{August 28, 2011}   Anytime, Anyplace

This morning I ran through Wembdon, a little village near Bridgwater. It was sprinkling lightly—typical English weather, I suppose. I welcomed it since it kept me cool and kept the kids out of the playground so I could use the monkey bars for pull-ups, benches for push-ups, and so on. You know the typical things normal people do on vacation.

And I tried not to get lost.

You see, in almost every place I’ve visited in the world, I have this weird method of exploration—I run or walk until I get lost and then try to find my way back. Sometimes it’s not so bad. Other times, it is, and I end up near tears berating myself for being such a jackass.

Yesterday morning, I ran, trying not to go too far in any direction for fear of getting lost. I ran past all the “Bull in field” sign, the farm animals in people’s back yards, the rowhouses, and the shop/post office. Coming back, I found my aunt and uncle’s residential complex fine, but then spent fifteen minutes trying to find their house. I found their street and tried following it to their number, but when it twisted and curved, I went on what I thought was the logical way—the path that continued on straight ahead. Turns out, it was the wrong way as I ended up on another road with no recollection of the direction I had come in. So I had to bug two little old lady neighbors for the way, hoping they wouldn’t inquire as to what this strange, sweaty American girl was doing poking around their way.

Since I like to torture myself like this on a regular basis, I went for a random run again this morning. Again, I found the complex okay. Again, I had trouble finding their house. But I found it on my own, I tell you, and strutted into the house.

“I made it back!,” I announced.

So now what am I doing? I told my mom and aunts how I needed to continue Lisa time and was going out to find a café. I won’t even get into the numerous questions I fielded about why I would want to go to a café alone, what do I mean by a “café,” and so on. I like nothing better than to escape to a local café for a little alone time, to read, write, reflect, or maybe just stare out the window with my head tilted to one side to daydream. Trust me, there are worse ways to “escape.”

I tried following the maniacal route my aunt showed us yesterday to get into town. Whereas I was in New York last weekend and easily found my way around on straight, narrow streets, these directions were full of twisty turns around narrow alleys, back through public walkways in between rowhouses, crossing a narrow bridge over a quay, and enough obstacles to ensure I will never find my way back again.

But here I am, in the Nutmeg House. The waitress stymied me when she asked if I’d like a cup or mug of coffee. What’s the difference? The mug’s larger, in case you’re wondering. But, I was able to counter my total Yankee ignorance by knowing the English pronunciation of scone, courtesy of my English mother. A short o rather than a long one. Take that!

Regaling my tale of victory to my mom and aunts later that day, my aunt said, “You can pronounce it scone or scohn here, either one is fine.”



{August 8, 2011}   Mind the Brambles

Our first night in England, I suggested a walk to see the area after we had our tea. We traversed narrow public walkways through an area of rowhouses and even a thatched cottage; we saw sheep, goats, cows, horses, and even a sign that read Bull in Field.

My aunt said it was probably a ruse to keep trespassers out since no bulls ever appeared.

“Watch the brambles,” my aunt said. “They hurt.”

As we continued our walk through wildflowers and distinct little houses, I excitedly pummeled my aunt with stupid questions.

“Is this a village? A town? The country?  Or a — what izzzz this place?”

“A town,”  she replied, leaving out the duh.

I lived in a town and never saw farm animals in back yards so I was impressed.

Falling in step with my mom later, she said, “Don’t touch the brambles.”

The next morning, I opened the door and smelled a distinct odor. Animals.

“It’s the country for you,” my aunt said.

So we were in the country. How exciting! On my last two trips to England, I stayed in London. I hadn’t been in the English countryside for over a decade.

On another walk, I read signs for the village of Wembdon. A village–even better!

Signs read Cottage this and Cottage that. How much more English could you get than cottages in villages in the countryside? I read signs for Cottage Lane, Cottage Inn, and Cottage Guns. What? Hold on. Cottage guns? Somehow that didn’t fit my vision of English cottages. Do they just slap the cottage title on anything or is there actual meaning behind it?

On a walk later that day, may other aunt said, “Mind the brambles. They will hurt you.”

Now I’m wondering what the bloody hell are brambles?

et cetera