Last weekend we were traveling in a crabby little ship up the A1(M) to North Yorkshire - as Tony, a new friend in Sutton on the Forest would say, "God's Own Country."
I remember reading in a book last year. "Don't ask a man if he's from Yorkshire. If he hasn't told you in the first minute of meeting you then he obviously isn't from Yorkshire and you shouldn't make him feel inferior."
It's about a three to four-hour drive to York. Driving in England doesn't bother me much. I've got used to driving on the left, so it's not a problem.
I have to say though - I've done 'em all.
It's all become natural for me, but some unexpected things can happen to change your driving nirvana into a freak horror show with no warning.
Last weekend, it was a bank holiday. Just think of it as an official federal holiday in the States. Roads can get packed when everybody has a day off at the same time.
Combine a long drive, a hot day, a bank holiday, with mechanical issues, and you have a recipe that can turn you into a blubbering puddle of goo.
The car we drive in England is possessed with demonic disposition. With no warning, usually on the hottest days of the year, the spawn of Hell will open a vortex to the Lake of Fire. In other words, the air conditioning goes haywire.
It's a computer glitch, and in a traffic jam on a hot day, it is horrible. You can't adjust the temperature; you can try to block the vents, but you can't turn it off.
To make it worse, it only seems to happen when it's a sweltering sunshiney day. The sensors take a day off. It's like driving through the desert with the heater going full blast.
It's fickle too. We don't always know if or when it's going to happen. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. We do know the demons will come-a-callin' at most inconvenient times. Like last summer, when we were driving back from Wensleydale.
Because it was a bank holiday that weekend too, there were more cars on the motorway than there was motorway to hold the cars. The traffic was ambling along with all the urgency of a New Orleans funeral procession. Velocity, shall we say, was lacking.
The minions of Hell opened the vortex.
We stuffed towels, pamphlets, and any debris we could find into the air conditioning vents. The next exit was five miles ahead. In these motorway conditions, that could take forty-five minutes. We thought the forensic team would discover our desiccated bodies on the side of the road, roasted like chickens on a barbecue spit.
We sweated it out and pulled over at the next available services exit. As we stopped, we jumped out of the car like it was on fire to call for an exorcist!
I had a fix, though — a universal fix. I found if I disconnected the battery and let it sit for at least five minutes to reboot the computer, everything would be set right.
The more sophisticated cars get, the more strange and unusual things can go catastrophically wrong. It's like there's a mystery guest under the hood.
Luckily, I've done tech support before. "Okay, pull the plug, let it sit for five minutes, and turn the computer back on." It's a "go-to" script for modems, computers, and in this case, cars.
So I got out the tools, disconnected the battery, and let it sit for at least five minutes while Andrea went into the shop to get a drink and soak up some of their air conditioning. I said a few silent "Our Fathers," Hail Marys," and some "get thee behind me Satans," and started to reconnect the battery.
We were back on the road with the icy air conditioning blasting us in the face. Ahhhhh, the sweet soothing balm was working again.
With a heatwave gripping England, I was worried we'd have a repeat performance again this weekend. The conditions were right. It was supposed to be another scorcher. We were traveling to Yorkshire to do a bit of walking with Jan and Brian and visit with Tony and Susan in Sutton on the Forest in North Yorkshire.
On our drive up, everything was going well.
Then, without warning, hot air started coming out the driver's side air conditioning vents. The passenger side was still frosty.
Andrea (Nav and Coms): "Quick, shut the vents! Battle stations! Test the controls! Run diagnostics! Arrrrrrgggghhh! Watch for Klingons!
Me (pilot): "Damnit, Andrea, I'm a driver, not an air conditioning mechanic."
I shut the vents on the driver's side.
Me: "Aye, Aye, Andrea, Driver's side AC/DC shut down. "Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap!"
Lucky the passenger AC was still working. We could limp along on that like an aircraft with one engine out.
Again, without warning, the passenger vent slapped Andrea in the face with hot air.
Andrea: #)($ O#IP *(()@**$) - translated for this blog, "Oh crap! Check your side!"
Me: "My side's good now, Cap'n."
Andrea: "Quick! Shut all passenger vents! Transfer power to the driver's side!"
