Simple Gifts

Driving the backroads of Ireland one meets many new friends.

We have many people to thank for incredible hospitality during this final leg of our journey, beginning in the U.K. and ending in the U.S. To start at the beginning . . .

We first met Moira in our favorite cafe in Bangkok Sorn's, near Siam Square. We noticed her as she moved confidently through the "soi"(side street or alley) alone, speaking to the street vendors in fluent Thai – her flowing auburn hair setting off her blue eyes. The hanging orchids swayed above the tables in the afternoon breeze as she settled into the cafe for a cup of tea. We soon struck up a conversation as fellow travelers often do. It didn't take us long to adopt each other, sharing stories of our lives and current adventures.

She is a film producer and archaeologist and was in Thailand doing some of both in the jungle near the ancient Thai capital. We spoke of her home near London, her architect husband, Chris and an upcoming traditional May Day celebration in the verdant British countryside. When she extended an invitation for us to stay with them in London, she cautioned that it wasn't an "English invitation"– she really meant it. "Typical English invitations are causally given, and just as casually forgotten," she explained.

We stayed in touch with her as we continued on around the world, sending rambling audacious postcards and occasionally phoning. Somewhere along the way, we mentioned how tired we were, and how we longed to actually be met when we arrived in a new country, to know where we were going and how to get there and not have to scramble to change money, find accommodations, a map and a bus or a train or a cab.

And dear sweet Moira took it to heart. The day we crossed the English Channel from Calais, she took the afternoon off from work and drove to Dover to meet us. Getting us – and our stuff – into her little red car looked like fraternity boys stuffing a phone booth (and getting out looked like a thousand circus clowns emerging from a tiny car). But we managed. She sped through the green rolling hills of the English countryside, stories and history lessons issuing from her mouth like machine gun spray. When the door to her London bungalow opened, Chris's wide impish grin and rich dark eyes captivated us.

Chris and Moira fed us steak and kidney pie, and ushered us into bedrooms filled with fragrant, fresh-cut flowers. They got out books and maps, told us stories about their favorite places, and in the morning, Moira tossed us the keys to her car and told us to use it as long as we were there–we could even take it to Ireland!

We stayed with them for over a week, and they continued to share their friends, insights and world with us for the weeks that we were in the Isles. As our parting gift, they took us to the Kentwell Historical Re-Creation, sharing a day, a life, a history.



When we left England, Moira once again took time off from work to take us to the airport–hours away from London. Once again we watched her confident stride, her russet hair and Euro-leather coat almost glowing as she receded from view. It felt so lonely.

Good friend and spark, Helen.

From Moira's we went to the London apartment of our favorite Scotsman, Joe (or Joe-Bob as he is affectionately known by some Alaskans). We'd been friends with him and his family for years, having met while he was on company assignment in Alaska. We grieved when they left Alaska, taking their wonderful Scottish lilts and kindred spirits with them. They had been reassigned to the UK and the family had moved back to Scotland. Joe took an apartment in London for work, but as it turned out, he now travels more than he is there, and the apartment is often empty. He offered it to us–a whole apartment, near London Bridge in downtown London complete with washer, stove, security system and parking! Our third home on the road, after the houseboat in Amsterdam and the partisans' quarters in Crete.

On our "apartment orientation night," Joe took us out to a wonderfully fashionable restaurant near Picadilly Circus for the best meal we'd had since Japan. It was very smart–a place where the beautiful and stylish go to see and be seen on their way to the theater. We found ourselves once again toasting with martinis and manhattans and conjuring up the next phase of trouble together. It was unmistakably Joe's world we were in now, and he shared it generously.

When we visited his home in Greenock, Scotland we were welcomed into their family and extended families like returning prodigals. We sampled whisky, haggis, and butter tablets. We quoted Burns and told jokes. We walked in the graveyard (the largest in Europe) and along the shores of Loch Lomond. When we headed off to explore Scotland on our own, Helen and Joe tossed us the keys to their new Mercedes, so we could see the highlands in high style. They squired us to dinner in Glasgow and, when it was time to go, presented us with wonderful remembrances.

Our visions of the highlands will be forever mixed with the images of them: Helen's lilting laugh, devilish sense of humor, and soft pale beauty; Joe with his deep sparkling eyes, shy smile and quick wit; young Martin, the James Dean of Greenock; and classically boyish and charming Steven. We had to satisfy ourselves with tales of handsome Chris (he seems to have spoken in tongues right after he had his first legal shots of Tequila!) because he was visiting friends in the U.S. We miss them all.

All along the road we met, or reconnected with, people who were very special to us. But these people were incredibly special, generous and loving. Being with them felt like being truly at home, and yet alive in ways that are rare. We are honored to be among their friends.


And More Thanks. . . .

We took a wee bit of hike through the grand bit of the highlands in Scotland.

David and Alison showed us the heavens above and the Welsh countryside below.

To Alison and David (whom we met in the same cafe in Thailand where we met Moira) who invited us to stay on their farm in Wales on the way to the ferry to Ireland. Once there, in the quiet hills and farms of Wales, David got out his telescope to treat the girls to a very starry night, and then let them feed the chickens. Alison even brought us tea in bed in the morning!

To Wendy and Hal who not only took in a whole gaggle of cold, wet May Day celebrants as easily and graciously as if we were two instead of twenty – they invited us Worldhoppers to spend another night, telling us tales of Wales, and England, Scotland, and Ireland and where it all fit–and didn't

Owners of the Mill Shop in Lower Slaughter, the Grangers stand in front of their 350-year old home, "Quarry Hill Cottage."

To Nick and Sheena and James who gave us a special dinner and evening in their wonderful cottage. We met Nick at his Old Mill museum and shop in Lower Slaughter while we searched for the sole B&B, and before we knew it, we were on the way to his home for dinner. He took us the long way, so we could get his special tour of the Costwolds.

To Isabel and David whose invitation to come stay with them in Nairn, Scotland given over a pint in an Irish pub in Waterford was sincere. We had a grand time with them!

George and George, in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

To the Guv'nr and compatriots at The Jugglers Arms Pub in London who made us feel at home in the neighborhood. And Mr. Cassidy at the Raven's Tower Pub who provided directions to "the best pub in Ireland" and gave our Cassidy a plaque with the Cassidy coat of arms.

To Sande for giving up her bed for us in Detroit and keeping us well fed, well oiled and calm while we searched for a car for days on end. To Susan and Jay who were wonderful to reconnect with as we crashed in on them on New Mexico. To George and Denise who gave us a cottage to stay in while George and George–brothers at some very basic spiritual level–reconnected and the rest of us re-grounded.

And of course to our wonderful supportive families who always have an open door, open heart, and warm hearth to enfold us.

And to all of you, and the so many more who we were not able to list here, our heartfelt thanks for proving this is a wonderful and most magical world we live on.

Home :: About :: Journals
If you'd like to write to George, Salli, Samantha or Cassidy, drop them a line!

Copyright 1996 - 2011 - No form of usage or reproduction allowed without express written permission