It was not the best flight I’ve ever had. In fact, it was horrendous, mostly on account of the spondylitis. BA202 was scheduled to leave at 9:40pm on August 6th, but left two hours after that. We sat on the tarmac for TWO HOURS as the flight crew handed out plastic cups of water for anyone who wanted one. They certainly did their level best to distract us all from the warm cabin temperature, but my left leg and hip weren’t interested in level best anything and neither was my lower back. I distracted myself by scarfing puffed veggie sticks and watching the first few episodes of Killing Eve series 2. When we were finally in the air I took my sneakers off and holy hell was it a struggle. My ankles were swollen and I couldn’t help grunting in pain as I pulled them off each foot.
As much as I love to travel and see new landscapes and meet new people, it is not easy traveling with this form of arthritis. The discomfort of the flight, followed by at least one or two days of recovery time to sleep and rest often put quite a damper on things. Suffice it to say, my first day in London which I had intended to be spent attending an art exhibit and eating take away fish and chips in St James park, was spent stretched out on my hotel bed (which was upgraded to a double they informed me upon check in…YES!!!) and then taking a long hot shower followed by getting back into bed and sleeping until it was time to catch the morning’s train to Hereford.
The train ride was uneventful, and I switched between dozing and watching the yellow and green fields whizz by. I walked to the city centre of Hereford after my arrival to kill time before the 1:20 bus to Wales. Even the bus ride was uneventful, and I was pleasantly surprised that I did not get sick during the ride. (I remember all too well the heaving stomach and nausea on my ride from the Dublin airport into the Irish city: I sat on someone’s doorstep clutching my suitcase handle for over half an hour as I waited for the sickness to pass. Luckily no sick ended up on said doorstep.)
Arriving in Hay-on-Wye, my home for the next week, is the most excited I’ve been in some time, and I couldn’t get off the bus fast enough. We pulled into town around 2:30, and since I couldn’t check in to the cottage I’d rented until 3, I popped into the nearest spot for a cream tea and a sit down.
The directions were a bit squidgy and I needed some help, so luckily for me two helpful local residents insisted on walking me to my accommodations. I was smitten at first sight. To be a writer/poet living in Lavender Cottage for the next week is not only a dream, it makes me smile. Note: the address to Lavender Cottage is 6 Heol Y Dwr, which I learned from the good samaritans who assisted me sounds like ‘Hole E Door’. I’m just not optimistic that I’ll be able to crack the Welsh language during my short visit.
The highlight of my first amble around Hay, however, was following signs to the River Walk. I stumbled upon a church and quietly traipsed amongst its cemetery.
When I disappeared amongst the trees and water sounds something happened to me. Something that just about made me cry. I had been a very active person prior to my spondylitis diagnosis 8 years ago–biking and hiking and kayaking. And all that came to an end very quickly. Communing with trees and water and earth was necessary for my well-being and had been ever since I had been a young child. Losing my ability to place myself in it whenever and wherever I choose has been nothing less than a suffering, and so when I found myself in the wild yesterday I nearly wept–my heart was weeping anyway, but out of joy. Bird sounds and water sounds. Bark textures and sinuous lines the likes of which I’d never seen before. Foliage–shiny green and waxy green and muted green. I had the urge to run in all my excitement, but running is not something I can do anymore. I got out my iPhone instead to take a video…
It occurred to me as I stood there in the middle of the woods, listening, that I was starving, had been starving for the natural world. Making some woodland friends during my exploration topped the cake: someone has created wonderful carvings along the River Walk, and to my utter delight, one of them is a fabulous fox!