Me: "Roger, Wilco!"
A few minutes later. The dilithium crystals stabilized. The transporter was back online, and the warp drive was again available.
Andrea: "Hold it; my side's working again!"
Me: Hey, my side's still working too!"
Andrea: "Stop messing around and drive!"
Me: "Damn, there's no winning here!"
Andrea: "Stop whining and just drive."
We made it to Yorkshire with no further incident and had a lovely weekend.
We had planned to spend a touch more time in York to do some sightseeing. But when we got up to drive home, we didn't want to dilly-dally because the sun was already over the horizon, and it was forecast to be a hot one again. To avoid four hours of sauna therapy on the A1(M), we decide to hit the road early because:
"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste…
... Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game."
Whooo Whooo, Oh Hell yeah, ain't that true.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 221 DAYS
Today, I bring you, Luke Adam Hawker.
Luke is based in London and his subjects include some of London's most iconic architecture.
He studies interior architecture and design at Nottingham Trent University. You can see in his drawings he understands how his subjects are constructed.
I started following this guy's art on Instagram. When you watch him draw it seems like he's just scribbling, but bit by bit the image starts coming alive. I love his free form expression of London's architecture.
Some of you might know that Big Ben is undergoing some restoration. Here's one he did of Big Ben covered in all of its scaffolding glory. I love this because it's a bit unusual.
Luke travels around London looking for interesting venues to draw in pen and ink.
Here's a video that gives an overview of the process he uses.
I have been many things in my life from an ice hockey player, a US Marine, an artist, a father, and a friend. There might be a song in that, might there? I don't know.
I look back at my many years, and some of the most challenging times have been as a Marine Drill Instructor (DI). As a DI, I was good at being mildly aggressive. Okay, I was at least extremely proficient at raising my voice. We all have a talent. I think I got this one from my mother; she was a great voice raiser. You'd know if you ever went to an ice hockey game where Neale or I were playing. Mom wasn't shy.
Honestly, one does not want to hear me raise my voice.
I was thinking about that this week.
End of vacation (holiday), a nice man came to pick us up at our little hideaway. He got out of the car to hoist the suitcases into the car. The poor guy had great intentions, but he was moving with all the grace and deftness of a man who was awaiting his next injection of embalming fluid.
I kindly intervened and said, "No, please don't put the suitcases in the car. I wouldn't want a lawsuit to develop from a cab ride. Please, let me put the cases in the car."
I felt pretty good about myself. I assume the cab driver felt pretty good he tried to help with the suitcases. As he shuffled back to the driver's seat; one painful step at a time, I quickly lifted the fabric-covered anvils with wheels into the trunk.
In the end, he was friendly, and I gave him a tip for giving it the old college try.
Six hours later, we arrive at Paddington Station, and with our suitcases in hand, we made our way to the taxi stand outside. Not an easy task because barriers blocked us from taking our bags up the escalator, and as there were only two lifts (elevators - but we'll call them lifts cause I'm here) and one of them didn't work.
No worries, we got to the taxi rank, and we were like the second group in line. Smooth sailing, right? Au contraire mon ami.
The cabbie pulled up, and he opened the door automatically from his hermetically-sealed cocoon in the driver's seat. This guy was not exiting his royal box for all the jewels in the Tower of London.
Andrea got in the cab, I maneuvered the suitcases into the car and followed in after her. Still not a word from mime in the front seat.
I leaned over and said, "Kings Cross Station, please." No response. The car just moved out and I fell back into the seat. I had to assume we were going in the direction I wanted to go. At least I know my way around London a little bit. I did know he was going in the right direction.
Andrea said (not under her breath but loud enough for him to hear), "No tip for him, then." Andrea's got that subtle way of making her displeasure easily known.
Now, Andrea and I have entirely different philosophies regarding tipping.
I believe in tipping; she doesn't believe in tipping. Well, it's not that she doesn't believe in tipping. She believes tipping should be for service over and above the standard service expected. I do agree but I grew up in the United States where tipping says more about the character of the tipper than the service of the provider.
