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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flying to London.

I haven't blogged for awhile because since my return I have had a big flare up of my sarcoidosis and the all inflammation it brings.   I have gotten pretty despondent not being able to do what I love to do on the farm.  I will wrap up my English adventure during the next week and then make a real effort to get current on farm happenings.

So there I was in Seattle, boarding the British Airlines 747 to London...  BA has retro fitted the seats on the plane it seems and stuffed in another three rows in at least.  Soon as I sat down, the lady in front of me put her seat back, thankfully the seats only go back a few inches now.  I had a claustrophobic attack and had to keep my eyes fixed on the happenings out on the tarmac.  I've grown accustomed to wide open spaces and being able to move my legs about.  I'm only 5'2"!   How on earth to tall people manage?   The flight to London is over 9 hours.  Once airborne we headed north following interstate highway 5 and then followed interstate 90 east across the floating bridge.  Why we were on such an easterly course, I don't know.  Normally it's more N.E.   We were flying into the night and so the last thing I could make out was the bridge across the Columbia at Vantage (confirmed by the man behind me who was giving his girlfriend a running commentary about everything).  Then it was dark.

Dinner was served.  I had a special meal...the vegetarian, so I got mine first.   I have weird reactions to food now.  I think it's to do with my over active immune system.  I have become allergic to many things as well over the last few years.  I shouldn't have eaten the cheesecake because some baked goods can make me very ill.   The lady next to me took what might have been a sleeping pill and tucked herself in for the night...and she nodded off.  I was squashed up the corner feeling very weird.  I hated to disturb her but I was having a very bad turn.  I almost passed out on my way to the loo - restroom.  Soon as I got the door closed I had a quick glimpse of my ghostly while face and soaking wet hair, then I blacked out.  I crashed down onto the toilet seat.   I tried to get my head as low as I could in that cramped space.  I threw up my dinner (sorry to be gross) and almost immediately started to revive.  I was pretty worried for awhile though.  I washed my face with cold water and then made myself look human again.  Instead of going back to my seat I sat in the jump seat at the back of the plane.  Most people were sleeping but there were a few little groups of people standing around outside the loos talking.  It was wonderful to be able to stretch out near the emergency exit with nice cool air blowing down on me.  I lifted the shade and watched the sun come up above the clouds.

The flight crew left me alone for about an hour, but then the head wrangler spotted me and herded me back to my seat.  I was very careful not to eat anything with flour in it for breakfast.  We made landfall over the Hebrides.  Scotland was hidden under clouds which didn't disappear until we were over Northern England.  London's Heathrow airport is a busy place and so we were put in a holding pattern over Watford waiting our turn to land.

If you ever fly into Heathrow, sit on the right hand side of the plane.  The plane banks with it's right wing pointed down, so you get nice views.  The flight path follows (without all the meandering) the Thames River through central London.  There below me was my old stomping ground.  I was born and raised 50 miles to the north.  It was a lovely clear day and the the Houses Of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, The Tower of London etc  looked so lovely.  I kept my eye out for my favorite statue at the end of Westminster Bridge, across from Big hero, Queen Boudica driving her horses.  I could just make it out!

The American man behind me was still giving his enthusiastic and somewhat inaccurate running commentary on the sights below to his girlfriend.

We flew up the Thames, getting lower and lower.  I had a lovely view of Kew Gardens.  With gear down and almost touching down, I saw the first living creatures since flying over England.....English horses, grazing on English grass!  They were totally unconcerned a jumbo jet was landing next to them.  I should have taken pictures.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Part one - One small step..

I had been dreading going to England for months because of my big flare up of sarcoidosis.  With just over a week to go until I left I had become bed ridden with pain and now really worried about it all.  As I lay there, feeling sorry for myself, my oldest son, Keegan called from England and asked me if I wanted to visit the seaside town of Great Yarmouth when I got there...I told him I couldn't even walk let alone go sight seeing and all that.  I realized what I sounded like..a real misery guts.  It was then I decided to take daily doses of even more steroids until I could get back on my feet.

By launch date I was feeling physically much better, but now worried -  1).  I'd forget something.  2) I'd get on the wrong plane.  3).  Miss the flight.  4).  Keegan would go to meet me at Gatwick instead of Heathrow.  or 5).  I'd get ill on the plane.  

I asked Brad and William to drop me off at the Spokane airport three hours before my flight left for Seattle, just to make sure I had plenty of time to get checked in and all that.  They wanted to go somewhere for lunch....but I couldn't relax until I was the airport safe and sound.  After my bag was checked I asked them to leave me right there so I could mentally prepare to start going 5,000 - 6,000 miles by myself.

I sat near the T.S.A. (security) check point trying to have an out of body experience...didn't work..  So I took a deep breath, stood up and took that first step of my long journey home.  Five minutes later I was at the Alaska Airways gate very hungry and realizing I had three hours to kill.

For someone going on vacation I just couldn't get into it because I was thinking about the pets, the horses, my house and my garden.  Then it happened!  Out of the blue I started feeling excited.....for the first time in years I was going on a long journey..alone!  No kids, no compromising all the time about every little thing.  I was foot loose and fancy free...well sort of.  Then I realized I was channeling the wild eyed free spirit that used to be me!!



That's me in London 1972 - 40 years ago.  That girl wouldn't even bat all her false eyelashes at the thought of zooming off into out of space even...which I actually think I was in this picture.  I was 18 and that year I flew off alone to meet some friends in Jersey, Channel Islands for a week of sun and fun.  The following year I flew to the U.S. (New York City & D.C.) twice..once by myself.  I was fearless.  Nothing worried me, be it flying off somewhere on a whim or riding my pony across every bridge in Bedfordshire.

