice little old lady standing there when I got back and I visited with her while we were waiting. People love talking to Americans, (although at first she guessed Canadian). They laugh at our funny ways. OUR FUNNY WAYS??
The bus finally came and I told the driver I wanted to be taken to the animal shelter and named the street that the website had said was the one to get off at. He gave me a blank stare and then I said, "The RSPCA". He then nodded and promised to motion to me when we got there. I've never ridden a public bus before so I don't know how to act. I was really trying to memorize the way as we went through town. I knew that I may have to walk this route in the future. The bus cost £2.30 ($3.45) which I thought was a lot for a 3 mile ride!I was so busy looking at the streets and things that I didn't even notice when he stopped for me. An old lady started tapping me on the shoulder and I realized it was my turn to get off. I thanked him and got out. As soon as he pulled away I saw a sign across the street that said, "SPDA"or something like that. It was not the right place! And the bus was gone!
I was on Hinckley Road and I knew that the bus stop that I was supposed to get off was on Hinckley Road so I figured I'd just start walking and eventually come to it. (Hinckley Road is a LONG road that goes through many towns, like Rt. 355 at home that goes through Rockville and all the way north of Frederick. I walked and walked and nothing looked familiar. I must have walked at least a mile. Finally I asked a lady pushing a stroller if she knew of an animal shelter close by. She said, "the RSPCA?" Oh, I could have hugged her. She pointed the direction that I had come and said, "its way down that way, but its too far to walk. You'll have to cross the street and take the bus...". I said, "no, I don't mind walking". I was NOT getting on the bus again. So she told me what to look for and back I went. By now I am sick of carrying my purse and that darn paper I bought! But I finally got back to where the bus had let me off the first time and continued on. Wouldn't you know right around the corner was the turn I wanted! If I had just walked the other direction when I got off the bus I would have been so close! From there I had a 20 minute walk off the main road to get to the shelter. I was SO tired by then. I was wondering what I'd do if they said, "sure you can volunteer, you can walk some dogs right now!"
As it turned out I was only there 5 minutes. They said they had a volunteer open house coming up and I was welcome to come to that to learn all about volunteering. So I signed up and headed for my long walk home. I covered more mileage that day then if I'd have just walked to the shelter and not even taken the bus! I was pooped when I got home around 2:30. Then when Joe comes in from work do you know what he said? "Do you want to walk into town to the nice restaurant for dinner tonight?" I had been wanting to do that for some time but I had to turn him down.
Now I have gone to the shelter for the meeting (thankfully in the evening so I could use the car). There were a lot of people there who wanted to volunteer. I filled out the paperwork so we'll see. They wanted two references (to take care of dogs!) which I had to give U.S. names and addresses. They would not use phone numbers or email. So those letters will take a week to get there and another week back. I hope they call me because I really want to do it. It is a big shelter and the closest one to me.
We have decided not to get another car right now. I can drive Joe to work anytime I want to use the car and the insurance is very expensive. Plus there are all kinds of road taxes and things on top of the car costs. What we did instead was, we went to the store and bought me a bike! ME, a bike! People walk and ride bikes everywhere here. I don't mean the bikers with the cute little neon outfits that ride all hunched over their handlebars either. Regular moms, dads, grandpas and yes, grandmas. No helmets, just backpacks and off they go! I decided that I could do that to get around too.
We went to a good store where they were very knowledgeable about the bikes. Of course I go straight for the cheap ones, which happened to be mountain bikes. The guy did not recommend them for riding on the street. They are much heavier and not built as well as the street bikes they had. I was nervous to spend a lot of money because once it is spent then I am obligated to use it! But I relented. Joe wanted me to get a good one and this one had a real good seat (important for my wide you-know-what), made very well to handle abuse (changing gears etc,) without repairs. A good thing as we know nothing about fixing bikes. When we got home I wanted to try it right away. I hop on and in two seconds I am heading straight for Joe and telling him to stop me. Which he did. Then I took my time and off I went down our driveway. How come when you remember riding bikes as a kid there are no memories of being nervous, almost falling, or hitting a large pebble and falling? It is a lot harder at age 50 than I remembered. But I have been riding every day this week, trying to get my strength and coordination up. I don't remember U-turns being so hard either.
I did take my first fall the other day. BUT IT WASN'T MY FAULT! I was riding up our quiet street and you know how I've told you that there are hedges around all the houses here? Well this kid delivering newspapers came shooting out of someone's driveway on a bike and we almost collided. I couldn't see him coming as he came straight out between two hedges and he couldn't see me for the same reason. I just about lost it but managed to stay on the bike when an oncoming MERCEDES SUV was coming up the road right at me! She had to see the whole thing as the road is straight and good visibility. Instead of going around me, she keeps coming straight at me and puts both hands up in the air like, "what are you doing??" I swerved to the side so as not to get hit and ran into the curb and fell off the bike. Do you know what she did? She kept right on going? I was SO MAD!! I wasn't hurt, I had fallen onto the grass, but still!
