That last morning in Whitby was such a wrench. We’d sat in the shop, the Dispensary for quite a while, both of us quiet. We’d miss all the wonderful people we’d met there, all the potential there that had seemed so right. Maybe it was all a little too soon, one thing was for sure we were saddened to leave the place the people our friends there.
We had one last stop before we finally left the Moors, a pit stop at Lealholm garage to fix a slow puncture and we had to be there on time. It loosened the spell of melancholy from us and got us on our feet. I hadn’t fancied the run around in London or to leave Pearl for 5 months parked up in France with a slow; bigger problems down the line. It had to be done there that day, before we left.
Michael the mechanic had done a lot of work on Pearl whilst we’d been there. It had cost over a thousand to iron out a few lingering problems she’d had since we got her, gulping rivers of oil and coughing up great clouds of black smoke, I’d been quietly anxiously and guiltily watching through the wings for the last 3 months but we’d not stopped anywhere long enough to pay her the needed attention, at least it hadn’t been a new engine or a piston, it had been a great relief to have her sorted, now just the tire and that was that.
We’d got there for 8.30am, as instructed, and been asked to leave her there and come back in an hour. Lealhome was motionless the landscape and surrounding hills hard and inactive, the air crisp and still in that old ancient place, so we just walked out along the lanes, the cold laying across the crust of the earth down there in the folds of the moors. It worked its way slowly up through the soles of our boots into our feet ankles and slowly up our legs, it was freezing.
Although everything was still the twinkling morning air seemed to dance, it dawned on me that there was something there with us, something close by, sparkling and magical, we were leaving, it had its arm around us. It was in the way the waters of the river Esk sounded over the dark black rocks, in the clouds we breathed out, the way the crows called and looked down upon us, the sunlight through the dark poles of undressed trees, in the way dried golden leaves heavy with frost ever so gently loosened their hold and let go, freefalling, as if the trees breathed out, shuddering as the warmth of our bodies passed by. Leaves just began floating silently downward laying quietly and softly on the frozen chalky green grass, I wondered if something had nudged the trees as we passed by, it was so subtle and yet so sudden I stopped now and again, looked back, they had stopped. Something was with us. I smiled deeply to myself
Back at the garage, way over an hour later, Pearl was all sorted, we were sea worthy. I wondered how the mechanics there were able to work their fingers in such cold.
“Oh it’s not too bad today” he said “Once you get going”
He only charged us a tenner and wished us well in France. Good guy.
From there the road led over to Danby village where we stopped in at the old church to pay respects, something had been tugging at me for the last few weeks. I had wanted to visit there before this journey, but it hadn’t been planned we just found ourselves there like you do sometimes when you need to make amends. The last time there I had been clumsy. This time I made a little offering under the Yew trees. It felt much better.
As we’d arrived in the church yard I couldn’t help notice a group of men in olive green camouflage gear, flat caps, boots and expensive wellies, grouped around a couple of land rovers, looking cocky sulky and clandestine. We said nothing to them on the way in or out, they never looked our way though it felt like they had weighed us and observed every step we had taken.
We’d noticed the horse trailers and groups of land rovers at Lealhome too but hadn’t paid too much thought at the time as I was all wrapped up trying to keep warm and with the company I was keeping. There had been a Priest in the car park across the road from the church there talking to two or three men, I had presumed land owners or farmers. His long black frock, cloak and tri cornered hat with the bobble on was startling it seemed as if from another time, he was there to bless the proceedings, of course, it was hunting season
I made efforts to observe it all as a cultural thing. It was it has to be said fascinating to see the countryside dotted with these people, obviously local and a social event. We passed village halls with streams of older ladies flowing purposefully into them from the car parks, cakes tins in hand, setting up their wares stalls and tables.
There were horse and riders dressed up in jodhpurs, short black jackets and white shirts, the horses just saddles and bridals of course, the shooters in wellingtons boots, olive green and tweeds. At one point we came out on top of the moors. There were beaters stumbling through the heather waving ragged flags, the peasants driving the pheasants and grouse down into a valley. Then a little further on around a bend there stood on a rise was the guy with the double barrel shot gun primed ready to shoot, a cage up on top of his land rover already filling with dead birds. It irritated me, let’s just say I definitely don’t see the “sport” in it, really really dumb to me.
