Sunday, May 30, 2010

BritRail to Sheerness-on-Sea

If I had been asked the question, where do you see yourself when you are 70, I would not have answered, “Using a Britrail pass, night and day, for 16 days.”

This is the first day we have stopped to look at the prices of the fares, since our pass is a flat fare rate of $685 for trains for 15 days plus a bonus day.

On doing the math while planning today’s trip, we discovered that from London to Shanklin and back would have been the equivalent of $300 for the day, had we not had our pass.

“Why we could never be afford to take trains like this, nor spend that much money on a trip for each day for 3 weeks. We can not even buy scarves using that kind of cash at the silk market,” I told Wyona.

The deal is that the pass has to be purchased by travellors coming to England to visit or ever Brit would have a pass like this.

To the question, where do you see yourself when you are 70, I would not have answered, “Picking up sea shells at Sheerness-on-Sea, tucking them into my purse, washing them as the last act of the day, getting up early to inspect their beauty and deciding where they will sit in my bedroom.”

Yesterday -- a cold day, miles of beautiful beach, hundreds of yards of stairs that could be used as benches to lay out on in the hot sun, should there have been sun.

There were all the markings of a summer amusement park written on buildings and bill boards: advertising for 10-pin bowling, fish and chips, ice cream, sausage rolls that could be ordered ahead and picked up when getting off of the train, but the parking lot was empty and the shops were closed.

“Which way do we go to the beach,” Wyona asked the conductor when we got to the farthest point in our journey.

“I don’t know. I have never gone there. I only bring people here,” he said.

It was wet and misty. A few couples walked the promenade. We were the ones down by the water, collecting beautiful rocks and carving out half circles with our shoes in the sand.

To the question, what would you be doing with your leisure time at 70, I would not have answered, “Putting myself on a gruelling schedule. Up at 5:30 am to catch a 6:15 train and coming home at 11 pm in time to plan the next day’s schedule.”

I do not know how to spell the word retirement.

“We are not going to waste one minute by not being on the train,” I say to Wyona. “Other people may want to go places, get off and look around, but I want to see the English countryside go by the window.”

The lambs beside their mothers, the color in the fields, the blossoms still on the Hawthorne trees, the Norman, Roman, and Gothic churches the dot the villages, the castles that we glimpse, the backyards of people who live near the rails, the sailboats that dot the bays – all so interesting.

Today I saw something new: beautiful graffiti on the rooves of the row housing – maybe a block of it, beside the railroad. It could only have been painted so beautifully there for us.

We have seven days of travel left, now carefully planned – all except the last day.

We have decided to do again the best trip of the 3 weeks, but we won’t know what that is until next Saturday night.

“What if I want to go one way, and you the other?”, Wyona asked,

“I am sure our train lines will cross then,” I answered.


Message from Catherine to Arta and Wyona

Dear Wyona and Arta,

All I can say, is go girls!

I have now unequivocally decided that you can be assigned the label of travel freaks.

These are people that can't be stopped from traveling and enjoying an adventure no matter what--vomiting, limping, fatigue, diarrhea, escaping luggage, accidents, etc.

You will enduring it all in the name of seeing the world.

Welcome to the club.

I hope your last 4 weeks in Europe is fantastic.

Remember that you can go directly to the doctor from the airport when you arrive home, that is if you have any time before you "travel" to B.C.

Cheers and happy travels.

Looking forward to seeing you in Paris (as long as you aren't still vomiting.)


BritRail - On the Isle of Wight Ferry

May 31, 2010

Wyona has been planning our trips.

She gives me time off to write on the blog.

This is not an equal division of labor.

It is the way that the trip planning goes best.

She looks at the map and we have gone to either the eastern or western tips of the island.

Tonight she is executing our 3 day trip to the North of Scotland.

Today we took a trip to the Isle of Wight, wanting to pass through Portsmouth and ride on the ferry.

The fare was on one pound fifty, return and the trip took less than 5 minutes.

When we tried to pick up the train for the rest of the ride, we found we had taken the wrong ferry, one to Gosport, a village across the water of a small peninsula, but not a village on the island.

Making mistakes is the best part of our trip.

“Oh why didn’t I take a little more time, instead of following the others from the train who were moving to a sign that said Ferry This Way.”

"I just can't believe we are making so few mistakes.

A return trip to Portsmouth, tickets for a bigger ferry and soon we were on the top deck, the ferry making its way through the water, and boats in full sail around us.

Let your hair down, Arta. We are going to get the maximum benefit from the wind up here and get the best value for our pound.”

