The Awakening Chapter 16: Departure time

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 16: Departure time

Leaving Ambleside felt like a curse. For more than one reason…’the one’. Apart from that ‘one’ I loved spending time with Martha in the kitchen, I enjoyed talking to Ben about history, geography and a little bit of politics, I looked forward to any discussion with Mark on themes such as nature preservation, while Alice kept amazing me daily with her ways of upbringing her child. And I grew to admire James even more than I already did. But the person who eclipsed each of the rest by far was ‘the one’…Maria. After kissing me she ran out of the room, but from what I could gather not in a fury and not in a hurry. Just the opposite, in fact. She wanted to give no more push to something which at least at that certain moment had nothing solid on which to set its foundations. She ran and I did not wonder why, I did not try to explain it in my mind. I accepted it as a good sign. And that had never before occurred. It was for the first time in my life, to be honest, when I ceased trying to give meaning to each and every sign.

In general, as I’ve already said, I pretty much choose to interpret things, signs, words, gestures, anything really; as if I had a database in my ‘expansive’ brain in which I stored enough stuff to be able to solve any enigma. But Maria was too much of an enigma, even for my oh so ‘evolved’ brain. She was a conundrum, that much was sure, but for whatever reason I chose not to pursue any hidden meanings in her flight. I chose that because for once in my life I wanted to be optimistic about something which did not show much promise, which was not future proof in any way. And because I chose it, completely voluntarily, it felt right. It did not feel like a weight hanging around my neck.

Speaking of enigmas, it puzzled me how it was that Martha managed to present us all with a parting gift. She never seemed to go anywhere without either one of her guests and we knew not of any gifts having been bought. Smooth! When we were drinking some tea and getting ready to go downstairs, she came in the living room all smiling, with her gifts. And not just any gifts, but just the right ones for each of us, the best she could’ve possibly chose.

She gave James a little wooden train bought from the loveliest shop in all of England, an all woody store near the town’s center where everything was hand-made of wood. Even the shop. I’d visited it with Mark and James on our third day in Ambleside and we thought it charming, but little did we expect that we’d get presents from there. James loved trains with a fervous passion, so of course he appreciated Martha’s present over-joyously. The superb hand-made masterpiece fit perfectly in his mostly-wooden train set-up he had at home and he knew it straight away. So he gave her a big hug and the warmest of kisses.

Alice was next on Martha’s list. She had never before entered said shop, but she knew of it. Martha bought her some kitchen utensils which looked like taken right out of a Robin Hood movie. Alice had wonderful modern tools with which to cook the most amazing of foods, but having such classy wooden utensils must’ve had some unique advantages, I thought. And I was right, as I soon came to find out…

Mark received a cereal bowl! I know, I know…it sounds stupid enough, but Mark ate cereals like no other, each morning, seven o’clock sharp, no exception. And sometimes randomly during the day. So a wooden bowl with amazingly colorful and richly detailed birds, the ones common to the Lakes District, was, well, just his cup of tea. As a matter of fact, his habitually impressive dedication to eating cereals from that very bowl later on inspired me to take on the habit of eating the most diverse of cereals. And since I mentioned tea (in an expression, but still), I should say that Alice acted as my mentor in the exquisite art of drinking tea. Like a Brit! And guess what, among the utensils she received lay a cup as well, ideal for drinking tea like a Sir…well, in her case, like a lady.

What I, the unlucky bastard who couldn’t even manage to drown himself, got, really blew my mind and my expectations: two distinctive wooden maps, one of the world and one of Europe. But not just any maps: the cutest ever puzzle maps. Hand-made as well, as most in that shop were. The puzzle-map of the entire world was a little more difficult to solve, while the other presented itself as kind of too easy for a geography enthusiast. But nonetheless, they were both great. I found myself speechless, as I had only just briefly mentioned my liking geography to Martha. I did spent a lot of time talking with Ben about history and geography, as previously mentioned, but Martha was never around, so they must’ve talked about my interests at some point. Nice, I thought, very nice!

Maria came to say her goodbyes to us (especially to me, I liked to think). She had a gift of her own for me, a picture book about the Lakes District, with the nicest of pictures. Signed by her in an intricate looking way. A real blessing for me, that book, seeing as how I possessed no camera whatsoever, not even one incorporated in the dumbest mobile ever. I welcomed the thought of having amazing pictures to show to whomever I was to tell about my journey to Ambleside. I should’ve bought one such book myself, but I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about Maria to focus on anything else. Shame on me, I say!