We drove on along the top of the moors on Blakey Road, Pearls nose pointed SW inland toward Pickering and the rest of England. The horizon was shrouded in a great blanket of mist below us like the view from an aircraft above the clouds. The road ahead of led downwards into the broiling shroud and shadows of the unknown, but up there all around us, crisp glittering sunlight. I’d pulled Pearl off the road, it was quite a moment, still and beautiful, my ears rang, the presence was still right there with us. If I’d been alone I would have walked right onto the moors there and then and not sure when I’d have come back. But in hindsight perhaps that would have been a bad idea with all those tweeds wandering around with shotguns.
The future is always veiled of course but depending on your perspective, full of promise or foreboding. We were heading to France for 5 months and it still hadn’t really registered that we were to live abroad for almost a third of the year. How had that come about?
After not long enough for my liking, I started Pearl up again and we descended along the winding road and down into the mists towards Pickering, Malton and the A64 around York and onto the A1 where the veil became thin, traffic, crowds and a faster pace of life began to materialize around us, it took quite a while to get used to it again. The time in Whitby I realized had been slower paced and otherworldly I would miss it more than I would I realized at that time
It was a long Journey back to London that day. We’d stopped off just outside Leeds to get our winter gear and boots as we’d been told to expect snow ice and freezing temperatures over in the French Alps. Then later to my fury I took a wrong turning as we approached the great metropolis, got snarled up in the North circular and took us a snails pace all the way around to Walthamstow and then in through Stratford, I was livid and tired
Once home though my dear friend Mikheil greeted us with his kind gentle ways and a glass of whisky. Mikheil from Tiblisi in Georgia; my dearest friend and an inspiration to me. It was so good to see him. He is looking after our place whilst we are away, happy to live there for the foreseeable future. An exquisite saxophone player he is probably the greatest musician I have ever met, also trust worthy, honest and a magician of a busker, together we have walked many many miles through the streets of London over the years and talked hours and hours of balderdash
We had looked forward to those precious few days in London. We of course went to work at the Eden – Phil Pooke Healing Center in Bermondsey on the Tuesday night. It’s where I really learned about Healing, so if in town we never miss the opportunity to work there or to visit with the Center Gang, family to us. We went out for a lunch too with Anita & Marge, our adopted grandmothers who we have known for years from there. Met up with too Bea & Balasz at London Bridge one evening two bright creative and dear Hunagrian friends. Bea a gifted West End set designer, Balasz a remarkable special needs teacher who’d moved into a barge at around the same time we’d moved into Pearl, always stimulating and colorful. We had an afternoon burrito too at Tottenham Court Road with the very funny and provocative Andrew and Donna owners of the Vanilla Black Vegetarian restaurant.
Importantly too I met with my friend Stuart Newman who sings in the ferocious Punk Band “Underclass” We’ve been collaborating on creating an on line library of 100 Hypnotherapy scripts called “EnTrance” A million miles away from all that noisy punk rock. We’d written and recorded all one hundred scripts, which took well over a year and a half to complete just before we left in May, one version with my voice, one Stuart’s and one with a lady called Holly Kamel.
Stuart had worked on, creating 50, 30 and 20 minute versions of each of our voiced scripts, also other versions of them with frequencies, subliminal binaural beats and tones, an enormous undertaking but has turned out to be a high quality remarkable piece of work. I feel proud that I had been a part of what has been achieved, the next step is finding ways to get it noticed and give it wings.
Have a look and a listen if you have time at www.EnTrance.org.uk Fantastic stuff.
It felt great to slip back into London everything all too familiar but with the difference right then, I could enjoy it at a slower pace, riding the tube and walking quietly through the West End, the City and along the river. I couldn’t help but have a quiet look over the newspaper merchandisers at any station I passed laughing at myself, once a paperboy always a paperboy
I also met up with the very wonderful Jane Palm-Gold, truly a walking talking piece of art, a brilliant artist and a warm loving presence in my life. She was all excited and a little flustered about arranging a blue plaque unveiling, I am sworn to secrecy on what its for and you don’t want to cross Ms Palm-Gold, lets just say it’ll be in Covent Garden in Feb 2017 and I’m very proud of Jane. http://janepalmgold.com
As we left town a few days later I thought if our friends are reflections of ourselves then I’m not doing too badly at all.
