Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Clay has come down with a nasty bug, his throat has been sore and he feels really crummy when his Advil wears off, but he’s a trooper and we carry on. How can we not when there is so much we want to see and do? Sleeping in the castle, on a skinny bottom bunk with his feet to the very end, squeaky doors and creaking from overhead, did not seem to be helping. We left the castle on Tuesday morning, after finding the camera we thought we lost. We went without the camera to the Big Pit, so no pictures there (we were so bummed, everyone looked so cool in their gear).

As we were leaving Monday morning, Benji tripped and smacked his mouth on the top step of the carpeted stairs (remember that dust cloud Nate created when he jumped there?). His lip was bleeding from where he bit it and he knocked a tooth loose, so we drove away from the castle with some bloody napkins and some damp clothes that never did dry. I can’t say it was all bad, though. We get to say that we stayed in a real, true blue castle, the kids made some friends, it was surrounded by really beautiful grounds, and they made a scrumptious breakfast, including a cheesy stick-like croissant and an ooey-gooey chocolate pastry. Mmmm. And, the woman who managed the hostel found our camera for us. For that, we are truly grateful.

We stopped on the way to York at Warwick Castle (say “Warrick” without the “W”, we’ve learned that’s how the English do it). We watched a joust and toured the castle, complete with realistic looking wax figures. Birds of prey swooped over our heads, Alayna shot arrows at a target, and the boys each got some knight training in the fine art of sword fighting. They hacked away at a wooden post in the ground, striking blows to the “head”, “body”, and “legs”, while their instructor shouted commands. Benji looked like a perfect angel in his knight gear, and Nate was suitably ferocious.

Monday evening we arrived at our bed and breakfast in York, Holmwood House. Ahhhhh. The kids get their own room, the bedspreads are crisp and white, the bathrooms are clean, and they do laundry! It is a very nice place. For breakfast, Clay has a new love, muesli (it’s like granola with raisins in it), and I like these rectangular oat cake things called “Weetabix”. They are very good, as long as you eat them quick before they get too soggy (some of you know about my soggy issues). Clay has been bribing the kids to eat a mushroom, a common companion to an English breakfast. They get an ice cream, or the opportunity to not rub his back for fifteen minutes, if they eat a piece. Benji almost barfed it up this morning, but all three managed to keep it down.

After breakfast and dumping the dirty laundry at the front desk (I did have to wash a day’s worth of clothes just so we’d have something to wear today-more creative clothesline hanging) we saw trains at a railway museum, and Vikings at a Viking center. We said “no” to assorted souvenir requests. We ate ice cream and strolled down the narrow, cobblestone streets of York in the rain (the first rainy day we’ve had in England). But the highlight of the day was this evening, when we went to an Evensong at the York Minster.

This is a huge cathedral, just beautiful, with high arched ceilings and pretty stained glass. They ushered us in to sit in the pews for Evensong. It was so interesting, we sat just to the left of the choir, there were maybe ten rows of pews. Then, facing us, were ten pews and the other half of the choir. So while we listened to the singing and heard the scripture reading, we were staring into the faces of those sitting across from us. It gave me reason to look up, at the stained glass, or just close my eyes and think and pray. I wondered what it was like so long ago, when the church was filled with worshippers, and children sat across from each other making faces and lovers winked from across the way.

The choir was divine. It was made up of boys, I’d guess ages 6 to 16, and the high notes and low notes soared up high and down low and filled every nook and cranny of that gorgeous old church. I wondered about the mice that might be living behind that statue way up there, if they stopped what they were doing to listen and marvel at the beauty of it all.

Before we were seated a woman standing beside me, also waiting to be let in, said to her companion, “I hope they don’t let all these children in, it will be a nightmare.” I did not even look her way. I just turned to the boys and repeated what I had just heard and asked them to prove that lady wrong by behaving, and behave they did. All three kids sat very still and quiet and listened with wide eyes. So nanny-nanny-boo-boo lady.