Maria…hmm, a real mystery of a girl, one which for whatever reason took an interest in me. In me? Why? “I’ll probably never know,” I thought, foolishly enough. ⇒⇓

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“So you’re all set? No let’s-go-back!-damn!-how-blind-we-must’ve-been-to-overlook-this!? kind of stuff you may have left behind?” Martha asked, clearly having experienced many such moments in her eventful life.

“I dare say not,” Alice replied. “Nothing inanimate seems to be missing. If we don’t forget to take James along, it will be perfect!”

“I don’t think Martha would mind if we left James with her…am I right, Martha?” Mark asked.

“Indeed I wouldn’t, not one bit. I’d welcome him here anytime, if you ever decide to send him to us while he’s still a little child. That is because I’m sure that when he’ll be older he’ll come here without even asking…” Martha said.”And you, Luck, I’d welcome you as well, anytime, just drop by if you find yourself in the neighborhood. Or anywhere in the Lakes District, for that matter. Please do pay us a visit if that happens, ok?”

I was honored for having received such an invitation. I tried to make the best of impressions, despite the initial setback (which in fact did nothing but help me in my endeavor, not damage my ‘reputation’). “I would be thrilled to re-see you two sometime,” I answered, feeling rather embarrassed by my saying ‘re-see’. In my head it sounded much better, or so I though. Not that they minded my saying that…”I will definitely drop by.”

Unexpectedly, Martha added: “Maria dear, you should give Luck your address in London, maybe he’ll visit the city some time and you two could see each other as well.” In fact, I had Maria’s email address, “which suffices enough these days”, but Maria complied with Martha ‘request’ anyhow.

“I live in Harrow-on-the-Hill, as I’ve already told ya’. 3A Harrow Park Road. A red brick house, the only such one in the immediate area. You can’t miss it,” she said, cordially.  ⇒⇓

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We said our goodbyes and off we went, driving back to Liverpool. Before leaving, I talked for a bit with Maria in Alice’s car, while the others were chasing James around the garden. Presumably, he thought it unwise to leave such a marvelously-looking garden…and the people who tended it.

“Do pay me a visit if you ever find yourself in London. I think you will, considering all that you’ve told me about your love for our fair capital,” Maria said, her eyes shinning brightly because of a red light which kept flickering in the car. Her blue eyes suddenly had a purplish tint…and what can I say, I loved that color anyhow, all the more so when it was the color of such a beauty’s eyes. So I kissed her. I thought to make it even, that whole kissing business.

Just that it felt nothing like a business transaction: you kissed me, I’ll kiss you too in return. Let’s be quits! I thought it for a second, then my mind completely changed. I knew, in general, people close their eyes when kissing, for whatever reasons, I dunno… But right there, in that car, I did not close them. Maria did, her eyelashes falling down graciously upon the skin around her eyes, but I did not. I wanted to watch her from such a close distance, to try and figure out what went through that wonderful mind of hers. Of course, I didn’t manage to read her mind, I did not manage to figure her out, but at least I marveled at her face. That was reward enough for my attempt of not closing my eyes.

“Hmm…you’re trying to seduce me, mister? You’ve already managed that, so why bother? Around you I feel weaponless. I know, you feel that way as well…that’s the beauty of it. But let’s leave it at that, you must leave, I must leave as well in a week or two. So let’s part ways as friends and nothing more,” she said, not wanting to say it, obviously enough…but she had to…

She exited the car. I said a short “I’ll visit you in London”, after which, soon enough, she disappeared from my cone of view. “We were never just friends, not with the way we met,” I thought. And indeed we weren’t. But for now we had to consider ourselves to be just that…

 “Time will tell…” Ti-(‘tie’)-me…to you!

Chapter 17

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The Awakening Chapter 14: Hillsides

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 14: Hillsides

Two days after our eventful arrival in Ambleside Mark wanted to show me the beauty of the Lake District. I had it figured out already that it was one hell of a natural park, but of course I couldn’t possibly say no to exploring some more. So after a fast breakfast Mark and James took me on a little hillside adventure.

We took the fastest way out of town so that we could walk around undisturbed by cars and other vehicles. An inconspicuous path between some ancient houses led us to a larger one, through the woods, alongside the same stream which passed under the Bridge House back in town. The area was extraordinarily beautiful and the nuances of green caught my eyes so much that I nearly tripped over a couple of times for not paying attention to what lay ahead of me on the path.

“Soon we’ll get out of the woods and into open hillsides,” Mark said. “You’re saying that like it’s a good thing, but I feel like these woods here are too awesome for me to want to get out of them anytime soon,” I told Mark, hoping to spend more time in the forest than in mountainous plains.

