Days 13-14: Boustead Hill, England (Aug. 28-29)

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Alright so it’s been a relatively very long time since I’ve posted. In order to have more flexibility on the back end with this thing, I had to learn how to self-host it and migrate everything, which…took two months I guess. In any case, it’s now December 31, 2019, the last night of the decade, and I’m on an Amtrak in New York somewhere heading to the Midwest for a bit.

And I’m finally able to reflect on my days in northern England, which followed Edinburgh, Scotland. The first destination was Carlisle, a small city right on the border with Scotland, and right by Hadrian’s Wall, which was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to keep the “barbarians” out (which…I’m not sure who’s the pot and who’s the kettle, but anyway…). It was ALSO ~10 kilometers from Boustead Hill, a small dot on a map where my dad’s dad’s dad emigrated from, bringing with him the name Boustead.

Now, ~117 years later, it’s the home of two equestrian centers, a bus stop, and nothing else. Not even a pub. Luckily, “Boustead Hill Equestrian Center” has a very fast response rate on Facebook, and I was able to setup a visit over Facebook messenger after explaining that I was a Boustead and had family who had emigrated from there. Unfortunately they no longer provide riding lessons, which I was hoping to try, but I was happy to at least be able to check it out.

But first, I arrived to Carlisle on the evening of the 28th and started to make my way to the hotel I had booked for the night. I say this about a lot of places I visited, but Carlisle felt a *lot* like my hometown of Minocqua, WI. (except the castle’like architecture everywhere) I stopped by what seemed to be a family-run pizza place where high schoolers worked, and sat for a bit while eating and taking in the new place. The traveling seemed to be starting to wear on me, and going anywhere else with my luggage seemed daunting (I did pack way more than I needed), but the hotel was just ~25 minutes further on foot. So I made my way to the hotel, checked in and fell asleep shortly after hitting the bed. (it *was* nice having a room to myself after hostels every night prior)

The next day I woke up pretty early, figured out how to order a taxi to Boustead Hill (thanks to the kind receptionist!), and while I was waiting I decided to run down the street to the market to get some donuts and cookies so I wasn’t empty handed returning to my “homeland”.

The taxi driver had full sleeves of tattoos, short shorts and hip sunglasses, and he gave me a nice history lesson on the way to Boustead Hill about Hadrian’s Wall (we drove over it), and also his perspective on Brexit. (that the country voted on it so they ought to just get on with it) Which, felt pretty different than what I’d encountered in Ireland and Scotland…

In any case, the road got narrower and narrower and we soon ended up at a group of buildings that seemed to correspond with the dot on the GPS for Boustead Hill.

I got out, bid farewell to the driver and started walking around before someone found me and told me “the horses are this way”. (It was the same person I’d chatted with on Facebook)

She introduced me to the other staffers (presumably other high schoolers working a summer job), and proceeded to introduce me to some horses while we chatted about what it’s like living in Carlisle and how it’s a lot like Minocqua and then she had to go help some clients ride their horses.

Sidenote – back to present day, New Years eve – it’s really interesting how being in a specific place (like an Amtrak train from New York to Chicago) can bring up certain memories. I just walked from my seat on this train to the cafe car and in between cars I remembered my mom calling while I was on this train a few years ago to let me know that “our dear Paul Braunstein” had passed away. It was a significant loss as my parents and Paul had co-founded the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship together and Paul was a grandfather of sorts to us young people in the fellowship. I spoke to him maybe a week prior and he reminisced about growing up as a poor Jewish kid in a tenement in New York City. He is missed, and it’s nice (and a bit heavy) to have vivid memories of talking with my mom while she was alive. Okay back to August 2019 in England…

So the staffers let me walk around the premises (and take pictures of everything) for a bit, before they took a proper break and made tea, and we ate the donuts I brought. While chatting I realized that my options for getting back to Carlisle were 1) call a cab 2) try to catch a bus that was arriving in about ~30 minutes and about ~30 minutes walk away 3) walk the ~10 kilometers all the way back to Carlisle. I decided to try to catch the bus and left right after saying my farewells and giving the horses the remaining treats that I had. I proceeded to walk fast, while stopping every ~10 meters to take pictures of everything. After ~30 minutes, a bus passed me on the road and I was no where near the stop.

I committed to trying to walk the entire way back, knowing that worst case I could most likely hitchhike or call a cab at any point.

I proceeded to keep taking pictures of everything and also eat a good portion of the (hopefully) blackberries that I passed (which was *a lot*). You can follow the entire trek in the pictures section, including the point where I reached the outer limits of the walking/biking paths of Carlisle, reaching the first deli for snacks and water replenishment, and so on.

After returning to the hotel I made my way (by bus) to the local hostel, checked in, rested a bit, and went out for a solo dinner at a nice Indian restaurant nearby, returned and chatted with my suite mates a bit (all hiking the ~85 kilometers of Hadrian’s Wall), and getting some rest.

The next morning I checked out a local museum (see pics) and proceeded to catch a (relatively very expensive but pleasant) train to London.

I really can’t believe, sitting on this train somewhere in New York, that I was wandering around England just over four months ago. Two hours away from the end of the (Gregorian) decade, I’m feeling a need to do some serious work to get grounded and prepared for what is sure to be an extremely tumultuous, dangerous, and chaotic year – and a year that we could ultimately turn the tide away from white supremacy and fascism, and towards building healthy, reciprocal and transformative relationships with one another.

Happy new (Gregorian) year beloveds. Take care <3