We set off for Dover at 5am on Friday 2nd of December. The flow going the other way into London was already bumper to bumper even at that time. Tickets had been booked weeks earlier for the 8.30am ferry to Calais. It was exciting, Pearl was packed and we were all sorted. We breezed south down the M2 a little anxious wondering what to expect, but it was so easy. P&O are a well-oiled machine and before we knew it we were driving Pearl up onto the Pride of Canterbury and a few minutes later the ship shuddered and groaned and we were leaving the harbour at speed out into the English Channel.
An hour a half later we were driving off and down into France, it was all so slick. We noted the fences and barbed wire all around the port the roads and the railways lines, but it seemed empty and peaceful, I wondered where the refugees had gone.
A place I had always wanted to see was Chartres Cathedral and we didn’t need to be in Geneva till the 7th so a little detour was well in order. We shot along through the flat open lands of the Somme area. Images had been flashing through my mind for some time. Then I realized where we were. Perhaps it’s because of the realization and knowing what had happened there, perhaps it was winter coming on but it seemed there was something quiet about that whole area. I hadn’t realized before just how close to the coast and to England those terrible battles had been fought. Terrible.
We got into Chartres at about 5pm. We’d treated ourselves to a B&B at a place called Hotel Saint Yves a former monastery literally 50 meters from the Cathedral. We’d booked on line and couldn’t quite believe it when we came into the town and realized where it was and what a beautiful place the whole town was, Pearl barely squeezed through its narrow stone streets, it seemed like an intrusion somehow as I maneuvered her almost on tip toes through them and then tenderly backed her in and down into the Hotel car park, then engine off and a big deep breath, done it
“Yeah Baby” I said “Now lets go and get a beer
Chartres Cathedral is staggering to see and is renowned as one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, it is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details and according to tradition, has housed the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ‘Sancta Camisia’ since 876. The relic was said to have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it as a gift during a journey to Jerusalem. The people of Chartres had apparently volunteered to haul the necessary stone from quarries 5 miles away. The present cathedral was then dedicated on October 24th 1260.
We spent some time just wandering through its massive interior that evening, awed and quietened by the magnificent place, it seemed right somehow to go there, to that place of pilgrimage before we parked up Pearl and set off on foot across France and up into the mountains.
It was a bitter cold there too, but a lovely peaceful time just wandering through the narrow atmospheric streets. Orsi eyes were like saucers peering into the bakeries and cake shops. We stumbled upon a great bar on Rue de Cardinal Pie that sold over a hundred different beers and that would certainly do the trick. Delicious IPA’s though I cannot remember what they were called, we slept happily and deeply that night.
Next morning down at breakfast we were the height of good manners in the quiet still dinning room amongst a few groups of sophisticated French couples, well, they were quiet, so I presumed they were. Andrew from Vanilla Black had sent me some links to some punk albums, I was trying to send him a link back, Ian Dury & the Blockheads ‘Plaistow Patricia.’ https://youtu.be/QYTPXoWtLug I clicked play by mistake. The track got as far as “Arse….!! My heart jumped, I clicked it off mortified, Orsi looked at me in horror as the word bounced around the silent room, nobody seemed to notice though as the same word in French apparently is “Cul” so perhaps nobody noticed, but it could have been much much worse.
The plan was to leave Pearl at my dear friends Ian & Francis place in Tulle for the time we would be up in the Mountains, it was really generous of them. Ian had been the drummer in Pure Pressure the band we’d formed after The Fits and we’d stayed in touch ever since, firm friends, well forged and tested over the years.
They had left the UK back in 2003 in search of a new life with their two small sons, Morgan 6 and Branwell 4 and their two collie dogs all packed up in the back of a tiny towed caravan. After a few months wandering they’d found the Presbytery there up on a hill in Tulle, set up shop as a B&B and have done an amazing job converting the place. I was very much looking forward to seeing them all again. Ian is someone who can always make me laugh and I was looking forward to some of that.
After a last wander through the grandeur and magnificence of the cathedral, noting a smiling young priest entering the place almost skipping; he looked so very quietly happy about something. Then a few minutes later the enormous organ burst into life, the whole cavernous place vibrated and trembled stopping everyone in their tracks and lifting the hairs up on your head and you up onto your tiptoes, an amazing sound. After a few minutes awe, I broke the spell
“That priest smiling” I said “I recon he was the organ player, talk about job satisfaction…. What a gig”
The anticipation of those first few chords each day, yeah.