In the United States, as a rule, we tip in restaurants, cabs, the guy that opens the door at the hotel, the babysitter, and other various professions or service providers. Here's a good article that reflects a more American approach. Normally, fifteen percent of the total bill. It ain't like that here. Tipping is becoming a bit more common here, but the philosophy is totally different.
If you want to read about tipping London Cabbies, it might be helpful. It's a bit of propaganda for Black Cabs (Uber and Lyft are mentioned nowhere in the article) but useful nonetheless.
I've found cab drivers, in general, to be a bit prickly. They're often offended when the coin doesn't come gushing out of your pocket. I expected this guy to find his voice on the other end of the ride when he saw he only got what was on the meter and no more. I don't exactly relish that kind of confrontation.
My mind went into overdrive. I ran through all kinds of scenarios between Paddington and Kings Cross if he made a fuss. I was a Boy Scout. I do like to be prepared.
I thought of saying something cute like, "Service paid for service rendered." He probably wouldn't have got the subtlety.
I thought of ranting about how he could have lifted a finger to help and giving him a finger of my own.
I thought of just looking at him in the cab and rendering unto him a primal scream of epic proportions; a cry that would be worthy of being locked up for mental instability. See the vague reference to my screaming ability above.
I concluded I would simply ignore anything he had to say about the situation. The gratuity was at my discretion (in this instance - Andrea's discretion - she had the credit card).
So, that's what I did. I was silent — no Edvard Munch (The Scream) moment at Kings Cross. We paid, and not another word was said. The mime kept his counsel.
I was very proud of myself for not making a scene. Then again, I'm not a big scene maker.
We caught the train to St. Evenage. On the other end, a lovely young man waited for us in the taxi rank.
The guy practically did a Usain Bolt to get the bags. He was helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic - a strong and strapping young man. He got a tip and might have even got a little extra.
What happened with the guy at Paddington? Well, he might have just been having a bad day. Everybody has struggles you know nothing about, and it's not worth piling on. I'm glad I didn't.
I'm no Zen Master, but today, I, externally at least, displayed some equanimity (inside - turmoil and tribulation). I didn't make things worse.
That's about all we can do in life; not make things worse. And by doing so make things a little bit better.
As for you, until I see you next week, I wish you peace.
T - 228 DAYS
Bobby Dukes is a bit of a carver. He makes astonishing things from ordinary materials. Sometimes what he calls Wewd (wood) and sometimes from stone and other random things like billiard balls.
Don't let his dapper appearance fool you. He's a bit of an eccentric. Maybe that's just his YouTube personality. His videos are a bit out there. But I love them. He is so creative. The last thing I saw him carve was a black widow spider inside a billiard ball.
He's carved a lot of things out of a lot of things, but one of my favorites is this floating teacup made out of wood and Crayola colored pencils. It really is very creative.
And have you ever seen a pencil carved out of another pencil? You can watch how he does it on this YouTube Video. He's got almost 3 million subscribers.
I love watching his videos. He's funny, he's talented, he's really good, and most of all he makes curiosities I would never have thought of.
If you would like to find out more you can visit Bobby Duke on the following interweb places.
If you'd like to support his work online you can go to his Patreon Page.
Now go out and make some ART!
I've been by the sea for the last couple of weeks on the southwesternmost tip of England. It's been a fantastic couple of weeks of long walks and beautiful sights. I thought this little sea horse was appropriate for seaside summer adventure.
I have to tell you, though, if we had to count on the BBC Weather Service predictions this week, we'd be hunkered down with hatches battened the entire time we've been here. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
The weather was predicted to be dismal to the point where Andrea was no longer looking at property-porn (the daily ritual of - "God wouldn't it be great if we lived ..."). I think she was setting her sights on an ark. Instead of two tickets to paradise, she was looking at two tickets on a ship, boarding two by two for forty-days and forty-nights.
That reminds me of one of my all-time favorite cartoons. Inserted here for comic relief.
That brings me to the point of all of this. If you wait for the conditions to be perfect, if you rely entirely on the predictions of others, you're liable to wish your life away. You have to get out and do stuff.
Except for only a couple of hours of torrential rain, once in Truro where we ducked into a couple of shops, and at a place called Hell's Mouth (love that name) where we found a nice little restaurant to sit out the deluge, we escaped relatively unscathed. We skipped most of the inclement weather and caught the best of every single day we were here.
