England

Staying In Focus: Weekly Writing Challenge: Build Your Own: Envision

 

Daily Post:Weekly Writing Challenge: Build You Own:  Choose  a place:  scenic countryside

Choose a first line:  In my dreams I envision a place.

 

During my cruise around the British Isles last year we took bus rides out into the countryside of Ireland, Scotland and England. These photos and your prompts come together in the following poem:

 

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Envision

In my dreams I envision a place

A village nestled in the countryside

Far removed from the rush about pace

Of everyday life.

I sit in my garden, sipping my tea

And the villagers nod as they pass

Some stop by to chat with me

On happenings, this and that

The summer days are slow and warm

The sheep graze on the hill

And if this was the place where I was born

I know I’d be there still.

– pc 2014

A recent daily prompt was to imagine building a  magic tunnel. Where would it lead to? I didn’t finish it because  the appliances in my house, specifically the air conditioner and the freezer both bit the dust on the same day and thre us for a loop. The topic, however, meshed nicely with the  writing challenge.

Of Hedgerows and Tea

Another outcome of my cruise around the British Isles last summer is that  I know exactly where my tunnel will lead. It will lead directly to a small English village located in the pastoral countryside, but not too far from London. This quiet little village will be my refuge from the complications and stresses of everyday life. It will be where I go to rest, to write, to find my muse and refuel my imagination. Once this is achieved, having London nearby will provide for cultural and leisure activities. It’s not far from South Hampton where the magic cruise ships await to whisk us off to see the world.

I plan to have many good years there, but the inevitable will eventually happen and my cottage in the village will become my final.refuge. As I grow older my capabilities will decrease as the PD robs me of movement and other things too scary to contemplate at this point in my life.  So I will spend my remaining days in the garden, sipping tea and finding joy in just being.

However, as we have allowed for the possibility of a magic tunnel, the door  to  a cure for PD is open, we have all the money we need to live comfortably in our cottage , to take cruises whenever we are bitten by the travel bug, and we will live well past 100 healthy years. Now that is my kind of magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up To Be: Our Trip of a Lifetime

Daily Prompt: Tell us about a time when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped.

Our cruise around Great Britain last summer was a bit complicated, but fortunately, as it was the vacation of a lifetime for us, everything went well. This was the first time we had ever used passports, but we sailed through security at RDU . We were in plenty of time to catch our ride (we even had time for chocolate ice cream). IMG_1204 We boarded our tiny plane and made it to Toronto, where we had a quick supper before boarding a larger, nicer plane for our trip to Heathrow Airport in England.

We had an almost glitch when, about halfway there, the flight attendants asked if there were any medical people on board because a passenger was having chest pains.  Fortunately there were, and when we arrived at Heathrow, a medical team was there to meet the plane.

We made it through customs and security, collected our luggage, which had the decency to take the same plane, and found our cruise line representative waiting for us, holding up a Princess Cruise Lines Card. We waited for a little while and were able to tap into the free Wi-Fi at the airport. Then we headed for a bus which whisked us off to the Southampton to board the ship.IMG_1180 IMG_1215We arrived at our cabin, and so did our well-behaved luggage, attended the requisite Titanic Scene safety drill, wearing our life jackets and assembling for a brief demonstration on how not  to drown while fumbling with our life jacket. Finally we were free to enjoy our cruise.

We didn’t get the Norovirus, or lose engine capacity or anything like that. We ate a lot of great food, enjoyed the musicals at the theatre at night, and the shore excursions by day. We even lucked out in getting the best guide for our Liverpool excursion, which was called “In the Footsteps of the Beatles.” Our guide, Marie, grew up across the street from Ringo and she was a font of information on everything to do with the Fab Four. Fantastic!IMG_1253

The weather was warm and dry for the most part, with one day of rain in Ireland. We also visited Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the beautiful town of St. Peter Port in Guernsey .IMG_1091 We spent a day in Paris and our two days at sea were spent enjoying the hysterical humor of the two cruise directors and their staff.

When our cruise was finished, we stayed for 2 more days to explore London and visit Stonehenge. We walked from our hotel to Buckingham Palace, ate some fish and chips in a pub, and rode on the upper deck of those familiar red buses of London.

Unseasoned travelers that we were, I think we did pretty well on our first foreign country experiences. I must give credit where credit is due, to my husband who did the planning and to the cruise line staff and the tour guides, who made it all, come together.  And, of course, to Air Canada, who flew us safely there and back to Toronto and then to RDU.  In Star Trek vernacular, the trip was “as smooth as an android’s bottom!”

