Manchester/Bath UK Trip Journal Day 5
Cross Country Train, Moving, Somewhere in the UK
I think I’ve hit that moment, that overwhelmed, saturated moment, where it hurts to think. I’m tired, and riding on this train has only made me more so. My train is due to stop in 40 minutes at Bristol Temple Meads, then I catch the 15:22 to Bath Spa, arriving a 15:34. It’s exhausting just to think about it, moving from place to place, having to be in certain areas at certain times. The train situation is so regimented that I have stressed myself out about it, rushing to stations only to wait for an hour or even hours before my train finally arrives.
But also, I’m emotionally drained. Going to Knutsford yesterday did a number on me, and I don’t think I’ve really realized it until today. Until just now, really. That I visited Elizabeth Gaskell’s grave. That I walked down streets she once walked, went into shops she might have walked into (in a different form, once upon a time). This overwhelming sense of belonging, and utter exhaustion from that sense of belonging has hit me and hit me hard. The weight of this article, or two articles, is a heavy one to bear.
I think tonight, I will get something to eat—perhaps Sally Lunn’s? or somewhere new?—and walk about Bath a bit to get a feel for it. I’ve never not been rushed in Bath. I’ve always had to scurry from appointment to appointment, with very little time for sight-seeing. I did the Baths themselves the first time I was in Bath, in under an hour, and caught a quick dinner before I had to catch my train. The second time I was in Bath, I got lost—one of those fortunate accidents, again—and managed to find neat little alleyways before I got to my appointment at the Fashion Museum. This time, I will be in Bath for two and a half days, spending an entire day, morning until night, in Bath proper.
Gentle Reader, I wish you could see what I can see right now: the rolling green hills of England, with the larger hills dotting the distance. I wish you could be here with me, looking through my eyes. I wish I could show you, but the train is moving too fast for photos, and photos would never do it justice anyhow. This is England. I am in England. As an Anglophile, I never cease to be amazed by such an experience. It is part of the pilgrimage, is it not? Coming here to a foreign country, staying at out of the way B&Bs so that I get a feel for neighborhoods, for the people, for the public transport. My B&B/Guesthouse in Manchester was right outside Manchester, in Sale, so I traveled with the people going to and from work, or shopping. I ate where the locals ate, at the local pub, even, and saw nary an American or another tourist. The B&B I’m staying at in Bath is also somewhat out of the way, a 10-12 minute walk to the city, and that, too, I’m looking forward to. Because Bath is an incredibly touristy city, and I am doing my part to separate myself from that.
And, of course, out of the way B&Bs are much friendlier on the American budget, since the pound is about 1 to 2 American dollars right now.
Right now, the quiet car is actually quiet, just the way I like it. We’re all typing or reading, or just staring out the window, looking at the beautiful English countryside. I can’t explain the feeling in my heart when I see this countryside. I feel overwhelmed, as if some powerful force has gripped hold of me and refuses to let go. Is it possible to be in love with a place that is not your home? To feel at home in a place that can never be your home? Because that’s what England and Scotland have always felt like to me: like coming home. Being somewhere I want to be. Not that I don’t love America. I do. Very much. But I suppose I have romanticized England so much that it has become part of the romance for me that my actual home never can be.
Yet I am looking forward to coming home, to being in my own bed, with my Darling Husband and our Darling Pups. Because home, regardless of place, is where they are. Always.