Sunday, September 17, 2017

Elizabeth Gaskell - a compendium of posts

Back in the early days of my blog, I did a lot of reading around Elizabeth Gaskell and so did a lot of posts about what I was reading. Here is a organized list of most of the posts.

Can you tell she's one of my favorite authors?

Reading Gaskell for the First Time?
Top Ten Things to Know About Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell: 20 Questions Quiz
Gaskell 20 Questions...19 Answers
A Philatelic Look at Bronte, Gaskell, Eliot

The Life of Charlotte Bronte Posts
The Life of Charlotte Bronte
Bronte Humor, Gaskell Bio, and Plath's poem
Gaskell's Life of Charlott Bronte
Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte: the French, Branwell, and Ruth
Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte: The Professor and "Mode of Composition"
Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte: In the Hill-Country Silence

Ruth Posts
Gaskell's Ruth

Wives and Daughters Posts
Ironic reversal...comedy, tragedy, and Austen
Wives and Daughters...the beginning of the end
Fate is a cunning hussy... more W&D
Wives and Daughters: P&P - the Gibsons and the Bennets
Wives and Daughters - Remembrance of things past
Gaskell and Mr. Gibson: Feet of Clay
Wives and Daughters: thoughts on earmarked pages
Moorland Cottage: precursor to Wives and Daughters
Mr. Harrison's Confessions - Paper on General Practitioners in  Victorian England
Mr. Harrison's Confessions

North and South Posts
Gaskell vs. Nightingale, North & South
Hard Times by Charles Dickens (comparison to North and South)
Graham Greene on North and South
Hard Times by Charles Dickens (comparison to North and South)
Austen's Influence on Gaskell: N&S parallels to P&P
Austen's Influence on Gaskell: Background Thoughts
North and South vs. Pride and Prejudice - Part III
Pride and Prejudice vs. North and South: Why the Similarities
Final Thoughts on Austen's Influence on Gaskell's North and South

Short Stories and Novellas
The Old Nurse's Story - Gaskell's Finest Ghost Story
Gaskell's The Half-brothers
Curious, If True
Moorland Cottage
Men and Their Houses - discussion of The Grey Woman, Sylvia's Lovers, et al

Cousin Phillis Posts
Cousin Phillis - Geeks and Freaks...the other Side of Sylvia
Cousin Phillis - Tragedy Averted
Cousin Phillis - a fragment? Say what?

Sylvia's Lovers Posts
Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers
Sylvia's Lovers - Paragraph on Prayer and Narrator's Preaching
Sylvia's Lovers - Farmer, Sailor, Tradesman
Sylvia's Lovers - Dialect and Extras

My Lady Ludlow Posts
Gaskell's My Lady Ludlow
Framed stories in Gaskell's Lady Ludlow
Gaskell's My Lady Ludlow: Final thoughts

Thursday, September 07, 2017

R.I.P. Challenge Reading List

The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge, is already underway, running from September 1 through October. I'm still in the middle of some pretty hefty books, so I won't be joining until October, but I had fun collecting 10 mysteries from my TBR shelf that are just "dying" to be read.

If you want to sign up or read reviews, visit Estella's Revenge.

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

The Brimstone Wedding, by Barbara Vine - I read about this a few years ago and got a copy for specifically for R.I.P.

Borderline, by Nevada Barr - I haven't read an Anna Pigeon mystery in a while, and this is the next one in the series for me.

The Bee Keeper's Apprentice, by Laurie King - with Sherlock Holmes, no less, I've been wanting to give this a whirl for years now.

The Falls, by Ian Ranking - another one that has been languishing on my shelf. Reading about Edinburgh in Diana Gabaldon's Voyager is just whetting my appetite for more Edinburgh scenes, albeit more modern than the 18th century.

Borrower of the Night, by Elizabeth Peters - I liked Peters' Amelia Peabody stories, so I'm looking forward to meeting art historian Vicky Bliss.

A Marked Man, by Barbara Hamilton - second in a mystery series starring one of my favorites Founding Mothers, Abigail Adams. The first, The Ninth Daughter, was very fun to read.

