After a stare-down with pork and beans for breakfast (I won, got croissant) Sam and I boarded the bus. Second seat behind driver was open so down we plunked. The bus filled with the straggly, jet-lagged before rules were laid down by Master in Charge (Mic). We must always be prompt and aware of the clock, food was not allowed if it left evidence, the bus toilet was only there if the choice was that or a casket, and daily seat assignments were counterclockwise two seats. He then introduced the burly, quiet man who would be our driver (Burqm). Next through London and out the suburbs during commuter time!
Thousands of town houses with six chimneys, tiny front yards, children walking to school in uniform, remnants of the London of Dickens, My Fair Lady. I’m astounded by everything. Not that I didn’t expect it, and I haven’t
read about it or seen it in the movies, but I’m there! I’m breathing the air, I’m seeing the dirt, I’m watching Harry Potter’s uncle, Mr. Dursley, drive to his office. Plus, I don’t have to talk to anyone or meet anywhere because I have a carriage with 39 strangers plus Sam.
First stop was Hampton Court and I wanted its gate. Then Oxford. Ghosts are there. Walking on the wide cobblestone streets I felt the air heavy with too many thoughts, conjectures, assumptions, supposed facts, endless conversations, condescension,
loneliness, seeking. Then to Anne Hathaway’s cottage where we all posed in the rain for a photo, but few bought it. I didn’t. Who knew if I would want evidence of this group to keep. The first day with them is too early.
We walked through Shakespeare’s birthplace house, touching cold walls and peering out windows where he would have seen. Sam and I walked down the streets, and had tea. We could have been lost in time if we had walked beyond the tourists to sit by a stone fence, but the tea house’s country store feel of the 1950s had to be a enough, because there were miles still to go.
York. Now I can add a walk down the Shambles as one of my life-walks. They are when I mentally hold hands with earth, its history, and tell my body we will be lost to earth again. We stop at a pub a block away from touristville where chatter is in melody and beer seems to be cheap. I want to spend the afternoon there. Instead time turns into what the tour calls Day 5 and I’ve passed through Robin Hood’s forest and stand with Sam before the Roman Hadrian’s Wall. Definitive answers about why he had the wall built are unclear, but history is illusive from most of 122 AD. Another life-walk, but in this case more accurately a life-stand-there-and-take-a-picture-with-as-few-people-as-possible-walk.
Sam’s and my time as persons on the front bus seats, has been enjoyed, while my fellow travelers from across the states and half a dozen countries are restive. Not everyone has followed bus rotation etiquette and the charming, Irish Mic has abdicated responsibility for his initial rule. It doesn’t help make friends who will sing camp songs together.
Edinburgh, here we come.