Sunday, November 19, 2006

Yorkshire cliffs, gannets and other assorted beasts

It’s especially gratifying when you look out the window in England to see a blue sky and the pale pink promise of a sunny morning. You know it wont last, but it’s a pick-me-up.

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Not that I needed a pick-me-up – I was out and about before five – two and a half hours before sunrise.

I indulged in a British cooked breakfast. Scrambled eggs and smoked Scottish salmon – irresistible. And then I went to pay the bill at the inn.

Except I noticed they did not charge me for the dinners. Nor drinks. Good American abroad that I aspire to be, I pointed this out to the clerk. No no, she tells me – dinner is included in the price. I do not think that is correct, but she holds her ground. And so two more dinners go by in England where I am undercharged. I am on a roll! It gets cheaper and cheaper to eat here!

(But everything else is a slap in the pocketbook, including hotel internet access which is always an extra. A heapin’ little extra.)

I set out toward the coast. I need to return the car at York by 1 and catch the 1:33 London train. I have plenty of time. It’s barely light out.

Except, on a detour into the forest…

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…you know, to avoid the big roads, I get lost. Tick tock tick tock.
And in Scarborough – a fair-sized town by the coast, I get lost. Getting unlost takes time.

Finally, I get to the rugged coastline. Stunning. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring.

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And colder than cold. The wind is so strong that at the cliff’s edge, it feels like any moment I will wind up down there:

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Now, these guys do not seem to mind the gale. Wooly beasts. They stare at my jacket (you know how sheep always stare at you, until you stare back and then they look elsewhere) and think – you poor human, with your skimpy duds...

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I retreat to the warmth of the car. I go up hills, down hills, around curves – can you make yourself sick with your own driving? I pull into a village at the Bay where I am told Robin Hood kept a secret escape boat. (I always half thought that Robin Hood was a fictional character. Sort of like Santa Claus.) Maybe one of these?

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Probably not. I'm guessing their purpose is different.

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Up the steep alley, a local grocer puts out his regional seasonal.

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And down by the water, pools are forming and a brave English lass is determined to corner and catch a little fish, just to show that she can. Except, somewhat predictably (and much to the relief of her parents, I’m sure) she can’t.

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No puffins here. Too cold for them, too cold for me. Plenty of gannets, but that’s a less interesting photo. Here, you can have it anyway.

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Okay, I need to head back before I get blown away into the choppy waters of the North Sea and before the car hire place shuts down for the week-end. There is the matter of my flight home early Sunday and classes to teach the next day, etc etc. I can’t afford a missed connection.

If I hurry up, If I do not pause for pictures, I should be okay.
Fine, just one last look. It's the sheep that make me stop everytime.

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Zipping south now, radio’s on, music comes through, the sun is now behind some clouds, but I had my moment in its wind-battered rays. I am content.

…Until I hear a big bang. And the car begins to rumble and wobble.

A blow-out, damn it. Right there in the Yorkshire moors.

I suppose I should be able to change it myself. But I can’t. It’s one of those skills that you acquire, never use and promptly forget.

Can one sweat on a very cool and windy day?

It would take another page to describe how I got myself and the car into a nearby garage where a gent did the proper heave ho up, pop it out, pop a spare in and off you go.

I would have arrived at the Car Hire within four minutes of closing had I not gotten lost in York proper. Fortune had it that in driving aimlessly up one carriageway down another, through roundabout after roundabout, I found myself in front of the rental agent just as she was packing up to leave.

The cabbie who rushed me to the York station for my 1:33 to London was a gem. But I feel sorry for him. He was convinced Hillary Clinton would make it to the presidency and so I bet him a pint on it. He’ll lose, of course.