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: My English Fantasy

Daily Prompt: On the Road

If you could pause real life and spend some time living with a family anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have always wanted to live in a small hamlet in rural England. Somewhere with one of those insanely delicious British names like Biggleswade, or Grange-over-Sands or Newbiggen-by-the-Sea, or perhaps Royal Wootten Bassett.  I’d live in a small village with quaint cottages separated by hedgerows. The cottage is a bit drafty in the winter, so the family and I must huddle around the Aga, an old relic that is the pride of the household. In the summer, the scent of herbs in the backyard garden adds a fragrance to the air coming in through the open window.  In the front yard a riot of summer blossoms spill over the fence and out of the window boxes with careless abandon.

Every morning I walk to the village center, greeting neighbors as I pass by. I carry a basket as it is market day and the local farmers have set up shop in the village square. I stop by the chemist for a few items and spend a good while selecting an ancient tome from the village library.  This is the highlight of my week. I find a nice spot on the green and munch on some berries as I read my book.

We have tea every day with biscuits, not cookies, and often hike miles with the dogs running free. We hike over hillocks and along the rocky shore, occasionally passing ancient stone markers as weathered as time itself in this island of ancient kings and fairy lore.

I don’t know if there are still villages of this sort in England. I suspect there probably are. And the people living in them probably can’t wait to move on to the big cities, such is how it usually works out. But I have my fantasy and my favorite novel of all things British, Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher (sorry Willy. I did buy a book of your sonnets at a bookseller while in London), which I read when I want to visit the friends I made when I first “visited” Dibton -in-Hampshire.

After visiting England this summer, I am even more enchanted with the land and its people. The richness of their heritage, their ascorbic wit and humorous take on just about everything is a delight. We had a gentleman pick us up at our hotel to take us to the bus station and his comments as we drove through London had us in hysterics. Now I know where the Monty Python Troupe found its inspiration. British humor is as much a part of the people as is the land itself. I believe it is in the very air they breathe.

Or maybe it’s in the tea!

My Village

a new neighborhood

houses with stone and brick accents

Stonebridge

the builders had aspirations, I think

to make it seem like an English village

American style

there’s a little village green

across from my house

I can see the gazebo from my window

we actually gather there, once or twice a year

there is a winding path which leads

to the picturesque stone bridge itself

a pond which caters to Canada geese

and within walking distance

of our own little “Stonebridge Village”

grocery, hair  salon, doc-in-a-box, yogurt shop

gas station and aren’t we lucky

our own Dunkin Donuts

although I’ve been to England

we were mostly just in London

and I imagine something

quite different in a village over there

pretty cottages, moss covered roofs

yards full of herbs and flowers and hedgerows

lining the pathways, people on bicycles

waving to neighbors, rather than

running them down with their cars

the grocer knows I like pears

the doctor was there at my birth

the book lady knows I like poetry

and the chemist greets me by name

oh, and fairy lights are strung all year long

not just at Christmas

what about my village would an English lady envy?

Probably the Dunkin Donuts

pc 2012

Staying in Focus: Final Thoughts and What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Some final thoughts and musings on the best vacation ever. And what I learned on my summer vacation this year.

1. One of the things I enjoy the most about cruises is the escape. Just for a little while,  I am transported into a different world. A world where food is prepared for me, served elegantly,  and I don’t have to clean up afterward.  A world where my bed is made in the morning,  turned down at night, with a chocolate resting on my pillow. I can be pampered  at the spa, or relax  in the hot tub after a long day of sightseeing while I watch movies under the stars. In the theatre, talented singers and dancers entertain me. Numerous clubs offer after dinner drinks, trivia games, karaoke, dancing and entertainment.  A little TLC is welcome every now and then and the cruise lines have this down to a science.

2. I love waking up each morning somewhere else!

3. And the ships themselves, tastefully decorated and impeccably clean. I applaud the Princess and Holland America Lines for their excellence in this regard. Until I saw one up close , I had no idea how big these ships are and my admiration also goes to the captain and the crew who manage to steer these floating hotels.4

4. On this cruise I had the opportunity to complete a  “Walk on the Deck for the Cure,” in honor of my mother and my friend, Debbi, who are fighting breast cancer. I applaud the social director who set this up  and gave us  a chance to be socially involved while on the high seas. We had to complete 6 circuits of the ship to make the 5K goal. I was proud of myself, at 60 and with Parkinson’s disease , to have completed the walk. Below is a picture of me, still standing! A wonderful opportunity to take part in such a worthy cause.

