Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Arriving in England

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." -- Helen Keller
     The flights across the USA from Pullman to Seattle and Seattle to Chicago were hell--pure and simple. We were jammed into seats so closely together that my stubby legs had to hang out in the aisle so the poor six foot three inch gentleman folded up in the middle seat next to me like origami had a place to put his legs. I said,"I think they could have put a few more seats in here--you've still got room to wiggle your toes."
     The flight to Chicago left Seattle at 11:59 PM on Saturday, May 21st, and arrived at O'Hare airport in the Midwest at 3:59 AM. In the row behind me and poor Mr. six foot three was a family--mom, dad and two children, aged fifteen months and three years. 
     Those children were tired and they cried the ENTIRE three hours and fifty nine minutes, kicking the back of our seats in frustration, screaming, wailing, whining, but not sleeping--and neither was anyone else. 
     Stuck in my kiddie sized car seat equivalent, sweating with anxiety, I wanted to commit an act of homicide on those parents. All they needed to do was give their poor children a dose of children's Banadryl before the flight and everyone could have slept through to Chicago.
What airline passengers look like after 24 hours without sleep!
     I also realized, as I was sitting-sleep deprived--on the 787 awaiting take off for England that I had left my lovely green coat with the zip out lining hanging in the bathroom stall in the airport. I was not going to get off the plane to go look for though... 
     The international flight from O'Hare to Heathrow was grand by comparison. The 787 had plenty of room and I was the first to board, given a seat on the aisle with the bulkhead in front of me. I got up and roamed the aircraft every hour, dined on a decent omelet for breakfast, and deep dish pizza for dinner, with naps in between.
     Finally we began our descent into London. Unknown to all of us on board, the volcano in Iceland had erupted again. We were fortunate to have landed in England.
     By 10:30 PM I cleared customs and was riding on what I hoped was the final flat escalator, carrying me along towards the front of the airport. As I stepped through the double doors I scanned the waiting crowds and immediately spotted Les' son Kevin--he who is so enamored of my angel bars. 
     Kev's dimpled smile and bright eyes shined and then Les stepped out from behind other people.  I dropped my bags and threw my arms around Les' neck and kissed him. He grinned broadly, took me by the arm and scooped up my bags.
     A half an hour after I landed in the UK I was following a mad Englishman into the bushes in the dark! Kev dropped us at the Cassio bridge bus stop, Les pulled out a torch (flashlight for Americans) took my hand and away we went to NB Valerie. 
     In our absence Dear Sir's daughter Bev decorated the boat with pennants hung from the ceiling, a bouquet of flowers on the dinette, red foil heart shaped chocolates sprinkled liberally around the boat, and brand new sheets and a matching duvet on the bed. A silver "LOVE" sculpture gleamed from a nearby shelf. 
      We spent an hour looking through the boat together, talking and laughing. I unpacked my suitcase and we ate chocolates in bed!
     Monday Les took me to the chiropractor's in Watford. My left Sacral Illiac (S-I) joint had come out Friday night before I left home and I couldn't get in to the chiropractor before I left the U.S. 
     Jeremy English DC MSTAT, chiropractor extraordinaire soon had me sorted. Over twenty four hours without sleep, and jammed like sardines into airplane seats had done my soft muscle tissue no real good. 
     I've never experienced a chiro treatment like the one he gave me. Included was an adjustment and then deep tissue massage of the affected area to get the muscles to release further. With an office in Watford, a practice in Hayes, and soon to have an office open in Berkhamstead, I highly recommend Dr. English for anyone suffering back, hip, or knee pain. 
     Les and I walked through Cassiobury Park into Watford and visited the Harlequin Shopping Centre. There was a shop he wanted to show me. We stopped for coffees and I had my first taste of English sales help--or the lackadaisical lack thereof. The young people behind the counter didn't seem keen on taking our order.  I told Les I wasn't interested in looking at mall shops. One dress looks pretty much like another. Dear Sir took my hand and led me out of the coffee shop, down the mall, and into--a cooking store! Les knows the heart of the woman he loves. 
     We looked at silicone bake ware and immersion blenders, and then Bev picked us up and took us to her home. It was grand meeting Les' grandkids Jack and Jordan, touring the house and yard, and seeing soft, fuchsia colored Washington State Azaleas in bloom in the back yard. 
     We had dinner at the Toby Carvery which served real mashed potatoes, a choice of gravies, vegetables, and Gammon (Ham for Americans), Beef, or Turkey. I had Yorkshire pudding!  It was like eating a crisp cloud!  Friends back home warned me I wouldn't like Yorkshire puddings--"heavy pancakes baked in the oven," they said. Later when I called said friends back home and described the puddings they were silent for a moment and said, "Hmm, we must not make them right!"
Steering under my first bridge!!
    Tuesday morning we ate breakfast leisurely, and started off cruising. We arrived at Hunton Bridge and met up with Lucy--a charming friend of Les' whose lovely boat is moored there. 
     Lucy is the widow of a wealthy London casino owner. Her husband died eight years ago leaving her and their daughter to find their own way with his fortune.  She would rather have had him. We had a lovely visit and Lucy invited us to dine with her that evening. 
     Moving on we moored up at Apsley, cleaned up, and drove with Lucy to her manor home in Brickett Wood. Her's is a lovely home and garden, with a French country kitchen and an AGA stove. We drank Pimm's which I had never heard of, and it tasted delightful--like more!! 
