Friday, October 14, 2011

my time in England is ending tomorrow

My time at Twinkle Toes in the Cotswold area of England has been perfect in every way. Don arrived safely last Friday in time to go to the Fox Inn(where I can access wifi) and have our anniversary dinner (39 years). We toured many, many villages and saw magnificent scenary and meet wonderful people. I don't know if I wrote be we were invited for tea on Tuesday by the owners of the cottage, for dinner on Wednesday by the vicar and his wife, and for coffee with the next door neighbors who have been so helpful and friendly.

I have survived driving on the left. I came too close to a plastic garbage pail and got a little ding in the side, but hopefully that will be covered. I even drove at night and I even parked the car road side four times. I almost had a heart attack in one town where I was trying to enter from a one lane road onto a two lane road. I was on a steep hill and there was a truck behind me and I was about 4 to 6 inches from the stone building and then someone wanted to turn left into the one lane road that I was sitting at. Oh my, it still gives me shivers. But somehow I managed.

Well tomorrow I drive back to Oxford and then take a 6 hour train ride to Edinburgh, returning to Newark on Friday at noon.

I hope to write more when I am in Scotland.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

the weather has changed

The beautiful Indian summer weather has vanished, but it was grand while it lasted. It rained lots last night, but now it is just chilly and windy. I am trying to learn how to calculate celcius to fahrenheit. Tricky stuff. The people say that it may be snowing when I get to Scotland.

I have been visiting the little villages around Oddington. I went to the Slaughters yesterday. I got freaked out while traveling on what I assumed was a one lane road, but to my surprise there were cars coming in the opposite direction. It is a take your life into your own hands kind of proposition when driving here in the UK. I pray every time I set out. I have a ceramic angel in the front seat with me, in high hopes of protecting me against the speedy British. They sure love to drive fast on the narrow two lane highways (no shoulders).

The countryside is beautiful with the rolling hills and the patchwork of the fields designs.

Don will be arriving tomorrow from Newark around 9:30am and he then will take the bus as I did to Oxford and then a train to a little village very near where I am staying.

The cottage is so wonderful. But there are many things to get used to: a hob (stove and oven) and the heating. There are individual heating units upstairs and downstairs.

Be well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

i am alive and well

I have learned better and better each day to drive on the left hand side. I have visited several of the little villages in the area: Stow on the Wold, Morton in the Marsh, Kingham, and Bourton on the Water. They are each unique. Lots of flowers, in fact they are at their shining best right now. \The country scenes are so pastoral. LIttle Oddington, where I am staying have two churches, but one is closed for reinvations and one is closed because it is only opened in the summer. They date back several centuries. The village I am in has no businesses except two pubs.

If I go sit by the office at the Fox Inn, I am able to access the internet and use Magic Jack to make telephone calls to the US. Fabulous!! I may even call and talk to the people at the Bible Study on Tuesday morning. Be warned, maybe next Tuesday.

I had Fish and Chips for the first time, very nice to be sure.

The weather has gotten cooler, but still delightful.

I hope all is well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Well I have been in tehe Cotswold not quite two days and without a doubt, I have in contact with easily 75 round abouts. They have good directions going into them, you just have to be careful and always yield to the car coming on the right. A lot to learn. In Oxford at the car rental place, they did not have a Ford Focus, which is what I signed up for. What they gave me is a bright red Audi TFS1. There is a geer that is labeled S so that you can jet forward with lots of power. I don't think I will need that. All the country roads are two lane with no shoulders and the speed limit is 50 (much too fast in my opinion) and I have had many passers and many honks if I am not driving over 50. Forget 40, I am not even going there.
My luggage had been lost or delayed or whatever at Heathrow when I arrived on Friday morning. After hanging around the cottage for a good portion of the afternoon, I finally went into get groceries. After waiting most of the evening, a man showed up with the suitcase at 9:30pm. I had almost given up hope of ever getting. They initially said that I would be receiving it around 3pm. Thank you GOd. The first thing I did was thoroughly brush my teeth.
I woke up in the middle of the night and never really went back to sleep, so I was very early to visit Stella and David, friends who have visited Holy Spirit many times. They love our service very much. I drove many miles to their church, St. Barthelmew's in Wootton Bassett, close to Swindon. The people at the church were extremely friendly. I had a delightful day as there was coffee and tea and biscuits after church. I then went with one of the men I met, Stan and he took me to his favorite local pub, which is at the back of the church. He had a quick beer and I had a diet coke. It had a thatched roof and all the locals went there. There was an outside cafe and a game room. It looked like it would be a lot of fun to be a regular there. We then went to the Parish Hall and had a lunch because the church was celebrating "Harvest Sunday". All the members brought fresh vegetables or fruit or canned goods to the altar in Thanksgiving. Then after church, they went up and chose what they liked and gave an equivalent in pounds to have the priviledge to take it home. All the money collected will be used to help the people in Eastern Africa who are starving. What a neat idea! They also had a children's area designated in the church where there were play things for the children to play with as they sat at little tables or on the rug on the floor. This was a very old church and it had beautiful windows.

