Grrlpower in Zaventem:

My plane:

My first trip on the London Underground was on the Piccadilly line, which meant that I had to hear a posh accented woman say "Cockfosters" every five minutes. I understand the fact that this really sent me into inner giggles every time is a sign of my own immaturity. I was also sort of worried about the apparent imminent collapse, as evidenced above the COCKFOSTERS sign.

No problems getting from Cambridge to Vine Farm - while Stapleford is more of a rural suburb than out and out countryside, I was still impressed by the village's pay phone:

The b&b is very pretty:

All has come clear at Vine Farm - the lady of the house/operator just doesn't do well with spontaneity. Today I asked her if there were recycling bins and she got really stressed out and started huffing and sort of freaking herself out and though I tried to get the genie back in the bottle by saying things to the effect of "Please don't bother, I was just curious, it's really not important." she wouldn't stop. There ARE recycling bins, but evidently it's quite complicated, and I won't even go into the system she juryrigged in the kitchen or how she heaved a huge sigh and said she'd walk it all out to the bins in the evening before bed. Couldn't I do that? No, she said. She'd rather I didn't. OK. I wished strenuously that I hadn't said anything but I was expecting something along the lines of "Yes, around back of the garden house,"  not some kind of high-test dithering. I believe her really uncool behavior prior to my arrival was a combination of the failure to compartmentalize upset over something else (which she said had been the case) and because she thought I'd expect some sort of transpo and was resenting the imposition in advance, and worrying way too much about how to coordinate it, etc.

The husband Robert is a dollface, and this afternoon we had tea out in the sun in the garden on comfy chairs, and petted the dogs and listened to some kind of important sport match at Salisbury. The inn has a marvelous collection of  pets - there are two big, fluffy ragdoll cats who were aloof for all of 15 minutes and then acted like I'd been there forever and clearly existed to provide scritches and tummy rubs, an elderly chocolate lab named Denny and a yellow lap named Telly, a really marvelous elderly tortoise named Terry who quite likes to have his neck scritched on the top but not on the bottom and has legs that are scaled like pinecones and shiny black eyes that are intelligent like mouse eyes but a lot more mellow. There are also a whole bunch of birds that have built nests in the ivy all around my window and in the morning it's the most joyous racket you can imagine.

This morning I walked to the next village up, which has more shops - it's a short walk, about 20 minutes, maybe it was 30? and got cash. Then I walked to the train station and got a ticket to Cambridge - the trains leave hourly on the 13, and return on the 43. I bought a weeklong ticket valid between Shelford (the larger village) and Cambridge for 11 pounds. I rented a bike (and a bike basket and helmet) for the week for 23 pounds. I rode the bike around the parking lot for 15 minutes to make sure I still could (it's been years), then rode it out onto the streets to find out how well I'd do with the potentially stressy part of cars and traffic and stuff. The buses tend to drive a little too close, but mostly people give you a wide berth if you're on a bike. Sure of my decision, I went back to the station with my bike to return to Shelford. I had to wait awhile for the train to come, so I had lunch sitting in the sun on a bench in the station - fresh OJ from the wee Marks & Spencer in the station, and a ridiculously delicious thing called a Cornish pasty, which is kind of like a steak pot pie calzone. Yeah. GOOD. I got off the train with my bike and rode it to the Boots, and bought some soap and shampoo and conditioner. Then I rode it home. I have the guest half of Vine Farm all to myself for now, which I love. I dropped off my stuff and exchanged my long-sleeved shirt, raincoat, scarf, and hat for a short-sleeved henley, the bright blue light jacket, and my grey cap. I got back on the bike and rode it to the corner store, which was fun. Just last night as I was walking that walk for the fifth time and I saw people zipping back and forth on their bikes (going to and from the store in the time it took me to walk one third of the way) I was deeply resolved to get a bike too. I bought chicken, asparagus, cucumbers, an apple, an orange, strawberries, rhubarb, mushrooms, a bottle of Spanish rose, a giant round pat of Welsh salted butter, eggs, sugar, salt, flour, a loaf of bread, some McVittie's Hob Nobs, a jar of Golden Shred marmalade, a jar of pickled onions, a little packet of wine gums (nom nom nom), coffee, milk, and peach yogurt. I put all of this in the basket of the bike and rode it home without any problems, though the bike wobbled a bit fearsomely at the start.

I unpacked the groceries and then went for a walk through the front and back gardens, and did some photography. I had the whole place to myself as the owners were gone. Then Himself came back and I had tea and companionable time with the lord of the manor, the dogs, the tortoise, and the birds. Then dinner. The lady of the manor got home and came into the guest kitchen (where I was now slicing and chopping and listening to BBC news) looking pleased and astonished. Did you hire a bike?! Yes, I said. You brave thing! she said. I rather thought so! I cheerfully agreed. They were both so happy to see the bike. If they've had that much bother with people asking them for rides here and there, maybe they should have a bike or two to rent at the B&B? Is what I would do. It is a bit remote. It's a pleasant walk to the next village up, but it's an even more pleasant ride.

My intention is to ride the bike to the station in the mornings, then get on with it to go to Cambridge - I'll ride the bike to the library instead of walking or taking the bus. There is a bike path very close to the train station that goes straight to University Library. I could ride the bike all the way there, but according to Himself, that's an hour-long ride - which means that for me, probably an hour and a half. I bet he rides fast. He's all short and wiry and fit. I don't want to ride my bike for three hours a day. Sorries!

Speaking of which: if you ever find yourself in England and suddenly possessed of a bike after not riding one for a long time, your butt is going to be real sore. The roads are bumpy and jouncy and bikes are just so not comfy. Many Americans of a certain age will, if they are casting around for the socially acceptable and/or cute way to say "ass" or "butt" will opt for their grandmothers' favorite: fanny. As in "Ooch, my fanny hurts from sitting on those metal bleachers at the baseball diamond". Do not, under any circumstances, tell the ladies at Boots who are impressed that you went and got a bike and are riding it around that you like it a great deal but that your fanny REALLY hurts after riding it all day. It's not that this sentence doesn't make sense in British English. It's just that it makes an entirely DIFFERENT sense, because fanny is the cute word for your ladyparts. Your bagina, cho-cho, kitty, vajayjay - in British? Your FANNY.

Yeah. You know I did that. I realized the mistake seconds later, as I looked at their shocked faces. I knew better. I just forgot. I'm sure at some point I'll use the word pants incorrectly too.

I made cucumber salad to have with dinner - had to use malt vinegar as it was all they had. The shop lady thought it was weird, the idea of putting it on cucumbers, but said "They do that sometimes, don't they?" by which I guess she means either "people" or "American people", not sure which. I sauteed some very good, very plump and fresh chicken chicken breasts in butter and onions for dinner. Then I did up the asparagus. I was very happy with my simple meal.

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