Moving through North England…

So much to see and so little time to do it. As we made our way from York through to the Moors and onto the ancient sea faring coastal town of Whitby.

Visiting Castle Howard on the way gave us an insight into the luxury living of the wealthy in the 18th Century. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and built with the assistance of Nicholas Hawksmoor, Castle Howard and its 1,000 acres of well-kept grounds afforded you, your personal lakes including your personal wildlife, riding stables and trails, of course. Not to mention secret afternoon ‘tea spots’ with magnificent views and, in the winter, your very own ski slopes.

Surely your friends would have been well accommodated in the many-something room castle and your entertainment needs would certainly have been met. Ah well… I may just have enjoyed that life.

Moving onto the vast North York Moors where speculation of meteorites is ripe but, alas the Moors are in fact a product of nature at its best. Heather in all its glory, sheep grazing happily. Walking paths to your heart’s content – your 10,000-daily step goal, over-achieved.

To finish at Whitby, reminiscent of pirate towns of the ancient past, pubs aplenty, the cool wind on your face, the crashing of waves drowning out your cluttered thoughts, allowing you to relax, gaze and enjoy the moment.

Touring York…

What a wonderful opportunity to visit a place I’d never been before. In fact, in all my years of visiting England I’ve only ever been to London and South Brent. This year, due to some new acquaintances we made on a previous vacation, we headed to York for a quick visit. Travelling by car made it a much more pleasant experience, witnessing the countryside in all its splendour.

York as a city dates to the beginning of the first millennium AD but you can witness archaeological evidence of inhabitants much further back to between 8000 and 7000 BC. It is intriguing walking through this walled city with its cobblestone paths, narrow streets and medieval buildings interspersed with Roman and Viking remains and Georgian architecture – buildings transformed internally for modern use, built so many centuries prior.

If only the walls could talk, you would hear stories of the Viking occupancy and the city’s rise to become an important royal Centre for the Northumbrian kings. Stories of the Emperors Hadrian, Septimius Severus, and Constantius would keep you riveted, and of course Constantine the Great himself one of the most important personalities in history, who was the first emperor to rule in the name of Christ and was a major figure in the foundation of medieval Christian Europe.

York Minster, the York City Walls, the Shambles all worth the visit.

In and around Bristol…

Bristol is known as one of the warmest and sunniest cities in England – I guess that is an encouragement when you consider the fact that England is synonymous with grey skies and cold rain. It doesn’t however exempt you from the reality that, it will rain and, it will be cold.

It has also been named the best place to live in the UK. Its independent spirit, cultural diversity, ease of getting around and exploratory heritage, is reason enough to visit and truly enjoy the many levels of interest that Bristol has to offer.

So we set off to tour this wonderful city, determined, rain or shine, to enjoy its ancient architecture, in search of the Clifton suspension spring bridge, dogged by political and financial difficulties, and renowned for its spectacular setting on the cliffs of the Avon gorge, while oh so secretly scouring the well preserved buildings for the nearest pub – a suitable watering hole to warm up, refresh and rejuvenate.

Not a moment lost, not a moment regretted.

It’s been a long time…

… since I’ve had no plans. Since I’ve been free of time constraints. Since I’ve been free to be wherever, whenever. And, what surprised me the most was the fact that it took very little time if any to get used to the process. Not surprisingly therefore, I’ve been enjoying the simplicity and ease of every moment.

Our main focus was to get to Bristol for a family wedding. And that we did. Slowly, to our own beat and enjoying what Britain has to offer on the way. Oldies but goldies on the radio, changing scenery, changing weather.

Britain has always had a charming appeal for me – on arrival you are greeted with a friendly smile and conversation at immigration, genuine interest in your visit to their land. You are warmed by their quirky sense of humour and piqued by their turns of phrases. Only the British can squeeze through a crowd with a polite “Thank You”. Only in Britain are you referred to as “Ma’am” and don’t take offense. You may even blush at the reference.

And as you settle into their culture, you begin to understand that beneath the politeness and often misunderstood ‘stuffy’ front, the Brits are truly fun to be around.

Where is your reset button…

Relax, Recuperate and Reset. Recently a colleague asked me to describe my perfect unwind day. Immediately my mind floated to what I call a ‘pajama day’. The name speaks for itself. Sleep, eat, read, movies and more sleep. In other words, sheer self indulgence. No-one to take care of. No-one to interrupt you. No-one to disturb you from yourself.

As I sit here facing the peaceful ocean with the cliched view of my naked toes in the forefront of the beautiful calming sea, I realise that my sense of rest, relax and recover comes in many shapes and forms. Often I sit and stare into oblivion letting my mind wander over my blessings, my dreams, my aspirations. At other times, I take to my running to transport me to a place of peace and quiet while I work out my frustrations, disappointments and losses through hard physical work.

And then again at times, I focus on the persons around me. I listen to their quiet chatter, their spontaneous laughter, simple signs of life being lived. And in every instance the fact that my mind has moved away from the mundane thoughts that preoccupy me (whether they are positive or not so positive), allows for the creation of a void to be filled with the thoughts I choose. Those that keep me rested, relaxed and restored.

Generally we believe that we must get far away from our day to day surroundings to be able to press that reset button. I have proven to myself however, that the reset button is at my finger tips. I have complete control over it. Do you?