Wootton Bassett will be visited in two weeks by Princess Anne who will dedicate the village to now be known as Royal Wootton Bassett because of their love of their country. When any deceased service men and women came back to England, they were flown into an airport close to the city. All the town's people would go out and honor them and thier ultimate service by standing at attention. What a great tribute for those corageous men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. After the most delicious lunch, I went to Stella and David's house and Stella erased all my old pictures from the disk on my camera as it was completely full and would not take any more pictures. That was a tremendous help.

The weather has been outrageously warm, in the high 70's and low 80's. Just perfect weather. The English people are in shock; they cannot remember it ever being this warm and beautiful in October. Coming back from Wootton Bassettt, I passed over the Thames River on a one lane bridge. There was a traffic jam there as there were so many people wanting to dive off the bridge or wade in the water. They were having picnics on the banks of the Thames as well. What a perfect day!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Made it, just barely

Lots of a long story short.... delayed flight at Newark (normal), missed connecting flight in Montreal, hang around airport for 3 hours, arrived at Heathrow 3 hours later than planned and then no luggage. There was an electrical outage for just about 15 seconds as I was coming in. That made getting the luggage near to impossible. Finally several of the luggage handlers began bringing in the luggage by hand. No luggage for me. So I reported it to Air Canada and hopefully it will be delivered tomorrow at Twinkle Toes. I am now at the Cotswold HOuse, a B and B in Oxofrd. I am going to take the bus to Summertown and look around and get a bite to eat and then come back and crash. I hopefully will have internet access at one of the local pubs when I get to Lower Oddington (Twinkle Toes territory). I pick up the car tomrrow morning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Well, my bags are packed and I am ready to go!!! Yikes!

One week at home, that's it for me. I am leaving tomorrow at around 5pm for Montreal and then off across the big pond to London. I will then take a bus to Oxford where I will spend the night at a local B and B. Then on Saturday morning, the 1st of October, I will take possession of a Ford Focus and pray that all will go well as I drive the country side to my little stone cottage, "Twinkle Toes". If you can believe it, the weather forecast for Oxford for the next several days is sunny and warm (82/84 degrees). Can you believe it?
On this trip, I will be alone for a week and then Don will join me the second week to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. There will be no clocks to tell me I have to get back on the ship at a certain time. There will be more freedom in this part of my sabbatical. I am preparing myself to read more enriching books such as Finding God in All Things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and Meeting God in Quiet Places. Can you see a running theme?
There will be wifi capabilities at the local pubs and the library in a not too distant village, according to the owners of the cottage. So hopefully I will be able to communicate more than I did while on the cruise.
Everyone be well and I hope to tell you what is happening in my little area of the Cotswold, outside Oxford. I will be in the village of Lower Oddington. I will be worshipping with some folks that visited Holy Spirit in the spring on Sunday, October 2nd at their church, St. Bartholomew's in Wootton Bassett. This will be my first excursion driving on the left hand side of the road. I hope to practice some before I leave the car rental place. Pray for me, please.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Well I made it back from my 16 day trip to Europe and beyond

As you can easily tell with my absence from writing on the blog, it was a challenge to access the internet for a variety of reasons. So I arrived back on Thursday around 12:30pm after a 9 hour flight from Munich. Well as you can surely imagine, I saw a lot of new and interesting and unbelievable sights. Each stop on the trip brought new insights and memories into my life. But if I had to declare a mantra for the experience, it would be the following: I went, I saw, I shopped, and I conquered. There were high hills to climb. There were sights that I had only seen in pictures. There were sights that I had never imagined and they took my breath away. There was the immense size of the oceans, the seas, and the straights that proved to me how small I am in the entire scope of the world.

Living on a movable ship for 12 days was very relaxing and refreshing. In fact, I have returned thinking that I was easily gone for 3 years rather than 16 days. Because each town and country was new to me, each day seemed to last longer than the hours and minutes indicated. I didn't have to cook a meal or make a bed for 16 days. Now that is a vacation. I read two books: Sarah's Keys and Cutting for Stone. I walked and walked both on the ship and land. I kept track of how much I walked. Are you ready? 248,543 steps! There was a walking/running track on the 11th deck, so I ended walking there as often as possible, plus of course all our trips on the shore.

My two favorite cities would have been Amsterdam, Brugge, and Athens. I took over 1000 pictures. Both Don and I went through them yesterday. I will consolidate them and put them on a DVD if anyone is so inclined to view them. I kept a written journal as I traveled so that will help bring back the memories.

Touring the Anne Frank House was an unbelievable experience. It gave me chills seeing the actual place where this young girl and her family hid for those two years. Seeing the book case and walking up those stairs was a surreal experience. Listening to her Father explain about his daughter in a recorded video was also incredible.

My last full day had me in the morning seeing the stunning jewels, the expansive grounds, and the massive buildings of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and in the early evening being a part of the happy, boisterous, unbelievably joyous celebration of the Ocktober Fest in Munich. What a day!
What surprised me during the experience is how many cultures learn several languages; one of the being English. So there were not too many times during the weeks where it was difficult to make myself known. What also surprised me is there was so much graffiti on the beautiful buildings in some of the countries.

I will write more as I reflect during this next week. Until then.