The Eagle Catcher, by Margaret Coel - set on a Wyoming Indian Reservation, I've been wanting to read more from this Colorado writer.

Lake of Fire, by Linda Jacobs - set in Yellowstone, this is a historical mystery/thriller. I love Westerns, I love National Parks especially Yellowsone, I love mysteries. Hope it's a winner.

Suffer the Little Children, by Donna Leon - another Guido Brunetti mystery, set in Venice, love this series. Should be a comfort read despite the inevitable murder.

Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker - first in a series set in rural France.

Such a wealth of choices--I'll be revisiting old friends and catching up on their doings, and meeting new, and hopefully interesting, characters. Bring on the Pumpkin Spice and let the leaves fall!

I know I won't get through 10 books in a month, but it's nice to have them all at the ready.

I just remembered...I am currently reading Journey to Munich, which is #12 in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. So, I'm counting it!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Gift from the Sea

I love to read books about books and one of my favorite authors in this genre is Will Schwable. I read his Books for Living earlier this year and vowed to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, which Schwable wrote about so beautifully.

This lovely, slender book was every bit as special as I had hoped. The basic premise is that Lindbergh spends a vacation on her own in a cottage by the sea, spending her time recharging and reflecting, away from home, husband, and children.  Each chapter is a meditation on a specific object, mostly shells, and she uses the shape and texture and function of the shell as a writing prompt to reflect on her life and what matters to her--home, husband, children, work.

Although the role of women in American society has changed profoundly since Lindbergh wrote this book, the struggles she faces as a working mother, trying to balance her creative impulses with her desire to create a calm and nurturing home, are timeless.

I loved Lindbergh's quiet prose and her voice is strong and sure, even when her words talk about her ambiguity, restlessness, and desire for escape.

I agree with Schwable--this is definitely a book for living. It's a book to keep near at hand and dive into from time to time. I do wish I had read it as a young woman because it would've been interesting to see how my thoughts about it would have changed as I faced my own struggles with work/life balance, but even so, I look forward to rereading it a few more times in the years to come.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


What did I think of Celine, by Peter Heller? It's a 2017 release by a Colorado author.

In a word, ARRGGHHH!

It was so frustrating because the premise was fabulous, the setting sublime, some of the writing pretty good, but there were so many problems with this book that I ended up giving it only 2 stars on GoodReads.

Here's the Amazon blurb:
Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela's father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed--that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed. Inspired by the life of Heller’s own remarkable mother, a chic and iconoclastic private eye, Celine is a deeply personal novel, a wildly engrossing story of family, privilege, and childhood loss. Combining the exquisite plotting and gorgeous evocation of nature that have become his hallmarks, Peter Heller gives us his finest work to date.
Great premise, right? Great setting, right? I love both Yellowstone and NYC. And a non-traditional private eye is always good, right?

My biggest problem with the novel is that I really didn't like Celine very much. I didn't believe in her as a character--way too perfect.  Celine is basically Nancy Reagan turned Nancy Drew.

In addition to having nerves of steel, a gut she can rely on to steer her towards the right answer, and a brilliant mind, she is successful artist (marrying "beauty with death") and a strong swimmer and sailor. She is also elegant, petite, beautifully mannered, poised. Even when Heller tried to give her some faults, he managed to make them annoyingly perfect. She's not just an alcoholic--she's the one in AA who everyone wants to be their sponsor.  Yes, she has emphysema from smoking, but her lungs clear when she is focused on solving a case.

And she is in love with guns. I could forgive her for everything else but I cannot forgive her for lusting, literally lusting, after everything from an antique Colt to semi-automatic weapons. Heller teases the reader by withholding the part of her backstory that explains why she is such a crack shot--I smell a series in the making--but I found her fondling of firearms to be nauseating. And she's a PI who specializes in reuniting birth parents/children--not exactly the type of work that requires the guns that she and her husband tote all over the country.

The narrator insists on how smart and saavy Celine is, but by my reckoning her husband, Pete (aka Pa) actually figured out most of the case and left out-shooting a former Navy SEAL (give me a break!) to his wife. Apparently, Celine has a better track record than the FBI, but based on the actual detective work on evidence in Celine, I don't buy it.

