So, just to let you all know, I got my asthma meds and I’m all good to go. Funnily enough, my foray to the Walk in Clinic is the farthest I’ve explored here in Leeds. Mostly I’ve just kept to my immediate environs. (The pics up there are the house I have been staying in and Tarmy my charge.) I did come across an extraordinarily lovely and spooky cemetery that’s just a few blocks away from where I am staying. I’ll add some pics of it at the end of this post. I’ve explored many cemeteries on my travels, but this one by far was the most evocative. Nature was left to do its thing unchecked, and many of the crypt and graves were covered in vibrant greenery. Some of them even had trees growing straight through. Nearly half of the gravestones were tilted helter skelter by the earth shifting. I prefer my cemeteries to have a wild unkempt look about them, as if the dead have joined in natures never ceasing expansion. The markers are much more majestic when Mother Nature is allowed to clothe even the long gone in her determined raiments. It embraces the dead with the vibrancy of life…instead of coldly separating them as it seems most modern cemeteries do. Its a reminder to me that nature and life are eternal. That being said…there is no way I would go there by myself at night. I don’t believe in ghosts, but looking at the way the earth bulged and shifted around the markers, I could easily believe in the dead crawling forth from the earth at night to roam about. Perhaps innocently enough…wanting to catch up on local events or to have a chat with their neighbors…play a few hands of bridge (those that still have hands). Then again, they might be hungry and want to eat my face. Either way, I’m not taking the chance. So I will happily explore during the day, but as I am partial to my face remaining in its current unchewed upon state, wild horses couldn’t drag me in there at night.
Even though I haven’t made it into downtown Leeds yet, I’ve still enjoyed my stay here. There is a small but surprisingly elegant shopping area only a few blocks away and there is enough interesting architecture around every corner that I don’t feel as if I have been missing too much. The fact is, no matter where I go in this country there are constant reminders that I am nowhere near “home”. Even the mundane is different enough to make me look upon it in wonder. I was craving Chinese food, so I walked to the nearest restaurant. (I always crave specific foods after I have recovered from an asthma attack. I can’t eat when I can’t breathe so I’m usually starving and so happy to still be alive that I want delicious fatty food as soon as possible.)
You would think Chinese food would be the same no matter where you are in the western world…but you would be wrong. Starting off, there is the immediate difference that you find in every restaurant here, that when you order food you are asked “eat in or takeaway”…not as in the US “for here or to go?” That takes some getting used to. I inevitably end up answering “to go…away please.”. As I was waiting for my food, I noticed a letter tacked to the wall, so being the nosy boots I am, I leaned over the counter to read it. It was from the “Leeds City Council Anti-Social Behavior Unit”, and warned that “The area has recently suffered an increase in Anti-Social Behavior from some youths in the area, please call the following phone number if you see anyone exhibiting Anti-Social Behavior”. It was such a brilliant example of English sensibilities. A letter like that written in the US would have replaced “Anti-social behavior” with “criminal activities”. Its small little things like this that delight me on a daily basis. I also perused the menu in great detail, which wasn’t difficult as it took up the entire wall. Many of the menu items I’d never heard of. I wish I had ordered the Deep Fried Wang Tang just so I could see what it was, but I wasn’t brave enough. Besides, I rather enjoy imagining what it is, although I am fairly certain my imaginings are nowhere near the real thing. (To be honest, I hope not. I can have a bit of a naughty mind on occasion.)
Everything I ordered was something I have had many times in the States, so imagine my surprise when I got home and every single item looked and tasted different than I was used to. Fine, I can handle that. But what threw me was the bag of Styrofoam that came with the meal. Seriously. It looked exactly like those circular flat Styrofoam bits used for packing. I eventually deduced it was the English equivalent of the “Wonton Strips” we get in the US. Being the brave soul that I am, I dipped one in my extremely pink colored “Hot and Sour Soup” and gave it a try. It made a weird sizzley noise, then became limp and soggy. I hate soggy food, but popped it in. And immediately spit it out. I’m waiting for someone to tell me that those are just used to absorb extra moisture in the bag while the food is traveling and that basically I ate a “dessicant pod”.
So, as you can see, there is plenty of adventure to be found without having to go very far. I’ve added some pictures of the local architecture. Leeds started as a manufacturing town incorporated during the industrial revolution and it is apparent in the buildings. Thousands of rows of red brick homes, interspersed with a few here and there of stone. And of course the ubiquitous English chimney which always fills me with whimsy and thoughts of chimney sweeps and English nannies.
The reason I haven’t gone out much is that I found myself in a bit of a creative frenzy and decided to ride it out and use it as best I could. Consequently I have been writing up a storm, cozy here in my little house with Tarmy the Wonder Cat to keep me company. At first I felt guilty for spending so much time alone working…but then I remembered that this trip is mine to do with as I please, thank you very much. So I hopped on the frenzy train, settled myself in first class (of course) and have been happily at it for many days. I might go into the city tomorrow as it is my last full day in Leeds, or I may not. Besides, my next stop is York which is only a 24 minute train ride away. Ironically, it is cheaper for me to take the train from York to Leeds and back then it is to take the bus from where I am staying into the city center. Go figure.
I’ve been banging out some short stories for my eventual compilation. Maybe when I’m done editing I will post one for your perusal. I leave Leeds for York on Saturday, and starting Sunday I will be helping out some friends who own a pub. I’m very excited to learn all the ins and outs of “pub life”. You can be assured I will tell you all about it!