And the heavens opened. That’s the best way to describe what we woke up to this morning. During the night it had started to rain, the sound of the pitter-patter was quite lovely, until it turned into a complete washout when we opened the curtains. When it came time to check-out we backed the car right up to the front door – mounting the curb and gaining what at first could have been curious looks, until we realised they were actually coming from people who were standing rather glumly and dripping on the floor – loaded the bags and once again hit the A1/M1 and headed south again following our tracks from the day before. It rained on and off all morning with us darting in and out of the supermarket and driving down to Thirsk and Helmsley. We’ve discovered quite a passion for supermarkets here, the variety of goodies both fresh and in packets, but also the lovely treats we find in the various specialty areas that we simply don’t (usually) have back in Oz. Morrisons for instance has a very tasty hot selection of not just cooked chickens, but seasoned and roasted cuts, baked gammon, and assorted nibbles of the ‘eat me now’ motivator. We’ve had a wonderful time adapting our regular fare to these opportunities, making an otherwise cold salad with cheese into a caesar salad with warm chicken. It’s the little things. We’ve also encountered and done battle with the ‘Mulled Wine’ that’s currently available, and must report that it’s a losing battle, this is no such thing as a bad bottle of this ‘stuff’ and it is painfully drinkable, I say painful as it is also potent, which can lead to the complete loss of gross motor skills, and no, I don’t mean the car. So having popped in for a couple of things, and returned with three full big bags, plus a couple of under-arm ones which filled the back seat (as our boot is already filled with bags) we sallied forth.
Thirsk and Helmsley are both wonderful old villages, I recall my maternal grandfather telling me tales of his youth and cycling all through this area, of him riding to Thirsk and Bridlington before returning home to Malton, when I was little they were just names and I never thought much of it, now though as a driver over here I can marvel anew at his tales. On a map these villages aren’t far apart and in a car could be easily covered within a few hours, however, on a single-gear bicycle 80 years ago I can only imagine what it must have been like. My esteem for him is through the roof now, if for no other reason than the ‘hill’ out of Helmsley on the way to Rievaulx Abbey, it’s harsh, I mean really nasty, in the car I wasn’t sure we’d make it to the top, yet he cycled it on a semi-regular basis for a bit of fun. Not sure if he ever went to Rievaulx though, if he did he never mentioned it, he never struck me as the religious/church type, heaven help us though if we swore, and I don’t mean the customary curse words of today, I’m talking about if we’d said ‘bloody’ or ‘bugger’, we’d be in for it if he heard us, I’d hate to think what he would have said to hear the language of today. Perhaps it is best he’s not here after all.
Rievaulx Abbey is, to say the least, magnificent and yet at the same time incredibly sad. To have seen this complex of buildings, in their day, in their original condition, must have been awe inspiring, truly. The main structure, the nave/chapel/church is massive, towering up at least 4 – 5 storeys in modern construction, standing at ground level the very top vaulted windows really do appear to be arching into the heavens themselves, and given that back in the day the walls would have all been rendered white, ‘bricks’ outlined in red or black, and all the freestone carvings painted in bright colours and gilded, surely anyone standing there would have felt as though they were closer to their God, how could they not? What’s sad though is a two-fold or two-part discovery. The most obvious is that all of this went to ruin once the lead roof was removed at Henry VIII’s coup when taking over the ‘Church’ in England and all the sacking that went on, without the roof (which were removed to dissuade the monks from returning once they’d been evicted) the buildings were simply ravaged by nature, they began to leak, leaks wore at the joints, the joints gave way and it literally falls apart, taking all the hard-work of the freestone carvings, the wall frescoes, and stained glass windows with them. The other sad part though is that the founding Abbots were against this sort of showy display, when it was originally started the Abbey was beyond modest, it was meant to be hard, so as to share in the pain and struggles of their mentor and leader, not to become such a glorified palace of God. A shrine was even dedicated to one of them, Aelred, and due to his piety was made a Saint not long after his death, the shrine became a pilgrimage point for many, yet the man himself would have been repulsed by the mere idea of that, several times he’d rebuked people for glorifying him, yet once he was gone and his words lost to history it all began to be lost in the new ways. I enjoyed our time at the Abbey, and as you can see by the ‘waffle’ you’ve just read I’ve learned a lot, or at least had my fill of information with regards to the Abbey. Being as we’re still in Spring, the weather is a little unpredictable, but I can only imagine what the place must be like in high summer, and I’d love to return one day to see it in the bright sunshine and warmth.
From there we did a little more driving and travelled along some main roads until turning left and heading into the North Yorkshire Moors and made our way to Hutton-le-Hole, which is our base of operations for the next three days. For the novelty of being able to finally cook again we carted all our bags, and newly acquired groceries, and headed up to our self-contained flat for some long awaited cooking, and some washing, which leads onto a rather funny story. When we arrived we were carrying a rather full laundry bag, because we were sure we would be able to do a wash. So up the stairs we trundle, carting our bags, our dirty washing and prepare to do some cleaning. Couldn’t find the washer could we. A thorough investigation of the flat revealed nothing, a few words of frustration – both over the washing and over the fact that we couldn’t get the wifi to work with which to find a laundromat nearby – we cart the wash back downstairs and head off along the 10 miles of road to Pickering in the hope that we’d find one there. We didn’t. We pulled into a supermarket car park and asked a few locals, all of whom said there wasn’t one in the village, the nearest would be in York. Great we think, that’s another 24 miles down the road. All the way back to the flat we discussed our options, it was by now getting quite late and we still hadn’t had any dinner yet. As we approached we wondered what the ‘third’ key on the keyring was, as we pulled the car in we noticed a door in front of us, low and behold the key fit, the handled turned, and oh look, there’s a washer and dryer. Sitting upstairs after dinner, and occasionally popping downstairs to move the washing into the dryer, we read over the instructions and you can guess what we found on the front page. Sigh. Always pays to read the instructions, at least we managed to enjoy our dinner, some more creamy vegetable soup, a glass of red grape cider and a lovely plateful of baked potatoes with all the trimmings!