Oh, and there's a particularly ridiculous scene in which Celine confronts a group of Sons of Silence bikers in a bar and makes them whimper out the door. It truly reminded me of the movie Every Which Way But Loose and the scene with the Black Widow gang.

The Black Widows - Every Which Way But Loose

The best thing about Celine is Heller's description of Yellowstone as Celine and Pete drive around while they try to figure out how to find out if Gabriela's father is actually dead or not.  This made me really want to go back up to Yellowstone, one of my favorite places on Earth!

Apparently, Heller has been enormously successful with his two previous novels,  The Dog Stars and The Painter.  For me, I think Celine would have benefited enormously from severe editing. The problem with being a best-selling author is that I think that success makes them eschew a good editing.

It's really a shame because this could've been such a great book....ARRGGHH!

Monday, August 14, 2017

To Be Read

I have multiple ways of finding out about books I think I would like. Obviously, as a book blogger, I read other book blogs and get loads of ideas that way. I also pick up Book Notes from my library each month and go through it, reading about all sorts of new books in various genres. And then there's chatting with friends and scanning the feed on GoodReads. I rarely browse bookstores as there aren't any near me, but that's still fun when I travel.

Here's my list of the 12 most recent additions I've made to my GoodReads To Read shelf. No telling if or when I will get to these. Their order is simply most recently added to my potential reading list.

  1. The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature, by Bill Goldstein - btw, the year was 1922. Source - Book Notes
  2. Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy - I like to read books I think I should've gotten around to writing. I love rereading children's books and I love talking about children's books that impacted me personally. Source - Book Notes
  3. A Very French Christmas: The Great French Holiday Stories of All Time - my friend Lucy at Fictional 100 reviewed this and I put it on my December reading list. With stories by Guy de Maupassant, George Sand, Victor Hugo, et al, how could I not love this? Source - book blog
  4. Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin - I loved her Home Cooking and part of it was her excellent writing, so I thought I would give one of her novels a try. Source - book blog (Lakeside Musing for Home Cooking) and then GoodReads for which novel of Colwin's to try.
  5. The Wayfarer's Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler, by Evan S. Rice - I love to travel...on my own terms. This book appeals to the wanderlust I harbor. Source - Facebook ad.
  6. London Belongs to Me, by Norman Collins - Karen at Books and Chocolate reviewed this and it appealed to me at the time but I'm not entirely sure I'll ever actually get to it. Source - book blog.
  7. Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker - first in a series set in the French countryside with a policeman as the detective. Seems a bit like the Donna Leon Guido Brunetti novels. I love the premise and good series are great fun and always good when you don't know what to read next. Source - I can't remember!
  8. The Widow Nash, by Jamie Harrison - everyone seems to be reading and reviewing this lately, and I like to read newly released books as well as the tried and true.  Historical fiction - Europe, New York, Africa, Montana - perfect! Source - many blogs.
  9. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, by Matthew J. Sullivan - another 2017 book and this one by a Colorado author (I think it's set in Denver but not 100% sure on that). I can't resist bookstore books. Source - Book Notes.
  10. Vindolanda, by Adrian Goldsworthy - yep, it's another Hadrian's Wall (Reading Northumberland) book, but brand new and set in the time period just before the wall was started. I first learned about it from Margaret at Books Please, and then saw it in a few museum shops during our walk last month. I plan to read it very soon--just need to finish up a couple of other books first. Source - book blog.
  11. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, by Diana Gabaldon - a collection of short stories, probably to tide us fans over while she works on her next Jamie/Claire tome. I'm reading Voyager right now, but these short stories will be fun as filler. Source - GoodReads newsletter.
  12. A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline - a novel inspired by the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World. I have always loved this painting and I like the subgenre of telling a story about how a particular painting came to be. This is another that appealed enough that I wanted to remember it, but not sure I will ever actually get to it. Source - can't remember.

Let me know if I should push any of these to the top of the TBR pile, and how do you find out about good books?

