There's a story to go along with our stay at the farmhouse, but first I just wanted to show you a few photos. I promise I've edited these down.
At the farm:
LOTS of sheep!
On Sunday morning, we worshipped the Creator by taking a walk through some of His artwork in the fields. The Cotswolds are absolutely ribboned with footpaths, and all you have to do is ask someone who lives there where's the closest place to hop aboard. Or just go driving, find yourself a tiny village, park the car, and sniff out a trailhead. Like this.
It was the perfect morning for a ramble. We were told we'd see "loads of people" out for a Sunday walk. "Loads" is definitely relative.
(Ian and I quickly discovered that wearing tennis shoes across dewy English fields is a non-brilliant idea. Caroline was the only one smart enough to wear wellies.)
We happened upon a tiny, medieval chapel that only holds services a few times a year anymore, but has a bell with an inviting rope pull. You realize that of course we had to ring the bell.
Okay, so now I need to tell you a story. It's a love story, and for me a Kleenex story, and I hope I can find the right words.
Like I said, the farmhouse where we stayed was a bed and breakfast. As you may know, when one stays at a B&B, one often finds oneself eating breakfast at a table with complete strangers, which is exactly where and how we found ourselves on Saturday morning. The cast: Our family of five, and an elderly couple who was en route from their home in Scotland to a visit with a cousin in Devon (southern coast area).
I'll be honest: I thought the breakfast hour would never end. The husband was perfectly courtly and pleasant. The wife? Not so much. She was cantankerous, made insulting comments about Scottish people (their neighbors), and helped herself to correcting my children on they were spreading the jam on their toast and where they placed their spoons on their tea saucers. Both the Professor and I could feel our blood pressure rising as we attempted polite conversation with the elderly gentleman while keeping one eye and ear on the wife's interactions with Eliza, who happened to be sitting closest and was being quiet and nervous.
Early in the conversation, when we heard where in Scotland these folks were from, we mentioned, by way of making a friendly connection, that we would be in that area around Christmastime. Imagine my discombobulation when as we wrapped things up, the husband suggested that he give us his contact info so that when we came to Scotland, we could arrange to stop by for a visit. Um, no. But we smiled and nodded and said something to the effect of that being a lovely idea. No. Not a lovely idea.
I was putting my shoes on outside our room a few minutes later when, across the hall, I heard the wife ask the husband, twice in the space of about three minutes, what day it was. Faint understanding began to dawn. Then the husband opened the door of their room and offered me a folded piece of paper with a smile that said many things without words. He wished us well in our travels and told me he'd written down their address for us. We both said goodbye.
I got into the car and opened the note. In his spidery scrawl, he'd written us a note, inviting us to come for a visit at Christmastime and to meet their grown daughter and her children: "Much easier going for you than my wife's extremism, which is down to her ongoing health problems." [British "down to" = American "due to."]
Friends, I could not hold back the tears. Irritation melted into compassion, as I wondered how many times that man had watched his aging wife embarrass herself and make other people uncomfortable, all because of the pain she carried -- pain I do not know (yet). Perhaps he had seen her become a much different, much unhappier person than the one he married. Yet he continued to care for her, to cover her by apologizing for her in the most discreet of ways. To him she was still the one he had chosen so many years ago and pledged to be faithful.
For better. For worse. Until death do us part. Some people know the true depth of that promise, and I'm so grateful for those people.