I’m sitting in a pub in Chester right now. This particular building was built in 1622. They say it was built on the ruins of a 12th-century building. Since this is within the Chester city walls, I’m betting there’s been a building here since at least the early 900s after Aethelflaed and Aethelraed made Chester a burh.
As many of you have probably noticed, most of my LJ titles have been song lyrics twisted to suit my purpose. Most of them have been Rush, of course, but this one is the Temptations. Why them? Well, that’s what is on right now. Yes, I’m in a pub built in 1622 in a city founded by the Romans on an Iron Age settlement posting on the internet listening to Motown. Oh, and by the way, Harry, the owner, proudly boasts of the 13 ghosts of this pub, the building timbers reclaimed from warships, and the swords and shoes buried in the floors found in a renovation. The British Isles stack layers of history just like the stone strata I’ve seen on this trip.
Anyway, the last couple of days have been a whirlwind. I decided to go to the SCA event. They had 22 people. They had hoped for 30 people. Those 22 included the King of Drachenwald, the Prince and Princess of Insula Draconis, and their heirs. Court was fascinating. 5 royals, plus retinue and heralds nigh unto outnumbered the crowd. We, in Calontir, would be wise to recognize the riches that we have in our populace, because other places are not as fortunate.
There were, however, a higher percentage of fighters than normal. They had, I think, 10 fighters, though only 7 or so participated in the fighting demo for the Scouts who were also having an event at the site on that weekend. Ten whole fighters!!! Ask Richard about his first War College after he first came over and again, you’ll appreciate Calontir’s wealth and fortune.
Anyway, it was a good time, and many thanks to Richard and Lena for providing transportation, a sleeping bag, paying my site and feast fees, and providing beer.
The only bad thing was that my tablet dropped and its screen broke. It still works (obviously), but it will cost $400 to repair. I’m likely to just buy a $400 laptop instead, as it still kinda works for reading but for the editing and writing I’ve been doing the Android operating system is very frustrating. Oh, and I had a mishap as I was near the beach in Prestatyn. I stepped in a puddle by some rocks to rescue a soccer ball and found myself suddenly waist deep in water because the sand shifted from beneath me, and my temporary phone here, my Blackberry for home, and my camera were all doused and are all dead. Yes, in less than 24 hours I killed or wounded every electronic device I had with me. Fortunately, I only needed the phone for 2 days, the memory card in the camera survived (hence today’s pictures), and my insurance should replace the Blackberry when I’m home. Still, at one point last night I was in a restaurant eating without a single electronic device on me. I’m not sure I can remember the last time that happened.
But then came the last day, which was a challenge, a bit of an Odyssey all its own. I woke up at 6:45, got to the Stockport train station by 8ish after a side trip to the wrong station (thanks again for saving me, Lena). Took a train from there to Crewe and got a train from there to Prestatyn. Made it to the taxi company that was to hold my luggage by 10:30, and they gave me a ride back to the beginning of the day, including back to the B&B that I would have stayed at to switch some stuff around.
By 11am I was on the trail, but…. in the hustle and bustle I forgot a few things. I have been taking 800mg of ibuprofen every day prior to walking to ease the pain and inflammation. Yeah, I forgot that. I normally have had a big English breakfast to fuel the walk. Yeah, not so much, a pastry is all I had. Oh, and I have normally started with at least a bottle of water, and usually a bottle of Diet Coke, a bottle of water, and sometimes even a Diet Red Bull to help on the trail. Yeah, I did have the Red Bull, but not the water or Diet Coke.
Believe me, I felt the lack of ibuprofen, food, and water on this day.
The path starts with a 125 meter climb, but the taxi dropped me off a half-mile up the trail knocking off about half of that. I trudged up the road sort of waiting for the initial energy and adrenalin to kick in. Guess what, it did not. I made it up that hill, and then the next, and then came the descent to Rhuallt. For a stretch, actually, I was doing pretty good, but the descent was tough and my feet were really starting to hurt. At least, however, I was seeing the trail as it should be. Some mud, but not too much, and not horribly slippery.
Ooops, I spoke too fast. I was in a pasture looking at the four horses ahead of me wondering how I was going to walk right by them (including behind them) when I suddenly was over my ankles in mud. So much for the dry socks. And that was quite a struggle to clear, it was so extensive. It was a very frustrating bog because there was no way I could tell it was any different at the edges. Just another pasture with hoof marks.
Anyway, so I dragged myself past this bog and up some hills to the walkway over the A55. I’m totally exhausted but I have the promise from both of my maps of not one, but two different possible places to stop in Rhuallt. I can get some food, something to drink, change socks, and all that. On Sundays, pubs serve all afternoon, and it’s usually full of protein. I’m set once I make the next half-mile to Rhuallt.