Today I actually rode into the village which was scary because there are a lot of cars. I am not real comfortable yet when faced with cars, walkers, etc. I told you how people just park on the road and cars are continually having to go around them into the other lane. Very scary on a bike. The road to the RSPCA is a very busy one so I am going to have to work up to that. It does have a bike lane though.A really cool house on main street in the village with a tree literally growing on the outside of it!
The cars here are very small and very good on gas mileage. There are fewer gas stations than in the states too. Much fewer! Joe has a SAAB 4 door, which isn't tiny, but not very big either. You don't see many SUV's either. Except rich women who drive Mercedes ones. But seriously, they are few and far between. The other day when we were on the highway we were passed by a Chrysler 300. We both exclaimed at the same time how BIG it was. It looked like a giant cruising up the highway! Oh no, this country is rubbing off on us.
Last Saturday morning while I was still in bed Joe got online and looked up theaters to see the new movie ROBIN HOOD with Russell Crowe. There were theaters nearby where we could go to see it, but no, he wanted to see it in Nottingham, 45 minutes away. He was so excited to tell me when I got up. He loved the idea of seeing the movie in the city the story took place. It was a beautiful day so we went early and sat outside at a restaurant in an old courtyard and ate while we watched all the crazies walking by. We then went around the corner to a huge beautiful new looking theater to watch the movie. It's funny because where we ate was an old old cobbled street with restaurants and shops on either side, no car traffic. Then you go around the corner and here is this big modern theater. During the beginning of the movie "Nottingham" came up on the screen announcing where it was taking place and Joe gave me a sly look. I leaned over and asked him if he was expecting the audience to break out in applause!
The British are very loyal people and fussy about their reputations. We have heard some of them say that they don't care to see the movie because "how could they dare get an Australian to play and Englishman!" We read that Russell Crowe studied the local language so that he could get the accent right. Apparently they did not think it was authentic enough. We also heard that a lot of Scottish folks were mad when Mel Gibson (another Aussie) was chosen to play William Wallace in Braveheart. They are still complaining about that one! I also read in a newspaper article that people were unhappy that Brits always play the bad guys in movies too. Funny people!
The holidays here are called "bank holidays". Although technically there are three types of holidays. The original (statutory holidays) bank holidays are where the banks are closed so that the financial system comes to a stop that day. These are Easter Monday, the last Monday in May, the last Monday in August and Boxing Day (day after Christmas). Common Law (or public) holidays are Good Friday and Christmas Day. Then there are the Holidays designated by Royal Proclamation. These are New Year's day and the first Monday in May. When New Year's day falls on a weekend the Queen traditionally designated the following Monday the proclaimed holiday. We only get 8 holidays, less than you all (especially if you work for the government!)
So your Memorial Day weekend coming up is our spring break bank holiday. Whatever, I am glad we have it. We have planned another trip for the three day weekend. We are going to the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is an area of about 790 square miles in the upper southwest region of England AND is the country's largest officially designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. A travel guide I read said it is one of the most 'quintessentially English' and unspoiled regions of England. Gentle rolling hills, river valleys, meadows, sleepy ancient limestone villages, and so typically English where time has stood still for over 300 years. What I have learned through researching travel in England is that there are many many places you can walk in the countryside. Either with a tour or a self-guided tour. Apparently there are walking paths all over the country. The public paths many times go right through a farmer's field or other private land. But these paths have been here forever and so they remain public to walkers, bike riders and the like. I haven't quite figured out how all that came about but I will probably learn this weekend. For right now I bought an Ordnance Survey Explorer Map for the area we are going. This is a map recommended if you are going to walk trails through the country. Each area of the country has their own map. The detailed scale of 1:25 (4cm to 1 km) means that bridleways, cycle trails and paths are clearly shown, including public rights of ways. It is a map just for walkers (also bikes and horses) and looks wonderful. They also show stately homes, museums, gardens, country pubs along with all the different types of trails and landmarks along the way so you don't get lost. Just looking at the map they name barns, tons of farms, one place named Betty's grave, cottages, churches, and the kind of trails; rocks, gravel, sand, mud, even the incline. The list goes on and on. I hope I can make heads or tails of it while we are out there. I can't wait to try it out! I will be the one responsible because I was the mail carrier! I plan to take many beautiful pictures.