     For Americans, this is a drink which includes an alcohlic beverage called Pimms cut with water and served in a glass filled with apple, oranges and fresh mint. MMMmm! Lucy cooked a delicious dinner in her AGA of salmon in cream suace, potatoes and green beans with a lemon merengue for dessert.
Butty pulled by Trust owned working boat
   The next morning Ken and Sue Devesen of NB Cleddau caught up with us.  Author of the blog Boatwif, Sue's blog details their travels and travails with the refitting of their boat. I love Sue's writing. She brings her readers right along with her as she describes the sights and scenes. Both of us being educators, we had a long chat about the differences in education between our countries. 
     Ken is a retired air force engineer. Their boat has a composting toilet which fascinates me. Arriving with a bottle of champagne and beautiful orange roses (which are still in lovely bloom on the dinette!), we had tea and a chat. Based in Wales, Sue and Ken asked me if I knew how to make a proper cup of tea. I was proud to say "yes!" Thank you Grandma Lily George for teaching me. We enjoyed their company very much and look forward to meeting up with Sue and Ken along the cut again. to quote Mo from NB Balmaha: "Arent' boaters lovely people??"
     A short while later Mo and V came up Apsley lock and moored alongside NB Valerie. Oh it was grand indeed to meet them in person! we had tea, sandwiches and a good natter. Meeting boaters whose blogs I've followed for over a year is like  having all my favorite heroes step out of the pages of Marvel comics and come to life in front of my eyes! 
     V is even lovelier in person than in her pictures, and Mo has kind, generous eyes and a lovely laugh. They are a wonderful couple and we are pleased to call them friends. 
Frogmore Paper Mill, Apsley England
     Les took me to Frogmore Paper Mill and we had a tour of the premises while watching them make a roll of paper for Red Bull. It was a fascinating process.  
     The next afternoon, boating up to Berkhamstead in the pouring rain, we passed NB Balmaha, and little while later a man and woman called out to us from the off side path as I was steering, " You must be from America--you are driving on the wrong side!"
     I said to Les, "Do you think they read our blogs?" He called out, "Do you read our blogs  then?" 
     They replied, "No--we just came from Balmaha!" It was Mike and Jo from NB Sarah Kate.
Our mooring in Berkhamstead
     Thursday we lurked around Berkhamstead and walked to the grocer's--Oh what fabulous stores! It's interesting coming from a country where we are indoctrinated with the idea that "America is the greatest country in the world," how few choices we really have in so many things. 
Les standing in castle doorway
     British grocery stores make U.S. grocery chains look like the Russian Gulag. In the dairy aisle one has a choice from fresh single cream, fresh double cream, soured cream, extra thick whipping cream, British cream, Irish cream (no idea the differences), long life cream, and clotted cream. this does not include chocolate, vanilla or strawberry aerosol cream!
     We stocked up on things so I could make my legendary chocolate Kahlua bundt cake for Les' kids and grandkids, and a nice pot of Swiss steak and tomato gravy with mashed potatoes. 
Close up of stone work building of castle walls. 
     I woke up the next morning in severe pain with my right S-I. We had to take the train to Watford and visit Jeremy English once again. The trains are marvelous here in England. Fast, reliable, inexpensive. Back in Berko we toured Berkhamstead Castle and I fell in love with this green and lovely land all over again. This castle is of motte and bailey construction which means it had a stone keep or motte and a surrounded courtyard or bailey built upon an earthen foundation or hill with a palisade or ditch and a moat surrounding it. The castle was begun kin 1066 after William the Norman conquered the country at the Battle of Hastings. 
Fireplace in what is left of the castle kitchens
   Saturday we traveled by bus to Watford to Dear Sir's daughter-in-law's home. Bev and her wonderful mother Tina spent many hours laying out a fabulous spread to which family and friends were invited to meet me. I baked the chocolate Kahlua bundt cakes at her house--one for her and one for Les's son Kev and his wife Jo. 
     I laughed so much and so often I continually wiped my eyes. The kids, grandhildren and friends are all very fine folk and I am pleased to be among them. 
     Sunday we traveled the Tring cutting and Les had me steer the boat again--in the wind--while taking the boat down the locks. While it is second nature for him, it was exhausting for me. 
  We saw so many birds--geese, ducks, swans, Herons, and they go along right beside the boat. 
     Finally, I have fallen head over heels in love with England's waterways because the paths are bordered everywhere with nettles, Comfrey, hawthorn, and elderberry. 
     As a medicinal herbalist these plants makes my heart sing. Hard to find in Eastern Washington State, they are EVERYWHERE here! I already have one batch of dried comfrey leaves set aside and I am working on a second batch to tincture in olive oil. I'm not sure whether to call this land Nettle Kingdom of Comfrey Kingdom!
     There are many different sects of the Craft; Picti Witta is Scottish witch craft; Strega is Italian; there are Gardnerian witches who believe in strict instruction with three degrees earned and signified by three garters of different colors. They practice high ceremonial magick similar in form to the rites of the Catholic church. There are Dianic witches who only practice with other women. 
     I am a hedge witch. I believe that whatever I need in any given moment, the Goddess will provide. Dear Sir has not only made me a real and true hedge witch but he has given me the whole of England...and I didn't even have to muck about with English royalty--which is fine by me as Les is the king of hearts--specifically mine.      


