27 May – When will we learn and an almost marriage proposal!

We enjoyed a lovely walk today. A bit more than 20 kms. We took our time as the hostel where we will spend tonight doesn’t receive guests until 5pm. We are now sipping cold beers in the pub next door awaiting the appointed time of entry. This morning was cloudy but warm. This afternoon sunny, humid and hot for walking. The cold beer when we stumbled into “The Bull went down pretty quickly.

One of the sights on today’s walk was a column with a cross at the top set up in honour of Baron Wantage who served in the Crimean War and was a founding member of the British Red Cross. I think the guy deserves being memorialized. The people who erected his memorial did so atop a Bronze Age burial mound. This, I have trouble with. When will people learn that the monuments, cultures, and spiritual beliefs of others and those who have gone before have value, and should not be defaced, erased, denigrated?

Christian Romans subjugating paganism with celebrations such as Christmas and Easter. Christians repurposing Roman temples into churches. Then Muslims making Christian churches into Mosques (OK that’s probably just sensible recycling). The hacking apart of the stone henge at Avebury. Throughout history these things have been done. Canada’s residential schools are a modern example of the same lack of respect for the “other” by those in current power. Sometimes these injustices just jump up and slap me in the face and I feel so sad to be part of a culture (species) that perpetuates these wrongs.

This is what happens when, kilometre after gentle kilometre, I let my mind wander and contemplate. The Ridgeway is a route that lends itself to contemplation.

On the Coastal Path almost every hill top gave rise to more stunning views. More “oh wow”exclamations. The Coastal Path is like a fabulously beautiful, glamorously dressed young person who causes all heads to turn in awe. The Ridgeway on the other hand unfolds its more subtle beauty, and in a softer manner. Here there are fewer “oh wow” moments and the path is not glamorous. The Ridgeway has a refined subtle beauty of someone who has weathered a long life with grace.

Today there was a mountain bike event. We were offered, and accepted, delicious home made banana bread at one of the check points. There were 700 registrations and I’m sure they all passed us. The trail was wide and there was room for us walkers and the madly peddling bikers to share comfortably. Many cheerful good mornings were called one to the others. Later in the day we came across an unhappy trio. One was injured and they didn’t know exactly where they were so couldn’t tell medical assistance where to come. Between Marianne’s guide book maps, mine and my “Pocket Earth” app, I was able to pin point the location and passed that on to the attending doctor who was on her way.

A very funny moment today was a marriage proposal. Seriously. A fellow on a bike had paused and talked to Marianne and I during the first hour or so of our walk. Later he showed up again. I was walking alone as Marianne was far in the distance watching cyclists and taking pictures. The fellow started up our conversation again then asked if I was rich, American and a widow. I thought this was pretty funny so told him, “Definitely not American or rich but yes I am a widow.”

“Oh too bad.” He continued, “I’m looking for a good looking, active, fit, rich, American, widow to marry. You’re good looking, active and fit and a widow. If you were also a rich American I’d ask you to marry me.”

What to say? “Well sad to say I do not quite fit the bill.”

“So long then, enjoy your walk.” He called out as he cycled away. I was still laughing as he rode out of sight. Thank goodness I’m a middle class Canadian!

When we arrived at the hostel, we could go in and relax in the lounge, but sun was shining on a picnic table in the front garden. We headed there, removed boots, and lay on our backs in the grass with our travel weary feet up on the bench. I had been carrying some not quite dry smalls with me today. Perfect opportunity to dry them. Socks and nickers adorned the bench as well. By the time 5pm rolled around we were rested and my smalls were dry. Perfect as they are now on my showered body. Those from today, drying in the window of our bright large room. And so it goes. Traveling light means washing and drying certain items daily.

On that note… we’re off for dinner. Good night from very pretty Streatley-on-Thames. About ten kilometres from where Pat is currently resting with a good book.

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