Wind in my hair?

On the top of a ferry?

On the way to the Isle of Wight.


That is something I have never done before.

“I did not know until trying to comb my hair afterwards, that the wind has a way of braiding hair that is blowing in a strong breeze.

I could hardly get hold of mine to tie it back up.

The wind creeps up the back of your neck and takes your hair up to the heavens.


BritRail Trains

Hello from Arta to Gabe.

This is what your Grandmother Wyona has been doing.

We have been taking brand new trains and ancient ones.

Today we took another of those old coaches when we got to the Isle of Wight.

Look at the windows in this coach.

Wooden sills.

Such old wood.


And on the upper window that can be opened, a small brass ring with which to open the window.

The train starts at a sleek, new station and we run from one coach to the other.

The conductor is calling to all of us, "Hurry, don't be late."

There wasn't musch to hurry for.

He was ready to take us down a 17 mile rail line at about 10 miles ona hour on a train that jostles back and forth and whistles with the sound that toy train whistles give.

When the train stops you can stand in the door and have your picture taken.

We put our luggage up by the train doors.

"Look, mummy, someone has left their luggage. Look mommy stop."

Another little boy walked down the platform making the train whistle sounds himself, in anticipation of the ride he was about to have.

Today Wyona made me take a picture for you, Gabe.

She wants hyou to know how much fun it will be to travel on the trains with her when you are older.

What I want my friends, like you, to know is how much fun it is to be beside a railroad track, both on the Isle of Wight and ... in British Columbia.


Britrail - Dover

May 30, 2010

Wyona asked me what it was I really wanted to do.

I am the one who has had the tune ringing in my mind, “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover” and though the day was dull, and rain was forecast, I thought we would enjoy at least the train ride there.

The taxi driver at the station told us that there was no hop-on-bus, and no city bus to take us there.

That a taxi was the only way to go and that it would be nine pounds.

“Why didn’t I tell him to put his meter on,” Wyona said later. "I am a seasoned travellor. I know better."

“And why didn’t I tell him that the guide books tell us that there is a hop-on-hop-off bus,” I replied.

“We are not going to go back at that price,” said Wyona, "rather than give him a call to take us back to the station. I shall just ask someone at the visitor’s centre to give us a lift back to the train station."

By that time it had started to rain and she scooted me ahead to take a few pictures.
The sign said that the cliff crumble and that walkers should not be closer than 5 meters to the edge.

The path was closer than that and no guard rails.

I would have been a nervous wreck if there had been any children along.

The view one way was the white cliffs, created by the glacier that covered northern Europe and cut the channel between England and the rest of the land mass.

The view the other way was boats leaving for the continent.

The man who gave us a ride back to the station said that the town has suffered since the opening of the chunnel.

Jobs lost over that.

Then he asked his wife how to get to the train station, for though they drive there often from 20 miles away, he said he has never had occasion to go there.

That taxi driver must be new.

Of course we know he is not new. He is just a good scammer.


Now THIS is a swing...

My friend Ruth (here for a month) rented a cottage down in Cadboro Bay (where the park with the giant octopus slide and sea serpent are). The backyard walks right out on to the beach. there is a giant arbutus tree with a huge swing in it. If you get pushed high enough, you swing out over the sand. Here is steve and the boys... in the distance, you can see the cascade mountains.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Lurene and I spend a lot of time at the train window.

This would be a typical pose for both of us, for most of the day.

Between snapping and deleting pictures, we barely have time to look at the scenery.

God's Providence is Mine Inheritance.

That is what is written at the bottom of this window on this half-timbered house, a style of housing that is common in Ghent and beautifully illustrated along its main square.

I also enjoyed look at the wooden sculptural decoration on the windows.

I try to image what I will put beside my windows to imitate this kind of decoration.

Ghent has the most famous clock in England, outside of Big Ben, in London, that is.

Wyona, Lurene and I broke up our group travel at this point. I wanted to take more pictures of the clock. Wyona wanted to buy some food at Marks and Spencers. Lurene needed a rest break. We agreed to meet at the bus stop at 2:15 to take the express back to the train station.

I didn't like Wyona carrying both suitcases and a big bag so I hurried to catch her at the grocery store.

Lurene didn't like the same thing either, and she hurried to catch Wyona at the grocery store.

Though we found each other, we could not find Wyona.

After 2 runs through 2 different Marks and Spencers, looking for her, and not beiong able to fiond her, we finally stationed each other as sentinels on different street corners where we could scan
the crowds for her.

