I was going to write about road runners. You remember the cartoon, where Wile E. Coyote chases that funny little stiff legged bird all over the desert and always comes off second best? Well, I decided against that after what happened yesterday. It all started when Joan, Donna and I went on a little sightseeing tour to Lowther Castle, west of Penrith, Cumbria. To get there you have to travel along narrow roads lined with hawthorn hedges, through rolling verdant fields dotted with sheep and tiny gamboling Spring lambs. (It took everything not to stop and cuddle every one of them). Threaded through the fields are centuries-old low dry stone walls built with local rocks. I felt like I was in an episode of the British TV series All Creatures Great and Small, expecting country vet Alf Wight to come whizzing past us on his rounds.
On the way, Joan told us that Lord Lowther, the 8th Earl of Lonsdale owned everything we were seeing from the village of Askham to the location of the horse driving trials in which the Duke of Edinburgh used to participate to the castle. Loads of history everywhere I looked, reminding me that this is what I yearned for growing up in Zambia, that I had yet to discover in America. I drank it all in, feeling that same love of everything English, remembering my heritage on both grandfathers’ side: London, city of my mother’s father and Ayr, Scotland, where my other grandfather was born. (Where in just three days I had an appointment to scour the records for mention of the McCartney line–more on that later).
We approached Lowther Castle to discover it covered in scaffolding while undergoing a restoration from centuries of neglect. Joan parked on the road in front of the castle and I got out to take a photo. Ahead, a couple of workmen in safety garb worked on something I couldn’t see.
“Oh, look, Joan, there’s a nice bit of oak for your fire,” Donna said from the back of the car. I glanced around to see a perfect fireplace-size log lying under one of the many oak trees peppering the acres of lawn, took a couple of photos of the castle then headed back toward the car.
“Don’t forget to get the log,” Joan called.
Glancing around, I hunched over and ran across the short expanse of lawn, grabbed the log and charged back to the car. Donna and Joan exploded in laughter.
”You got the log!” they cried in astonishment.
“Well, you told me to, didn’t you?”
All the way back to Joan’s house, we laughed about me swiping Lord Lowther’s Log. From then on, Donna imitated me running across the lawn like the Pink Panther glancing over my shoulder before snatching the log. Every notation of Lord Lowther in any official literature or sign elicited hysterical hoots of laughter from the three of us. Making it even more pertinent, Joan had met Lord Lowther when he frequented the pub she owned in Great Strickland in 1983. The log will be joining me on my trip back home to America.