At the end of my (glorious, exciting, restful) stay in Glasgow, Stuart drove me and Amal to the train station, where she walked me through the process of getting my ticket and locating my train. This is more complicated than you might think, especially when it's happening in a country where you don't actually happen to live, and which is hence perpetually confusing. My friend Hisham had assisted me with the booking process and told me how to find my seat (also more confusing than you might think), and in short order I was squared away on the train, where I hugged Amal goodbye several times before settling down to watch Leverage for most of the duration of the six-hour trip.
(Kate's old iPad basically saved my sanity on long stretches of this voyage, I swear.)
I was about two hours in when a hand tapped my shoulder and there was Hisham, who had hopped on to ride with me for a while (he works for the trains). He brought me Coke Zero and cookies, thus cementing his position as one of my favorite humans. He also brought me Pokemon, and we passed a pleasant hour or so trading electronic monsters and chatting about all manner of things. It was awesome, and I enjoyed it a lot. I like friends on trains. It makes the time go faster.
Alas, eventually he had to leave me, and I finished the rest of my journey in electronic silence, pulling into the stop at Bristol Parkway about five and a half hours after I left Glasgow. Talis was waiting for me there, wearing a splendid scarf printed with bees. After hugs and happy exclamations, she helped me transfer my suitcase to my second and final train, and we rode on to Swindon, where we caught a cab to my true destination: the village of Wroughton.
Wroughton is close enough to Swindon that it was easier to say I was going there, but in reality, it's a lovely little village where everything is within walking distance (except for the big new Waitrose), and where everyone knows Talis, who has been getting more and more active in local politics over the years. I was staying in her upstairs guest bedroom, on a narrow bed that looked like an ascetic's cot and felt like the clouds of heaven. Her husband, Simon, was in France when I arrived, meaning it was just me, Talis, and their lovely daughter, Pippa, who I hadn't spent any real time with since she was a toddler.
Even the highlights of my time in Wroughton seem so big and complex that they're hard to wrap my mind around. I went to country market. I performed with Talis at the Greener Gloucester Festival. I went to two folk clubs with Talis and her singing partner, Chantelle. I ate a lot of Victoria sponge, and drank a lot of rose lemonade. I made chicken stock and then chicken soup, which was delicious. I went to Cheddar, and saw cheese being born. I stroked the two resident black and white magpie boycats.
I chased and caught so many frogs and toads, and ate eggs I had pulled from under chickens, and harvested raspberries and blackberries from the vine into my mouth, and it was wonderful. It was restorative and peaceful and glorious and perfect, and I am so grateful. So, so grateful.
I love my friends. I love my life. And I loved the frogs.
I'm going back next year.