She arrived, 30 seconds ahead of time, in time to catch the but, but that we too much anxiety for Lurene and me. We have decided to never let a woman dragging a 2 suitcases and a bag get out of our sight so that she can fill another huge bag with grociers for her loved ones.


I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

May 25, 2010

Greg reminded Lurene that 20 different train companies service the railroad. She joined us for a three-day train outing through the England, Wales and Scotland. We took 6 trains from five different lines in one day, leading us from London to the Lake District: Great Western, Arriva, Heart of Wales, First Trans Pennine Express and North Western.

Wyona’s pinpoint scheduling was so finely executed that at one point, we stepped off of one train, pulled our suitcases in a circle to the other side of the platform and stepped on the next train less than one minute before it was leaving.

Not all of the trains have a first class service, as we are now well aware. The first class service has a yellow bar along the top of the coach to differentiate it from the standard class. At times we were just lucky to get on the train at all.

When we had put many miles behind us and we now moving toward Wales there was a small gap of time on the plastform and I asked the train guard, “Could you please tell me what platform the Heart of Wales Train is leaving from, and whether the first class coach will be at the back or the front of the train.” How organized is that?

With a large gesture of his arm he pointed to the right and said, “Madam, there is your train, one coach and only slightly better than going by horse.”

This was the best train of all. Once aboard I discovered that at the same time a train can lurch from side to side and front to back as well as give a gentle body massage from the shimmer of the seat if you are so lucky as to have one.

I settled in to enjoy the noise of the engine and the sound of the clicking of the wheels on the rails.

The driver blew his whistle as every curve.

“I think he does that to scare the sheep,” I said to Lurene for the sound would make the newborn lambs who were looking at us through the fences skittle back to the centre of the fields.

The train doors didn’t close tightly. There was no air conditioning. A strong breeze was sweeping in through the gaps in the doors. I put a blanket on the right side of my leg to keep my body temperature regulated.

Lurene and I were at different windows, using our cameras as though we might never be able to take another picture. On the sports mode of the camera, 3.5 shots can be taken every second. Between the clicking of her shutter button and mine, the locals on the train were looking around to see what could be so interesting.

After about ten minute of that, the conductor came to us and said, “The only really interesting point on this line is a Roman aqueduct up ahead.. You can only see from the back coach. Come back after the third stop and I will let you take a picture from my station.”

Back there he said to Lurene, “Only a place for one in the room I am going to show you. You must promise not touch the one white knob on the panel or we are all in trouble.”

He went on.

“Count ten seconds after we come out of the next tunnel, then snap away for you will only have a brief glimpse of the viaduct. Be quick.”

On my way back to my seat, I tried to walk down the aisle without falling into the laps of the other passengers. Using all of the tai chi balance techniques I could muster, I was still grabbing the chartreuse handles at the backs of the seats to steady my weaving and swaying.

While we were gone, Wyona had enticed the little Welsh boy who was sitting in the seat to come and sit up on her bench.

Wyona and Lurene played with him for the rest of the trip, at first barely getting eye contact from him, then having him colour on her post-it-notes, and finally giving him a pair of scissors.

“You aren’t going to give a little boy that age scissors,” blurted out Lurene. “And aren’t you going to ask his mother.”

“Of course I am going to give him scissors. How else is he going to develop small muscles control?” Wyona responded. “He is going to be fine. I am helping him.”

The three of them had chatted happily across the isle from me.

Lurene later reported, “I didn’t understand a word he was saying. The first words I got out of his Gaelic accent were, “Are these boy’s or girl’s scissors.”

“Girls,” said Wyona, watching for his reaction.

“No, they are sharing scissors,” Lurene said correcting Wyona.

When we left the train the conductor told us that the platform is so short that everyone has to exit by the same door, for both doors won’t fit on the platform at once.

I got off the train to get a picture of the shortest platform on the line, the one that won't take a whole coach.

Lurene got off to photograph the name of the stop, since that is our new practise -- take a picture of where we are so we can remember when we get back and start looking at our picutres.

The Lake District.

A place I never dreamed I would visit.

Lurene says that the first action a person should tke when going to their lodgings is to unpack their suitcase: make the room their own.

We spread everything out in our room and then took a trail up the hill to get a few evening shots of Bowness-on-Windemere.

We investigated a broken rock wall for a while. Then we followed a footpath down to the lake, looking at the rowboats for hire, at the sailing boats taking tourists for a spin to see the views of the hills from the water, at the gulls in the air and the swans on the lake.

Two old men came walking along with a bag.

The bag was a paper bag.