33 years and counting…

My eldest brother, as is usual, was one of the first this morning to congratulate me on yet another year of marriage. He also took the opportunity to remind me that Jesus Christ lived for 33 years and that during his short life he had performed just as many miracles, suggesting at the same time that I should expect an Amethyst stone from my husband on this occasion. My sister was quick to chime in noting that that would indeed be a miracle.
It got me to thinking though as to whether or not my life had been filled with as many miracles, if any at all. I guess the mere fact that my husband is still alive after so many years of marriage could be considered some type of miracle. My three sons would probably attest that they are living miracles considering the many occasions I threatened to tie them up in a tree and leave them there for good. If my dogs could talk, they too would thank their lucky stars that their many digging episodes in my garden didn’t end more tragically.
I sound like a mad lady, and yes, at times I may have acted like one. But reminiscing on my married life I can confirm that I have witnessed many miracles. Not those of the like of Jesus Christ maybe – there are many a time, though, that I would certainly have liked to have been able to change water into wine – but, there have been small ones which make life full and worth the while.
– The miracle of giving life – holding your treasures against your body for the first time, welcoming them into your world.
– The miracle of family – skipping bravely through life with the confidence that someone has got your back
– The miracle of unconditional love – knowing that when you mess up, because inevitably you do, there’s that one person who will help you pick up the pieces and move on
Two of my sons are soon to embark on this wonderful journey of marriage. And I’m hoping that their life, too, will be filled with many many miracles.

It was the first time…

“It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last”…

… I thought, as I clicked my feet into the pedals and rode my bicycle behind the group of cyclists – all of us on a quest to conquer the course ahead. We were but a small group of strangers at first. A small group of travelers intent on experiencing a new country as close to the people as possible. A small group of adventure seekers willing to take on the challenges of unknown terrain, one hill at a time – excited to learn about the country, one village at a time – anxious to capture the essence of this new world, one photograph at a time.

What we managed to do however, unknowingly and, one person at a time, was build relationships with strangers from different parts of the world. Persons who by the very nature of the tour, were open to new experiences and new cultures. Open to willingly sharing our personal journey, exchanging notes and tips, with the primary objective of learning, giving and receiving.

So as we traversed the different scenic terrains, we learned more about a country, a people. We met and bonded with strangers who became our friends. We conquered the course and secretly built our self confidence, each one of us vowing to continue this type of adventure, together or with other like-minded wanderers.

It was the first time, and it hasn’t been the last…

In search of the sunset…

What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon than following your son in his search for that perfect sunset. With the rain beating on the road as you climb the mountain, you anxiously anticipate the clarity and beauty of the setting sun as the rain dissipates. You hope for clouds as they always add interest and mystery. You look forward to the serenity of the view and the peace and quiet that such beauty brings. You capture the changes in the sky as the sun sinks ever so slowly into the depths of the horizon. And you very secretly thank God for such precious moments.

Anxiety

I discovered my ‘height anxiety’ one day hiking with my 4 boys (husband included). “Come mom. Look at how high we are” squealed my eldest son, just 9 years old maybe, perched at the side of a cliff beckoning me to come share the amazing view with him. I’m a sucker for views, sunsets, the outdoors, flowers. So without a thought, I immediately turned to share in the moment but, on seeing him at the edge, my heart started to contract. My chest started to heave, my breathing became shallow and there wasn’t enough oxygen in the world for all of us.

I might be exaggerating somewhat. But I knew I couldn’t watch him or the view. My husband, much braver than I and my other two sons were already there pointing, smiling, gasping at what must have been the perfect view. Not wanting to spoil the moment, however, I simply turned around and made some excuse for wanting to move away.

Needless to say, that entire holiday was filled with heights, precipices and perfect views. And my boys could not be happier enjoying the thrills of standing at the edge, relishing in the fact that we were so high up above the ground. Just writing about it makes me cringe and want to turn away.

Fast forward to the present. Well I’ve made some strides. I tell myself that unless there’s a major earthquake or some idiot pushes you, you’ll be fine. Think of the amazing view.

Take a chance and enjoy the moment.

Does is work? Most times. My boys still love sitting at the edge and I always want to be with them. So the math is easy. As I grow older conquering my fears gets easier. With my heart full and my mind strong, I move forward.

 

I remember…

I remember your smile, with that dimple that I longed to have so much. I remember your love that you gave selflessly, willingly and to everyone you met. I remember your devotion to your one and only love. I remember your quiet reserve, your patience, your support.

I remember the close relationship you had with your siblings. The fun times and the laughter you shared with them, as we looked on as children, marveling in your joy of living – wishing that we too would one day be as happy as your were. I remember you dancing with your infamous finger pointing to the sky.

I remember you teaching me to sew, encouraging me as I made mistakes with your clever quip – “every mistake is a fashion”. I remember how you picked up for me when the older ones took advantage of my devotion to them (well only one sibling really). I remember your behind-the-scenes love.

I remember the sparkle in your eyes when I brought my boys to visit you. They remember your caring, your warmth. They remember always wanting to visit you, they remember the custard you always made for them as a treat. They remember your birthday cake, your soupees. They remember Christmas mornings.

Just to let you know that, on this particular day, we all remember…