Sunday, October 9, 2016

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and McSweeneys

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School (#10) by Jeff Kinney 2015
McSweeney's Issue 39 Editor Dave Eggers 2011
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: One went to a young boy in Liverpool, England and one was left at Wolfhouse in Silverdale, England

Harriet and I are wrapping up our trip to her hometown of Silverdale, and it is incredibly sad.  We have done so much, but we have so much more that we would like to do.  As it comes to an end, we have noticed that we have an exorbitant amount of luggage and, in a small effort to downsize, I am trying to read all of my books I brought with me and let them go. 

I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the plane and, of course, loved it.  As always.  Jeff Kinney is a genius.  Once we got to England Harriet's grandmum found it a home with a 10 year old boy who doesn't like to read.  The perfect home.  I bet he loves it.  This is a great book for kids who do not like to read.

McSweeneys Issue 39 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  It was kind of awful, then a little dull, then intriguing, then confusing, then good but made you feel oh so bad, then disturbing, then beautiful, then horrifying but lovely.  I am not sure what to make of it.  I wonder what the locals around here will make of it.  I was a little reluctant to leave it as the only book from America.  I felt like I should leave something else to balance it out, but I did not have anything at the time. 

As for the trip, Silverdale is more beautiful than can be imagined.  At night, the smell of chimney smoke fills the air and will come in through the windows if you open them.  We have been lucky to have beautiful weather and so can see every star in the sky at night.  We are surrounded by pastures of sheep and cows, with your occasional ram and horses.  Even a couple alpacas in one plot.  Pheasants frantically try to cross the road as you drive through the winding country streets and, if you are not careful, wild turkeys will chase you out of grassy "car parks." Ok, it was just one time and a gang of three turkeys.  In true tourist form, I was just trying to get a photo if a beautiful chicken (some would say that is a contradiction) when they came at me.  What I want to know is how did the people park in that grassy field turned car park for Lorraine's 40th birthday without being torn apart by vicious birds?  It must be something you learn to deal with as a Silverdalian. Harriet just laughed at me.  No help from that corner.

Dogs are everywhere, and they are welcome in most restaurants, on the bus, in the fields.  They seem so happy and so well loved.  In this part of town, there are more purebred dogs than anything and there is never a stray.  Just some farm dogs that run free and protect the land in the daytime and then go home at night to be pampered by their doting people.  People know each other's dogs and look out for them if they do slip away from their owners.  They are also much more tolerant and understanding of dog behavior.  Dogs are not expected to lose all their natural instincts.  How different my relationship with my crew could be here? Maybe when and if Harriet and I move here we could go adopt a staffy or two from Battersea or Dog Trust and give them the best life imaginable.

The only animals happier than the dogs might be the horses.  They live in beautiful pastures with luscious, green grass and meander so far off that it can take 20 minutes to figure out where in the field they are hiding when you are trying to find them for a ride.  Riding them through town is delightful, though slightly scary if someone from out of town zooms by without a care in the world.  Most people are kind and cautious though, even intrigued or happy to see the horse out for a jaunt.  They move from field to field so the scenery changes.

People live in buildings from the 19th century.  My favorite is just in the middle of a bend in front of the shoreline.  It is the old post office.  There are even older buildings from the 17th and 18th century that are still in use dotted around the villages and cities.  Remains of an old rectory, a castle turned prison, it is all just part of the landscape.  The locals hardly notice until someone comes for a visit.

The village is small and people pay attention to who is out and about, what they are up to.  The concept of privacy is different here, but so is the concept of community.  When Harriet's mom fell sick as a young girl, the doctor made sure to get her to school.  Fair trade or locally produced seems to be the norm.  The food is fresh and simply delicious.  Tea is offered at every house, but the only decent cup of coffee you can get will be found at Wolfhouse.  Once you are done you can go to the gallery at the back and peruse the beautiful and whimsical work of Janice McGloine.  If you are from America, try not to fall in love with the slate rock pieces.  They are heavy, though amazing.

Which brings me to the rocks!  Different areas are known for their different stone, and they build with what they have nearby.  There are miles upon miles of rock walls that must have taken ages to put up and more hard work than could be imagined.  The houses are also made of stone and are absolutely gorgeous.  They look sturdy and strong.  The gardens and plants people keep around them give them a truly striking and unforgettable look.  You cannot come here and not be jealous of them.  Particularly, the ones that have families of hedgehogs living in the garden, like Harriet's mom :)

The sea is just a short walk from Harriet's old house and, if you are patient, you can watch the tide come in rapidly and overtake the shore that was previously just quicksand and puddles for hours.  There is a beautiful cove you can climb into when the tide is out and there is a structure known as the Pepperpot high above Silverdale, overlooking everything.  There are so many beautiful walks, hikes, and climbs here and nearby.  It will take me years of visits to even do half of them.  It is no wonder they keep the Harry Potter train nearby, Beatrix Potter and Mary Gaskill found their inspiration in this beautiful place, and that they filmed the Potter movie here.  It is no wonder that people have developed stories about fairies and mystical creatures.  There is magic in every crack and crevice here. 

It will truly be difficult to get on that plane and leave this place, but I will dream of it each day I am at work and look forward to the next time we can come back.

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