5. In addition to making each moment of our cruise one to remember, the cruise line was so helpful in transporting us to our hotel in London, and two days later driving us out to the airport  for our flight home.

6. One of the nicest advantages of taking a cruise is the fellowship we quickly develop with the other passengers and the crew as well. A few dinners in the dining room, playing trivia in the lounges and taking excursions, and the faces begin to look familiar and  a camaraderie soon develops.

On our cruise last year , our social director, John, pointed out how, during the cruise, for a week people from all over the world spent time together aboard ship, shared a dinner table and conversation and  were considerate of  each other.   In other words, we all got along and if we could do it for a week, certainly  the rest of the world could do it , too, if they reall.y tried. This year our cruise lasted 12 days and again, people got along. Perhaps the answer is putting everyone on a cruise ship – wouldn’t that be fun! But we  can’t stay on vacation forever, and we need to find ways to be tolerant and accepting of others in the everyday world.

And what I learned on my summer vacation this year is just how similar we all are, no matter where we call home I was sitting in the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland,  finishing my soft drink and just watching the people walk by, and I thought, you know, I can’t tell if this group walking by is English, or Canadian or Australian. They are just  people enjoying  a tour of the castle on a sunny afternoon in Scotland. Mothers pushed their babies in strollers, backpacks were slung over shoulders, young people wore jeans and T-shirts, most of them with some sort of “smart” electronic device in their hands.

I realized, then, that what seemed most different about the countries we visited was not the people, but the scenery. Basically, people are just people wherever you go. Our similarities are far more numerous than our differences. I didn’t feel like  a stranger in a strange land, I felt a part of the people gathered here at the castle . Later in the trip, on a walk through Green Park in London, there were people playing frisbee, and soccer, people sitting on lawn chairs and resting on blankets spread on the ground just enjoying  a warm summer night in England, a scene I’m sure was repeated all over the globe that day.

I wonder why it is so hard for us to  celebrate our shared humanity,? Why not build on those things we share – families, home, life, love and watch the differences shrink away? As my friend from Liverpool once wrote “You may say I’m a dreamer..”  Maybe one  day dreams like this will become  reality.  But until then, I’ll remember , with fondness, the people I had a chance to meet and share a wonderful experience with, once upon a time, on a cruise. Here are some pictures of the beautiful Caribbean Princess, which carried us away and brought us together, if only for a little while.

Still standing after the 5K walk the deck for the cure

Still standing after the 5K walk the deck for the cure

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Staying in Focus: The Stones of Britain

1013132_10201235686306950_1581442518_nToday I will consider stone in my compilation of photographs. The British Isles are home  to all kinds of stones, from the cobblestones of the old roadways. to the stone left by glaciers, which were  used in building their fortresses and castle keeps, cathedrals and towers, not to mention theIMG_1876IMG_1852ir oldest stone monument, Stonehenge.  The difference when visiting the grand cities of Europe, from those on our continent is mostly a matter of time. The walls of some of the buildings here are ancient compared to ours. And these stone  walls are imbued with the rich  history and pageantry of these nations. Stone is strong, and weathers well the passage of time.   And they have a story to tell, of knights and ladies, kings and queens, battles  and romance, rebellion and invasion. So enjoy a walk among the stones that built a civilization. Perhaps they will speak to you as they did to me.

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Staying in Focus: Return From the Sea

We just arrived home from our cruise around the British Isles and what a wonderful time we  had. I went in search of inspiration and I was not disappointed. I happened upon some revelations as well. I will not inundate you with my 2000 plus photographs but will instead try to convey the flavor of the British Isles with some photo collages and commentary. My first inspiration came from being aboard ship again. I love waking up to a sun rising over the sparkling water and wrapping myself in the more mellow tones of the sun setting at day’s end. I love waking up and peeking out behind the drapes to see where our adventures for the day will begin’. I decided, therefore, to start  with a simple concept: the sea.  Here are my favorites from the waters  around the British Isles.

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on a sea of inspiration

cruising round the British Isles

with sailboats as companions

tacking toward the setting sun…

and in coves,  ships find safe harbor

as the captains in their  cabins

dream of voyages  to come…

the sun bids clouds to gather

as rays of gold rain gently down

and  illuminate the sea;  for a

a sunset over Scotland forms

a memory not forgotten

easily.

-pc 2013