Happy reading.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, is another WWII novel but what sets this one apart is that the women are all German instead of part of the Allied effort. The main woman character is Marianne von Lingenfels, a strong, aristocratic matriarch whose castle, by marriage, features in the story itself and becomes home for all three after the war and symbolizes the struggles they endure to face the reality of their situation, loss, and sense of identify.

The other women are Benita, an ingenue Aryan prototype who marries Marianne's childhood friend, a Nazi resistor, and Ania, the purported wife of another Nazi resistor.

Shattuck does an excellent job of telling the stories and back stories of all three women, weaving in their children's lives and experiences. I felt both sympathy and frustration with all three, and really appreciated getting a look at the German experience during and after WWII.

I particularly admired Marianne's leadership, even when those around her resented her for it. She is the reason any of the extended circle survived, and while her tactics and forcefulness may have caused their own wounds, she truly did what needed to be done.

I thought the ending was particularly satisfying and realistic.

Monday, July 31, 2017

July reading

Despite my traveling for most of July, I did manage to finish three books.  That's what long flights and layovers in airports can do for your reading life!

I reread Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, with the Victorians! group at GoodReads.  It's been decades since I read this book, and it was light, bright, mostly funny, and a good book to travel with. It was also fun to read a travel book while traveling.

I learned that JKJ actually did the Thames boating trip on his honeymoon, but decided to substitute two male friends for his bride in his story of the journey. I think this was wise as Harris and George were the butt of many jokes, snide comments, and general foil for JKJ, a position that might not have been well-received by a spouse. I also learned that Montmorency, the pugnacious dog, was also not along on the actual trip, and I think he also was a great addition to the narrative.

There are a lot of great illustrations out there for this book, and a particularly appealing graphic book. This book just cries out to be a graphic novel, so I may have to get my hands on it for the next reread.

If you're like me and love maps, then here's a map showing the journey related in the book.

The second book I read on my trip was Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg. Again it was a reread, and again I was reading it along with a GoodReads group, this time the TuesBookTalk Read-Alongs Group. Another again...I last read this decades ago as well.  I fell in love with all over again.

After months of focusing on Roman Britain, Northumberland, and ancient/medieval history, it was an absolute treat to return to Americana. Fried Green Tomatoes has one of my favorite narrative formats - an integration of "real" news reports plus multiple narrators from various time periods with past/present story threads. That's a very common format currently, but in the mid-1980s when Flagg first published Fried Green Tomatoes, it was much less common.

The novel takes place in a small town, a whistle stop town, in Alabama during the Depression and then in the mid-80s.  Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode is an elderly woman living in a nursing home telling a younger visitor about life in her town 50 years earlier and the friends and family, white and black, that peopled the town. There's a mystery, a villain, plenty of heroines and heroes, and a deep, rich vein of love and loyalty, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and joy of life that makes this a wonderful book to read...and reread. The book ends with a set of recipes that I vowed I would make when I got home, but haven't yet. I do have a garden full of green tomatoes, just waiting to be fried.

There's a very good movie version of the novel, though I haven't watched it in years, but my fellow GoodReads Tuesday groupons say that the ending is somewhat different, so we'll have to take their word on this.

The last book I read in July was Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, by Laurie Colwin. This book has been recommended many times by many book soulmates and I was wanting to dive into something completely different. It's short, it's a collection of essays about food, the writing is marvelous and Colwin's voice is amazing.  She is funny, self-effacing, and enthusiastic about the taste and texture of food, the endless opportunities for feeding yourself, family, and friends. I did drop everything and made a loaf of bread following her recipe and it was divine. I have her More Home Cooking on order, and am toying with the idea of reading some of her novels. I really do love her writing. Sadly, she died of an aortic aneurysm at age 48 in 1992.

You know a book is good when you are thinking of all the people you want to share the book with when you've finished it. I choose my daughter, Sarah, who loves to cook and appreciates good writing, and mailed the book to her this morning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: It's a Wrap

East Wallhouses to Newburn to Segedunum, Wallsend
Robin Hood Inn to Keelman's Lodge to Hilton Gateshead (Newcastle)
10.61 miles and 13.0 miles

And now we come to the urban part of the trek.