Little did I realize how those hillsides looked like. They were truly unique, as opposed to the forest which in fact was quite similar to those around my home town. The British may have grazed their sheep a little too much in their pre-industrial age, but that in turn transformed the land in a way that’s very pleasing to the eyes. Each stone wall separating the pastures adds charm to the hillsides. They were meant to be useful, but now they’re features of the environment which any tourist instantly loves. They may look nice when seen from a distance, while riding a bus or while on a train, but from up close (and personal) they are even better.

“Mark, I know now why you wanted us to get out of the woods. You were sooo right!” I said, enthusiastically. “I knew it as well that you’d like it here, I was sure of it,” Mark replied. ⇒⇓

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Of course he was right. Mark was British, after all, and a dedicated nature lover at that, so he knew the best features of the land better than me…Anyhow, we advanced further down the path. James kept slowing us down, because he took interest in all of the many tiny streams which popped in front of us regularly. Not that we minded the slowing down which allowed us to enjoy the picturesque views all around us.

The little streams were, most of them at least, temporary. It rained so much in the area in the course of the last couple of weeks that such streams felt right at home. Even as we walked it kept raining continuously, without signs of any attempt of stopping. Or at least slowing down. It was a little foggy, but every feature of the land and of the atmosphere combined made up that typical British landscape which people were admiring ever since the whole touristy business started to take shape in Britain.

James began feeling cold, in his boots especially, but pretty much overall. We were no better, for all that wetness around us, but we wanted to continue, to reach an ominous looking summit which lay directly ahead of us. We were making good progress but at some point we had to stop. “Daddy, I’m sssooo coold! I want back to mummy!” James said, complaining on a tone just as you’d except for his age. “Ok, ok, we’re no better off, actually, so we should go back, I don’t want Alice to strangle me for giving James an awful cold!” Mark said. And we began our descent. Immediately.

It was not a long trip, but given the weather conditions and the fact that we had a three-year-old on our tail, we walked more than enough. We took a different path downhill, so that we could see the area from another perspective. It wasn’t all bad, after all. After half an hour or so we reached Martha’s house, all wet and trembling.

“Some great adventurers you turned out to be, returning home so soon! I take it you didn’t even reach the summit you said you’d climb on, Mark, did you?” Martha asked when she saw us like that.
“Nah, we didn’t, but we got pretty close in fact, we’re not so old as you are so we can walk pretty fast, even with little James here slowing us down,” Mark replied.

“You’d be amazed how light-footed I can be if I want to or need be!” Martha said, after which we entered the house and warmed ourselves up.

Chapter 15

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The Awakening Chapter 13: Ambleside

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 13: Ambelside

We took James and went to the town center. Ambleside was simply stunning, everything made of stone, most of the streets around the center, the pavements, the houses, the restaurants, the hotels and, of course, some fanciful British pubs. All that rocky environment, when wet, looked simply great. And there up north it really rained, there the typical British weather was actually typical. In the rest of the country, it has the tendency to be quite different from how folks picture it regularly. Because stereotypes about countries well…suck.

Ambleside had a certain cling to it. Most proper names in Britain do have such a cling attached to their pronunciation. The town’s name, derived from Old Norse Á-mel-sǽtr, which translates as river–sandbank-summer pasture. No wonder as to why, as the river Rothay flows through it, joining the Windermere lake with its yellow sandbanks, everything which is encircled by pastures, as far as the eye can see. Therefore, the perfect name. The entire area is perfect for sheep pastures and many stone walls still mark the limits of each farmer’s allowed pasture perimeter. This was used for centuries, much less nowadays, but there are still sheep everywhere the eyes can see, though not to the extent of the past, when excessive farming caused the loss of much of the vegetation all over the British Isles. Nowadays there’s a tendency for all species of plants and trees to take back their rightful place in the area. The process is facilitated by humans, whenever and however possible.

All this talk of sheep and pastures can take a toll on one’s nutrients. The four of us took the main road heading towards the center of Ambleside, the same road which took us to the lake the other day, Lake Road. We soon spotted a launderette, which for me, was quite new. I’d never before seen people taking baskets of dirty clothes to such places, except in the movies. Alice and Mark were surprised to hear that, not that they used such services, but simply because in the UK the launderettes were just all too common.

There were a couple of book shops which caught my eyes. All of them simply full of books about the Lake District spread around their front entrances and the shop windows. These book shops were each unique, none of those country-wide chain stores which are nice enough, for sure, but always feel much too similar. These had each a style of they own, trying to reflect the magic of the area around them and the flora and fauna found in the hills. Every small decoration, be it an animal, a rock or a tree, added some more charm to the whole artistic arrangement. I actually spent quite some time in those book shops the following days, but right then, with the company I had, I could not. So we continued further on.

