Singing Pill-Bugs and the Sheep Whisperer

June 5, 2008 in England, Europe, Travelogue

< ![CDATA[  The view from the top of the world is good. I can assure you of this because we pushed over a mile up a 14% grade yesterday afternoon to get here: Hexham Racecourse: the most scenic racecourse in England. I believe it. The sun is shining. There are sheep bleating in the background. There are rolling hills in every direction and we feel as though we are living in a postcard, once again. As idyllic as today is, the last week has been rough. It has rained hard all but about two days and the hills have been, well, hilly. We’ve gotten good at pounding out thirty miles cold and wet. Meg summed it up in the bath house the other night with an exasperated, “Well I don’t know how we’ve managed to get tan lines in THIS country!” Defying all odds, we have them. It took us a solid day and a half to dry out our bags, towels, sleeping bags and tents. “Duck weather,” as the boys put it, is what we’ve had. We have enjoyed England thoroughly, but we’re all feeling ready to push on into the continent. I wish you could be with me on my bike as we ride. Unless you’re the lead dog the view never changes, so I spend hours watching the children ahead of me dodge pot-holes and amuse themselves with little rhymes as we go. Gabe is famous for the obscure question in mid afternoon that is absolutely unanswerable. He inevitably asks it as we are pushing up some big hill and I’m absolutely out of temper for anything other than reaching the top. The little boys take turns between trail-a-bikes. Ezra rides with me in the mornings, Elisha in the afternoons. They are totally different passengers. Ezra’s whole job while riding is to be still. It is a full time challenge for a wiggly five year old, let me tell ya. He’s decided that imagery helps and so he pretends to be the stillest thing he can think of: a pill bug. “Traffic coming up Mama! I’m gonna be the stillest pill-bug you ever saw!” “Okay Ez, you do that.” Ezra chatters to Cheddar (his stuffed kitty that is strapped to his handle bars) as we ride and pretends to cook him meals. Everything but lamb. He’s decided that lamb is “B-skusting” and he likes “wool lambs” best. He likes them so well that he’s spent much of his month in the English countryside communing with them. As soon as we come upon a field of sheep he’ll start in: “Baaa. Baa-aaa-aa. BAAAAAAA!” Eventually some unsuspecting sheep will bleat in the back end of the field and Ez will announce with great joy, “See Mama! I can talk to them!! They heard me: BAAAAAA!!” This continues mile after mile until Mama has finally had enough. Elisha is an entirely different customer. He is generally quite still on my bike and, blessedly, quiet. I’m convinced he’s back there contemplating the great thoughts of all time and studying the wildlife. Eventually, when I’ve just about forgotten he’s there I’ll hear singing. He sings for miles and miles. Some of them are songs I know. Some are not. His favorite to sing is our theme song. He’ll belt it out lustily in little snips off and on all day: “AND I WANNA BE A GOOD MAN, I WANNA BE STRONG, I WANNA HELP OUT WITH MY HANDS AND GROW MY HAIR OUT LONG! TO LOSE MYSELF WITH A GIRL, COME RIGHT BACK AND CHANGE THE WORLD, I WANNA BE A GOOD MAN AND HELP BUILD HEAVEN WITH MY HANDS.... danna-na-na-na-na-na-na...” and so it goes. Ryan and Cameron would be proud. It is a sweet rendition, and I hope, prophetic. My favorite is a nonsense song that he’s made up. It is the same every day and it sounds for all the world like something I’d expect an Italian boatman to sing as he pushed his gondola along the canals of Venice. I guess we’ll find out when we get there. It makes me happy and he knows this. He’ll sing it to me while helping pedal up the hardest hills and say, “Don’t worry Mama, we can make it.” And so we can. This might be the last travelogue from England. Lord willing, and if we can get ferry reservations, we’ll cross the North Sea by moonlight two days from now. We’re all excited. It has been a wonderful month in the UK. A week or so longer than anticipated, but we wouldn’t trade a day of it. The England packet will post as soon as our feet hit the mainland, so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime, pray for good weather for our remaining two days here and our safety in all things. Cheers.]]>