Leaving the Robin Hood Inn, we walked through fields to Heddon-on-the-Wall, a charming village that definitely caters to the wall walkers that pass through. A lot of walkers who do the east-west walk stay their first night here.

We ate at the Swan, which is a chain of pubs, and it felt like a chain. Not the best choice but the food was alright; the environment just felt a bit forced.

After lunch we walked down a steep hill to the Tyne, where we found the Wylam Waggonway. I had wanted to visit the George Stephenson birthplace in Wylam, but it is closed in 2017. Stephenson was a pioneer of the railway age, inventing steam engines and convincing the British government to support his vision of the future.

The Waggonway was lovely--wide enough for us to walk side-by-side and let cyclists pass.  Lots of people out strolling/biking along the river. 

Arrived at Keelman's Lodge in Newburn, which is managed by the Big Lamp Brewery. We lounged in the sun after checking in, had a pleasant evening surrounded by happy families enjoying the lovely summer weather.

Our final walk through Newcastle and out to Wallsend where the Segedunum Fort ruins mark the end of the wall path was our longest day, and according to Runkeeper, the most I have walked in a single day.

We got an early start and stopped late morning for a latte in Elswick, a western suburb of Newcastle.  We also spotted another new bird--a couple of very pretty Shelducks were just outside the coffee shop. Fueled with coffee, with enjoyed our walk through the city centre, and had fun spotting the seven bridges that span the Tyne and trying to take pictures that included as many of them as possible.

Obviously, not one of the bridge, but I cannot resist taking pictures of statues with gulls on top.

Signage through Newcastle was inconsistent, and we got a bit lost on the eastern edge but kept on going due east and hooked up with the trail at St. Peter's Basin, where we stopped for a pub lunch.

The last stretch to Wallsend was disappointing. Trash and graffitti littered the path, and despite the abundance of wildflowers (they literally grow everywhere), those last five miles were the hardest. I just wanted to finish. There's a section of the Tyne where signs warn people to stay off the river's edge because of chemical saturation from the plants that are gone but their effects live on. It will take years for the river to recover, and I felt badly for the gulls and other birds living on the river. 

While the last five miles were not pretty, I'm so glad that they were at the end of our walk instead of the beginning. Once we got to Segedunum, and stamped our passports for the last time and had a look around, we felt elated at finishing the wall. Later that night, at dinner at our hotel in Newcastle, euphoria set in!

Room with a view - we treated ourselves to a night at the Hilton in Newcastle (Gateshead) with a fabulous view of the river and city.

It's a Wrap

After Newcastle, we took the train to York and spent the afternoon at York Minster, and then the next morning at the National Railway Museum, both of which were fantastic and well-worth the extra day to visit.  Bird note - we got another new bird in York, the Ouse was full of Graylag Geese. Our total new number of new birds on the trip is 27!

Jeff and I both really liked the focus and intensity that walking the Wall gave to this particular vacation. I loved spending the last six months reading about the Wall, Roman Britain, and Northumberland in general, and we both were so glad that we had the time to enjoy the scenery, the history, and the people we met along the way.

York Minster had an exhibit on pilgrimages in general and the Camino de Santiago in particular. We discussed whether this trek was a pilgrimage and I'm still not sure that it was. We didn't walk it to prove anything, or to overcome anything, or to memorialize anything. However, the act of walking every day, climbing impossible looking hills, following a path marked by acorns, and feeling the sun and the wind and the rain was both truly calming and energizing.

Bits of Advice

Use a couple of maps and make sure they're waterproof. And then don't trust the mileage. We ended up walking further every single day than we had thought we were going to do--even when we didn't deviate from the path and visit a fort or museum or pub, the mileage on the trail maps are all deceptively short.

Believe the guidebooks when they say there are no services once you get past the first part of the trail at either end. We would have gone hungry had we not bought sack lunches from the B&Bs in the morning. We had this notion that we would be stopping at pubs for lunch every day. That only was possible on the first and last days, and the ones we encountered stopped serving lunch at 2 pm.