I think the BBC errs on the side of caution when they predict the weather. A BBC forecaster had a bit of a hiccup in 1987 when he predicted light rains that turned into hurricane-like torrential rains and winds that destroyed homes, downed trees, and thoroughly pummelled England. So, I'll cut them a little slack for being cautious.
England is a tricky monster for predicting the weather. The climate in your garden may be completely different than your neighbor's. Microclimates.
Weather forecasters have a nightmare job here. It's not like Arizona where all they have to do is forecast how freaking hot it is. Today - sunny and warm - Tomorrow - sunny and bloody hot.
Anyway, we got out, put in the miles, and made the best of the beautiful sands, sea, and scenery.
Though I'm going back to work next week, I'm excited for that chapter to start.
As always, until next week, I wish you peace, smooth sailing, and following seas.
I run into great people all the time. Some of them are even artists. I met this guy today on our afternoon walk. His gallery in Marazion is about two and a half miles west of Penzance. It's like a little hole in the wall. I almost missed it.
This gallery features the art of just one person, Morgan Read. Like lots of artists, after getting his art degree, he pursued the bright lights and big business of advertising and design in London. Now he operates out of his studio right across from St Michael's Mount. Not a bad view from the front door.
I'm thrilled I met Morgan and wish I had stayed to ask him so much more. I also wish I took the time to snap a photo of him while I was in his gallery. That's another thing I'll have to put on my "why the hell didn't I do that" list. It's pretty long.
I do like Morgan's style, though. He has a few different styles, and I loved each one of them. Here's a harbor painting I saw at his place that I loved.
He's an accomplished hand sign painter too. He has a variety of signs that he's produced but will make them to your specifications as well. His signs have a great weathered effect.
There was so much on the walls of his studio that he doesn't have on his website yet. You're going to have to plan a trip to Marazion to visit Morgan's shop.
Delivery within the UK is free so if any of my UK readers want some hand-drawn - yes, hand-drawn - cards to send for any occasion - you can scoop them up on his website for a very reasonable price.
I invite you to look over his website to see what he's all about or maybe you can like his Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.
Now go out and make some ART!
I like boxers - their wrinkles and stare give them an air of confidence and contentment. They also look a bit curmudgeonly which kinda suits this little rant. I enjoyed drawing him.
Life's pleasures are, more often than not, the simple things. Walks in the woods, sand between your toes, and a big ole fashioned cheeseburger.
For the most part, we do our best to eat a healthy and balanced diet (Andrea is a fruit, nut, and seed fanatic). I do have my little indulgences, though. I'll have some potato chips here, maybe a piece of cake there, and I might have a beer or two faster than a gull can snatch an ice cream at the seaside.
My goal is moderation. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes, I fail. I know that's going to happen, but I always try.
This last week has been full of long and challenging walks. When we are in Carbis Bay and we've had a long day walking there's a little place in St Ives we love to go. It opens at 5 pm, and it's called Blas Burgerworks. They have great vegetarian and vegan burgers as well - so I'm told - I've not tried.
I asked the server if Blas is part of a chain or if there are any "sister" stores anywhere. The restaurant in St Ives is the only one, and I'm so glad we discovered it.
Their motto is "BURGERS FOR PEOPLE WHO GIVE A DAMN." Yup, I believe 'em.
We sat down to our meal on Wednesday at about 5:15 and saw only two open seats at a table that served six. At Blas, you share tables with folks you don't know. We were a bit knackered after eight miles over the rocky ups and downs from St Ives to Zennor.
We'd walked for miles, and our feet were hurting. It felt like a million bucks to lodge my backside on a plank bench and order my beer and burger. Luxury.
The beer was a great Cornish Lager called Korev.
Do you remember the advertisements that said, "Fosters, It's Australian for beer." Well, Korev truly is Cornish for beer. That pale smooth lager was just what the doctor ordered.
When my burger came, I was ready. I ordered the Burger of the Day! Angus beef, garlic mushrooms, caramelized onions, and hand-cut, perfectly cooked fries.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Perhaps I had.
