Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday - Orientation Day

We arrived at London-Gatwick on Monday morning, 7am local time.

A snake line at customs to check our passports moves well and we are through the process in about twelve minutes from the time we get in line. I still get nervous with any authority figure. I guess it's the fear that someone will feel you are being just a little too flip, or too happy, or too sad, or showing no emotion, and will want to take you into the back room and grille you till you crack! When the agent asks, “What's the nature of your visit?”, I freeze for a moment. “I'm on vacation,” I say. Feeling like he is about to give me the third degree with another 40 questions. “Have a nice holiday,” he says (they call vacations being on holiday). I am safe from the dungeons of the the Tower of London!

Two trains and two hours later we find ourselves in Salisbury.

This is the town Carl has used as his staging site for three years. Once again, as in the past,

Carl's bike is still there, amazingly, locked in a rack at the train station! We load it up with our bags and walk for thirty minutes to the Youth Hostel.

After checking in and getting the lay of the land, we set out into town for a bite of lunch, and the search for a bike for me. The roads are quite narrow, hardly enough room for one, let alone two cars. The sidewalks are the same.

The fish and chips we ordered from a small shop was quite greasy, and not very satisfying. Wanting to sample the local fare doesn't guarantee it will live up to our expectations.
We look in two bicycle shops in town. The selection of lower-priced bikes is not appealing, so we board a double-decker bus for the town of Amesbury. This is the site of Stonehenge, and the place where Carl bought his bike three years ago.

A short note about these buses. Carl took me to the top deck-- the first two seats. Let me just say that on these very narrow country roads... it was very much like Mr. Toads Wild Ride! Enough said.

To my delight, the shop in Amesbury has a great selection and the shopkeeper is quite friendly and helpful. But if I buy a bike here, how will I get it back to Salisbury? I saw the hills we came down. No way could I make it back up. But there is a bike that I like. Darin, the owner, with an, “ow about this mate?”, offers that if we go off to have a “cream tea,” he will configure the bike for me in about forty-five minutes, load it into his van and then drive us all back to Salisbury. SOLD!

The bike is actually much nicer (lighter in weight) than my bike in Phoenix! I am very happy with it. Cookie cleans up his bike after having sat for a year at the station while I attach all the gizmos and chotchkis I have brought from home.

Fairly exhausted, we head for the Hostel dining room (note the capital “H”). The roasted tomato and red pepper soup was just right. Cookie is ready to turn in, but I want to finish my blog thoughts and post them so as not to get behind, and also not forget any pieces I wanted to recount.

I am in the “common” room typing away as fast as my little hunt and peck fingers will allow me. Suddenly, the room is filled with 35 seven to eleven year-olds. They are all school mates and are on a kind of extended field trip, with approximately six teacher/chaperons. By the way, did I mention that the children were all in their pajamas and/or robes? Quite a site!

One teacher has what appear to be two paperback books. She announces to the group that they have two choices of stories and proceeds to delineate both. Without a moment's hesitation, I add, “Or, there might be a third choice.” I explain that I am a “storyteller” and wonder if they would like to hear the story of The Magic Pomegranate. The paperbacks never had a chance.

There were 35 pairs of wide eyes listening intently as the story unfolded from, “Once upon a time," all the way through, “They lived happily ever after.” They thanked me en masse in their high pitched British accents. Off to bed they went. Well, off to making a bit more noise in their dorm rooms as only adolescents can.

I finish this writing with a great sense of contentment and joy.

My story for today now ends.

Tomorrow we bike!

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