Monday, March 30, 2009

Back from the Country

We eased into the day today, packed some lunches, then took the train to Sheffield. I'd always heard Sheffield likened to some sort of industrial wasteland, and maybe at one point it was, but in the past couple of decades it's made a turnaround, and then some. Apparently, Sheffield is now the greenest city in England, not metaphorically but literally, with more trees and generally green foliage than anywhere else here. It sure seemed that way, as Sheffield was beautiful, covered with flora and surrounded by hills and valleys.

Bethany's friend Philo picked us up at the station and drove us to his house, where we met his wife Val and, eventually their kids and pets (one a particularly haggard-looking retired greyhound). Val entertained Z. while we all chatted and had a snack, then Bethany, Z. and I piled into the car and hit the country, just outside the city. And the country it was, with dramatic, picture-perfect rolling hills, streams, heather, trees, stones and roving sheep. After a hike, during with Z. complained not once, we went to the visitor center for tea and a scone, which Z. inhaled. We essentially closed the place out, as at 20 to five (official closing) they kicked us out. According the Bethany and Val, the British are tremendously lazy, and look for any excuse to close early or otherwise shirk their duties. In fact, we saw the shop keeper waiting for the bus on the way back to Val's home, the implication being that she closed up early to catch her own ride home. For all we know, maybe they close up early every day for the same reason.

Anyway, closing early may be one reason why we were unable to grab me a meat pie from a local butcher (which was closed by 5:15 - when do people who work later pick up meals?), but I can grab one in York in a couple of days, and a fabled Cornish pasty, too, a stuffed meat thing made famous by workers in Cornwall. These are things I can't get back home, unlike fish and chips, so I'm looking forward to more local comfort cuisine.

Another great day for Z., by the way, who was so knackered (!) she even fell asleep in the car before dinner, though she did wake up enough to nibble at a homemade pasta dinner. She made it home on the train with no complaints or meltdowns, too (and even used the cool cyber-toilet on the train, replete with button-operated doors and locks). Admittedly, she went to bed after her bath close to 9pm, and asked for a spoonful of peanut butter first, but I can only imagine how screwed up her internal clock must be, so have been quite patient with her shockingly minimal requests.

Tomorrow we hit the road again for a trip to Halifax, home of the national children's museum, where I suspect Z. will have a spectacular time. Which, by the way, the presence of Aunt Bethany alone has thus far more or less guaranteed.


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