If heaven doesn't have Blas burgers, I'm not all that sure I want to go.
Then, yesterday, I got my bubble burst a bit as we turned on the news to find out that the council on climate change has determined that one of the most significant contributors to climate change is, drum roll please, meat-based diets. I'm not going to go into the particulars; you can read the report if you'd like. The BBC reported, " A major report on land use and climate change says the West's high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming." (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
I don't know if it will dissuade me from the occasional burger and fries, but I'm certainly going to think about it.
Lots of people think we've pretty much already tipped over the edge and are on our way to absolute oblivion at an accelerated rate.
What can we do?
We do our part, recycling and not wasting massive amounts of food, but it's just a drop in the bucket. It makes us feel like we're doing something though and feelings are all that matter, Aren't they?
So, as I lament over my 100% Angus burger from a couple of days ago, I know that all we can do is the best we can. And, I'm doing the best I can.
So, even as celebrities and moguls rush to Sicily to rub elbows and wag chins about things they know nothing about in their private jets and massive yachts, I will still try to do my part.
BTW - the minute Leonardo DiCaprio deigns to fly coach on Jet Blue; I might take their hypocritical a$$es bit more seriously. Until that time, I'll put my stock in the scientists who did the work, and try to eat a bit less meat.
The planet will not die, though; it will recover. It may take a couple of billion years and a few asteroid collisions, but it will get better.
It is true, we will die out long before the world disintegrates into the dark matter from whence it came. The earth has recovered from worse scourges than us.
Unfortunately for us, our survival is probably not necessary for the long term health of this world, but our extinction might be.
I have high hopes that the planet will find a way to heal before we are all gone. I hope we can achieve a symbiotic relationship. However, I don't think self-aggrandizing self-proclaimed nitwits whooping it up at the Google Camp in Italy will make one iota of difference to the outcome. I wonder if they would have been so keen if the meeting took place in St Evenage at the Holiday Inn Express. I hear smart people stay there.
I will still do my best. I will put my best foot forward. I will always do my bit regardless of what they do. Because that's all we can do, isn't it?
Each of us can do our best.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
T - 242 DAYS
One of our walks over the last week brought us into Lelant. We love to walk along the Hayle estuary through Lelant. The trail passes through the West Cornwall Golf club and then down to the station. If you go just a little bit further, you will run into the gallery of Jon Tremaine.
We were walking through the streets of St Ives and saw his work in another gallery in the town. We snapped up a few cards with photos of his work in that shop.
When I spotted his gallery in Lelant, we just had to stop by. I enjoyed meeting him very much. Jon's not a trained artist, but I have to tell you the images he produces are some of the most imaginative and well-executed I've ever seen. He works with a Rotring pen with a 0.1mm nib to create his wildlife images. He even let me photograph his next work in progress.
You can see the images embedded in the overall picture of the lobster. Here's a segment of one of Jon's finished pieces where you can see the detail he includes.
We should always be learning, and when I met Jon, I learned a bit about his art business and how he markets his art. He taught me a little about style and patient persistence.
I'm looking forward to the next two weeks.
I painted this little painting the last time we made an excursion to the southwest portion of this island. It's the view we get walking from St. Uny's Church in Lelant towards the island lighthouse off Godrevy Head.
On Saturday, it's time to head out again for two weeks of uninterrupted recreation & relaxation (R&R). I'm so looking forward to it. The sea, the sand, and, hopefully, the sun will make an appearance or two during our two-week stay.
I'm looking forward to enjoying more amazing experiences.
Most of our getaways always include some degree of scenic walking, especially when we go to Cornwall. "The South West Coastal Path is England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath and National Trail."
And, it's Poldark country too. The scenery is dramatic and gets more so as time goes by.
Poldark features the rocky cliffs and rolling seas off Cornwall, not to mention Aiden Turner's chest. Pretty damn good scenery, I'd say. The latest Poldark series dropped a couple of weeks ago, and we're chomping at the bit to watch it on that same rugged coastline.
I have to tell you I love the journey to Cornwall almost as much as the stay itself. It takes about seven hours, and it's an integral part of the holiday.