Out of it they pulled two loaves of bread and some buns.

Gulls began descending from the skies and swooping around them.

Other gulls were on the beach, as well as mallards.

The swans started swimming to shore and their feet aren’t made for shore travel and they lumbered along, joining in on the fun so awkwardly.

“I notice that as we ride along in the train that Wyona loves watching the animals in the fields, the cows and especially the flocks of rams, sheep and new-born lambs.

She sat down and on a bench and enjoyed the bird show.

Part of the time her mind was on how to creep up on them and see how close she could get to them before they would scatter.

We got this day-old bread at the market, tonight”, said one of the old men. “Best two pounds I have spent today.”

And writing this note has been the best two hours I have taken today.


Monday, May 24, 2010

A Pilgrim in Durham Cathedral

I wanted to start write something fresh when I turned 70. Something like -- write a blog called “My 70th Year to Heaven".

Doral asked me why I just didn’t write my heart out on the family blog we already have.

So I am going to pump up the volume until I run out of new things to see. I hope I live long enough to write until I come to the end of all of the words I have. I wonder if I can contain any more happiness or if my heart will explode some night when I am resting, getting ready for the next day.

Too full.

I am on overload from how full each day is.

Wyona reminded me that I am on my way to County Durham today, the place where the musical Billy Elliot is set. Having seen that show more times than I want to thnk about, I got to hear all of the dialogue from the show ghosting along in my mind as I watched out the window on the way to Durham.

The guide book had confirmed that with the stroke of a pen in 1984, the mining communities of this country were wipe out and pointing out that I would see the residual effect of that moment 30 years ago.

Durham itself is posh, partly because it houses the University of Durham in a lovely cobblestoned setting, the university library being one of the buildings in the cloisters and castle that surround the building. The streets are steep and narrow around the cathederal and castle.

I asked the station guard if I could walk to the castle and back in two hours and he said I could. I didn’t think about taking a bus ride until I stopped to snap a picture from a cove nestled in a panoramic view of the the castle.

“How much does the bus cost?” I asked a fellow traveller.

“Free,” she said, “if you are over 65. Free bus service all over England if you are over sixty-five. If I go down to London, the buses are free for me.”

Apparently I don’t look 65 in Durham. The bus driver charged me 50 pence and charmingly confided told that it was a good price, for the ticket will last all day for me.

I am a fan of taking guided tours, even when the tour books caution people against those tours as some guidebooks do. In this case, I was visiting between cathedral tours, having to catch the train before another could begin so I bought a four-fold pamphlet and supplemented the material in that with what I would overhear from other tours that were in progress.

I have a coffee table book at home called Cathedrals of the World, and like other coffee table books I own, I love them, but I don’t sit on the couch and read one. I do like to go book and show my grandchildren that the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City is classified as a cathedral; at least I like to tell them if I can get one of them to stop long enough to listen to me.

Now they will have to linger longer, for I am going to use my own that book and see if I can find a glossy picture of the wonderful Romanesque decorated pillars that I saw today. The hardest part of these trips is to leave the illustrated books produced about these World Heritage sites, still in the shops when I leave. What makes the task easier is that I had already figured out that I can only take 1 ½ pounds more luggage back than I already have.

I have loved reading in the guidebook today about Northumberland, a part of north east England that is dotted with old cathedrals. I see the most exquisite of spires on church in small town I have never heard the name of – or even more startling, an old cathedral in the middle of a field.

Growing up as a Mormon, I don’t have a complicated vocabulary to use when I describe a church or a cathedral. I am pretty well stopped after using the words sacrament table and chapel. I don’t know where to look when a pamphlet directs me to look at the high altar, the choir screen, the bishop’s seat, or the transept.

I did see the line of demarcation for some on the floor – women were to stay at the back of the church on the plain stone floor: men could come up and stand on the marble tile.

But that was changed by the 1600's.

I do wish I had a nice door knocker on my house like the one I saw today.

If you were in trouble and used that doorknocker, the monastery would give you 37 days of saftety until you tied up your business or found safe passage elsewhere. I worked to find the best sideview of the knocker I could find. Maybe I could just put one on the door of my house. What a treat to be able to give refuge to people in trouble, and then make sure hey have safe passage, at least to the other side of the Shuswap.

As well, I have been listening in the museums when paintings are described and I have learned every saint has an attribute: St. Catherine, for example, is depicted with a broken wheel; St. Peter with a set of keys; John the Baptist wearing animal skins. Today, in Durham Cathedra, St. Cuthbert has King Oswelll’s head in his hand. That was a bit gruesome. The king died in a battle and St. Cuthbert rescued his head, and carried it on his arm, finally having it buried in his gravesite with him.