Then outside a last look around the busy bustling market, Orsi likes to get her hands on the veggies you see, then, we set off smiling for Tulle and the hills
I’d not been over to visit for quite a few years now, much too long in fact, but some people you can just pick up where you left off. I’d seen Ian with Morgan once or twice briefly in London, but it was quite a thing to see them all again and all together, the boys grown up and just about ready to fly the nest and all eyes on London.
Morgan and Branwell have become bright handsome young men, gifted musically and highly intelligent, they certainly kept us on our toes conversationally, even singing for us in Russian. As luck would have it they had no visitors while we were there so we got them all to ourselves. It really was a great few days there. They told us stories about the B&B business and said it’s going to be hard work but exciting. It would turn out to be an understatement.
We set off for Geneva on the Tuesday morning. Ian gave us a lift to Brive la Gaillarde about a 20 minute drive from Tulle. I had presumed the coach would pick us up at the coach station of course, but a last minute realization, at the bus station, that in fact the pick up point was at a lone bus stop on the outskirts of town froze us all in our tracks.
Ian quickly said “Get a cab as I don’t know exactly where it is” so a mad dash across Brieve. I genuinely wasn’t too worried, we were well in time and I just knew in my bones that we were going to the Alps that day, Orsi didn’t, shall we say, have my confidence and poor Ian went grey.
But of course it turned out well, Ian arrived panting 10 minutes after us just as the coach coasted up to the stop shelter on the roundabout
The tough confident looking female driver must have sensed the urgency in our faces
“Pas de Problem?” she said looking at her watch and shrugging her shoulders with a smile
Bags loaded underneath, we turned and said a warm farewell to a very relived Ian the roses returning to his cheeks, then climbed aboard, found a seat, sat back and breathed out, sleep came down upon us rapidly, when I opened my eyes again we were in Lyon.
Then a short walk across the road to the train station, bought tickets and within minutes boarded the fast train to Geneva Switzerland where we were to meet Mountain Heaven the company we’d be working for and from there be driven up to the Chalet in the French Alps.
It was all such a breeze, within an hour and a half we were stepping of in Geneva Gare de Coravin train station, a few quick stops to ask directions, a short walk down the wide avenue of Place de Corvin with its humming yellow trams, it seemed really familiar the place reminded us both of downtown Budapest. Within 10 minutes we were dropping our bags in our room at the very friendly efficient City Hostel on Rue Ferrier
We’d made it, deeply tired and not really quite sure what to do with ourselves, we wrapped up and walked down to see lake Geneva, we thought we should. It was dark by then, it was cold but looked beautiful. We just wanted to walk a little so wandered through the wide streets “dog legging it” as I call it, first left, first right, first left and so on, or what ever combination you decide upon.
To our surprise we entered what seemed an Algerian African district, we drifted past peering through their windows into rooms full of men smoking hooker pipes nobody was that nonchalant to be sitting out on the pavement in that type of cold, we passed brightly lit but quiet barely open restaurants all the way down to the waters edge then crossed the bridge and into the old town district. It looked lovely, but a bit squeaky clean and perhaps a little sterile, the sort of area that you can feel the drip of money.
Pretty soon we were numb with cold walking in circles and not really thinking straight so we ducked into huge ancient church drawn there by noise of hundreds of excited chattering children practicing for a carol service, then, slightly thawed we stepped back out. Mikheil had given me a bag of Swiss franks from his unspent busking coin collection, so we thought we’d had a glass of wine on him, it was an ok bar but my eyes water when we were given the bill the bag was emptied in one fell swoop. We recoiled back across the bridge into what we though would be a more reasonable area and ended up in a pizza place but there was no escape Geneva is expensive, thank goodness we were back over to France next day
We were a little quiet that evening too, we’d made it but we still weren’t sure what to expect, we both wondered whether we’d make it through till April, whether we’d make it together and come out the other side. We both quietly had reservations but where else to turn, we’d ended up in the mountains following our instincts the sign posts and the path of least resistance. We did have hope but that was going to be severely tested.Friends
Can’t wait for the next instalment!xx