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Friday, July 13, 2012

The Finest View in England Part 5

Gormire Lake, the only natural lake in the
North York Moors National Park.

As this current train originated with “The Proper Role of Fiction,” I could understand if some readers might wonder if I’m currently chugging through an underground tunnel.  But I couldn’t be happier pursuing this theme, and remembering my pilgrimage to Sutton Bank, from which Alf Wight’s (or James Herriot’s) ashes were scattered.  Yes, in “The Proper Role of Fiction” and “The Hunter of my Memories” I ruminated on the death of my father. Yes, in “The Finest View in England Part 2,” I spoke about attending the life celebration of a member of my family.  But death is a part of life, not to be feared, but acknowledged and celebrated.  In doing so we remind ourselves not just of the deceased, but why they meant so much to us.  This refreshing of our memories allows us to give their passing new meaning by contemplating their values and outlooks on life.  

In my case, spending time in and around Thirsk, the town James Herriot called Darrowby, and using James Herriot’s Yorkshire as a guide to our travels, helped me see the land he loved through his eyes.

In the previous post, I mentioned that the day was especially warm, and we were ruing the fact that we had not packed shorts for our walk.  But my wife, who follows Twitter comments (or Tweets) from Ashley Jackson in Holmfirth, and Ritz Cinema in Thirsk, tells me that it has rained in both towns virtually every day since we left England.  Remember how Herriot's old Austin 7 was covered up the day we visited The World of James Herriot? Remember Janet Deacon's Twitter photo from "View Part 2," when the staff finally unveiled it for a show?  I've just learned the show was canceled, due to all the rain they've been having lately. So perhaps having to endure a spell of warm weather, even if we weren’t dressed for it, wasn’t so bad. 

Speaking of Ashley Jackson, you’ll remember from “Walking in an Artist’s Footsteps” that I loved our walk around Holmfirth.  Even if the weather wasn’t ideal, we saw so much countryside that reminded us of the TV show that had drawn us there, “Last of the Summer Wine.”  Well, on this day atop Sutton Bank, I may not have been in the company of Compo, Norman, and Foggy, but I had my own "Summer Wine" moment.  It occurred at Whitestone Cliff, and I probably wouldn’t have done it if I’d been wearing shorts.

Like Gimli in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings,
I am dwarfed by the scale of this landmark.
(Note: I'm the tiny speck of blue at the top).

According to James Herriot’s Yorkshire, Whitestone Cliff earned its name because in 1755 thousands of tons of rock sheered away to create this vertical profile.  It also earned the name White Mare Crag from several legendary stories.  One speaks of a witch who leapt from the cliff to land in Gormire Lake, which is supposedly bottomless and hides a lost village.  Another story, more entertaining by far, is a poem about an abbot and a knight who trade horses one night, only for both to get caught up in their race and forget that they’re heading toward this very cliff.  I won’t ruin the story for you, but if you’re interested in reading it, you can follow the link at the bottom of this post.  For now, here’s a little taste:

"And here as Sir Harry was riding by, 

In the parlour the abbot he chanced to spy, 

Drinking and blinking, 

And thinking and winking, 

In his very bright way,
with his very bright eye. 

Sir Harry drew rein, 

In a frolicsome vein, 

To make the good abbot his conduct explain."

Anyway, back to my "Summer Wine" moment.  One of the things I like about the TV show is how the men find such scenic spots to just sit down in the grass or shrubs and let the landscape inspire them.  Norman philosophizes, Foggy dreams up new adventures, and Compo...well, Compo is as jocular and childish as ever.  It’s so easy on a vacation, as in life, to get caught up in the desire to see everything, and thus to rush about madly, stop at a few key spots, snap a few photographs, and then, like the Abbot and Sir Harry, speed madly off to your next destination.  

Here, on this pleasant day, I finally got to do what some of my favorite fictional characters do so well.  Simply relax, kick back, reflect on life, and enjoy the view.  In my jeans, I could sit down on the shrubs, and not worry about getting bug bites or a rash from whatever plants I sat on.  With the world spread out before me, I reflected on all that had brought us to this particular stretch of England, how much I was enjoying my vacation, and the insights I had gained that would enrich my life back home.  

My own Summer Wine moment, not in Holmfirth, but atop Sutton Bank, overlooking a gorgeous valley, and of course, lovely Thirsk.

The best seat in the house.

Rest well, Alf Wight (James Herriot).  Rest well.

Enjoying just…being,
Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries

Related Internet Links
Mythology & Poem of Gormire Lake and White Crag Cliff
Geology of Sutton Bank and Gormire Lake

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