Jeff carried 2 liters of water in the reservoir in his backpack and we needed most of it.

As I said earlier, we couldn't have done the trail without trekking poles, ibuprofen, and Mars Bars. We also carried camp stools on our backpacks, and were thankful for them when we wanted to rest and didn't want to sit on the wet ground.

Compeed bandages are essential. Neither one of us got blisters, but I wore two on my left shoulder for most of the trip as my backpack ended up digging into my shoulder enough to be a problem.

We packed as light as possible but needed a larger suitcase than our carryon bags for the hiking poles (even when disassembled). Hiring a luggage service to transport our suitcases was essential--we saw a few people who were actually backpacking and I honestly don't know how they made it through some of those narrow kissing gates.

Since we knew we were stopping at museums and forts we each got an English History international visitor's pass for £32.  Everything we visited on the Wall except Vindolanda and the Roman History Museum were English History sites. 

One of the things that frustrated me in the planning stages was that roughly half of the B&Bs are cash only. That meant carrying more cash around than we typically do on vacation, and being remote meant there weren't cash machines handy so we had to think through what to carry and where to reload.

The season for walking the path is April to October, and the trail managers really discourage hiking outside of this time frame because of the damage to the trail that walking in mucky weather does.

If you want to walk in the summer, book early. I booked our July trip in February and got everything we wanted, but we talked to someone who booked in March and she found some places already full up because many only have 3-4 rooms. All of the places we stayed were either on the trail or within half a mile. Some people who used a tour group to book needed to go to a pickup location and be driven to their lodging. It was important to us to be completely on foot for the entirety of the Wall trek, so we didn't even want to take the AD122 bus that goes between Wall locations and the nearby villages. Also, it seems that many of the B&Bs have arrangements with the tour groups, so I think a certain number of rooms are just not ever available to individuals.

I think that's it--great experience. Loved every minute of it. Starting to think about where to walk next!

This photo was from early on the trek, just east of Bowness on Solway, but it is one of my favorites!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 9 (Humshaugh to East Wallhouses)

Humshaugh to East Wallhouses
Mingary Barn to Robin Hood Inn
10.32 miles

Bright sunny day of walking across fields, scaling and descending stiles and generally enjoying the English countryside.

Breakfast at the Mingary Barn was another set up of eggs, fried ham (aka bacon), very tasty sausages, tomatoes, and beans, which I always decline. We had a great time chatting with our fellow guests--a London couple who were walking end-to-end in the opposite direction from us, and a Yorkshire woman who now lives in the U.S. and was only walking three days and was about to set out on her first day. It was interesting to compare notes. Everyone has different reasons for walking, different time pressures and work/family commitments, and different things they hope to get out of doing a trek like this.

We started by taking a half mile detour from the trail to take a closer look at the ruins of the Roman bridge abutments that we viewed from the Chesters' Fort bathhouse ruins across the North Tyne. Well worth the detour as the river is just lovely there and since we got an early start, we had the place to ourselves.

After the detour, there was another diversion so we ended up walking a good bit along a fairly busy road that didn't have a very wide shoulder and we debated a good bit about which side was best be on--facing oncoming traffic or having it come up from behind. There were plenty of hills and blind curves to make the case for both. There was one stretch that went down a road that had absolutely no shoulder and the hedges along the roadside were overgrown. Luckily, no cars came through--walking early in the day has that advantage--and I imagine it rarely gets traffic, which is why the powers that be designated it for the Wall path diversion.

We stopped at St. Oswald's Church, located at the top of the hill of the Heavenfield battlefield, where Oswald, King of Northumbria, was killed in battle in 642 CE. He became a saint soon after.

The church had no electricity or heat--just gas lights. No one was around, but the door was open, so we went in and read the info posters, took pictures, and left a donation.  I was thinking that it would actually be pretty cool to attend an Easter or Christmas service in a church like this. I have no idea whether services are ever held there, but it was Sunday morning and nary a parson in sight.

North of the church was a plaque identifying all the points of interest that you could see on a clear day. I didn't recognize most of the place names, except for the Cheviot mountains in southern Scotland. Sure enough, the day was clear and bright and we could make out the mountains, which was a real treat.