The good part of the attribute is that even if the statues head gets knocked off, you can still tell who it is by the attribute in their hand.

That story could surely compete with the Book of Mormon tale of cutting off all of the arms of the slain, bagging them up and taking them to the king.
Rolling around in my head has been the idea of taking on an attribute of my own.

That is the way others would know who I am if I ever get sainted.

I don’t think I want to carry a marble slab for dipping chocolates should I become a saint and need a sign to let people know who I am.

Too heavy to carry a marble slab for eternity, even in pictures.

I wouldn’t mind being known as someone who carried a laptop with her everywhere she went – but that attribute might belong to many others of the population, given what I am seeing on this train.

Maybe I will choose a pencil and a paper for my attribute, since both of those are becoming obsolute.

The idea is easy for me when I think about Wyona. If I saw a statue with its head knocked off, but a couple of decks of cards in its hand, I would know it was her.
I have a new interest in train protocol. I said to the man who sat beside me at the next stop, “What do the local people here do when there are four of us at one table and only two wireless connections? Do you arm wrestle each other?”

“They say, I will take it half the time and you take it the other,” he said, laughing. “And by the way, the trains have Wi-Fi connection as well so you can stay in contact with the other world.”

“Thank you. I have two last questions and then I will try not to interrupt you. Could you please tell me the name of the white bush that is in flower along the sides of the roads now?”

“Good question. I don’t know.” He looked thoughtful and then said, “I call it thorn.”

When Wyona had asked the same question of the girl on the train as we were going to the coast, she too didn’t know.

“I call it blossom,” she said.

Some of the fields are golden with a yellow colour. I guessed I was seeing mustard seed growing, but it is sunflowers for making cooking oil, my fellow lap-top user remarked.

Van Gogh would have been happy living here

Occasionally I wonder if I should be keeping track of the total cost of this trip.
Today I paid a pound for a guidebook, 50 pence for a railroad ticket and I won’t be maxing out on my Oyster pass.

A day with savings like that makes me feel like I should go to another West End London Musical; a month like that and I will be able to buy another Britrail pass.


Durham Cathedral

I could not get any good pictures today. Perhaps it was the clouds. As well I remember now, reading in the guide book, that this part of the country is not like the tidy lanes and well-trimmed hedges of other parts of the land.

No careful stone fences that separate the fields here.

There is still a wildness here in north eastern England.

The pictures do show at least that.

“I regret not being able to come with you tomorrow morning,” said Wyona last night.

I am going to see the famous Norman Romanesque architecture of the Durham Cathedral, today, and I am travelling on my own. Oh, I am not really on my own, for I have Wyona’s shadow beside me and am now trying to do all of the planning she does for me, on my own.

“How do you read the train schedule to tell which platform I should take the train to Oxford,” I said to the woman to the left of me at King’s Cross Station. All I could see on the whole board was dashes.

“When the dash you can see on the electronic board turns to a numeral, you will know that is the platform number where you should go,” she responded.

I waited watching the commuters come off of other trains. Then I idly admired the hair-do of the woman to the other side of me. When the change came to the board both women both turned to me and said, “Now that is your platform – number 5. Hurry. Follow the others.”

“Oh no,” I said. “I was only practising reading the schedule. I am so excited to go on my trip that I got to King’s Cross Railroad Station early. My train doesn’t leave for an hour.”

Now on the train, I see the other passengers on the train have their computers in front of them, and are multi-tasking by taking conferences calls on their phones, as well as conversing with the business companies to the side of them. I heard the four-note musical sound that signals computers going on all over the coach as people settled in.

I am new to this.

I ordered the complimentary orange juice and Sweet Fruit and Nut Soft Cookie. I didn’t know what to choose in the way of cookies since I couldn’t understand the accent, the English accent of all things, of the choices before me.

I watched while the man next to me ordered toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and a sausage, trying to get a handle on the sound of the words.
“That will be £12 pounds,” she said.

A traditional English breakfast.

I am going to have Greg show me how to open the Harrogate Spa Sparkling Spring Water when I get home. I opened Wyona’s on the last train and was sprayed all over. Now the same thing happened to me this morning.

I am reading Tonia’s Lonely Planet Great Britain as the scenery roles by me, so that I will know what to look at in Durham Castle. A 12th century wall painting of St Cuthbert.