By the time my flight took off I was the confident traveler of yesteryear.  I was going to take some pictures of the farm when we flew over it, but distracted by free airline snacks I missed it and took these pictures of the Columbia River instead.


At the Seattle airport 'free spirit girl' became 'competitive girl' and I was determined to win the race up various escalators and concourses with the group of people I was moving along with.  I was about to pass the leader, a man with a wheelie bag, when my joints reminded me I was in fact 'chronically ill woman'.  I came in second anyway.

I had a nice meal at SeaTac airport at a restaurant where it suited me...nobody else to compromise with...haha.

Brad asked me what kind of plane I was going on and I sent him a pic of the actual plane.  Here they are loading the food on.  Good.

In the next installment - one of my 5 fears comes true, plus another one I hadn't even thought of.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm back in the USA......but remembering English bridlepaths.

Well, I did it....I managed to get all the way to England and back and live to tell the tale.  You know there was a time, a long time ago, when I wouldn't think twice about taking off all alone for far away places I'd never even been before.  For many years I have been a happy hermit living on this eastern Washington farm/ranch, so going to England again was a really big adventure for me alright.  I will be giving a complete report of my six weeks in England in the coming weeks.

I had a lovely time in my home town with kith and kin and walking the familiar paths of my youth.  It brought back a lot of (equine) memories.

I have posted these pictures before...but....
Here I am in 1963 on my way to spend the day at the riding stables where I learned to ride.  I'd spend every Saturday there.  My lesson was only one hour long but I'd hang around grooming the ponies or cleaning tack in the hopes of leading a pony back to the pasture when the day was done.

Being home in England and seeing those familiar places reminded me of the equine who for me was 'the one'.  Brandy was my special horse (even though he was in fact a pony), we covered many miles of  Bedfordshire together and seemed to read each others mind.  Without a doubt some of the best times of my life were with that little fellow.  I've owned some very well trained horses in my life and one was in fact even a famous show horse who had been featured in glossy magazines and had been trained to perfection.... but it was Brandy with whom I had the most fun and enjoyment.

I bought him when I was 16 years old.  He was a very pretty dappled bay and some said he was a Exmoor pony, but he was too big to be one really.  Once I overheard two elderly farriers/blacksmiths talking about him as they leaned over a fence...they both agreed that he looked like one of those American horses ... a Morgan.  Funnily enough I went on to spend 30 years of my life owning at least one Morgan and my favorite horse colour is the one Brandy had.  They say you never forget your first love.  :)

In the picture below was taken in 1973 in Clapham, Brandy is tied to a fence, of sorts.  There was a gate here between the two fields and Brandy and I being too clever to mess about with gates, would jump the hedge/fence.  One day I was with a group of other people who pastured their horse/ponies with Brandy and I bragged how you didn't need to open the gate when you could just jump the fence....but Brandy wasn't so keen to jump the fence with his buddies standing behind him and refused at the last moment and I ended up riding his neck...oh what a strong neck he had!
Brandy tacked up

Below I am posing with my best boy in 1970.  I was all about fun....but notice the protective head gear and proper foot wear.  I think the bay next to us might have been the mare I jumped for this fellow to see if she had potential.  He kept raising the bar and she was clearing well over 5' with no problem.  I was fearless back then and the same man who owned the potential jumper would have me ride green horses into the busy areas to get them used to things.  The horses would behave really well with me....I was all for going forward with no monkey business from young horses.

Here we are with me posing for the camera again in mid jump!  Look at Brandy's ears perked forward in eager anticipation of the next jump....don't notice the fact that we are jumping in the wrong

More posing....

Brandy was strong... here he is hauling my cousin and me.

and hauling me and my baby boy on his first ride in 1976.

Brandy and I would take off early in the mornings, just the two of us.  We'd start taking bridlepaths and footpaths to explore the Bedfordshire countryside and villages.  Brandy was a full partner in the expeditions and was allowed to pick routes a lot of the time.  He had a keen sense of adventure alright but would sometimes refuse to move on past when he saw a pub sign or a village shop.  Brandy knew those were the places that delicious treats were to be had for a hungry horse/pony.  He would scoff down a whole packet of crisps (potato chips) and a Mars Bar with no problem.  Oh and there was no need to tether him while I shopped for his snacks.

Another interesting feature about Brandy was he would return to me and wait for me to jump back on when we parted company .... he was a spooker but it seemed he only shied when we were going at a very fast clip.  Because we didn't spend much time going slow we frequently went very fast in different directions.  Walking and trotting he was okay....except for that bolting thing he did...till I changed his bit.  The best ones aren't necessarily the best behaved ones.

Below is a map of the area we covered in Bedfordshire.  I never could get him to go into a trailer/horse box and so we hoofed it everywhere.  We crossed the brick bridge over the Great Ouse River at Great Barford and forded that same river the over side of Bedford in Clapham.  We made it a point to cross as many bridges was we could in the town of Bedford, including the town bridge and the Suspension Bridge.  My farrier had a forge in the Black Tom area of Bedford and I rode Brandy there a few times to get him hot shod and had the pleasure of trotting Brandy up the Bedford High Street!  Oh...he understood traffic lights as well!
Being in England again brought back so many wonderful memories of when I was still a Bedford girl traveling the highways and bridleways on my dear little Brandy.