Uh, yeah, well not so much. I never could find the pub, and the cafe was closed.
So I sat on a rock and changed my socks. At some cookies I’d kept in my bag for this purpose and planned the rest of the day. The map was fairly clear that the last *major* hill was to come up, and then it was mostly downhills with a few rises here and there but nothing tough. OK, so all I’ve got to do is climb 125 meters in a half-mile.
Let me repeat, “all I have to do is climb 125 meters in a half-mile.” I’ve talked about meter elevation a lot, so it’s time for some perspective. A normal business floor is 12-15 feet. 4 meters is 13.3 feet. Soooooo….., 125 meters is about 31 stories tall. Yeah, it’s not stairs so it’s not as steep, but…. there aren’t really any landings. There are at times places it’s safe to rest, but you’re not guaranteed any. And guess what, even after all this walking I’m not enthralled about climbing up a 31-story building.
I did it, but it killed me. The lack of my normal food, etc. contributed of course, but I was totally wobbling and in agony afterwards and I had six miles to go.
One foot in front of the other. That’s all you can do. One foot. Each step after a while is its own victory.
I was helped for a time by the Prestatyn airshow, as I had a Spitfire flying over me. That was really really cool. But I still had miles to go before home.
I trudged on, glimpsing the Irish Sea periodically, but mostly focusing on the path. As I was reading the path book, I was also becoming increasingly nervous of a particular stretch that remained. You see, Prestatyn is in the plain between the sea and the hills. The hills above go up to some 220 meters of elevation, while the upper part of town is about 70. That’s 150 meters of elevation and it’s a sharp drop. Furthermore, the Path runs along the side of that cliff. The guidebook says: “It’s a narrow path with a sharp drop of 300 feet or so.”
So let me do the math. A 300-foot cliff. A narrow path. My love of heights. My wobbly legs.
I’ll pass. So I took the road that paralleled and took me down into Melidyn, the town literally right next to Prestatyn. This had the benefit of bringing me at least to a pub where I could get some water. OK, it was tonic water. I had a couple of those. I also had some barley-flavored water. Two of those as well. Drank those while letting my feet air and watching Adam Scott collapse at the British Open. Then, I faced the last 2 plus miles.
I walked down the sidewalk of the A547 to meet with the Path at High Street in Prestatyn. When I was on High Street something magical happened.
I could see the end in sight. A great song came on the headphones (Three Days by Jane’s Addiction again, actually).
The pain went away. The pain was replaced by emotion and adrenalin. Pick an emotion, they were all there. Call it a combination of a raised middle-finger to everyone and everything with a great joy and happiness and love for everyone and everything.
I doubt I’ll ever think about that afternoon without becoming emotional, as I’m sitting in the pub right now crying.
In any case, I walked down High Street to the train station where I had to climb two flights of stairs and then immediately descend them on the other side. I ran up the steps and hopped quickly down. Yeah, and I’m not exaggerating for those who’ve watched me walk slowly a step at a time down the steps at my house.
I strode briskly and proudly and emotionally down the last portion from the railroad down Bastion Road. I made it to the sign and the rock and then proceeded to the beach.
The tradition is to walk into the Irish Sea as if the Dyke extended down into it. So I did.
I doubt you can appreciate what this next bit is for me, truly. In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ll ever really understand or appreciate it myself. I’m on the beach of the Irish Sea. Nearly 200 miles from Chepstow, over 100 miles of which I’ve walked, stumbled, tripped, and slid over, with pennies in my pocket and blisters on my feet I’ve seen Wales. (The blister on my right foot is a callous, but the one on my left heel is just agony right now). I stood there in the Irish Sea and sang loudly in the key of army. Well, actually worse than the key of army as I let some of the emotion that I’d been holding in come out.
If I’d have had hours, I don’t know how many songs I would have sang but I only sang three. Song of the Shieldwall while I’m standing in the swan-road. Forgive me huscarls, but I yelled “Huscarl” at the Irish Sea as well. Battle of Maldon, “though my strength must end.” Finally Fyrdmen on Campaign. It was the last that was the most special. “For when a Fyrdman strikes a blow he never stands alone.” It’s never easy to end a relationship, but one constant has been the friends that have wanted to help but Kate and I.
I stood there in the Irish Sea, the waves buffeting me, the sand shifting beneath me but I did not fall into the waves as I yelled “strike a blow for freedom, and strike one for the land” into the wind. Yeah, it’s a cheesy metaphor, but all I could think at that moment were all of the fyrd, and all of my friends, helping me stand in the waves and in my life.
Thank you all.