I had no idea where to go today. I told Wyona that I was going to get on the posh East Coast Rail and ride north as far as I could for 6 hours and then ride back, forgetting that I get to go hear Shakespeare in the Regent’s Park Outdoor Theatre tonight. So I changed the timing of the ride so that I could go north and be back in time for Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Since I had that extra hour at the train station this morning I practised changing the timing of the reservation of my ticket, giving myself another hour in the cathedral before I come home.

“Yes,” you can do it, “said the ticket agent, “but it will be expensive. Give me your ticket.”

I handed over the Britrail pass.

“No charge,” he said.

Wyona and Glen are the ones who were looking for train travel originally, trying to figure out if it is more expensive to rent a car or go by train. They saw an option for the Britrail pass that has to be purchased when you are in Canada. That choice fell through for them, but Wyona and I decided to order our passes. I was absolutely disappointed when the tickets came. There was no large map, no literature, no schedule – just a ticket for 16 days of consecutive travel through England, Scotland and Wales.

At night, Wyona goes to the British railroad url and creates a schedule that connect trains for us, so far to the south west and then the east of England.
I am less skilled today. I am taking a train, riding it one way north and then riding it back, south.

In fact today, I must do a little research in a few minutes or I am not going to know when to get off of this train. The book I purchased said to ask the train guard any question and you will probably an answer to your question plus a 40 minute lecture on the history of the area you are in.

Greg informed me that 20 companies run the trains in Britain and that you have to make connections between the companies at some point, if you really want to get to a destination that is serviced by connecting companies.

I couldn’t be having a better holiday. I am in a train. I have a travel book by my side. My laptop is on the table in front of me. My camera is by my side. I can snap pictures out the window with the camera from my retirement. Even better, I am now moving from being an beginner with that camera to the intermediate level. Well, I should put a rider on that. When I went to the National Portrait Gallery and I visited their photography bookshop. At that moment I decided that there is no use taking another picture – that they have all been taken in some shape and form and publish. And further I had that wash of fear of how hard it is going to be to get really good at anything when I am a beginner at it.

Be that as it may, today someone is serving me complimentary orange juice and biscuits and I am about to go into Durham Cathedral.

How cool is that!

The day before we were to begin this trip, Wyona asked me if we just shouldn’t cancel our trip before it began and getting 80% of our money back.

That would have been a mistake for we would have just spent it on scarves.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sheringham, East England

Wyona and I left for the east coast of England this morning, not a trip most people would choose.

Lurene is coming for three days and we are saving Hadrian's Wall and Wales so wse can do those trips with her.

But few people who have only a week or so to spend in England want to go as far east as is possible and dip their toes in the North Sea.

That is what was intriguing Wyona about moving east -- not getting her feet wet, but going where others might not go.

The ticket seller at Cambridge said that she would recommend us ending up in Sheringham, a quaint English seaside town.

And that is where we headed after we had gone down to see King's College, Cambridge as well as Trinity College.

On the bus Wyona asked for directions on how to get to the college, and that is how we picked up our guide, John.

He was an 81 year old man who said he would show her a sight few people have seen before -- a new gold clock install on the university campus, purportedly costing one million pounds.

When Wyona asked for directions, she thought she was asking an old couple who were sitting together on the bus, but the old woman seemed to be deaf and soon got up and left without the old man, which is when she surmised they were not together.

At any rate, John raced us through the streets of the campus, and took us back to the bus, and didn't leave until he had seen us safely on our way.

Wyona and I were the last people off of the train at the resort.

I wanted to see the sea.

She said we should follow the crowd who had also got off the train, as they walked up the hill.

We were too far behind them, soon, and a man caught up to us, happily chatting to us, telling us about coming to the resort to meet his old friends from Birmingham for the day.

"Where are you going," he asked us.

"To the sea," said Wyona.

"Well," said he, "if you continue to walk that way, you are going to have to go all of the way to Wales on the west coast. The sea is always downhill and you are walking uphill.

That is why I took this picture for you. To show you that Wyona and I can change directions and find the sea, with a little coaching from the English.

I had a little more energy than she did by the time we got to the coast.

She sat in the square and watched the families having picnics and enjoying their children.

I set out with my camera to see if I could capture what it is people love about this seaside resort.

I went out of control today, taking pictures of people, since they were around us in their infinite variety.

I started when I saw a man in fabulous dreadlocks saying good bye to his girl friend at a country train station.

We have stopped at many towns, picking up one or two passengers on a platform.

This couple were outside my window, less than one yard away and before I knew it, I had my camera in my hand.

I didn't want to miss that image, for I would have expected it in the city, but not on the platform in a rural eastern district of London.