We picnicked along the way, having had the presence of mind to buy a couple of sandwiches and some fruit from the Mingary Barn owners.  And we birded along the way, but didn't see anything new--mostly blackbirds, crows, and ravens, sparrows, and  swallows, martins, and swifts.

As the day progressed, we encountered more and more people out for a Sunday stroll, and by mid-afternoon we found a pub, the Erthing Arms, open and ready for all the Sunday walkers and pleasure seekers. It was a real treat to stop for refreshment and rest in the sun and breeze.

Most of the day's walk was along the Military Road, which pretty much runs the same course as the Roman road that ran east/west south of the wall/forts and was used for moving troops and supplies between the forts and milecastles and towns.

As we approached East Wallhouses, the path was mostly in the Hadrian's Wall ditch, which ran alongside the wall to the north of it. At times, we were actually well below the grade of the road, which was sort of a weird sensation to have cars whizzing by above us.

Just before we reached the Robin Hood Inn, our B&B for the night, we finally saw our first robin (our first real English robin, not the grossly misnamed American Robin).

The Robin Hood Inn was another very old building, but had been updated with modern bathrooms. Food and accommodation were great. I had a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner that tasted straight out of my childhood. I loved the carvings in the booths in the dining room--I dubbed one Mr. Pickwick, and could easily imagine the Pickwick Club pulling up in a coach and coming in to the Robin Hood Inn for a bowl of punch.

I never did ask why it was called the Robin Hood Inn since it is not near Nottingham Forest, but I will next time I visit.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hadrian's Wall Travelogue: Part 8 (Carraw to Humshaugh)

Carraw to Humshaugh
Carraw B&B to Mingary Barn (aka Chollerford B&B)

7.63 miles

Carraw B&B was absolutely excellent -  very rural but modern, open, clean interiors. We stayed in the annex and the amenities were luxurious.  Dinner was homemade cream of onion soup with crusty bread, fruit, cheese, and pate. Perfect! 

Rained overnight and woke to off-and-on showers so donned rain gear for the first part of the walk.  Our first stop was the  Brocolitia Fort, outside of which were the remains of a temple to Mithras, built by the Roman soldiers from the fort.  Another sacred spot that inspired whispering despite the passage of time since people worshiped here.

Late morning it stopped showering enough to shed the rain gear, which became unbearably hot as the material just doesn't breathe. 

We planned only a short walk for this day as we wanted to spend all afternoon at Chester's Fort in Chollerford where the English Heritage was hosting a Roman Cavalry event with reenactors. We arrived just in time for the 1 pm performance and got to see a small unit of soldiers fully outfitted and with a centurion (commanding officer) drilling them. I was particularly excited to see them create a shield wall, about which I've read so much. Next came three Cavalrymen, two of which were wearing Cavalry helmets with full face masks.  The announcer, who was part of the reenactor group explained everything they and their horses were wearing, and then they did some drills with spears and shields in full armour.

The fort itself is incredibly well excavated. Here we saw the tallest walls, and the bath house down by the Tyne even had the cubbies in the changing room where people could leave their clothes while they bathed. You could also clearly see each of the rooms, with some of the baths still partially there--you could actually progress from the warm room, to the hot room, hot baths, and then the cold room. 

I also really loved looking across the Tyne to the remains of the abutments of the Roman bridge that crossed the river at this point. 

We ate sandwiches and drank lemonade at the fort cafe, and then toured the museum, which was basically a warehouse of artifacts found on the site--hundreds of altars and tombstones, as well as pottery, cavalry horse armour, etc.

After the fort, we walk into Chollerford and had a drink at the George Hotel, which used to be a coaching inn back in the Georgian days.  Very pretty garden that faces the Tyne--enjoyed the sunshine and had my first shandy (lemonade and ale), which I liked quite a bit!

Then up the hill to our B&B in Humshaugh. Dinner at the Crown Inn, which was packed on this Saturday night, and then a good night's sleep at the Mingary Barn, which was actually an old stone barn, modernized for 21st century living.