Under the English Channel

Ever since they started talking about the “chunnel” in the 80s — my grandfather, a great traveler, was very taken by the idea — I had a weird little hankering to take the magic train from England to France.

So taking the Eurostar this week did have a funny little thrill to it, despite the morass of emotion and unwellness I was carrying around.

On the way out, I slept curled up in the seat while 14 year olds shrieked and ran up and down the train, until some stentorian teacher finally yelled CALMEZ-VOUS. (It didn’t work).

Coming back, I left my hotel at check out time, got to the Gare du Nord, and set out to explore a bit on foot. I had about three hours.

I ended up at the exquisite Place des Vosges, which turned out to be actually rather a long way to drag my luggage. I walked through the gorgeous square, which suddenly seemed to be the only place lit by sun in the city, had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water in an outdoor café, and then suddenly got cold, and while I’d been intending to walk back through the relatively quiet streets, grabbed at a passing taxi with a sudden rising sense of scarcity and got to the Gare quite early.

I managed to get onto an earlier train, and thought I understood what the woman was telling me — that I didn’t have an assigned seat, but needed to either find one someone didn’t show up for or sit on the little fold down jump seats.

I didn’t quite understand that these were between the cars, among the luggage.


Strangely, weirdly, it turned out to be the perfect spot. There were two seats, and I could put my feet on one, knitting on my lap, ipod in my ears. I knit and listened to music and watched the French countryside as a kind of rapid slideshow, then went into the magic tunnel.

When we came out, I was knitting and listening to music and watching the 415 pm English winter darkness fall and I felt… happy. Not joyful but okay. Also not feverish, literally or emotionally. Finally.


No Wang Wang

I love travel mysteries.

Customs/immigration queue at Nino Aquino International Airport in Manila.

wang wang
(12.14 – #350)

I don’t even know where most of these places are.

boarding board

(Departure board in Changi, Singapore)

Less mysterious: Willow looking unamused at our 530 am departure from Finch’s place.

willow dec 13
(12.13 – #349)

And even less mysterious: That a small box marked FRAGIL all over would end up like this.

(12.12 – #348)
(Baggage claim in Manchester)

Lost images

I’m brewing a couple of fuller posts, but don’t have useful words yet. Frustrating time on a bunch of fronts. So I sublimated by a distracting project, and finally managed to poke through my clutch of backup drives to find the lost “photo project” images from early July that disappeared in the lost iphone/destroyed Air debacle. These were from the tail end of my early summer trip to the Shire. Looking at them, I miss the sheep. And the cats. And Finch, of course.

Buttercup, 7.6.12 (#188)

Carrots, 7.7.12 (#189)

Sheep, hill, valley, 7.8.12 (#190)

(7.9.12 – #191)

Wee little private hospital where Finch had eye surgery. It was so cunning, and the head nurse (Sister) wore a nurse dress and had one of those little Cherry Ames nurse watches hanging off her nurse dress pocket. (I had a photo of her, but I’ve lost it in the Lost Images Drama, whereupon I discovered that I can’t seem to access photos that were backed up in i-Photo but are now erased).

Finally, prosaic sunset after I arrived home. I note that on July 10, the sun set behind the hated new building. At this time of year, I can see it.

(7.10.12 – #192)

OCD satisfied, and nostalgia for summer induced.

July 1 (183) Witches

I mentioned yesterday that it’s the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trial, where 16 people were executed for witchcraft after months of accusations and trials. The event was touched off by an incident where a woman, Alizon Device, asked a pedlar for some pins (both expensive and possibly magical), he refused, and then shortly thereafter fell down dead. Device was accused of having bewitched him, and apparently she believed in her own powers.

The description in Thomas Potts’ Discovery of Witches, written in 1613, is fascinating. It eventually led to a trial involving 20 people (16 women), with accusations and counter-accusations and deep belief that everything that went awry in the area came from witchcraft:

Did the cattle sicken and die? The witch and the wizard were the authors of the calamity.

Did the yeast refuse to ferment, either in the bread or the beer? It was the consequence of a ‘bad wish’.

Did the butter refuse to come? The ‘familiar’ was in the churn.

Did the ship founder at sea? The gale or hurricane was blown by the lungless hag who had scarcely sufficient breath to cool her own pottage.

I wanted to know more about this, so I found an exhibition marking the 400th anniversary, at a nearby Stately Home called Gawthorpe Hall.


It was a nice enough little exhibit, with some tidy little explanations and a few really, really creepy artifacts. I’ll spare you all the posting of the cat skeleton unearthed in the wall of a cottage recently. There were many talismans and charms to ward off witchcraft, including putting shoes in the wall of the house, special hearth drawings, and filling sticks and glass containers with different amulets and potions and minerals.

It was a smallish exhibit, and a strangely boring stately home, since no one appeared to have lived there for about half its 500 year existence. The propaganda skips over a mysterious gap of 140 years: “after the death in 1669 of Col. Richard Shuttleworth, none of the family lived at Gawthorpe until the early 19th century.” An empty pile.

We walked among the rose garden for a while, and admired the view, and I thought among the dissonance of spending Canada Day in a Lancashire stately home, and then I lost my iphone. The end.

#186 Wet Manchester (07.04)

As the country prepares for what might be the usual total July rainfall in one day, and as I balefully eye my soggy running shoes that I found myself wearing as I waded through calf-deep puddles yesterday, appropriate to post Manchester pics.

There are lovely bits of Manchester, particularly, I imagine, in the sun, but I’ve never seen the sun there.

Unlovely downtown core street Finch’s accountant is in.


We rushed past the Football Museum, but I’m guessing it’s a grail for many.

Even the Tiki Lounge looked really sad.

I am finding it quite difficult to be all that bothered about the CBC radio agonizing about the heat wave of Toronto, as I sit here in socks and jeans and a sweater, padded against 13 C and rain rain rain.

182 Pendle Hill (06.30)

It’s been wet wet wet but I wanted to walk a bit so Rachel and I walked up Pendle Hill.

It’s really a great lump with a shadowed history, where the most famous witch trial in British history resulted in executions somewhere on the hill.

(I can’t tell you how many because I’m in a coffee shop and the link is blocked “because of its content categorization: “Alternative Spirituality/Belief””!)


It was very wet.

Did I mention the wet?


There were a random merry pack of hikers who arrived at the path the same time we did.

And the requisite scraggy sheep.

Then we trotted off down a moody road to a local pub where we necked half pints quickly, parted ways to get clean and dry, then went out for dinner with Finch, where I was treated to an exhibition of English womanhood in all its curvy, platformed, false eyelashed glory.