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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: Chapter 76 - Unfamiliar Sheep

Gayle Woodward continues her account of her first trip to England.

To read earlier chapters of Gayle's autobiography-in-progress please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/life_is_too_short_to_drink_bad_wine/

Our first night in England was spent at the 15th century The Green Man Hotel near Hereford with its very low ceilings, tiny doorways and winding corridors. We were told that only one room had a lock. This room would have been reserved for the Judge of the Petty Sessional Court in the 18th and 19th centuries on his travels. The court had been held in this very establishment. A lovely quaint room awaited us with a view to countryside and fresh flowers on a table. It was enchanting.

The next morning we were told a fax had arrived for us. Woody had been appointed as a Company Director back in New Zealand and needed to sign some documents which must be faxed home to Thorn. We left the hotel glowing with excitement. Later that morning we came across our first castle. Imagine that, a castle! I could not get out of the car quickly enough. It had a moat!

The earliest buildings in New Zealand were built in the late 18th Century and these are wooden structures which have not survived well. We met an Englishwoman who admonished me for my lavish and effusive comments. She had recognised my accent and informed me I should be just as proud of my own country’s history and its Maori people. I was chastened but did not tell her how much I cared and knew of English history. At school we had always learnt of the history of the “home” country and I had read countless books set in English castles and verdant green countryside. Nowadays, schoolchildren in New Zealand learn New Zealand history first.

We moved off travelling towards the Welsh border and then north towards Spennymoor. We passed walls built of local stone and little croft-like farmhouses. The sheep were strange breeds. We certainly know sheep in New Zealand and it was interesting to see breeds never seen before. By night we had arrived at our lodgings, a country hotel known as the Fell Hotel, Burnsall.

We registered and freshened up before going downstairs to the bar area. There we met the friendliest locals who plied us with beers and wine. They were delighted to meet a couple so far away from home and queried us about the All Blacks and life in New Zealand. Restaurant staff came to take our orders for dinner. We chatted on, having to turn down offers of beds and meals in family homes. The drinks kept coming. We wanted to stay forever but finally a waitress informed us our meals would be spoilt if we didn’t eat soon. Reluctantly we said farewell to our new friends and went through to the dining area.

The next night was spent in a hotel that looked like any other in the world. During the day when Woody was off at work, I took our car and explored the surroundings. I came across a sign which pointed to a lane, down which, it said, there were Roman Ruins. Imagine that, I thought. I quickly turned the car into the lane only to be met by a closed gate. A sign on the gate stated ‘Closed on Wednesdays’. It was Wednesday. Oh dear! There was very little else of interest to me so I returned to the hotel to do some clothes washing.

But that night, I was informed, we would be taken for dinner in a castle! I loved that evening. We were with locals, colleagues of Woody’s. They knew much about the history of the castle and I was very impressed at the renovations which had transformed the drafty and uncomfortable building into a welcoming and warm restaurant.


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