  1. Wow, it is lovely to read about much you are enjoying engand, although I fear you are seeing things through rose-tinted spectacles if you think our train services are fast cheap or reliable!

    Joking aside, I am so pleased for you both. Best of luck with your plans to marry and attains citizenship, I hope it all goes well. Keep blogging too, I do enjoy a happy story!


    NB Lucky Duck

  2. Oh, to see such a comfrey! It's been years since I had one in my garden. I love hearing of your adventures with the family and I can't wait to finally meet Les when you get back!

  3. Oh Jaqueline you do make me smile when reading your blog! Your description of our very english " yorkshire pud!" is brilliant, " crisp cloud" that's the best name I have heard since my children, when they were little, calling bacon ribs, "bacon on a stick"!!
    You sound like you are having a wonderful time, I am pleased to hear your loving our lovely English countryside!


  4. We just knew that you would fall in love with good old England! Glad you arrived safely and have soon got the hang of steering - enjoy your stay.
    Hope to meet you both in the not too distant future. Carol and George.

  5. Hi Amy, Patti, Debbie and Carol! I've been unable to sign in to my own account for nearly a week now due to come glitch wiht Google Chrome. Thanks every one for following along with our story and for your good wishes. Amy, Debbie, and Carol, I look ofrward to meeting each of you when we return, somewhere on the cut; Patti we will see you at the wedding rehearsal!
    Love and hugs,

  6. Must be going well since no new posts for almost a week. Miss you here, will miss you more once you leave the U.S. for permanent bliss.

  7. Mom you look so HAPPY! I am glad that you are living your life! I miss you so so much! I love you more then a million trillion gooses! Les thank you for loving my mother and for seeing the amazing woman she is! warning she can be a handfull but what good woman is not?
    Loves to you both! Sparkie!