When the girl friend got on the train Wyona was poking me for another picture.

She had a lovely string of Japanese orgami birds, tied together as though they were on a kite string and they hung from the back of her dress and gently flew behind her.

I didn't catch her in that pose, but here she is later talking to someone and you can see the birds, now hanging down from the front of her dress.

By this time she was tired and had her shoes off, but you can still see the string of birds hanging down from her waist.

I hadn't walked more than a block down the streets of small coastal town of Shearingham, but I saw an older lady walking along the street.

I watch older ladies carefully, knowing that some day I will be one of them.

This one had on a heavy winter coat and hat, even though it was a sweltering in the 80's and everyone else had on a shorts and t-shirts, were lining up at the ice cream shops to cool themselves down with a cone or were sitting on the grass having picnics together.

She was alone.

She sat on a park bench and the heat must have been getting to her as well, for she gently peeled away on layer of her coat to give herself a chance to cool off with a little of the North Seat breeze that was whispering by us on the streets.

I caught some English folk dancers who were doing a round dance with a pipe and a drum as accompaniment.

I loved the hat this man was wearing, as well as the bells on his shoes, and the sticks in his hands that had ribbons flying from the ends of them.

"Oh, the English in the Midlands love this kind of dancing," Greg said when I was trying to explain to him what I had seen.

I told Wyona that by mid afternoon we were looking so tired, that I was not taking any pictures of us. Too cruel, I thought, to get us when we are at our tiredest.

Wyona had just rearranged our luggage.

But even after a long day on multiple trains and taking care of me every step of the way, she still looks good.

I brought along my computer today, since yesterday we were on trains where everyone had their laptops plugged in.

Today the trains were downscaled and instead of riding first class, we rode with those who got cheaper tickets. If you buy a ticket but don't sit down, you get a cheaper rate.

As well, there was no air conditioning in the coaches, no complimentary snacks, and the train was only 2 coaches long. The windows were wide open to give us some breeze. The 2 seater sides were filled with families where there were 2 and 3 children on the laps of the parents, all in a festive mood, for the weather was beautiful and they were going down to the sea-side to enjoy the afternoon.

I liked this picture of the church. The service must have ended by the time I got there, for most of the town was at the Antique Motor Car and Bicycle Show down at the boardwalk.

I think it was the crayoned sign inviting people to church that I liked about the image: "The Fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost", done in crayon on the bottom right hand side of the picture.

Another lovely day on the train in Britain.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Riding to Penzance

“Wyona is the great planner and executer of plans.

All day she has been aware of the buses we should take, and the train connections between the First Great Western and the South Western Lines that would us deliver us all the way to Penzance and back today.

Eyebrows would rise when conductors would ask her where she was going and she would say, “From London to Penzance and back again.

“Not the ideal way to have a leisurely trip,” one of our fellow passengers said.

I have always understood that the joy is in the process and not in the destination.

However when we were standing on the platform at Penzance, knowing that we couldn’t even get into town, but that we had to take the very train we had just come off of, back to London, in order to get home by midnight, I had a small moment when I thought we might just stay over the night, since the wind coming off of the bay was so beautiful, and the sun was shining so brightly.

You are brought us our first good day,” the man who checks the tickets said, and that is why the trains are so full today. Everyone has poured out of their houses and is going to the seaside after so many grey, misty weeks.

The first flaw crept into our perfect plan when a homeless person call out to us this morning, “The 205 is not in service”, as the bus speed by us.

We were content to take the next bus but he suggested we use the Tube to King’s Cross.

“Only one stop away,” he said.

I had wondered how he knew where we were going, but of course, he had seen us try to flag the bus down, and he and his fellow street sleepers were awake for the night.

“This is his front room,” I remembered, “and he knows who comes and goes on this street, for it is the street where he lives.

His suggestion of taking the tube might have worked if we had picked up the right underground line to King’s Cross.

Of course, along the way, Wyona helped two other people find their way on the tube, and also lost me since she was running down flights of stairs with the luggage, faster than I could follow her.

At one point I was at a four way junction, where stairs were going downwards east, west, north and south and I was calling in the empty halls, “Wyona, where are you?”
So we missed out first connection.

“This is only an experiment,” I said to Wyona, and she said back, “No, this is the real thing today. We are using our passes.”

Today was a hard day for me – I had to choose whether to write as we rode the trains, whether to take pictures or whether to just sit on the train and drink in the beautiful scenery and read from the guide book as we went along.