The pubs all around seemed numerous enough, for such a small village – in fact, as Ambleside barely resembled a town. I was not into drinking myself (never will), but I admired the way they decorated each pub, all throughout Britain. Many of them old, classy looking and famous, while others newer, but fanciful, daring, ‘the new rage in town’. We drank some beer at one of them, Sheila’s Cottage, with James drinking some banana juice…what else could he have drank, that little banana lover? The pub, placed on a slope, had a lot of appeal, I had to give it that, even from the outside as inviting as a pub could get.

“So, Luck, I hear you talked with Maria for some time. How do you find her? To us, she’s like a distant, but enjoyable relative, we always seem to bump into her around here, even if neither of us actually lives here,” Alice said.

“Oh, don’t ask, I’d rather I was an ostrich and buried my head in the sand (I know it’s not a fact…but all the same), instead of acting as I did in Maria’s presence. Even if ostriches don’t really bury their heads like that, I’d rather they did, so that I’d be able to imitate them…” I said, not all that thrilled to talk about that particular subject.

“What do you mean? Has she intimidated you? Come on, Luck, she’s not menacing or anything; she’s actually a little odd, though it’s not like she’s some model or something, she’s a very down-to-earth kind of gal. Why would you want to act as (supposedly) an ostrich?” Mark asked, having no clue about the ‘incident’ in the kitchen, when I told Martha that I felt ‘stalked’. Not that I minded that he, actually the both of them, Alice and Mark, didn’t hear anything about the whole affair.

“Long story…I know, there wasn’t much time for a long story to develop – we had only just arrived – but still, it kinda turned out to be. The whole ‘I wanna watch him’ from the other day. It felt odd when I heard about it, but now I’m more than ok with it, so please, could we talk about something else?” I asked, hoping for them to leave the subject hanging.

They oked it, they were not the type of people who’d keep embarrassing someone when and if they found out that they were doing just that. ⇒⇓

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We left the pub after talking some more about the town and headed towards the north part of town, where we stumbled upon a most lovely stone bridge with a tiny house on top of it, The Bridge House. I always wanted to see something like that and I did not realize that one such bridge/house (identity issues?) was to be found in Ambleside. It looked really old, “around 300 years old”, Mark estimated, but still in excellent shape. The stream running underneath it was just as charming, all furious and full of small-waterfalls-creating obstacles that from time to time separated the flow of water in two. A thrilling journey for a tiny stream, which, after a while, met the river Rothay, much bigger than it. They both ended up in Lake Windermere, never to be seen again.

After a while we entered a new area, part forest, part typical British park. Around there we spent most of our time we had reserved for strolling around that day, talking about how the Brits took care of the nature around them. “It’s a newly-found hobby/job, we used to care much less about it in the past,” Mark said, repeating what he had said when we went to their allotment in Liverpool. “Yeah, I know, but still, I appreciate it greatly, how you care about the environment,” I replied.

On our return trip, we stumbled upon St. Mary’s Church, the tallest building in town (which I was able to see from the window of my room in Martha and Ben’s house), which opened up ahead of us. Pretty ‘up’. Sure, it was nowhere near as high, wide or long as the churches and cathedrals one can see in London or Liverpool (where I sometimes felt like in a fantasy book), but for such a small town, St. Mary’s Church ‘imposed’ enough, both from a distance, instance in which it sort of melted together with the hills behind it, and from up close, in which case it stood high and proud, eclipsing any other buildings in town.

We passed St. Mary’s Church down the Vicarage Road which picturesquely connects the town forest/park with the town center. It started to darken up outside, so we took ‘The Slack’ road which got us back to Lake Road. This funnily-named road cut us no slack when it came to showing off with the fanciful shop windows, pubs and what not scattered on and all around it.

We got home all right, however, with ‘an’ untypical James begging for some food. The three of us wanted to watch a movie on TV, one we’ve kept talking about in the woods, Barry Lyndon, I think. Alice put James to sleep after feeding him and Ben and Martha left us to our own affairs, “Ben, let’s give the young people some space”, Martha said, taking Ben by his arm and going to their room, at the end of the hall. The three of us still left in the living room ate while watching TV, the exact opposite of the formal meal we had around noon. But it felt good, altogether. It felt good being there, with them, despite the fool I had been. Not that I wouldn’t have further opportunities to be a fool…

Chapter 14

Ambleside 1

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