Peter, the silver-maned stately Lord of Essex Road Manor, is picking us up Saturday morning and depositing us at the train station in St. Evenage.
Peter's a hell of a guy. Though ten years my senior he has a magnificent full head of silver hair. I'm in a constant state of seething green-eyed jealousy. I've even been thinking about growing my beard long and doing a severe combover.
Thank you, Peter!
We'll take the train to Kings Cross, and a Taxi to Paddington Station. Then, we'll be winsome travelers on a smooth, relaxing five-hour journey through some of the most scenic landscape England has to offer.
We've had incredibly good luck with trains to and from Cornwall; So much so that I hesitate to bring up the one disastrous occasion we experienced about three years ago. It was dismal.
We were wrapping up a lovely week at the beach. The weather displayed uncharacteristic cooperation. Though we were disappointed to leave our little haven by the sea, we realized we must and trudged begrudgingly to the station for our journey back to the real world.
It's not too bad. We had booked reserved seats in the quiet first-class car. For a holiday, and on such a longish journey, it's the best way to travel.
We got to the station at St Erth early enough. So we sat down in an old fashioned tea shop at the station. It's a fabulous tea shop - a throwback to the 1920s - think "Brief Encounter" (a 1945 British Film for my American compadres, look it up). We usually try to leave early enough to allow some time for a cup of tea and cake before getting on the train.
We had forks charged, tea at the ready, and salivary glands fully engaged when we heard an announcement on the loudspeaker. They said something about our train. It sounded like, "The 'unintelligible static unclear' train from Penzance to London Paddington Station has 'static, random noise, screech, click, static, hum, click again,' we are sorry for the delay and any inconvenience caused."
Hackles had risen, ears perked, investigations were in order. A determined and, I must say, steely-eyed Andrea rushed to investigate. The swiftness of her departure was like a flash, a bolt of greased lightning. From my perspective, she vanished from in front of me and appeared simultaneously at the ticket office window berating some unfortunate clerical minion.
What they had said between the screeching and clicking was they canceled our train and replaced it with another. Okay, that doesn't sound too bad. Or does it?
What brought steam from Andrea's ears was: they did not replace the trains like for like. They had replaced our 12 carriage train with three first-class carriages, and a dining car with a four carriage commuter train.
Oh my god, what had the good and gracious master of the universe done? How would we survive? How would we keep our sanity? Our pleasant trip now felt like a slow week-long journey in a cattle car back to London thru Dantes nine circles of Hell!
"Your Last Train To London Paddington from Penzance is formed of four coaches, calling at limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. "
The ride lived up to our expectations too. There were loud, angry, and obnoxious people crammed into standing room only train cars. I'm too embarrassed to tell you what we had to do to get seats on the train. I have been authorized to tell you it involved, in part, elbows, foul language, and copious amounts of "hey, get out of my way."
The train was so crowded, the folks in the aisles were involuntarily nudging their way between the seats. In some cases, they were shoving their ample and foul-smelling derrieres in front of unsuspecting seated passengers (us) already jostled, overcrowded, covered with suitcases, and other debris.
What happened to our snack and beverage cart?
What happened to our quiet little trip?
What happened to our scenery?
What happened to our air conditioning?
What happened to our wifi?
Please, merciful angel, tell me what happened?
The whole experience reminded me of the Marine transportation "a$$-hole-to-belly-button" in what we euphemistically called "Cattle Cars"!
If you need a visual - here it is:
They crammed us in closer than a WWII landing craft in the South Pacific. We were keeping our heads down and hoped bullets wouldn't rain down when we stepped off the train.
Anyway back to our Cornish trip - as you can probably tell, we did live to tell the story.
After the fact, there were telephone calls made and letters written too. They included words like, unacceptable, horrible, cramped, vile, and a few other choice phrases. "How can you creatures from my bureaucratic nightmare sleep at night?"
After some negotiations and some strategic toing and froing, we ended up scoring a first-class trip the next year gratis from the Great Western Railway.
We've put all that behind us now and are on good terms yet again with our journey. I'm looking forward to two blissful disconnected weeks of bliss.
Until next week, I wish you and yours safe journeys and, of course, peace.
T - 249 DAYS