Across Continents

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Outside the hostel

February 11th, 2012

Ken finally emerges into the bitter cold outside Stratford-upon-Avon’s Youth Hostel. Ribs aching..

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Early morning in the hostel

February 11th, 2012

Early morning in Stratford-upon-Avon Youth Hostel. Dry. And warm. Unlike outside….

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Warwick Services

February 11th, 2012

Warwick Services on the M40. Hardly inspiring stuff. Which is why Ken’s off to Stratford-upon-Avon for some inspiration from the Bard. For the blog of course. Bit of a long shot…But at least the fog has lifted…

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Breakfast musings

February 9th, 2012

I’d smiled at the young woman. Tightly woven black hair, dark complexion. I assumed Spanish, but this was a tenuous presumption. Gone eight, there was no sign of others venturing down for the hostel breakfast. Couple of plates sitting patiently under the heat lamps on the counter. A short while later a man wandered in wearing a woolly hat, looked about and then left. Bitter outdoors, there was a chill in the dining room, glad I’d popped my fleece on.

Wondered what had happened to Nia I’d chatted to the previous evening. She’d asked me if I knew of any nice pubs nearby. Mentioned the Ferry Inn I’d seen earlier in the village. Maybe half a mile away. Added I’d not been in, perhaps it’d be worth enquiring at Reception. The man in the hat was stood outside. Smoking a cigarette.

Forty four miles to cover. Leave by 9.30, but ten would be fine. I’d be a slow start, my side still very painful, but should be finished by three or four. Off to a bunkhouse at the southern end of the Malvern Hills. The young woman left quietly. I was alone. Made myself some fresh toast.

Pondering what I’d do next. There were the obvious things. Get a job. But what was I to do? Some made understandable assumptions. Presumed I’d opt for familiarity. Perhaps I would, and that might be rewarding enough. But if I was to do something different, I knew this would be my only opportunity to branch out. Problem was I’d not returned with a burning desire for a specific job. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be very hard to find it. The man with the cigarette had gone.

I’d sat beneath one of several Royal Shakespeare Company posters. One for The Herbal Bed. Play by Peter Whelan. Felt I should have heard of him. David Tennant as Jack Lane. I couldn’t see a date for the production but guessed it was probably a while before he’d done Dr Who. But acting wasn’t my bag. Playing the lead in J B Priestly’s An Inspector Calls at school had convinced me of that.

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Brief respite

February 7th, 2012

"Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest" King Lear Act I Scene 4

Back out in the courtyard it was bitter. Much colder than when I’d wandered into the pub an hour or so earlier. There’d been clues. Most of the clientele in the back bar had kept their woolly hats on. And the publican had lit the open fire in the Saloon. Shakespeare Inn in Harbury. I’d gone in for two reasons. I liked the name. And it was open. Suppose the weather was a third.

Inside was simple. Unfussy but welcoming. A few Shakespearian quotations neatly painted on the walls and some of the exposed wooden beams. I liked the one from Twelfth Night about Greatness but couldn’t bring myself to jot it down in my pocket book. Too pretentious. Coffee and a sandwich. They had ham or cheese but I wanted both together. How much I’d asked. Same price had been the word from the kitchen.

Finding myself a seat by the window I’d stared at the simple comings and goings in the main street outside. I’d missed England. I liked the ordinariness. Comforting familiarity. Old ladies with their little wheeled shopping trolleys. I’d scribbled carts in my notebook before realising it wasn’t an English expression. Struggling a bit to expunge overly familiar foreign terms. Cell. Gas Station. There was also a radiator.

It was, said the BBC, going to be the coldest night in Britain. Since the last time they’d said it. At least the roads were clear. Nothing to freeze. More worrying was the forecast for the latter part of the week. Snow. Hoping that by sticking to main roads I’d be able to reach Taunton on Friday without too much difficulty. But Saturday’s final few miles along the lanes out to Fitzhead. Could be tricky.

A short run from Harbury in the afternoon – ten miles at the most – and I’d finally made it to Stratford-upon-Avon Youth Hostel. It was actually in nearby Alverston. Short day in any case, no more than thirty miles in total, but it put me in a good position for the morning. I liked the place immediately. Imposing country house. Friendly staff. Breakfast cooked to order and irresistible bar snacks. Cumberland Ale. Tempting.

Few other guests. A young woman enquiring as to whether there’d be any annoying young children staying. I’d chipped in to say I’d be gone in the morning. Nia. She’d spelt it. Visiting from Malaysia but originally from China. I’d guessed the name she offered was a fictitious English one. She seemed pleasantly surprised I knew of such things. Small group of friends in the games room whose vocabulary sounded as limited as my Mandarin. Dominated by a tom-boy with a very masculine haircut. Her assertiveness, I thought, masking some deep insecurities.

West of the previous night’s stop in Daventry the fog had eventually lifted. Steady riding into Southam. There was a cafe in the town centre. Flashing neon sign close up against the steamed up windows. But nowhere I could leave my trusty steed safely in view. A woman had suggested I try a place next to the Balti house. Blue sign she said. It didn’t sound promising so I’d left. Decided to try my luck in one of the villages ahead. Harbury it turned out.

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