Three days ago, on one of the immense endless beaches that stretch along the Northumbrian coast, I stopped to ask someone for directions to Amble, my destination that afternoon. But for the biting wind and the surging sea half a mile out across the level sand at low tide, we could have been in the middle of a desert. We chatted for about five minutes and I told her about my walk to Edinburgh on behalf of poor children in Manila; she then asked about the website and put the address in her phone. That evening, when I logged on at my B&B in Amble, I saw that when she got home she had already made a donation and left a little note. So if you ever get to read this blog, Ms. Julie Brown, I would like to say a very warm and sincere "thank you" and invite you to take a look at the Kaibigan website, and stay in touch. Such moments of spontaneous kindness and generosity, because they are so rare and precious, make my long journey very worthwhile.
Of course it isn't always sunshine. When the rain falls heavily, as it did all yesterday, the beaches are cold, restless and usually completely empty. Stomping alone up the sodden strand, one can imagine hairy Vikings plunging from boats and scampering over the dunes in search of recreational rape and pillage. Away from the coast in country lanes, aside from the swish of cars as they speed by and the patter of rain on the roads and trees, the only sound to be heard is the lowing of cattle and bleating of sheep, a chorus answered hysterically from rookeries above. In the fields, the lambs in particular look unhappy as they try to find shelter from the wind and rain under the throats and at the sides of their mothers. Perhaps they know their days -- like their own little painted bodies -- are horribly numbered.
Evenings are of course more cheerful, especially in pubs where expensive but delicious English beer helps one keep positive about the world, at least for an hour or two. Then there are the quotidian adventures of a purely domestic nature that colour and enliven the lives of solitary travellers. For example, last night I took my daily shower with my day's underclothing, which I trample like grapes in an attempt to keep it (well, reasonably) clean. After that, as usual, my washing went on top of the radiator to dry. However, one vital piece mysteriously slipped down between the radiator and the wall where it jammed into a ball and refused to budge. How to extract it? With mounting frustration, I tried to move it with my hands, coat hangers and rolled up magazines, but without success. The missing article appeared destined to stay there forever, or at least either until the radiator got replaced or the offending underwear, dessicated to extinction, caught fire. In the end, my trusty broom handle -- at my side thus far all the way from Lincolnshire -- did the trick, but not without a great deal of banging and clatter. This morning my landlady commented on the "unusual sounds", but ascribed it to the "old plumbing".