Southwest England, the District of Cornwall is where we have been today – Wyona planned a circular route so that we took the trains that follow the major highways to the end of the coast, and then we changed routes to take a small milk run back to London.

I took 600 pictures, not counting the ones I deleted.

This post has contained some of them.

Now we have to go to bed so that we can get up and be on the 7:20 am train for Ipswich tomorrow.

In fact, she told me if I don't go to bed our trip is off for tomorrow.

So, I just have one more thing to say.

Don't worry about us starving to death as you can see from the one suitcase that contained only our picnic lunch.

We took too much food today -- enough for 3 days, for four people, actually: radishes, red peppers, dill pickles, chocolates, 2 kinds of biscuits, a mixed of nuts and fruit that we never broke into, chicken salad sandwiches -- if we got trapped in a train station we would have been good for about a week.

As well, the first class passes include complimentary juices, tea, coffee, sweet biscuits, chips and yogurt covered pressed fruits and nuts.



Zoe's Puzzles

As we all know, Zoe is a puzzle master.  She has been putting together flat jigsaw puzzles for about 10 years and with great ease.  She graduated to 3D puzzles after the 2D ones began to become less of a challenge, which she also puts together so quickly and easily that she tricks the viewer into thinking that she/he can do it too.  As the viewer sits down to participate in creating the puzzle, it quickly becomes obvious that her/his skills are low and Zoe's are very, very high.  The shape and colours fit together in her brain, her hands reach out to the matching pieces and she places them in their respective spots faster than you or I.

In April Zoe and Tonia headed to the game store to look for puzzles and found two: a unicorn shaped puzzle and a fairy shaped puzzle.  (Tonia found 'Trader and Barbarians' part 4 of Settlers of Catan.)  The unicorn puzzle pieces were placed in the table first and the combining of weird shapes began.  At one point, Lurene, Tim, Zoe and Tonia were all to go bowling but we could not pull ourselves away from the last 20 pieces that needed help finding their spots.  In the end, Tim was the slowest and we dragged him away and headed for the bowling alley.  Zoe finished the puzzle the next day and posed for pictures for the family blog.

These are the things Zoe likes about jigsaw puzzles:
- they are cool because they have shapes and pictures
- they glow and glitter
- the 3D puzzles look fantastic
- puzzles help people feel happy when they are done
- I am good at skills so I like puzzles
- more people should do puzzles because they like to play with them, they are fun

So get out a puzzle, enjoy the thrill of finishing an activity piece by piece.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pre Britrail Planning

I started my day getting some practise with my camera.

Wyona loves her flower garden.

I took a couple of shots so you could see how the heather is just starting to bloom.

I get dizzy on the fire escape stair well, both when I am descending it, and when I am using it to get up to the roof.

A little bit of vertigo sets in for me, when something below me is so far down.

The pictures today are about camera practise.

But Wyona and I doing a new kind of practise, a more important kind -- one using our Britrail passes – together taking a trial run tomorrow to Penzance.

We leave at 7:30 am and arrive home at midnight, having only 2 ½ hours in Penzance.

“This is not the way most travellers take this trip,” said the woman at the ticket wicket.

“It is not about going to Penzance,” said Wyona, “but about what we will see on the way there and back.”

Originally we planned on getting all of the way to Lands End, and having our picture taken by the sign post there as most tourists do.

The bus that travels that country road doesn’t go there and back in the 2 ½ hours we have at our disposal.

We didn’t spend a lot of time pre-planning. Our choice was made like that old story of someone who is looking for help in the Bible, opens a page blindfolded, points to some verse and takes that verse as the direction for their life.

“Let’s go here tomorrow,” Wyona said, pointing to the bottom and west side of the boot that is England. "We are never going to make this trip if we start with the more traditional spots to go."

A trip to Kings Cross Station validated our passes and confirmed our train bookings.

We are using Great Western going one direction and South West Rail coming back.

This seems like the perfect way to feast our eyes on the landscape.

Our arms were so full of groceries on our way home from Tesco's tonight, that we put them down by the bus stop when we couldn’t run fast enough to catch the first C2 double decker.

The second C2 bus opened its doors for about 10 seconds and when we didn’t get on it fast enough, it went down the road as well.

A by-stander came to ask us why the driver wouldn’t let us on.

We didn’t know, and thought he just may not have seen us, but we were hard to miss carrying 8 bags of groceries between the two of us.

The slight didn’t matter to us.

Our train is booked for tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the evening making a picnic lunch for the train, the lunch big enough that all of our loved ones could join us.

Truly, we wish you could be here, at the very least for the lunch.